And now I am back home. Unfortunately, it was not without incident. The latch on my PowerBook somehow broke when it was run through the security checkpoint in Minneapolis. I have no idea how much it's going to cost to fix but, since I've been wanting a new laptop, perhaps this is yet another sign.
And it only goes downhill from there. When I left a week ago, the mountain passes were bare. Last night a winter storm had hit as I was driving back, making a huge snowy mess that caused the usual 2 to 2-1/2 hour drive to take just under 4 hours. Since it had rained earlier in the day, the snow was falling on ice, meaning that the roads were extraordinarily slick... cars were flung off the road left and right, and cops were everywhere trying to help out. At least twice some dumbass would blow past me at reckless speeds, only to end up in an accident down the road. Idiots. I didn't even bother to stop, because 1) nothing looked serious... just morons stuck in a ditch, 2) it's their own stupid fault that they think 4-wheel drive makes them immune to icy roads, 3) I don't have a winch, so all I could do is laugh at them for being so stupidly careless, and 4) there were so many snowplows and cops out that they can deal with it, because that's what they are paid for.
I just don't get it. The roads are truly perilous. The snow is falling so hard that you can barely see two car-lengths ahead. You can't use high-beam lights to see where you're going because the falling snow just reflects them back in your face. And cars are being tossed all over the road, meaning you may have to stop at a moment's notice. WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO DRIVE AT RECKLESS SPEEDS?!? Seriously, I never drove over 35 miles per hour and barely made it home in one piece, especially considering my nerves were shot having to stare at this for four hours...
That's a car coming the opposite direction that's run off the road and appears to be hung up on a guard rail there on the left.
The night was finally made complete when I got home and noticed that the TSA had also busted the zipper pull on my suitcase. That's sucks ass because it's less than a year old! Sure I had a lock on it, but it was a TSA-approved lock!! Oh well, I guess if I can't repair it, I'll be buying a new suitcase in addition to a new PowerBook.
The one bright spot in the entire 19-hour ordeal of taxis, flights, layovers, and driving was a book I found at Amsterdam Schipol International Airport, called A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson...
I've never heard of the author before, but apparently he is well-known in the U.K. (where he lives now, though he was born in the US). He has a witty and engaging way of writing about him that I haven't seen in a long time... almost Douglas Adams-esque in a way.
Anyway, this wholly remarkable book tells the history of the universe and the scientific discoveries that have led us to understanding everything from the Big Bang and the formation of the earth, all the way up to atoms, molecules, cells, and the evolution of life itself. All presented in a relatively approachable manner that makes it tangible and understandable. I think even Creationists can appreciate the book from a historical perspective, as the stories of how things were discovered (whether you believe in them or not) are almost as compelling as the discoveries themselves. Very sweet. Now I'm going to order up some of his other books at the library.
Today is a good day after all. I was just sent an email from a friend telling me that there will finally be a "Complete Calvin and Hobbes" published so I can put it next to my "Complete Far Side" on the bookshelf! Calvin and Hobbes is easily my favorite comic strip of all time. As if that weren't enough, creator Bill Watterson is somebody I admire and respect enormously. Despite unrelenting pressure to whore out his comic for merchandising, Watterson held fast. Despite the newspaper publisher's stranglehold on formatting and sizing, Watterson battled to have his strip presented as he envisioned it. Despite a daily deadline that forces most cartoonists to take the easy route from time to time, Watterson never wavered in the quality of his strip (and never farmed it out to a team of collaborators either).
But even when you ignore all of that, reading Calvin and Hobbes is just good clean fun (see for yourself!)...
Witty, smart, funny, and highly entertaining, this three-volume hardcover collection is available for pre-order at Amazon for 37% off (a bargain at $94.50!). It looks like the trim size of the books is 12" by 10.5" - so hopefully this means that the strips will be printed at a good size so Watterson's brilliant use of detail will be able to shine. To get a look at the set and all the details, you can visit the publisher's web site.
Ack! I've been tagged!!
The latest blogosphere craze seems to be the "Book Meme" which I've been tagged with by James Bow...
How Many Books Do You Own? I am not at home to count them, but it must be at least a hundred. If you include comic books, then the count would be around two to three thousand.
What is the Last Book You Bought? Just One Look by Harlan Coben on May 21st. I rather like it, but haven't had time to finish it.
What is the Last Book You Read? Well, since I haven't yet finished Just One Look yet, I suppose I could say that the last book I completed was yet another reading of Noble House by James Clavell. This is my favorite contemporary novel, and I have read it at least a dozen times now... probably more. Brilliant, brilliant book... and complex enough to demand multiple readings.
Name five books that mean a lot to you. Oog. Narrowing it down to five only? That's tough...
Now "tag" five individuals to provide their own lists. Errr... I'm not caught up on my blog reading because of work, so I have no idea who might have done it already. Perhaps Tonya, because she is ALWAYS reading something cool. I have no idea what Mr. Jerz is reading, so that might prove interesting. Gary has similar taste in television shows, so I'm naturally curious as to what he reads. Kachina has a "what I'm reading" graphic on her site, but I'm curious to know what else she might be into. And lastly, how about Anthony McG... I wonder what they're reading in Dublin now?
Tonight there's a new episode of Veronica Mars on, yet all I see is promos for somebody dying on Lost. How sad. I mean, they can kill off all the characters they want on Lost but it isn't going to change the fact that the show is spinning its wheels and nothing new is happening. It's just the same old stories and the same old mysteries and the same old plot twists being recycled for another season. Where is the payoff? How many times can they sneak Hurley's "bad numbers" into a scene and expect people to still care? I sure don't. Not anymore. I stopped watching weeks ago.
And speaking of Veronica Mars, what is going on with the Buffy The Vampire Slayer reunion there? First we get Alyson Hannigan (Willow) appearing as Logan's sister Trina Echolls...
Then Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia) shows up as Dick and Beaver's delicious step-mom (and Logan's new lover!) Kendall Casablancas...
And now Buffy creator Joss Whedon Himself is guest starring. Not as a writer or director, but as an actor...
When a talent like Joss Whedon not only writes a rave review for Veronica Mars on DVD, calls it one of the best shows ever, AND decided to try acting on the show... what more do you need to know? Veronica Mars is the shit! Take a whiff tonight at 9:00pm on UPN! Unlike Lost, STUFF ACTUALLY HAPPENS!!
And in non-Veronica news...
In yesterday's entry I was whining about wanting a Giordano's pizza and my misery over having to settle for a crappy Cheese Pizza Hot Pocket instead. Some of you were nice enough to sympathize with my sad existence, and I thank you for your pity. Then I happened upon a comment that took me by surprise...
Okay. Get this: my wife grew up on Giordano's pizza that when she met me (a guy who thought PIzza Hut Deep Dish was the best pizza ever) she had Giordano's sent us pizza halfway across the country for a special occasion. Did you know they do that? For a price, they ship them half cooked in dry ice — then you finish the job at home in the oven. Works awesome, and you get that amazing Giordano's pizza.
Mmm, can't wait till Christmas to get back to Chi-town and eat myself up some of that goodness.
Posted by Pauly D on November 09, 2005
At first I was surprised at the thought of being able to order a REAL pizza from Girodano's here in the backwaters of Washington State... for a price... but then I followed the link for "Pauly D" and got the real surprise of the evening.
Here is my response to the above comment:
Okay. Get THIS: You are THE Paul Davidson!
I'd seen your comments here and added you to my list of blogs to check out. It never registered to me that you are the "Consumer Joe" guy until I visited your web site last night.
Your book Words for My Enjoyment was passed to me when I started helping out at the local library, and I loved it. I was going through a difficult time just then, and it was nice to find something to laugh about.
And now I find out that you have a blog where you are giving away your writing for free! Sweet!
But something is puzzling to me...
What in the heck are you doing reading my crappy blog? I'd think that to REAL writers like yourself, James Bow, and Cavan Terrill, and dozens of other bloggers far more talented than I) my blog would be absolute torture. I mean, doesn't it drive you crazy pouring over my dangling participles and never-ending ellipsises? Or my making plurals out of words like "ellipsis" that are already plural in their singular form? Or talking about "dangling participles" when I don't even know what they are? Is it some kind of self-inflicted torture? I heard once that good writers are tortured writers... is this what does it for you? Reading crappy blogs I mean? And, because I am really curious, how much alcohol do you have to consume before reading Blogography doesn't make you want to gouge your eyes out?
Oh well. Here you are. I suppose I should thank you for stopping by... but I feel like I should apologize or something instead, so here it goes.
I am so very, very sorry.
And for everybody else out there, stop reading this right now and go read this instead...
It is laugh-your-ass-off funny, and a mere $10.36 at Amazon! If you can't wait for a taste of Paul Davidson, then take a look at his blog: Words for My Enjoyment, which is far more entertaining than anything I write here.
And do NOT forget to watch Buffy Mastermind Joss Whedon make his acting debut on Veronica Mars tonight on UPN!
Just as I was finishing this catch-all Monday entry, Yellow by Coldplay hit on my iPod, and I suddenly realized that there was a freaky color-theme running through all my bullet points. Funny how that happens...
Grey: In what has to be one of the best shows currently showing on television (now that Veronica Mars has seemingly vanished), Grey's Anatomy continues to surprise me. The SuperBowl two-parter was mind-blowing. Last week's follow-up was classic. And, even though last night's show was kind of slow and boring, I still find myself completely absorbed by it. Unlike crap-fests such as Lost which drags shit on forever with no resolution, Grey's never fails to plunge forward into new territory. You may not like where it goes, but you will always be entertained. Isn't that what television is all about?
Purple, Green, & Gold: Oh how I wish I was in New Orleans right now for Mardi Gras.
Black: Balancing pain and nausea makes you pretty much useless for anything more difficult than watching television. But, other than the aforementioned Grey's Anatomy, the most interesting thing on television was a commercial for the new video game called Black, which focuses on one thing only: blowing shit up. Beautifully. That's all you do. You go from one location to another and blow... shit... up. It's got to be the most brilliant idea for a game ever, because they've cut out all the boring crap that you usually have to sit through to get to the good part. Which is, of course, to blow shit up. My copy is on pre-order, and ships tomorrow...
Brown: The current round of ads featuring Jay Mohr as a talent agent for Diet Pepsi are the most incredibly stupid ads I've seen in a long time. I suppose that I shouldn't be surprised that Jay Mohr is whoring himself out for something so outrageously asinine... what else has he got to do? But Jackie Chan and P. Diddy? Pepsi must be paying them a shit-load of bank in order for them to ignore how idiotic they look in these spots. P. Diddy's is especially embarrassing, considering he cuts a new hit single with a can of Diet Pepsi called "Brown & Bubbly". Seriously, "Brown & Bubbly". I am still trying to decide if it is more embarrassing to be starring in this crap... or to be responsible for coming up with the idea in the first place. Pepsi... it's past time for a new ad agency.
Violet: Around seven years ago, there was a brilliant British television mini series called Ultraviolet that shows what happens when a cop played by Jack Davenport ("Steve" from Coupling) accidentally gets wrapped up in the world of "Code V's" which is a clever way of saying "vampires". I keep waiting for it to be released on DVD in the US, but nothing ever comes. Instead, now we have another Ultraviolet entirely, but this time it's a movie starring Milla Jovovitch. She's playing a "Hemophage" which is yet another clever way of saying "vampires", or so I am guessing. All I do know is that Milla kicks total ass, and I can't wait to see it. Please, please be better than the ridiculous Underworld...
Blue: I just learned that Octavia E. Butler, a prominent Seattle science fiction writer who created some truly amazing works, died this weekend. If you want to give her stuff a try, I recommend the critically acclaimed Wild Seed, a tale of two immortal beings that's a magical read and hard to put down. Truly a great loss to sci-fi fans, and a reason to be blue this Monday.
Lime: Still depressed that Coke with Lime is disappearing from store shelves, but Mooselet was kind enough to pass along a tasty reminder of the greatness that once was (only in Australia, alas). It's the "Coke with Lime Girls"...
Hmmm... since kidney stones are still plaguing me, let's see how well I manage at work today while totally drugged up...
Tomorrow begins five days of "lost-blogging" for Kevin's "grassroots campaign" to promote Pauly's new The Lost Blogs book. Even though I've known about it for around two-and-a-half months now, I just haven't decided on which historical figure I was going to blog as. No matter who I thought might make a good choice for a "mystery game", I had no idea how to make it go on for five days. There's just too much to figure out and, if somebody guesses your pick on the first day, you're screwed. I had toyed with the idea of picking a new person for each day, but I don't think that's allowed by the rules.
I finally just wrote all nine of my candidates on slips of paper, put them in a cup, then picked one.
Who I ended up with doesn't surprise me as much as how I've decided to write for them.
This is either going to end up being a lot of fun (in which case I'll give myself a pat on the back for my ingenuity), or it's going to be a disaster of biblical proportions (in which case I'll blame Kevin). In any event, I'm very interested in seeing how everybody else is going to handle this challenge. Knowing how hard it is, I don't know that I can bring myself to post guesses on other "lost-blogger" sites in case I'm right.
Back to the blogging front...
After almost two full days of trying to fix links that Movable Type has broken, I'm giving up. The problem is just too extensive to be repaired. Any entry that had its name changed, or whose name was duplicated... even YEARS APART... is now named something entirely different. This is really devastating to me, because I pride myself on not breaking links. I would go on another rant about how stupid it is that Movable Type makes no effort to warn you about such a serious KNOWN bug, but I'm too tired. So let me once again thank Six Apart for taking three years of hard work maintaining my links and flushing it down the toilet... I appreciate that.
The up-side is that I am in good company.
I was utterly shocked at how many outgoing links I have that are broken. Not only to other blogs, but to major companies like Sony, BMW, OreIda, and many others. At first I thought that these companies were stupid for not comprehending the importance of maintaining link history, but then I thought perhaps they run their sites on Movable Type and it's not their fault.
Links are what MAKE the internet. Doesn't anybody understand that?
I am almost to the point where I don't want to create another outbound link ever again. But what fun is that?
Well, The Lost Blogs Grassroots Blogger Marketing Campaign is now over, and I am exhausted. On top of having to write two entries every day, I also made daily rounds of the 40 blogs that were participating, which left little time for anything else. I have 63 non-spam emails in my in-box. I have hundreds of entries from the 224 web feeds I subscribe to that need to be read. A big chunk of my Easter Sunday is going to be spent in bed with my PowerBook just trying to get caught up.
But it was all worth it. I had a great time, and there were some very interesting reads among the participants. In fact, I dare say that I did not find a single one that didn't entertain or educate me in some way. On top of all that, lounging around in bed reading email and blogs isn't the worst way to spend the day.
And speaking of a good way to spend time, I went to see the film Thank You for Smoking and enjoyed it immensely...
This is not a movie for everybody, but I was completely hooked in the opening minutes and was laughing out loud more than once during the film. The story revolves around Nick Naylor who is a lobbyist for big tobacco, and spends his days defending the right of people everywhere to smoke and get cancer. And though the movie features great guest spots by William H. Macy, Rob Lowe, and many others... the really interesting stuff happens when Nick is with his son. That's where you get to understand why Nick is the way he is and how he is able to do the things he does. It's in these moments that a one-note story with only superficial satire becomes a brilliant commentary on the human condition.
Most of the praise for how much I liked this movie can be placed on Aaron Eckhart, who's portrayal of Nick was note-perfect in every scene. He approaches each new situation with an almost child-like sense of wonder that never for a moment has you disliking the character despite the "morally flexibility" in things he does. Eckhart has a scene where Nick gets to fly on a private jet for the first time. Even though the scene itself does absolutely nothing to progress the story, Eckhart speaks volumes for his character in the way he reacts to this new environment. Just one of many magical moments that make Thank You for Smoking one of the best films I've seen in quite a while.
And, while I am on the subject of Aaron Eckhart, can I just say it's amazing how he can completely change from movie to movie? He's like a chameleon who has me struggling to see him as anything except the character he's being at the moment. From In The Company of Men to Erin Brockovich to Nurse Betty to Suspect Zero... he somehow manages to elevate even crappy films like Paycheck and The Core to watchable fare. I can't wait to see what he does next.
In other good news, James Bow was kind enough to send me a review copy of his new book The Unwritten Girl...
Because of how much stuff I've got going on, I had thought I would just read a chapter or two so I could say something about the story here, then read the rest once I got caught up with everything.
But one chapter led to another, and I didn't stop until I had read the whole thing (and once you've read the book, you'll understand why that's kind of ironic!).
The Unwritten Girl is a terrific fantasy-adventure read that's categorized as "Young-Adult Fiction" but, like Harry Potter, can easily be enjoyed by anyone. It tells the story of a young girl named Rosemary whose brother (literally) becomes lost in a book, and it's up to her and a friend named Peter to try and rescue him. What follows is a clever blend of fantasy and reality that kept me turning pages until the very end.
One of the things that I enjoy about James' writing is how his character dialogue seems so natural. I had mentioned once how envious I was that it was so easy for him to create such "real" people, only to have him assure me that he works very hard to get it right. This makes me feel better about how difficult I find it to write good dialogue, but now I can't help but wonder if he was just saying that to make me feel better. The Unwritten Girl certainly makes it seem effortless! In any event, congratulation James for a job well done, and I am looking forward to your next book!
TODAYS'S PRIZES: Books valued at over $200!
SORRY! THIS DRAWING IS NOW CLOSED! No new entries are being accepted.
No matter how far technology advances, there is nothing that can quite compare to the old-fashioned experience of sitting down with a good book... you know, those things that have paper pages and require you to turn them to navigate the story?
When I first sat down to create a list of books that I love enough to include in this year's prizes, I quickly had 100 titles without even breaking a sweat. The first thing I did was remove the more obvious ones that people had probably either already read, or had heard of and decided not to read. I then went about choosing more eclectic books that would ensure a varied mix. Lastly, I thought that I would arrange a few surprises to make things interesting. What I ended up with was a pretty gosh-darn good list that I'm really happy with. Hopefully, you'll find something that piques your interest, because they're all worth reading...
Ooooh... and this year there's something REALLY special happening...
Instructions for how to enter this drawing are given in an extended entry, and you had better hurry! In order to enter you MUST enter before 9:00pm PST (Seattle time) TOMORROW (April 20th). Take a look at what you could win:
TODAY'S $150 "READ WITH DAVE" GRAND PRIZE INCLUDES...
AUTOGRAPHED BY THE AUTHOR!!
The Unwritten Girl by James Bow.
An imaginative tale of fantasy for "young adults" that is a great read for "older adults" too. Rosemary must enter the Land of Fiction to save her brother who has, quite literally, become lost in a book! Visit the book's website here, and check out James' blog here. I have written more about The Unwritten Girl here. (Value: $12.99)
AUTOGRAPHED BY THE AUTHOR!!
The Lost Blogs by Paul Davidson.
Long before I had ever heard of Pauly or his highly entertaining blog, I was a big fan of his first book. Now he has a brand new book where he has tirelessly compiled scores of unearthed "lost blogs" of famous historical figures from Jesus to Jim Morrison! Learn more at The Lost Blogs website. (Value: $13.95)
AUTOGRAPHED BY THE AUTHOR!!
Blurred Line by Cavan Terrill.
Cavan's cyberpunk novel Blurred Line, takes place in a 22nd century future where corporations have become governments, the net has become sentient, and androids are carving out their own future... free from the confines of their programming. Visit the Blurred Line website and Cavan's blog. (Value: $9.95)
How could this prize possibly be complete without your choice of one shirt from the Artificial Duck store? Silk-screened by hand on high-quality Hanes Beefy-T shirts, these Blogography-inspired masterpieces are comfortable, durable, and are guaranteed to make you the best-dressed person in the room... Dave not included! (Value: $14.95 to $16.95)
Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams.
This bittersweet novel documents celebrated author Douglas Adams as he sets out to see some of the world's most endangered species before they disappear. Sometimes sad, but always amusing, this is an incredibly important book that everybody should read. Includes terrific photos by zooligist Mark Carwardine. Wikipedia has a good article on Last Chance to See here. (Value: $14.95)
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
You'd hardly expect that a story about the end of the world could be funny, but here's proof that any subject can make you laugh in the hands of comedy writer Douglas Adams! I included this book, because I worry most people just watched the movie and are blissfully unaware at how much better the original is. Sometimes books are much better in your head than on the screen. (Value: $7.99)
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.
I discovered Bill Bryson's work while stuck at an airport. After devouring his A Short History of Nearly Everything, I methodically tracked down and read every one of his books. He's probably the best travel writer I've ever read, and A Walk in the Woods is one of my favorites. Join Bryson as he hikes the length of the Appalachian Trail and laugh your ass off at the hilarity that ensues. (Value: $14.95)
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Thanks to a series of crappy movies and crappier TV shows, most people have no idea how brilliant Tarzan is. All they remember is inane crap like "ME TARZAN, YOU JANE" and think he is some kind of grunting idiot that hangs out in the jungle with a monkey. The truth is shockingly different, and Tarzan of the Apes is a classic that everybody should read to know the true story. (Value: $4.95)
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Edgar Rice Burroughs first story is a stunningly imaginative work that deftly combines elements of sci-fi, adventure, romance, and even a little mystery. Considering it was written in 1912, it was far ahead of its time too. Join Confederate soldier John Carter as he is transported to the planet Mars for the adventure of a lifetime. (Value: $6.50)
Noble House by James Clavell.
My favorite fiction novel ever, I have read Noble House at least a dozen times. Most famous for his book Shogun, Clavell crafts a huge story of contemporary Hong Kong that has a dizzying number of subplots to keep you occupied for hours. Exceedingly deep and complex, this novel has suspense, intrigue, espionage, romance, action and mystery so fascinating that you can't read it just once! (Value: $7.99)
Lightning by Dean Koontz.
Dean Koontz is best-known for his horror novels, which is a real shame... because Lightning gets ignored as "just another horror story" when it is anything but. It is actually a sci-fi time-travel novel with a nifty twist, and one of my favorite Koontz books. Every time I re-read it, I wonder why he doesn't write more sci-fi because he's really good at it! (Value: $7.99)
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
I loathe to have the label "comic book" applied to Watchmen, but that's pretty much what we're stuck with. This definitive graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons imagines what might happen if super-heroes existed in the real world rather than some goofy fictionalized version of it. The result is a breathtaking exploration of what comics could be, but rarely are. (Value: $19.99)
The Mighty Thor: Volume 2 by Walter Simonson.
I don't read comic books much anymore, but still like to pick up a graphic novel from time to time. Most recently, I've been re-reading all those great Thor stories by Walt Simonson, and thought that I would toss one into the mix. Volume 1 is sold out (and I ain't parting with mine!), so I've included a copy of Volume 2, jam-packed with Thunder-God action. (Value: $24.99)
And that's not all! This year you get two other chances to win...
TWO $25 "READ WITH DAVE" RUNNER-UP PRIZES INCLUDE...
How could this prize possibly be complete without your choice of one shirt from the Artificial Duck store? Silk-screened by hand on high-quality Hanes Beefy-T shirts, these Blogography-inspired masterpieces are comfortable, durable, and are guaranteed to make you the best-dressed person in the room. (Value: $14.95 to $16.95).
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Thanks to a series of crappy movies and crappier TV shows, most people have no idea how brilliant Tarzan is. All they remember is inane crap like "ME TARZAN, YOU JANE" and think he is some kind of grunting idiot that hangs out in the jungle with a monkey. The truth is shockingly different, and Tarzan of the Apes is a classic that everybody should read to know the true story. (Value: $4.95)
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Edgar Rice Burroughs first story is a stunningly imaginative work that deftly combines elements of sci-fi, adventure, romance, and even a little mystery. Considering it was written in 1912, it was far ahead of its time too. Join Confederate soldier John Carter as he is transported to the planet Mars for the adventure of a lifetime. (Value: $6.50)
Now how cool is all that? Brilliant reads enough to keep you busy for months! Better enter now before time runs out...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Is it a crime that I don't like Harry Potter?
I try to. Honestly I do... all my friends just love Harry Potter books and movies, so I want to like Harry Potter. But I just can't. I read the first book and found it kind of contrived and boring. The second Chamber of Secrets book was so deus ex machina that I only read half of it. I kind of liked the third Prisoner of Azkaban book, but it was still so predictable and unoriginal that I ended up skipping big chunks of it. I tried reading Goblet of Fire but only made it to the sixth chapter before giving up.
I thought that perhaps the Harry Potter movies would be my salvation, but I found them to be haphazard and somewhat incoherent. More flash than substance. I suppose if you were a fan of the books, you'd have the knowledge to fill in the blanks and enjoy the film adaptations... but that wasn't me. I ended up fast forwarding through most of them (and am I the only one that finds "Dobby" just as irritating as Jar Jar Binks?).
I guess Harry Potter just isn't in my destiny...
Which makes it incredibly difficult for me in social situations.
Like last night when I somehow got roped into this huge Harry Potter conversation with a group of people. There was a big debate over whether Snape is evil and something about a horcrux (which I had to Google to spell properly just now). Then they started talking about how Harry Potter was going to die. Then they transitioned into whether the movies would star all the same actors. It went on and on and on.
And the entire time I just stood there being incredibly stupid. I think the only thing I contributed to the entire conversation was how cool I thought that Alan Rickman was in Dogma and Galaxy Quest.
It used to be it was football trivia that made me feel inadequate. Now it's Hogwarts.
= Sob! =
I sure hope there's an Idiot's Guide to Harry Potter out there. Or maybe a CliffsNotes. Otherwise I'm going to be ostracized from civilization because I don't know what a horcrux is.
Sorry about posting so late today, but it's Pauly's fault.
This morning I received a copy of his new book The Lost Blogs: From Jesus to Jim Morrison and, just like when James' new book arrived, I simply could not put it down. I started reading when I picked it up from the post office, then continued to read it at every opportunity throughout the day until I finished it just a few minutes ago. The first thing I'm going to do after writing this entry is eat something, because I skipped lunch and breaks so that I could get through more pages. Now I'm starving, and that's Pauly's fault too.
The Lost Blogs is a compilation of various "lost" blog entries from famous people throughout history. Some of them I expected to be included (George Washington, Einstein, Shakespeare, Da Vinci, etc.), but others were complete surprises. There's 175 to choose from and, as if the variety wasn't enough, each entry is totally unique in voice and style. Taken as a whole, it is a brilliant concept that has been flawlessly executed. I totally love it...
I cannot recommend The Lost Blogs highly enough. Each entry is like a potato chip, and you won't want to stop eating until you've finished the entire bag. Even then, you'll be licking the crumbs from the bottom, because now I have to go back and re-read a bunch of entries. Some of them because they were so funny I want to read them again... others because I have work to do (like translating the Samuel Morse entry from Morse Code!).
Do yourself a favor and go visit The Lost Blogs site right now. There you can learn all about the book, read some sample entries, and order yourself a copy. Whether you write a blog or just enjoy reading them, it's a must-have.
So congratulations Pauly! You can now add the great Blogography Seal of Approval to your book... far more exclusive and valuable than Oprah's stupid book club!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to have a cheese sandwich and a couple Hello Kitty Pop-Tarts before I pass out. I wouldn't want to have to blame Pauly for that too.
I am most assuredly jealous.
Everybody seems to have a book except me. Cavan has a book. James has a book. Pauly has a book. Bunches of other bloggers are working on books. Yet I have no book to call my own.
So I've decided to write a book.
At first I was going to write an autobiography. I am a fascinating guy with a fascinating life who has a story that simply must be told. But a book about my life would be at least 1600 pages and take years to write (and that's just Volume One!). I want something simple. Something desperately missing from society that I can easily construct. Something I can release quickly for the benefit of all mankind.
So here I am this morning, deleting a particularly vicious piece of hate-mail from my inbox, when it hits me. Everybody has heard of Dummies Books. But what about people who are stupider than dummies? Where are the books for them? There is a huge segment of the population with no book to tell them what to do... such as the moron who sent me the hate-mail for example. Where's his book? A Dummies Book would be way over his head, so I guess there isn't one.
At least until now...
Yes! When Dummies Books are just too smart, it's time for DUMBASSES BOOKS!
I can use my vast intellect to educate total dumbasses by using small words and lots and lots of pictures! Finally there will be guides for every day situations that some people are just too damn stupid to understand... like not driving in the passing lane and how to mind your bratty kids when taking them out in public...
And what about all the dumbass politicians out there? They probably need these books more than anybody. Just look at how badly they keep f#@%ing up everything. That's why I'll be writing Dumbasses Books just for them! So now when your senator approves a bill that slashes health care so he can afford to vote himself a raise, there will be a book you can send so that he understands this makes him a complete tool. Dumbass books for dumbass politicians. A brilliant concept if there ever was one...
The possibilities are endless. I can think of hundreds of Dumbasses Books that are needed immediately, and I'm sure there are hundreds more that I haven't even thought of yet.
Sweet! These totally have "New York Times Best Seller" written all over them.
The first email I opened this morning was somebody saying "You are a f#@%ing asshole and your blog sucks!" Ordinarily, I'd be thrilled to receive such well-written and thoughtful feedback, but this morning I wasn't in the mood. So instead of sending my usual automated reply ("Thank you so much for your lovely letter regarding Blogography, and I look forward to making you even more angry in the future!") I instead wrote back with this...
"Wow! You've figured it all out! I make my blog suck ON PURPOSE because, as you have so astutely surmised, I AM an asshole! Congratulations on your brilliance, and I hope you die real soon now so my secret will be safe!"
Then I got worried that by hoping somebody else is going to die, I might be wishing death upon myself, and suddenly became concerned about my health and well-being. Perhaps a diet of candy, chips, and Coke with Lime is just the excuse that irony is looking for to kill me off? Well screw that. I'm going to start eating healthier snacks!
So there I am at the health-bar aisle of the grocery store looking at the hundreds of healthy alternatives to candy. I am amazed at how expensive it all is. But what's money compared to my health? Nothing! So I scoop up an assortment of yummy-sounding bars, pay my $25 (holy crap!) and am on my way.
Once I get to work I decide to have a health bar for breakfast. GAH! IT'S HORRIBLE! HORRIBLE!! Dumbstruck at the foul taste in my mouth, I spit it into a garbage can while making a mental note to never buy that brand again. Then I try another one, AND IT'S EVEN WORSE! ACK!!! I PAID $2.99 for THIS?!? After spitting my fifth health bar in the trash, I'm screaming "OH LORD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME??" as I open up number six, which is called a "Bumble Bar."
Bumble Bar Almond still tastes outrageously bad but, compared to the first five I tried, it's at least edible. So there I am chomping away on gobs of seeds and sticks, trying my best to be happy at how healthy I'm going to be from all this suffering. At least I was, until I looked at the Nutrition Facts...
Seriously, WTF?!? It's the same calories and fat content as a tasty Hershey Bar with Almonds! About the only difference is 2 grams more fiber, 4 grams less saturated fat, and an additional 18% iron!
Holy shit. Give me back my frackin' candy! I'll just eat a handful of Shredded Wheat for breakfast to make up the difference in fiber, and suck on a nail to get that extra 18% iron.
What really frosts my cake is that I could have bought FORTY candy bars for the money I paid for these ten "health" bars. This blows. The ones I threw out are probably healthier because they tasted worse, but I'd rather die than have to eat that crap for the rest of my life. Better to die young and happy from snacking on junk than old and miserable from eating disgusting health bars.
Maybe I'll just starting taking a vitamin with my first can of Coke with Lime of the day? That's probably the same thing anyway. Yes, thanks to vitamins, I can be healthy and still eat delicious crap! Modern science is great.
Yargh. Karma dictates I find something good to blog about now. Fortunately, I have a book that's totally sweet to talk about in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
The down-side of living on the West Coast is that the East Coast is 4-1/2 hours away. So any trip to Europe for us automatically adds at least 6 hours once layovers are factored in. The lucky news for me is that NWA airline partner Continental Airlines flies a Seattle — Newark &mdash Cologne route that works out really great if Cologne, Germany happens to be your destination (which mine is).
The bad news is, of course, that you have to stop off in Newark.
Now, before anybody jumps to the conclusion that I am slamming New Jersey, nothing could be further from the truth... I like The Garden State just fine. I just loathe Newark International because their internet service sucks donkey. Naturally, you have to pay for it. So on top of being shitty, almost unusable internet access, you pay through the ass to use it. I f#@%ing hate that shit.
As we landed, I stared across longingly at the New York City skyline and toyed with the idea of catching a taxi, running into the city for a bagel, then rushing back the the airport (hopefully) in time to catch my flight. But the idea of missing my flight and being stuck at Newark was enough to kill that thought real quick.
The nice part about the 4-1/2 hours of airplane travel is that I had time to be completely mesmerized by Barack Obama's book... The Audacity of Hope. Despite the title, the book is kind of depressing. Not because of the content, which is absolutely brilliant, but because Obama is such a tease. He teases us with a future that is all at once hopeful, exciting, wondrous, and so very achievable... yet sadly out of reach given today's political climate. Even if we were lucky enough to have this amazing man as our president, I shudder at the battle he would have to face (against Democrats and Republicans alike) to set us on such a path. I ache for a leader as described in this book... willing to dismiss absolutes and focus on a world of give-and-take for the benefit of all our citizens. But compromise is such a dirty word in politics today, and part of me dies inside knowing that the audacity to hope is more like an audacity to dream.
But revolutions do happen from time to time.
Please let this be our time.
I am not looking forward to the next 8 hours of airplane travel time. For some reason I am feeling a bit queazy, and not at all in a mood to fly again. Hopefully I can get a little bit of sleep, but the cruel reality is that it ain't going to happen. In all these years of travel, I have not yet learned how to sleep on a plane.
Wouldn't it be cool if they would give you a shot to knock you out for the flight, then another to wake you up when you land? I think I've seen The Fifth Element too many times...
Yesterday I was at the library to drop off some videos when I saw a children's book titled Airport by Byron Barton. "Wow" I said to myself, they did a book adaptation of the movie Airport for kids? That's pretty f#@%ed up! There's no better way to terrify children about flying than to tell them a story about a plane bombing!
But when I picked up the book, I saw that it wasn't a movie adaptation of Airport after all. Instead it's a book to tell kids what happens when you go on a plane trip... standing in line for tickets... boarding the plane... how to buckle your seatbelt... and all that stuff. I thought that was a pretty cool way to prepare a child for their first airplane ride.
It was cute and everything, but I think that it was pretty sanitized. There's a lot of stuff that was left out, and it got me to thinking that perhaps I should write my own children's book about the reality of air travel...
A pity that I'm already half-way through illustrating my first children's book, because this is a kick-ass idea. Oh well, on the bright side I've already got an idea for my second book.
Sigh. I wish there were books like this when I was a kid.
I must be doing something right, because the volume of hate-mail I've been getting lately is five times what it was a year ago (I started keeping count after the Scary Clown Incident of 2004). February isn't even over yet, and I'm at a record-breaking 14 hateful emails/comments for the month! I always try to respond to people who have the balls to sign their name and give a valid email address... but all the anonymous crap is deleted with such speed that one could say it never existed at all (except as a tally-mark on my hate-mail count sheet). And since 90% of the stuff is from anonymous pussies who actually think I give a crap, hate-mail and hate-comments are never much trouble.
I suppose I should be crying on the inside, but my inner-child seems to be sleeping at the moment.
I wonder how much trouble I can get into today?
I am blessed with teeth that are naturally white. Since I don't drink coffee, don't smoke, and brush them three times daily, they tend to stay that way. And when I say "white" I don't mean "literally white" because they are actually teeth-colored which, in fact, is kind of an off-white color. But ever since I switched to the delicious Crest Whitening Expressions Cinnamon toothpaste, I've noticed that my teeth have been getting even whiter (whoa... the shit actually works!). They're now more white than off-white, and I am quite pleased about that.
Unfortunately, I have an addictive personality and never seem to be content when something better is on the horizon.
Having mostly-white teeth simply isn't good enough anymore. I find myself secretly wanting brilliant-white teeth...
When I smile, I want anybody not wearing sunglasses to be temporarily blinded.
So when Crest sends me a $7.00 coupon offer that can be applied to a box of Crest White Strips, it's like offering a crack-addict a vial of cocaine. I clicked that link faster than Britney checks out of rehab, and have my credit card ready.
At least until I find out that the retail cost of a box of White Strips is $39.99, which means my desire for brilliant-white teeth requires an investment of $32.99... PLUS TAX!
Holy crap! For that kind of money I can buy the biggest Maglite flashlight they make (for temporarily blinding people), and still have money left over for a couple bags of Golden Oreos! I don't mean to sound cheap or anything, but $35 for whiter teeth? Maybe if my teeth were brown this would seem like a bargain, but I can't fathom paying $35 when my teeth are already mostly-white. I guess that I'll keep brushing with my whitening toothpaste and hope for the best.
And now, because I am a total meme whore, I've put that "book meme" that's been working its way around the blogosphere in an extended entry (I can't remember if I saw it first from Frances or SJ)...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
For the past couple of weeks I've been occupying what precious little free time I have by working on my book. It's been over a year since I stopped writing Daveology, and I could never seem to get back in the writing habit. After parting ways with my publisher, my enthusiasm for the project had slowly dwindled to zero, and nothing ever inspired me to take it up again. There's also the drama involved in finding a new editor I can work with. As you have no doubt surmised from reading my crap at Blogography, having a strong editor will be essential for anything I might publish. Sure people are willing to ignore my weak sentence structure and total misuse of punctuation when they are reading for free, but something tells me they will expect all the various grammar bits to be in their proper places if they have to pay for it.
When I was originally approached about turning my blog into a series of books I had no interest in attempting it. A previous movie project (based on a comic book treatment I drafted) had nearly destroyed me. Sure it started out great, but after eighteen months and a dozen trips to L.A., all I got out of the deal was heartache and disappointment. And a fat paycheck. But when you put your heart into something, the money can't wholly compensate for the desolation you feel once everything has turned to shit. With this in mind, the idea of going through it all over again for a book deal with no fat paycheck didn't seem worth it. Much like being very protective of your testicles after having been smacked in the balls by a shampoo bottle, my creative heart is guarded.
But eventually I was convinced to give it a try. I guess this means I'm not very good at guarding things. Which is why you should never ask me to keep an eye on your stuff while you go to the bathroom. Not only will it probably end up missing, but I won't be very apologetic about having screwed up. You should have known better.
The outline for the book project seemed simple enough: repackage and expand my favorite entries with a narrative thread. But after a month of back-and-forth, it became apparent that my publisher and I had very different ideas as to how the book should take shape. They didn't want the cartoons, photos, and illustrations, just the words. This didn't make any sense to me because I'm not a very good writer... to me the cartoons, photos, and illustrations ARE Blogography. Eventually a compromise was reached, but it was just the first in a series of many concessions I'd have to make. Finally seeing the Big Picture as to how things would end up, I wanted out. If I couldn't create the book I wanted, I didn't want to create a book at all. Fortunately, my soon-to-be ex-publisher liked me well enough to end things amicably, which was pretty swell. Had I been in their position, I would have shown up in person to collect the advance money, then kicked my ass.
And that was the end of that. But with a third of Daveology completed, it seemed a shame to let all those weeks of hard work sit on a shelf. Unlike the failed movie project, I harbored an illusion that something could still come of it one day, even if I had to self-publish. I didn't care about making any money, I just didn't want my time to have been wasted. But, like so many things in my life, this ambition soon faded as more interesting projects (i.e. those that paid money) came calling.
Then I woke up one morning around Valentine's Day and suddenly decided I wanted to try writing again. True to form, I didn't start until a week later, but the decision had been made. Whether this new-found compulsion will last long enough to actually finish the book, I have no idea. I'm fickle that way.
In the meanwhile, I blunder onward in an attempt to fill the pages of a book that may never see the light of day.
This morning I started a new chapter which begins thusly:
Do you know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you're pouring a can of Coke into a glass and the foam starts to rise up? That utterly helpless feeling when you suspect that you've poured too much soda too quickly and don't know if the Coke is going to overflow and make a mess or settle back down into the glass? That's the feeling I get at the moment I realize sex is in my immediate future.
When I'm pouring a Coke for myself, there's nothing to be nervous about because nobody is watching (at least I certainly hope not) and I can make a mess free from judgement. But it's an entirely different situation when I'm pouring that same Coke in front of an audience.
Most of the time I'm able to channel this nervous energy and put it to good use. Everything works out okay, the glass is filled to mutual satisfaction, and everybody walks away a winner (have a Coke and a smile!). But sometimes things don't go as planned, everything ends up a mess, and all you get for your embarrassment is a sticky residue that never seems to disappear off the kitchen counter entirely.
This is a grossly unfair situation because, by comparison, women have it easy. All they have to do is decide if they want to have that Coke in the first place, then leave the pouring to some poor bastard looking for a caffeine fix. Fortunately for them, men are born with a caffeine deficiency and always happy to serve up a glass. The insanity of it all is enough to make me want to drink straight from the can, but I'm just not that flexible.
...and so on.
As you can see, the book is a bit more personal than my blog ever gets. Apparently my writing is not quite so private when I know people are going to pay money for it. Well, except those cheap bastards who borrow a copy from the library.
Alrighty then! One hour until my connecting flight home, and boy am I thirsty. I think I'll go guzzle a bottle of Coke and try not to think of what that implies.
"Dude! I didn't know you were writing a book! Am I in it?"
Getting a call from Bad Robert is always an adventure because you never know what's going to be on his mind. Was his poop a funny color this morning and he's just dying to tell somebody? Did he discover a new curse word that he needs to try out on a friend? Has his Super Deluxe Girlfriend finally come to her senses, realized that Robert will never change, and moved out? You just never know.
"Oh yes, absolutely you're in it." I said. "Why? Do you not want to be in it?"
"No, that's cool," Robert said almost in a whisper. "Nah, I was just wondering what you're going to say."
This was a bit puzzling to me, as Robert is not the kind of guy to care about stuff like this. Whenever I've asked if he minds being written about in my blog, he's always blown it off as no big deal. But maybe Robert feels being mentioned in a blog is different than appearing in print, and I'm suddenly hesitant to mention that not only is he in the book, but there's an entire chapter devoted to him. I don't get to see Robert very often, but he's had a huge impact on my life. I can't imagine him not appearing in Daveology, because the stories are just too good.
"How about I promise to send you anything I write about you, and you can tell me if I can put it in the book," I say.
"Oh yeah! That would be great!" Robert says, his relief audible.
So last night I emailed him an outline of his chapter, then attached the stuff I had already written. Just in case anybody is interested, I've reprinted the first part of our Las Vegas adventure, where we've just passed through airport security at Seattle and I've headed off to use the restroom...
Completely ignoring the unwritten rule that dictates you should leave an empty urinal between yourself and any guy already peeing (if possible), Robert trotted up to the urinal next to mine and set about his business. This was a bit unnerving, but I was able to cope by amusing myself with the entertainment at hand. But since the only thing in my hand at that moment was my penis, my options were limited. I would have looked around for something else to distract me from this uncomfortable situation, but there was nothing else in my viewing angle except other men and their penises. Since amusing myself with my own penis or watching other guys using theirs is frowned upon in any public restroom outside of Los Angeles, I instead decided to concentrate on my shiny white urinal, noting how its manufacturer, American Standard, became Nacirema Dradnats when spelled backwards. But just as I was thinking how “Nacirema” kind of sounded like “Macarena,” and how I haven’t heard that song in a while, the inevitable happened.
“Holy shit!” Robert exclaimed at full volume. “Dude! There’s a pube on top of the urinal!”
Before leaving on our trip, I had worried about the strange things that seem to happen whenever Robert is around. He’s like a magnet for trouble and weird happenings, and going to a city like Las Vegas with such a person is bound to be somewhat problematic. I had consoled myself by thinking my past experiences of hanging out with Robert would prepare me to deal with any situation that might occur. What I didn’t expect was having to deal with a situation while my dick was hanging out of my trousers.
Mortified beyond my ability to express, I tried to concentrate on more pressing matters and pretend I didn’t know this deranged man peeing next to me. But such efforts are futile when Robert is involved.
“How does a pube get on top of the urinal?” Robert said, transfixed by the errant pubic hair. “Did a 10-foot giant pee here?”
“Uhhhhhhhh...” I stammered uselessly, “I guess so.”
“Well that doesn’t make any sense!” he shouted. “Because wouldn’t a giant have giant pubes? This one is normal sized.”
At this point I was considering whether I should continue to stand there urinating while an entire restroom of guys stared at us, or zipping up and peeing my pants so I could flee. In my mind both options were equally embarrassing.
“Look at it! Just look at it!” Robert cried, his face getting closer and closer to the object of his newfound obsession.
Using all the force I could muster, I managed to expel the remaining contents of my bladder in record time. Unconcerned as to what damage this might have done to my urinary tract, I practically ran to the sink so I could wash up and escape.
“Dude, this is seriously fucked up!” Robert shouted over his shoulder, ignoring the stares of guys desperately trying not to stare in a place where staring can get you in serious trouble. “Where’s your camera?”
Sweat pouring down my forehead, I exited the bathroom with my hands trembling. We were only twenty minutes into a three-day trip and I was already a nervous wreck. With an hour left until we boarded the plane, I quickly began calculating how much alcohol I could consume in the time available. The only way I was going to survive this weekend was if I were drunk or Robert were sedated.
Then this morning I get another call... "Did you read it?" I ask.
"Yeah. Yeah. But where is the time we nearly got beaten up by that trucker at McDonalds? That was pretty funny! You should put that in there too. Oh! And what about my cat? How come my cat isn't in the book? Oooh! Don't forget about the Skittles! You've got to tell the time about the Skittles!"
So I guess Robert doesn't have a problem being in the book. It would seem his only problem is that the book isn't entirely about him.
One of the horrible things about having a blog is that you meet new friends who like nothing more than taking up your time and ruining your life. But in a good way. As an example, I met up with Vahid and Dustin for a while at Powell's during TequilaCon, and suddenly I have a list of 20 books I want, but won't have time to read. But I'll end up making the time anyway, hence the "ruining my life" part. It's the same for most bloggers I keep tabs on... they're always recommending a book or movie or food or something cool that I'm dying to see/read/experience, but just don't have time for.
But the worst offender would have to be Avitable. The bastard regularly throws out questions, comments, or recommendations which waste hours and hours of my valuable time. He'll drop a Buffy reference, and suddenly I'm consumed with watching all 144 episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer on DVD. He'll start talking about Warren Ellis' blog, and suddenly I'm clicking over and wasting precious time going through his extensive archives. It's like I'm on remote-control or something. I don't know if it's because Avitable and I have similar interests (scary), because we're on the same mental wavelength (terrifying), or because we are somehow sharing the same brain (explains a lot), but the guy is responsible for more lost time in my life than the next ten people on my list combined.
A few days ago he sends me off an email asking about a few comic titles, wondering if I read them. On the list is Robert Kirkman's Invincible, which happens to be one of the greatest comic books ever. Since I only buy the trade-paperback collections, I haven't read it in a while. For some reason, while trying to fall asleep that night, I'm remembering what a great read Invincible is and pondering why in the heck I haven't looked at it recently. Next thing you know, it's 1:00am and I'm digging through my comic collection trying to find my Invincible trade-paperbacks. Then, because they are so damn amazing, I spend the next five hours reading them until I realize that it's time to get up and get ready for work.
Naturally, I'm practically useless all day while trying to operate on no sleep, which only means I'm that much further behind in my work. Even worse, Avitable has to tell me of another Kirkman creation, The Walking Dead, which he assures me is fantastic. So now on top of ruining an entire day of my life, he's intent on ruining future days as well (since I've just ordered a crap-load of Walking Dead books).
Not content to contain the destruction to myself, I'm spreading the love by adding Robert Kirkman's Invincible to my Dave Approved list. It's fresh. It's funny. It's shocking. It's invincible!
Even if you are not a hard-core comic book geek, this is one book you really need to check out. I'd highly recommend starting out with the Ultimate Collection: Volume One hardcover (which collects the first 13 issues/3 trade-paperbacks). On top of containing some of the best super-hero comics ever printed, it also has the totally mind-blowing issue #11, which reveals one of the biggest plot-twists in comic book history (seriously, I'd stack it against Watchmen any day!). It's Sixth Sense good, and blew my mind so badly that I probably read it a dozen times before I could wrap my head around it.
I remain hopeful that Invincible will be released as a movie one day (I think it was optioned by Paramount last year?), so experiencing the book before the film happens is an absolute must. Even if you don't want to buy it, request it from your local library and prepare to be amazed.
I've recently started re-reading the Tarzan novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Despite being a hardcore ERB fan, I avoided the Tarzan books for years because I assumed they were as crappy as the movies. I loathed the way Tarzan ran around grunting like a moron in the films, and always thought that's just the way he was. But the "real" Tarzan in the books wasn't stupid at all. It turns out he's a genius who speaks a dozen languages, runs a financial empire, AND happens to be Lord of the Jungle...
After a while, the books get a little repetitive, but the earlier stories are brilliant.
Right now I'm trying to finish up Book #4, The Son of Tarzan, so I am going to stop blogging now...
In the many long hours driving back and forth to Seattle, I've come to love audiobooks. It all started when I was given I Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris on CD for my birthday. After that I was pretty much addicted, and signed up for an Audible account so I could get new books for my iPod whenever I have to travel or drive long distances. They make the time just fly by.
The problem is that chapter breaks never seem to come when you need them.
More than once I'll arrive at my destination, but I'll be in the middle of a good chapter or something, so I'll just sit there continuing to listen until I get to a good stopping point. It's no big deal.
At least I thought it wasn't.
Today I pulled into the city and decided to stop at a corner market for a carton of chocolate milk. But, since the book I was listening to (The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman), was in the middle of something good, I just turned off the engine and waited for the chapter to end. It was at this time I nearly jumped out of my skin because there was a pounding on my window.
"HEY! IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO BE USING THIS SPACE, WOULD YOU MIND LEAVING SO WE CAN USE IT?" said a large man screaming at me through the glass while gesturing wildly back to some woman double-parked across the street. Not wanting to sound stupid by saying that he'd have to wait until my audiobook chapter was finished, I instead rolled down the window* and replied "Sorry, but I'm waiting for the police."
Don't ask me where that came from.
I guess I figured that if this guy thought police arrival was imminent, he wouldn't want to mess with me. And I was right. He just wandered off with a dazed look on his face.
Which may have been the way his face always looks... I only met him for that one minute, so I wouldn't know.
*Well, techincally I didn't "roll" down the window, I just pushed that button thingy. Do they even make vehicles with manually-operated windows anymore?
So there I was, waking up after a good night's sleep* so I could check my email, when Harry Potter dropped by for an unwelcome visit.
The very first email I opened was sent to my Blogography address, and had a subject line of "Hard Rock Cafe Hong Kong." Thinking that somebody had news of yet another unfortunate cafe closing, I opened it up only to find that is was a photo collage of pages from a book with notes scrawled above them. But not just any book, it was Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, the final book in the series (not yet released).
This was completely baffling. From appearances, the person sending the photo had fully intended to spoil the book for me. They knew me. They knew I like the Hard Rock Cafe. And they used an email subject they knew I was likely to open. About the only thing they didn't know is that I don't care about Harry Potter, and have read only the first book, part of the second, and made it through the third only by skipping large chunks of it. So seeing all these spoilers meant nothing. The sender's address looked disposable, so I didn't even bother replying.
A couple of emails later, and it's a comment notification for my blog... that turns out to be nothing more than a dozen Harry Potter spoilers typed out in ALL-CAPS (left anonymously, of course).
Why would anybody work so hard to ruin a book that I'm not even interested in? I can only assume that I am not alone, and soon the entire internet will be plagued by juvenile assholes with nothing better to do than try to ruin the ending of the book for people. I just wish that I could figure out what in the heck they have to gain from this. If making other people unhappy is their incentive, that's pretty frakin' lame.
*Last night I adopted drastic measures so I could finally get some sleep... PILLS! Two sleeping pills, a melatonin, and a Midnite, all combined into a sleep cocktail that managed to knock me out for an entire seven hours. I worry about trying this kind of thing too often, but it's nice to know I can get some drug-induced rest from time to time.
And now, before I go, why not head on over to NYC Watchdog's Cereal Wednesday... not only is he one of the best-dressed vloggers out there, but you could win a box of Krusty-O's cereal!
So Amazon has finally released their long-awaited electronic book reader, which they've name "Kindle." Given how often I travel, I've long been waiting for this day. The idea of being able to download books at a moment's notice is appealing to somebody whose entire life is lived "at a moment's notice." But, as a lover of books, giving up the printed word is a scary prospect. Reading a computer monitor is not nearly as comfortable as reading ink on paper, no matter what other advantages an "e-book" might have.
Then comes "electronic paper" or "e-paper."
This invention allows for a display which is much more like a printed page than a computer monitor. Suddenly the technology to create an e-book that reads like a real book has arrived. A few companies jump on board, like Sony, who creates a product that looks like a winner. Except it's not Mac compatible, and so I wouldn't know.
But Kindle doesn't need a computer... PC or Mac... because it connects to the Amazon store wirelessly. That's a pretty smart move.
Unfortunately, it's about the only smart move Amazon made. Kindle is way too expensive ($400!), it can't accept open formats like DOC files or PDFs without paying Amazon for conversion and, most important of all, IT'S BUTT-UGLY! Seriously butt-ugly...
In a day and age when Apple is making a killing by creating devices so beautiful that they're practically a fashion accessory, Amazon has chosen to release a product that looks like something out of 1970's. And not in a good "retro" way, but in a "holy crap does that look like shit" way. The asymmetrical lines are horrifying, making the device look like somebody sat on it. I suppose it was designed this way to facilitate better usability, but watching the demo videos doesn't give me this impression at all.
Perhaps if Kindle was half the price, I wouldn't mind so much. But $400 for something that looks like this?
No thanks. For that kind of bank, it had better be iPhone-like beautiful. Because I'm vain that way.
If only Apple designed the world, we wouldn't have to be made to suffer like this.
Why isn't there a federal law which requires there to be a McDonalds located past every airport security checkpoint? That way, I wouldn't have to go to the Milwaukee airport 2-1/2 hours early so I have time to eat breakfast in the pre-screening lobby and still have time left to stand in line and get probed by the TSA (Milwaukee's express lane for first-class ticket-holders isn't a separate lane... all it does it cut you in front of some poor bastard that's been standing in line for an hour, and that's not really fair).
After having a thoroughly horrible breakfast of onion-flavored eggs on an onion-flavored croissant with onion-flavored cheese and a side of onion-flavored potatoes, I head over to the place that makes Milwaukee's airport one of my all-time favorites (even though there's no McDonalds on the E-Concourse)... RENAISSANCE BOOKS!
I love Renaissance. They have a remarkable collection of older used paperbacks & hardbacks at reasonable prices, and I've purchased at least a hundred books there over the past fifteen years I've been passing through MKE. Most of those are ancient 35¢ and 50¢ copies of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels for my collection. Today I filled in a few holes of my Tarzan series, which was pretty sweet.
And now I'm off to Walt Disney World.
Has the internets been painfully slow for everybody tonight... or is it just me?
This morning I stopped by the mini mart on the way to work to pick up some chocolate milk so I could face the day. As I was pulling into the parking lot, I noticed somebody I don't like at the gas pump and immediately turned around and drove off. The last thing I need is to deal with this crap first thing on a Monday morning. Unfortunately fate had other plans, and I ran across that same person later in the day. Everybody is karma's bitch from time to time.
Fortunately I managed to escape unscathed, because things stayed relatively civil. They didn't badmouth my friends and I didn't have to bitch-slap their stupid ass back into last week.
And now it's time for Current Events!
But before I go, I feel compelled to share some old news that's new news to me... and may be of interest to you if you are a comic book fan.
For a couple of years now, I've been an avid collector of GIT Corp's wonderful CD/DVD-ROM archives of Marvel comic books. Each tome collects hundreds of comics in PDF format, giving collectors the ultimate affordable resource for reading books that are hard to find or too expensive to own. There's something magical about being able to read 44 years of The Fantastic Four while stuck on a long airplane ride. I've bought every volume GIT has released, and was anxiously awaiting the release of their forthcoming Thor and Daredevil DVD-ROMS.
Except that's never going to happen now because Marvel refused to renew their license with GIT.
I'm sure this is because Marvel feels they can make more money by selling access to their comics online, but I have some major problems with that...
GIT says since they no longer have a license that once the existing products are gone, they're gone. So if you have even a passing interest in Marvel Comics, this is probably your last chance to pick up these archives. I buy most of mine from Tales of Wonder, which sells them all at discount, but good bargains can also be found at Amazon.
And now, since work is over and blogging is done, I think I'll go to bed and re-read George Perez's awesome run on The Avengers from the 1970's.
Boy how I will miss GIT's comics archives. If only DC Comics would give them a license for their books...
Another Bullet Sunday is upon us, but I'm not ready for the weekend to be over!
• Organizational... This past week Suzy asked me if I still had a souvenir I bought from when we were goofing around in L.A. back in September. I knew I hadn't thrown it away, but couldn't find it. Probably because whenever I get back from a trip, I toss all my souvenirs and crap into one of ten big cardboard boxes I've got piled on top of my shelving units. Disgusted with my lack of organization, I decided to sit down with one box a week until I've organized all my travel stuff. It's hard work, but every once in a while I see something from my past that makes me smile, and that makes it all worthwhile...
I wonder how many people know you could once smoke on a plane?
• Time Capsule... Cannot express in mere words how happy I am with my new Apple Time Capsule. Using the built-in wireless connection, it took 22 hours to back up the 142 GB on my laptop. That was a bit harsh, but the incremental updates every hour are very fast. It's constant, unobtrusive, transparent backup that works beautifully. I've lost count of the times that Time Machine has saved my ass both at work and at home. Just one of the hundreds of reasons I'm such an Apple whore.
• Album... 2008 promises to be a very good year for the 80's music that I love. It has been rumored since January that Depeche Mode would start work on their new album this month for release in November (with a tour hopefully following in early 2009). Morten Harket (of a-ha fame) is releasing an English-language album this month in Norway, which will hopefully be available when I'm there next week. The Pet Shop Boys are meeting with producers this month for their upcoming album. Bananarama is gathering material for their next album. Erasure is also rumored to be working on a new pop album very soon now. I have high hopes that New Order will get together this year. Still no word on a Thompson Twins reunion, but I remain optimistic that one day it will happen.
• WWZ... Many thanks to Vahid and Dustin for a brilliant recommendation... World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Totally awesome book! Now I want the audiobook, because Dustin says the recording has Henry Rollins in it and totally kicks ass! They have it at iTunes, but it costs $18.95! I think I'll see if the library has it to borrow first...
Because me loves the zombies...
And popcorn. Can't have zombies without popcorn!
Speaking of zombies... it's time for me to get back to work.
This has been a very challenging week for me on all fronts, and I am glad it's over. Hopefully I can manage to get caught up on all the emails, orders, blogs, and work I missed while dealing with the drama so things can get back to normal. It would be nice to have a little "normalcy" in my life right now.
• Thanks! A heartfelt thanks to everybody for the kind comments and emails this past week. I read absolutely everything I get, but haven't had much time to reply or comment myself. I'd like to send out a special thanks to the many, many wonderful people who were supportive of my posting of Henry's story a while back. Entries like this are not easy for me, and the nice feedback I got was much appreciated.
• High? I love these ads encouraging people to find out the facts about High Fructose Corn Syrup by pointing to a web site created by the people who make High Fructose Corn Syrup. I'd encourage people to do their own research on the evils of this horrendous shit and see where they net out. I only wish that there was away to easily avoid eating the crap, but it is in absolutely everything. I eat as little High Fructose Corn Syrup as possible, and hope that food manufacturers will start phasing it out like they have trans fats. In the meanwhile, these misleading ads will continue to tell people that High Fructose Corn Syrup is "okay in moderation" when there's no way to moderate it because most foods you buy have it in the ingredients...
Yo, bitch... you trying to kill me with that shit?
Bonus points if you watch the above-mentioned ad and notice that neither one of the actors in the commercial dare stick that High Fructose Corn Syrup laden popsicle in their mouths.
• Wrong! One of my most favorite features of my iPhone is having Google Maps in my pocket. When I need to find something, it's an invaluable resource. But not always. I am having a really tough time getting accurate information lately. I'll zero-in to where I'm at, search for something, and up will pop the location... except not really. I'll drive there only to find out that the information provided is outdated, inaccurate, or just plain wrong. Example... As I was driving home I wanted to see if a halloween store was around, so I Google Mapped it and came up with "Planet Halloween Superstore" in Monroe. Perfect. But having been burned by Google Maps before, I clicked through to the website and saw the information was indeed correct. So off I went... only to find it doesn't exist. So I call the number on the website and find out that it's been disconnected. Great. You'd think people would be nice enough to erase the website for a business that doesn't exist anymore so they don't waste people's time, but I guess not. Lame. What's even more frustrating is that Google Maps doesn't do anything about it, even when you put in a request... like I did for the now-dead Johnny Rockets in Chicago. It shows as "removal requested" in my web browser, but hasn't actually been removed...
And now let's look at the location on my iPhone...
Yes, that's right... this mobile version of Google Maps doesn't bother to show the removal request, which is pretty messed up. I guess I just have to remember to distrust Google Maps every single time I use it until I've verified the information directly. Kind of defeats the purpose, but that's progress for you.
• Watching! Finally got my copy of Dave Gibbons' Watching The Watchmen while I was working in Seattle... and was really disappointed. I was drooling at the prospect of insider information about my favorite graphic novel of all time but, despite weighing in with a whopping 256 over-sized pages, there just wasn't a lot there. Mostly just page after page after page after page of thumbnail layout sketches showing sketchy compositions with an occasional comparison to the actual printed page. As if that wasn't bad enough, the book's design sucked ass. Who the fuck puts small blue text over a black background on glossy paper and expects that anybody will be able to read it? I was constantly shifting the book as I was attempting to read it in order to see the text without having it blown out in reflective glare. Monumentally fucking stupid and an EPIC FAIL. My recommendation is to skip the book. If you're a die-hard Watchmen fan, it's worth a check-out at your local library, but hardly worth owning...
• Voted? Still encouraging people to vote in the upcoming election. Many states allow early voting so you don't have to wait in lines come November 4th.
And now I think I shall retire so that I can get up at some obscene hour and go to work early.
Apparently, there's legislation underfoot that will force bloggers to write a disclaimer when they're being paid to write about stuff. It has something to do with FTC guidelines governing endorsements, which is kind of silly if you ask me. Honest bloggers are going to disclose that kind of stuff anyway... dishonest bloggers are going to lie regardless of any guidelines they're handed.
So, in the interest of full disclosure, I am going to be reviewing a book I was given by a fellow blogger. He did not ask me to review his book, he just asked me if I'd like to read it. I said yes. And I'm going to review it because I liked it... not because I got it for free. If I didn't like it, I would have undoubtedly not reviewed it. Not because I felt I was under any obligation for getting a free book... but because there just wouldn't be much point in it. Of course, if the book was a steaming pile of crap, I would have been obligated to warn everybody to stay away and not to waste their time. I'm a decent human being that way.
Anyway... here's a look at Mercury Falls, the debut novel by Rob Kroese, who is probably better known as "Diesel" from Mattress Police...
I was prepared to hate Mercury Falls, mostly because the official web site had it positioned as being in the vein of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy which is one of my favorite novels of all time. You simply do not go setting yourself next to a giant like Douglas Adams and walk away unscathed. It's just not done. I don't care how funny you think you are, such a statement only serves to set the reader up for disappointment.
"Mr. Kroese... I have met Douglas Adams (twice!), and you sir are no Douglas Adams."
I enjoyed this novel.
The story sounds as if it might be a mash-up between Kevin Smith's film Dogma and Douglas Adams' Infocom Game Bureaucracy, but actually has a unique voice all its own. Basically, the end of the world is upon us (for real this time), and the bureaucrats of heaven and hell are each maneuvering to come out on top. The Apocalypse only gets more complicated when a fallen angel (Mercury), an End-Of-Days reporter (Christine Temetri), and the newly-appointed Antichrist (Karl Grissom) enter the picture. Everybody has an agenda, and nobody is quite sure who's playing the side of the angels... or demons... as the plot to save the world unfolds. Hilarity ensues.
I found Mercury Falls to be really clever, with an abundance of witty dialogue and enough twists to keep things interesting right up to the last page. Chunks of the book are very funny, as one paragraph after another was dripping with a biting humor that seems unsustainable, but Kroese somehow manages to keep going. Things do bog down a bit when somebody gets mired in explaining the bureaucracy of heaven and hell, but never in such a way to kill the story. I particularly liked the characters, each being fully-realized with enough baggage and personality to make them memorable (after meeting Karl, you'll never think of the Antichrist the same way again, that's for sure!).
The novel is infused with numerous pop-culture references and an inexplicable affinity for linoleum that drives a lot of the story's humor. This would usually spell disaster because the plot gets shoved aside to make room for jokes, but everything seemed nicely balanced and just kind of "worked." By the time the "Four Attaché Cases of the Apocalypse" debuted, there was no turning back. I was completely absorbed in the world of Mercury Falls and admired the way new elements were constantly being added to keep things fresh. A pleasant change from authors who blow their best material in the first three chapters and then coast to the finish line.
My only real problem with the book is the cover art. First of all, the cover barely has relevance to the story. The two famous cherubs taken from Raphael's master work Sistine Madonna are cute, and there are cherubs in the tale... but they do nothing to communicate the story's main plot (the Apocalypse) or nature of the work (humorous). This is a darn shame, because the story deserves so much more than yet another recycling of artwork that has been so overused as to become generic (and has probably been printed on everything from condoms to toilet paper). Sadly, it's so overused that most people don't even realize that it's not even a painting, but a small piece of a painting...
But hey, if you're not being backed by a big publisher that can afford to commission custom artwork, there are certainly worse public domain images you could use, so it's hard to fault the artwork too much (though giving a liner credit to Raphael for his art would have been nice). At least it's beautiful to look at, even if it doesn't really tell potential customers what the story is about.
Sadly, I can't be so forgiving for the cover's letter kerning, which is pretty bad (though not the worst I've seen). Why in the hell people putting book covers together can't take five minutes to adjust letter-spacing so it looks decent is beyond me. Even if it was bad kerning, I'd be okay with it... so long as it was consistent. The "A" and "L" in "FALLS" are jammed together, for example, but "M" and "E" in "MERCURY" (which share similar exterior letterforms) are given breathing room. The spine's lettering is heinously fucked, with a surprise typeface change and such inconsistent kerning that one has to wonder if the designer was trying to spell things out phonetically. Written by
Maybe if I continue to bitch about stuff like this each time I review a book, people will start paying attention so anal retentive designers such as myself can shop at a book store without wanting to bash their heads against a wall.
Cover complaints aside, it would be easy to say that Mercury Falls is a "good first effort" for Rob Kroese... but it would also be inadequate. This would be a great read even if it was his tenth book. I enjoyed the story from start to finish and am happy to recommend it to anybody who enjoys humorous fiction.
Or is bored and looking for something fun to read.
Congratulations, Rob... I am anxiously awaiting your next book!
You can buy a copy in a myriad of formats by following the links at the official Mercury Falls website.
UPDATE: Well lookey what we have here... Mercury Falls was picked up by Amazon's independent publishing arm, AmazonEncore. The cover features 270% better kerning and now has an illustration kinda related to the story!
Well played, Mr. Kroese. Well played.
It's Bullet Sunday once again... this time with two scoops of raisins for superior raisin bran taste! And a list of stuff to buy.
• XBox 360 Arcade. Yesterday I took Amazon up on their "Gold Box Lightning Deal" to get an XBox 360 Arcade for $198 WITH a $100 Amazon Credit... which, basically, means I'm getting an XBox 360 for $98. It's not that I really want an XBox 360 again (I gave my old one away)... heck, I can't even find time to play with my Nintendo Wii. But what I DO want is a (relatively) inexpensive way of streaming NetFlix "Watch It Now" stuff to my television. To do this, I could buy a $100 Netflix DV Player, or I could buy this $100 XBox 360. Since the cost is the same, I might as well get something that's capable of doing extra stuff.
Like playing Final Fantasy XIII when it's released next Spring...
Amazing, isn't it? Games are just like playing movies now-a-days.
• Mr. Squiggles. This morning I found out that a mishap involving a really angry woman at Toys-R-Us a while back inadvertently ended up with me owning this year's hottest toy... Zhu Zhu Hamster Mr. Squiggles...
I just bought him because a foul-mouthed bitch who couldn't read signs threw him on the floor. And he was only $10. And he looked cool. And who wouldn't want a battery-operated hamster? I showed him off and let him run around for a while until his batteries ran out, then stuck him somewhere I can't remember. Then this morning I found out from Beth's Twitter feed that everybody wants Zhu Zhu Hamsters, and they're going for a small fortune on eBay. I wish I could find mine. I wish I had kept his box. I wish somebody would find Mr. Squiggles and his box then pay me $100 for him. Because, yeah... while he was great for five minutes, I can't fathom him being worth more than the $10 I paid. Apparently a lot of people disagree, and now the asshole toy scalpers are making a fortune. What a sick way to make extra cash.
• Give Me Liberty. In the world of comic books, the two hottest titles of all time are The Dark Knight Returns, a grim imagining of Batman's future by Frank Miller... and Watchmen, the groundbreaking reality super-heroes book by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Both of these amazing comic series debuted in 1986, and were a revelation to me (and most everybody else) at the time. After the Dark Knight & Watchmen furor blew over, the question on everybody's mind was "what's the next big thing?" For Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons, the answer was a vastly under-appreciated gem in 1990 called Give Me Liberty: An American Dream, the story of a woman named Martha Washington. Born in the slums of Chicago in 1995, she escaped her terrible life by joining PAX (the Military Peace Corps) and went on to numerous (and often very violent) adventures. I loved the book, and was desperate for more after the four brief issues in the series flew by. Fortunately, another series and a number of one-shot books followed... furthering Martha's adventures right up until her death. Now, at long last, this remarkable story has been collected in one massive volume: The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-First Century...
And it is glorious. It's a massive tome totaling 600 pages and weighing in at over 10 pounds. Dark Horse Comics used the oversize "Absolute" format that DC Comics has been using for their releases, and it's a fantastic format to appreciate Dave Gibbons' incredible artwork...
As if that wasn't enough, the book also features new introductions to each story by Gibbons and 40 pages of development sketches and promotional material.
The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the Twenty-First Century retails for $99, but I shopped around and found it on special for $65 including tax and shipping. It's worth every penny and is highly recommended.
• The High Cost of Living. And, while I'm waxing poetic about brilliant comic book compilations, I would be remiss in not mentioning DC Comic's stunning Absolute Death book. Featuring one of my favorite comic characters of all time, Death, by Neil Gaiman and Chris Bachalo...
She's cute, smart, funny, and just happens to be there when you die... and, for reasons that are not entirely clear... when you're born. Absolute Death collects a few of her appearances from The Sandman along with her two solo mini-series Death: The High Cost of Living and Death: The Time of Your Life plus a wealth of supplemental material including a Death illustration gallery and a sketchbook by Bachalo. It retails for $99.99 and would be a bargain at twice the price... but can be purchased at discount for around $65 plus shipping.
• The Best Things. Now that I don't have any money left because I bought a bunch of stuff I didn't need and can't afford, I thought I'd mention that there was a beautiful view outside my window this evening and I got to look at it for free.
Now I'm tired from working all weekend, so I think I'll take my broke ass to bed and read a book.
At long last.
The news I've been waiting over 25 years to hear has just been released by Disney...
BURBANK, Calif. (January 15, 2010) - Principal photography is underway in London for Walt Disney Pictures' "JOHN CARTER OF MARS." Academy Award-winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton brings this captivating hero to the big screen in a stunning adventure epic set on the wounded planet of Mars, a world inhabited by warrior tribes and exotic desert beings. Based on the first of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Barsoom Series," the film chronicles the journey of Civil-War veteran John Carter, who finds himself battling a new and mysterious war amidst a host of strange Martian inhabitants.
After I had watched Star Wars in 1977, my 11-year-old mind was ensnared by science fiction and I was desperate for more. I had read a few teen sci-fi books here and there, but the genre never really caught hold. It wasn't until Star Wars that an obsession was born. I quickly became bored with the "kids" version of science fiction and decided to see what awaited me in the adult section of the library. That's when I found A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs...
I devoured all of the Burroughs "Barsoom" books, and used it as a spring-board to the worlds of Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, Herbert, and other science fiction giants.
But it was the John Carter of Mars books that remained my favorite (so much so that I even "became" Edgar Rice Burroughs when joining in on Kapgar's "The Lost Blogs" contest).
Sure they are relatively flimsy stories filled with outrageous coincidences and tacky dialogue, but the bizarre creatures and fantastic places that are a hallmark of the stories more than compensated. It was those things that had me dying to see John Carter movies on the big screen.
And, after numerous false starts, that day has finally come.
Here's hoping Andrew Stanton doesn't fuck up a childhood dream...
Today's word in the TWENTY/TWENTY meme is "many."
After this weekend, it's all over. I'll either complete my many projects before Monday's deadline and emerge victorious... or I will crash and burn horribly and be buried beneath the wreckage.
Except I'm mostly done, so victory is pretty much assured. I've been killing myself for the past three weeks, so victory had better be assured.
When thinking about what photos to use for today's word, I didn't even have to dig. A series of photos I took while in Shanghai immediately came to mind, as I remembered the many red ribbons decorating the city.
Most of the time they're in a wishing tree. People write their desires on a ribbon, tie it to a coin, then toss it into the tree as an offering to the nature spirit living there to grant their wish. My favorite was this beautiful golden tree at the Yuyuan Market Street...
But you can also find them tied around temples on statues, doors, trees, and such...
So many wishes.
I wonder how many of them come true?
In other news, I've decided to re-read James Clavell's Noble House for the millionth time once I'm caught up on Monday. I've been thinking about it ever since I posted that photo from Hong Kong four days ago, and posting photos from China today has only confirmed it. I never tire of reading the thing...
Ooh... time for cookies in bed!
Tonight while watching television I fell asleep on the couch. Thinking that my body was finally willing to catch up on some much-needed sleep, I went and laid down in my bedroom around 8:30.
And promptly woke up at 10:17.
So now, on top of still being woefully behind in sleep, my internal clock is going to be messed up because I'm wide awake, and probably won't be getting any more sleep tonight. This is resoundingly bad news, because I start a series of back-to-back-to-back-to-back trips next week, and sleep even worse when I'm traveling. But no worries... I'm sure everything will be back to normal again by the end of August.
Just before I head to Europe and get all screwed up again.
Oh well. Insomnia is a great excuse to read through the incredible Wednesday Comics hardcover collection... again...
I sure hope that DC Comics does another series of Wednesday Comics... it's the most entertainment I've had with their characters in years. Many of the creators got really creative and experimental with their strips, and the payoff is a massive bucket of pure WIN! But even better than the uniqueness of it all is the FUN. So many of the stories are just plain fun which is exceedingly rare. I'd purchase every broadsheet edition plus the hardcover collection all over again just for Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner's Supergirl strip, where every panel is beautifully rendered... and funny...
If you love comics... or even if you used to love comics but haven't read them in years... here's your book. It originally ran for 12 consecutive Wednesdays with one page of each strip per issue (Batman, Deadman, Demon/Catwoman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Kamandi, Metal Men, Metamorpho, Sgt. Rock, Strange Adventures, Supergirl, Superman, Teen Titans, and Wonder Woman) all written and drawn by top industry talents. Amazon has it for $32, which is an absolute steal when you consider it's an over-sized 11x17" volume that runs 200 pages! Recommended!
And so here I am at Comic-Con International 2010 or, as I refer to it, "The Bastion of Cruelty."
Make no mistake, Comic Con is not fun. At least, not the kind of fun you're used to. It's fun in an entirely different way, where the suffering is what makes it fun. Because once you've endured the crowds, the endless lines, the expensive food, and the many opportunities for bitter disappointment... what you have left is fun that you've earned. Which makes it just that much sweeter, of course.
I wrote in-depth about my Comic-Con experience when I was here last time, and this year is more of the same, so I won't bore you with another extensive recap... just a few things I took away from my half-day at the event...
• As expected, AT&T's service was complete and total shit. A lot of the time I couldn't get even remotely useable bandwidth speeds, which was still better than the many times I couldn't get service at all. Never mind that 3G service was absent more often than not and I was kicked back to EDGE, a huge chunk of my battery was spent just trying to get something... anything I could work with so that I could TXT or make a call...
Now, granted, 150,000 people all in one spot is bound to overload a cellular network, but I wasn't expecting things to be this bad. I wonder if Verizon and T-Mobile were in the same boat? Probably.
• Just like last year, Comic-Con was drastically oversold. There's just entirely too many people, which means that even if you stand in a line for hours, you're still not guaranteed that there will be room for you in the venue. I sure wish that the people running this thing would find a way to make this more fair so you don't wait in line for nothing... though I suppose if they eliminated lines and went with tickets or something, then all the people in line would be clogging up the show floor, so maybe that's why they don't.
• While I am excited about a number of movies being promoted at the Con, including Scott Pilgrim, which is based on a comic I really like, it's TRON: Legacy that has me freaking out. I loved the original film, and the sequel looks like it will absolutely amazing. If nothing else, the new LightBikes are cool...
• Just like two years ago, I had three comics people I wanted to see on the dealer floor. Eric Shanower, Sergio Aragonés, and Brandon Peterson. Shanower was easy to find, still promoting Age of Bronze, his epic retelling of the Trojan War in comic book form. Aragonés, whose work in MAD Magazine I've loved since I was a kid, was signing his latest Groo The Wanderer collection...
Peterson I COULD NOT FIND! Not from the booth number he gave at his website (which, so far as I could tell), didn't exist. Nor from his description of the area he'd be at. He had a new artbook I wanted to get too. Bummer.
• Speaking of comic books... it truly shocks me when I walk by the booth of some titan of the industry and see that nobody is there to see them. They've long since been replaced by some hot new talent, and now they've been forgotten as if their work doesn't matter. I guess it's just a facet of the industry, like all industries, but it just doesn't seem right.
• The costumes this year were better than ever, though I'm ashamed to admit that my favorite costume I saw wasn't super-hero related. It was Dr. Rockzo from Metalocalypse! "MY NAME IS DR. ROCKZO! I DO COCAINE!!
It's more fun to see people dressed up outside the convention. Like your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, walking down the street...
• After four hours, I had as much as I could take, and decided to get as far away from the crowds as possible. I hadn't been to the San Diego Zoo in decades, so that seemed like a good place. It's a remarkable zoo... probably the best I have ever seen... and it just keeps improving. The sheer volume of animals you can see it pretty impressive...
And lest we forget... they have THE BUCKETS OF DEATH available...
And that's pretty much it. I met up with quite a few friends and bloggers along the way, which was truly the highlight of my Comic-Con experience. I'd take that over meeting movie stars and comic book heroes any day.
All that's left is a redeye flight across the country, and my day is done...
It's a boring day for Bullet Sunday, but here it comes...
• Read. It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of the Curious George. It was George who ignited my life-long love of monkeys, and his books remain some of my favorites of all time (the best being Curious George Goes to the Hospital. For this reason, I was happy to see that the Library of Congress was using him to promote reading with a series of cool ads...
Books come and go, but the classics are forever.
• Digital. As a long-time fan of comic books, there's something... wrong... with the idea of reading them digitally on an iPad or computer screen instead of the wonderful tactile experience of flipping through the pages of a book. But, after downloading a bunch of freebies on my mom's iPad using the Comixology app, I have to say... I'm almost convinced. I'm growing to love the effortless navigation, brilliant colors, and distraction-free panel-by-panel "Guide View" that leads you through the stories. As if that weren't enough, you can store a lot of comics on a digital device, which beats having to lug around stacks of books and finding room to store them all...
However... pricing and availability sucks ass.
Take for example the acclaimed Vertigo series Y: The Last Man. I've never read the series, but have always wanted to. The first issue was FREE on Comixology so I snapped it up and was immediately hooked. I wanted more. So I click on the "Full Series" button only to find this...
WTF?!? They have just THREE issues of a SIXTY issue series... FOR A DOLLAR-NINETY-NINE EACH!! Even if the entire series was available, who is going to pay $120 when you can get PHYSICAL COPIES of all ten trade paperback volumes for $90? Heck, you can get all the OVERSIZED DELUXE HARDCOVER volumes for $100. This is insanity. Nobody wants to pay more for less. No printing. No shipping costs. No distribution. No retailer markup. No resale value. Nothing extra or special. Except the price, which just sucks. I would gladly pay $60 for the entire digital series, I may even pay $90, which is what the trade paperbacks would cost me. But $120? Screw that. Especially since there's no guarantee they'll ever release all the issues for digital sale in the first place. If this is the future of publishing, count me out. EPIC FAIL!
• Emmy. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Betty White won an Emmy for her hilarious guest host performance on Saturday Night Live...
To this day, I remain astounded at how she cut no corners... she appeared in every sketch, plus an SNL Short, plus all the MacGruber interludes plus Weekend Update. Truly one of the hardest working people in show business (she just signed on for a TWO-book deal!), this is Betty's fifth Emmy win and she deserved every bit of it. As always, I can't wait to see what she'll do next.
• Miyazaki. Good news for fans of Hayao Miyazaki (perhaps the greatest animator in history). Despite saying he was going to retire years ago, a recent interview revealed that he has no plans to retire. In fact, he's planning two films and is musing over a sequel to his underrated gem, Porco Rosso...
When I flew to L.A. and met up with Howard for a rare live appearance of Miyazaki-san discussing his career, I thought it was a kind of "retrospective farewell," and am happier than words could express that this is not the case. Next up, Karigurashi no Arietti (The Borrower Arrietty) based on Mary Norton's 1952 novel The Borrowers...
If there's anything you can rely on, it's that this movie will be yet another awesome Miyazaki work of art.
• Eggs. My fried egg sandwich was delicious. So far so good... but salmonella can take up to three days to incubate, so I could have a diarrhea explosion any minute now. I'll keep you posted.
Annnnd... I'm spent. This is going to be a loooooong week.
I am starting to really, really despise Amazon.com — not because they suck or anything... for the most part I find their pricing and service to be excellent. No, the reason I hate them is because they make it entirely too easy for me to spend money I don't have. Stupid Amazon and their stupid product suggestions and their stupid One-Click ordering!
Here are three of my latest totally non-essential purchases that I just had to own or else I would die...
THE MAKING OF THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Star Wars is awesomeness defined. So awesome that at the time it was released, it was nearly impossible to process. Most everything about it was so new and revolutionary that the brain had no choice but to explode at the thought of it all. But by the time The Empire Strikes Back came along three years later, we were accustomed to all the amazing special effects and mind-blowing elements that made Star Wars such a phenomena. We wouldn't be surprised again.
Or so we thought. The Empire Strikes Back proved us wrong. Upping the ante in every possible way, the film raised the bar so high that few... very few... films have managed to top it. It remains one of my top-five favorite films of all time, and cemented my love of Star Wars for all eternity (even when the franchise turned to shit with Return of the Jedi and the horrendously craptastic prequels).
So how could I possibly not purchase The Making of The Empire Strikes Back, J.W. Rinzler's stunning follow-up to The Making of Star Wars and The Complete Making of Indiana Jones? This massive 372-page tome has a definitive look at every aspect of the movie's creation taken from countless hours of research and interviews. It includes numerous pieces of production art, behind-the-scenes photos, and other tidbits which gives the reader an insider's look at Empire in a way that will make you not only fall in love with the film all over again... but have an entirely new appreciation for the people behind it...
It's a complete and total steal at $49.72 (list price $85.00!), and I give it my highest possible recommendation for Star Wars fans and anybody who's interested in film production. The Force is indeed strong with this one!
THE SECRET OF KELLS BLU-RAY/DVD COMBO
Where to start with this one. Probably with the fact that I am a total animation whore. I remain hopelessly fascinated with the artform and obsess over its every incarnation. Everything from a simple flip-book to full-blown computer-generated animations captivate me. But hand-drawn animated features are my favorite. Even when Pixar unleashes their latest computer-rendered genius, I still find myself pining for the animated classics I grew up with.
So imagine my surprise when I happened across a production blog back in 2006 for an animated feature called The Secret of Kells. I had visited Dublin and seen the jaw-dropping beauty of The Book of Kells the previous year, and thought it was pure genius to use it as the foundation for a movie. For years I followed the updates, watching with amazement as the film took shape...
With each update at The Blog of Kells, I became more and more excited at the visual feast that was being created. Even at its very earliest stages, you could feel this would be something special. When peeks of the animated sequences were revealed, you knew it was something special. And when it finally opened in limited release in Washington State back in May, I finally got to see it and know that "special" was a drastic understatement. The film was magic. And I don't use that term lightly.
Infused with Celtic mythology, The Secret of Kells tells the story of a young boy named Brendan who sees an unfinished book of secret wisdom and magical powers which holds the hope of banishing darkness and defeating evil. Leaving his world behind, Brendan undertakes an amazing journey through an enchanted forest to help complete The Book of Kells. Along the way he meets mystical creatures and the fairy spirit Aisling to aid him in his quest...
Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. Every frame of this movie is a sublime work of art in its own right. Every frickin' frame! The fact that it's all beautifully animated in old-school stylings is just the icing on the cake. I could use words like "stunning" and "breathtaking" and "Glorious" to describe it, but there is simply nothing I can say which would adequately prepare you for the experience of viewing the film. Though a part of me wonders if the story is a bit too abstract for younger kids, I can't imagine anybody not enjoying The Secret of Kells.
For $25 you get a combo Blu-Ray/DVD pack (alas, no digital version to be found) and it's worth every penny. Again, my highest possible recommendation.
GRINDHOUSE: COLLECTOR'S EDITION BLU-RAY
Finally... finally... Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's wonderful experiment in old-school double-feature cinema has been released on home video as they intended it to be seen... an uninterrupted back-to-back experience complete with all the pseudo-trailers, aged film damage, missing reels, and intermission card goodness!
Grindhouse combines two films of senseless campy violence, horror, and action by two of Hollywood's most genius and unconventional directors... Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino, and Planet Terror by Robert Rodriguez. You also get a bunch of brutally cool "faux trailers" for films like Werewolf Women of the S.S. by Rob Zombie and Don't by Edgar Wright (and, of course, Machete which was later made into an actual film!). It's not going to be for everybody, but any fan of shlock horror films will probably love it...
While both films have their charms, it's Death Proof that I can't get enough of. When it comes to Tarantino movies, it's but a blip on the radar of his impressive oeuvre, but it's still genius when compared to most of the shit that gets released. Kurt Russell(!) plays a psychopathically homicidal stuntman who likes to stalk lady drivers in his "death-proof" stunt car, eventually running them off the road and killing them. It's all fun and games for the maniac... until he terrorizes the wrong women! This twisted tale of suspense and revenge has one of the best car chase sequences ever put to film, and is chock-full of Tarantino's witty (and borderline scandalous) dialogue. As I said, it's not going to be for everybody, but it's dead-on target for its intended audience. If that's you, I give Grindhouse my highest recommendation. Amazon has it for just $23, which is more entertainment per dollar than you can shake a machine gun at!
And there you have it. $100 of my hard-earned money blown with three clicks. I wish I could say this was a rare event but, alas, there are even more unnecessary but essential items waiting for me, I'm sure.
Don't act surprised when I'm selling myself on the street for Amazon gift certificates. It's only a matter of time...
Welcome to an ALL-REVIEW EDITION of Bullet Sunday!
• SIDEWALKS! I still haven't come down off the high I got from Matt and Kim's second album masterpiece, Grand, so when I heard they were dropping their third album, Sidewalks, I was skeptical. How could they possible come up with anything even near as awesome? Well, they're Matt and Kim, so how could it not be awesome? I love it, and have been listening to Sidewalks constantly. Here's a short video talking about the album with a sweet taste of the awesome first track...
The only song I don't much care for is Northeast, which deviates from the happy funtime sound that makes me love the band so much. The other nine tracks are gold, however, with my clear favorites being Block After Block, Cameras, AM/FM Sound, and Good for Great. My only criticism of Sidewalks would be that it seems over-produced compared to what's come before. The charm of Matt and Kim's music has always been the raw, unpolished, basement sound that lets their indie roots shine through. But everything here is polished so heavily that no rough edges show, and I'm not sure that's a good thing. Kim's wild, unapologetic brashness when banging on the drums is kinda... muted... this time around. And while the complexity they've layered into their latest songs adds a welcome maturity to their sound, I'd hate for them to eventually be buried by it.
SIDEWALKS RATING: B (Recommended).
• THE WALKING DEAD! Comic book adaptations for television have historically been hit-or-miss, with even the most successful translations feeling like something is lacking. So imagine my surprise when one of my favorite comic books ever, The Walking Dead, actually managed to elevate the source material so high that it exceeds my impossibly high expectations. In some ways, it's even better than the comic book upon which it's based...
Shocking, I know. But no more shocking than a comic book where no character is sacred and anybody can die at any minute. What's truly shocking is the production values on the series. AMC is putting some serious cash into all aspects of the program, and it shows. The special effects and location shooting are brilliant. The zombies are works of art and not the schlocky B-movie retreads I was expecting. And the acting is top-notch, with Andrew Lincoln's flawless performance as Rick Grimes adding a sense of danger and realism that's almost too good to be true...
Genius television on every level, and already renewed for a second season!
COMIC RATING: A+ (Highly Recommended).
TV SHOW RATING: A (Highly Recommended).
• EARTH! As a huge fan of The Daily Show, I was quick to snap up their humorous primer on all things USA called America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction. Even though The Daily Show is a comedy program, it still manages to have an intelligent discussion of news and politics between the funny. With America (The Book), they poke fun at the country by reducing our culture and history down to a ridiculous grade-school textbook filled with witty essays that illuminate while they amuse. It was a terrific book, which compelled me to pick up the follow-up tome, Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race...
It's reminiscent of America (The Book), but on a global scale. Except this time they dismissed with the essays and went with page after page of easy jokes and witty one-liners slapped on wacky infographics and amusing photos. While still funny and moderately insightful, it doesn't leave the reader with much to think about (which seems to be the point). So while I definitely enjoyed Earth (The Book) it was kind of a step-down from their previous effort.
AMERICA (THE BOOK) RATING: A (Highly Recommended).
EARTH (THE BOOK) RATING: B (Recommended).
• BLU-RAY COLLECTIONS! I've been opposed to wasting my money on re-purchasing videos on Blu-Ray that I already own on DVD unless there's a very good reason for doing so. Unfortunately, two new sets have dropped which left me with no choice, because they both contain some of my favorite films of all time PLUS very good reasons for buying them...
Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy. I am convinced that all three of these films are some of the most brilliant and inventive movies to ever grace the silver screen... and it's all because of the details. The original Back to the Future not only had a great story, but showed the consequences of time travel with numerous small details that geeks like myself go crazy over (such as when Marty destroyed one of Old Man Peabody's trees in 1955, causing the "Twin Pines Mall" in 1985 to transform into "Lone Pine Mall"). Then we got Back to the Future II, which managed to create an all-new story WITHIN the original film all while giving us a fantastical look at the future. Sheer genius. Back to the Future III was a bit more mundane, trading the future for the Old West, but managed to wrap-up the trilogy in a way that was satisfying and respectful to those that came before. This new Blu-Ray set has an incredible transfer to hi-def that's a marked improvement over the old DVD versions. Despite having been filmed in the 80's, everything looks crisp and new, and there's tons of extras that any BTTF fan will love (some of which I have never seen before). An added bonus... digital copies of all three films is included, so you can transfer everything to your iPod, which is awesome. Two down-sides. 1) The packaging can make releasing the discs a real challenge. You pull down on the disc to unhook it, but sometimes it doesn't work like it should, and I worried that I'd snap the thing in half. 2) The menu system is FUCKING STUPID! Maybe it's just my player, but every damn time I view something, the menu won't come back and I have to eject the disc, then wait the five minutes it takes for the menu to load again. A serious flaw that drops my rating... I'll take functionality over design any day.
BACK TO THE FUTURE: 25TH ANNIVERSARY TRILOGY RATING: B+ (Highly Recommended).
Alien Anthology The issue here is picture quality. The Alien films are fairly dark, which is a real problem for DVD/TV. You can get some nasty compression artifacts and murky shadows that obliterate details and kill the spooky atmosphere that makes the movies work so well. Thankfully, the new Blu-Ray Hi-Def transfer is fantastic. The picture is probably better now than it ever was, which makes me wish they'd re-release the films in digital theaters. In any event, the original Ridley Scott Alien film was a masterpiece blend of science fiction and horror that can still scare the crap out of me even today. It was followed by Aliens, where James Cameron did the impossible by grafting a high-octane "space marine" action flick onto the original sci-fi/horror concept... and actually made it work. David Fincher's Alien3 was a disastrous disservice to the story from Aliens, but a pretty good film when looked at independently. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Alien: Resurrection has some amazing visual sequences that are tied together by a rather weak story which revives Sigourney Weaver's deceased character in a way that never really worked for me. And even though I hated the freaky-ass mutant alien that provided the "villain" for the fourth installment, I think I enjoyed the film overall. Everything is brought together beautifully with a shitload of awesome extras that will take me days to get through. The packaging (again) is a bit odd (WTF-?), but workable. For any fan of any of the films, Alien Anthology is a must-have.
ALIEN ANTHOLOGY RATING: A (Highly Recommended).
And now I'm out of money, so that will have to be enough unabashed consumerism for the day.
Thanks to the holiday weekend, I saved my ammo for a rare "Bullet Sunday on Monday" edition!
• Wallpaper! I had forgotten to convert my DaveToon iPhone wallpaper backgrounds to the iPad, so thanks to my friend Göran for the reminder! They're free for your personal use, but cannot be sold or used for any commercial purpose. Just click on the version you'd like and it will open in a separate window. From there, you can drag the image to your desktop, or right-click (control-click for Mac) and save it wherever you like.
If you want to know how to get the pictures onto your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, Apple has a helpful support document.
If you are using Android or any other mobile platform, you can still use the wallpapers... I recommend grabbing the iPad version and cropping it to your display resolution.
Click for iPad (1024 x 1024)
Click for iPhone 4 (640 x 960)
Click for iPhone/iPod (320 x 480)
Click for iPad (1024 x 1024)
Click for iPhone 4 (640 x 960)
Click for iPhone/iPod (320 x 480)
Click for iPad (1024 x 1024)
Click for iPhone 4 (640 x 960)
Click for iPhone/iPod (320 x 480)
Eventually I'll get more wallpapers converted and come up with some new stuff. Until then, enjoy!
• Ask Dave! I would be remiss to not mention that the remarkably awesome FREE Ask Dave! app for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad is still available! It hasn't been optimized for Retina Display yet, but still looks pretty awesome. Hopefully I'll get around to creating new custom versions for next-gen iOS devices like iPad,
• $3.99 No More! I've decided to stop buying Marvel Comics. Marvel blows. DC Comics listened to comic book fans and dropped their cover price of ongoing series to $2.99 ($1.79 at discount) back in October. Whereas Marvel is STILL soliciting their titles at $3.99 ($2.39 at discount). And I'm simply not going to pay over $2.00 for a comic book because nothing coming out of Marvel is worth it. Even though the stuff that's going on in their books is pretty awesome...
Seriously, the time for digital comics is here. Offer comics for $1.00 each direct with no printing costs, no shipping costs, no storage costs, no distribution costs. I would by at least double the books I do now... maybe even triple. Not only that, but I would be ten times more willing to try a new book for a buck than I would paying $3.99 for a printed copy. Assuming that there are a lot of comic book fans like me who set a monthly budget for comics, the net would be a win for comic creators and fans alike. Sure I'm going to miss having printed copies that I can hold and flip through... but if I'm going to stop buying them anyway, surely this is better than nothing?
And I'm afraid that's all she wrote for this week. Next week we'll have a very special New Year Edition of Bullet Sunday. Hope to see you then!
Time for another BEHIND THE SCENES episode of Blogography!
Thanks so much to everybody who has supported the debut issue of Thrice Fiction magazine! RW and I have been surprised... shocked even... by the number of people who have been kind enough to take a look and give us some nice feedback. In all honesty, I thought maybe 40-50 people would bother to download the thing. Sure it's free, but time is valuable, and I didn't think many people would give it a chance. Even more surprising, a good chunk of you actually bought the printed magazine from MagCloud. We don't make any money off of those sales, but knowing people like the magazine enough to buy it... well, that's better than money!
Okay, probably not... but when you combine all the downloads and printed issues, we've "sold" around 320 copies. Considering we haven't done any promotion outside of our blogs and Facebook, this is pretty remarkable.
Some of the nicest comments I received were saying good things about the artwork, which is really special to me considering most of it was a last-minute addition. Though, considering most people only see the crappy cartoons I slap together for this blog, I guess anything would be "good" by comparison! A few people had asked about the "medium" I used for the pieces, so I thought I'd do another "behind the scenes" entry to explain how the front cover came together...
I suppose the first thing I should say is that this is not a painting. The painted "look" is just a couple of Photoshop filter effects. So what is it? Just a bunch of photo pieces that have been blended together to create an image based on this sketch I made to show "The End" of the earth...
The first step was to find me a good star-field image. Fortunately, our tax dollars have funded the Hubble Telescope, which has provided thousands of hi-res images to choose from. I ended up rearranging the stars a bit, but this was the image that was most like I had in mind....
All the other photos were taken from my extensive collection of travel photos. That way, I don't have to worry about obtaining permission to use them or get in trouble for copyright infringement or whatever. "The earth" is just a photo I shot in Southern Utah that has been turned upside-down and warped into the shape I needed...
The water was some tricky business. I found a photo I took on Kauai's north shore which made for a pretty good start...
Kind of rough there, but I didn't want to start painting the pieces together until I had the waterfall in place. Fortunately, that was made easy thanks to a photo I took at one of the Walt Disney World resort hotels (don't ask me which one)...
In my original sketch, I had wanted a metropolitan cityscape in the background. The problem was that I couldn't make it look good. And believe me, I tried. I spent a good hour cobbling together skyscrapers in an attempt to get it looking right. But it never did. Rather than waste the rest of my life trying, I tossed everything out and started over. But this time I thought I'd go for something less urban, and found a shot I took last year at Portofino in Northern Italy. Cutting the city out, it fit perfectly. All I had to do was add a reflection in the water and paint in a shoreline, and I was set...
I also cobbled together some photos of flat red rocks in order to make a better surface for the waves to sit on. I thought it looked a little more realistic. Though I suppose "realistic" is all relative when you're talking about a city floating in space.
Anyway... next up was the sky. I wanted a bright, almost surreal sky so that it would contrast nicely with the darkness at the bottom. So I went back to Southern Utah and found exactly what I wanted at Bryce Canyon. Well, not exactly. I had to do a bit of touch-up and color adjustment, but it's still a really cool sky...
After I popped it in the shot, I added a little bit more coastline waaaayyyy in the background to help add some depth.
Time elapsed: 1 hour, 15 minutes. It would have been less, but I wasted time trying to smoosh New York and Chicago into a new city.
Then the fun begins. Hours of Photoshopping all the pieces together so they look like one cohesive scene. In particular, the ocean edge and waterfall. They never really "fit" together, and so it took extensive painting, warping, and blending to make it work. It's kind of hard to see in these tiny images just how much work I had to do, but at full print-resolution size, it's a big mess, and required a lot of time to make happen. I also had to adjust the colors of all the individual pieces so they look like they were in the same shot. It's only a subtle alteration, but it makes a big difference in the overall "feel" of the image.
Time elapsed: 3 hours, 30 minutes.
After that was all finished up, I ran a couple of Photoshop filters on the photo to make it look like a painting and, voilà, a cover was born...
Most of the other stuff in the issue was drawn in Adobe Illustrator, then ran through the same "painterly" Photoshop filters so I had a kind of "look" going on...
And there you have it! Join us in two months for issue #2! And if you haven't checked out issue #1, you can download it for FREE at ThriceFiction.com!
Home at last for another edition of Bullet Sunday!
• Debatable. I won't know for certain until I tune into the debate tomorrow night, but I'm pretty sure I'll be longing for the good ol' days when it was George W. Bush running on the Republican presidential ticket. ...
The candidates that the Republicans are trotting out for 2012 quite literally scare the shit out of me. It's so bad that I have no need for laxatives. If I'm constipated, I just envision a future where Michele Bachmann is President of the United States of America and run for the toilet. Which means I should probably be picking up some adult diapers after work, since I don't have a television in my bathroom.
• Roadshow. This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the Hard Rock Cafe. To celebrate, they've been traveling around the USA with a collection of memorabilia honoring rock history. This past Thursday, I was lucky enough to be in Seattle when they stopped by...
It was a lot of fun... and FREE! If you're on one of the city-stops, I highly recommend checking it out (a list of dates is here).
• Crap. When I got home today, one of the first things I did was watch the South Park mid-season finale that was waiting on my DVR. It was shockingly meta. Instead of being a brilliant commentary on some current event, it ended up being brilliant commentary on South Park itself. And it scares me because it looks very much like they're setting up the show to end. And now that Trey Parker and Matt Stone are the toast of Broadway with the nine Tony Award wins for their play, The Book of Mormon, I guess it's understandable. They've been doing South Park for 15 years, and maybe they feel it's time for something new...
Even so, I will miss South Park when its gone. It's a consistent voice in satire that never fails to entertain. As a fan, I don't think its run its course yet, but maybe that's a good thing.
• Reboot. I reserved comment on DC Comics massive "reboot" of their entire universe until all 52 titles had been announced. Now that they have, and everything DC is being reset to issue #1, all I can say is huh?
I mean, there are some things I'm excited about... Jim Lee penciling a monthly title again (Justice League) for one. There are some things I'm curious about... like the two new Legion of Super-Hero books. Other things have me intrigued... like a drastically different take on Supergirl. Still other things have me puzzled... like Barbara Gordon's return to being Batgirl. And a few things have me ambivalent... like Superman's drastically altered uniform (both of them)...
I'll give it a look... but all I can really do is wonder how long the reboot will last before there's another reboot.
And now it's time for me to reboot. It's going to be a long week.
The second issue of Thrice Fiction Magazine was completed this weekend. There are a few small details to wrap up that we're trying to get resolved as quickly as possible, but hopefully it'll be ready to launch in a day or two. Everything turned out seriously awesome, so RW and I can't wait for everybody to get their retinas on it.
In the meanwhile, I'll go ahead and tease you with the cover like RW did yesterday...
Yes. Yes, I know. Beautiful, isn't it?
The incomparable Echo Chernik allowed us to use her amazing art on the cover. Just like the theme for the issue, it's perfect.
Still having MacOS X Lion issues. By getting rid of all the system extensions and preference panes I can find, everything is a lot more responsive... but I am still getting random errors and crashes. The problems hit hardest when using Adobe Creative Suite apps, particularly with loading and saving files. It's entirely possible that it's nothing related to Adobe... it just seems that way since that's what I'm using 95% of the time... but it's a serious enough problem that I would advise anybody using their Mac for serious work to hold off with Lion until things stabilize a bit.
Anyway... it's come a little later than we had hoped, but the second issue of Thrice Fiction has just been released. You can learn all about it (and get your FREE copy!) at the Thrice website.
And here's a peek at the visuals from the great stories we're featuring this issue...
Intrigued? Then go grab a FREE copy and check it out!
My favorite novel of all time is Noble House by James Clavell. It's a story of contemporary 1960's Hong Kong that weaves a fictional story with actual history in a way that only the author of Shōgun could manage. It's beautifully realized, filled with dozens of interesting characters and locations. It's remarkably complex, having several intertwined plot threads and story elements. It's richly satisfying, overflowing with tiny details that come together in fascinating ways (I've read it over a dozen times, and still feel like I'm missing something). To me, Noble House is about as close to perfect as a book can get...
For the most part, people either love the book or hate it. The people who hate it usually end up griping about it's high page count or complexity, which I immediately dismiss. Mostly because I think it's funny how people choose to review a book by saying they were too lazy or stupid to get into it, but I'm judgmental like that. Other negative comments I've read make no sense. My favorite "review" of Noble House ever written is this one...
"The weakest of Clavell's Japan novels. I didn't enjoy it near as much as Centennial and Tai Pan, but still rich history, characters and plotting as well as the usual healthy dose of foreign culture. This one takes place in modern Japan."
The reason it's such a great review is that the book takes place in Hong Kong not Japan (as did Tai-Pan). And, though "modern" is subjective, it takes place in the 1960's. Furthermore, the book Centennial was written by James Michener not James Clavell (who wrote The Asian Saga... not "Japan novels"). Did this dumbass even bother to read the book, or did he just review it sight-unseen so he could look smart? We may never know.
Eventually the book was made into a television mini-series starring Pierce Brosnan. They moved the story from the 1960's to the 1980's and jettisoned dozens of plot points, but it was still darn fine entertainment...
Anyway... the reason that this novel has been on my brain today is because we've got Hurricane Irene happening on the east coast, and Noble House opens up with a "tai-fun" (typhoon, or "supreme wind").
When I first read the book decades ago, I remember wondering how a typhoon is different from a hurricane and how both are different from a cyclone.
Turns out they're all pretty much the same, it's the location which determines what we call a massive tropical storm in English...
It's not a perfect map, of course... but it basically boils down like this: Historical British colonial regions like India and Australia use "Cyclone." The Americas use "Hurricane." Asia uses "Typhoon." There are variations on all those. And, of course, local languages have many different names in their native tongues.
My thoughts are with those in the path of Hurricane Irene. Indeed, it's difficult to think of much else.
Stay safe everybody.
Noble House on Apple's iTunes Book Store — Noble House on Amazon's Book/Kindle Store
I'm a comic book geek. I have been most of my life. So, for those of you who are not into comic books, I apologize, but I really must talk about the "New 52" event happening at DC Comics. I'll return to my regularly-scheduled chocolate pudding coverage tomorrow.
And so it begins.
In a desperate attempt to make comic books relevant entertainment in their own right instead of mere fodder for creating super-hero movies, DC Comics has decided to relaunch their entire line of comics from scratch. Again. They did something similar back in 1985 with Crisis on Infinite Earths. Basically, the idea is to strip away all the crap that's been saddled on the characters for the past couple decades and start fresh. This way new DC Comics readers can start enjoying these books without having to know all the complicated back-stories they missed.
To put it another way, idiotic editorial decisions like having Superman marry Lois Lane and renounce his US citizenship never happened.
As a comic book collector, relaunches like this piss me off. It's maddening to collect 200 issues of a book only to have it be canceled so you have to start all over again. Even worse, all that time you've invested in following the continuity of the stories and watching characters grow and change are lost.
As a comic book fan, relaunches like this are a good thing because it's a breath of fresh air being breathed into characters so stale that even their biggest devotees are getting tired of reading about them. Of all the comic titles I collect, I read maybe half of them because so many just aren't interesting any more.
Ultimately, I think the good outweighs the bad though, so I've decided to give DC's 52 new titles a shot. Starting with their flagship title, Justice League, written by Geoff Johns and beautifully illustrated by Jim Lee with inks by Scott Williams...
It's a super-hero explosion!
For those who care about this kind of stuff, I've written up my comments and a review in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
This morning I woke up, decided life wasn't worth it, then went back to bed. But after I realized I didn't have any bread to make toast, I had to get up so I could go to the store. Without toast, life isn't worth living.
• Star Redux. I've been in a real renaissance with the original Star Wars films lately. I've been re-watching the real movies on LaserDisc... taking another look at the amazing "Making of" books... re-reading the novelizations... going through the comic book adaptations... that kind of thing. This is probably in anticipation of the movies coming out on Blu-Ray later this month. And even though there's a lot of controversy raging over George Lucas once again crapping all over the films, I still can't wait to see them in high-def. I especially can't wait to have all the deleted scenes with one of the more interesting characters in the entire franchise... Biggs Darklighter...
Now, if you've only ever seen the original movie, you might remember Biggs being mentioned in passing when Luke is whining to Uncle Owen... and again when the Rebels are off to attack the Death Star... and then again at the end where he gets blown up by Darth Vader. But, in the original Star Wars script, there is more to the character than that. Unfortunately, those scenes got cut (though some snuck through to the novelization). And while these cuts were probably a smart move story-wise, they're disappointing fan-wise... especially for fans who have read Biggs' back-story in the "Expanded Universe" books and comics. These rumored "never-before-seen scenes" will help add yet another dimension to an important character we only thought we knew (or didn't know).
• Dance Redux. On a list of things that I couldn't possibly give a crap about, Dancing with the Stars would be near the top of the list. As far as entertainment goes, it's right up there with Pauly Shore movies and diarrhea. But once I heard the controversy over the casting of this season's contestants, I decided to investigate who would be on the show. After taking a look, I admit that I am very upset. I simply cannot fathom how such a popular program would intentionally decide to attack this country's sense of decency and our respect for the Natural Order. I am disgusted at the thought of children tuning in and being exposed to a total freak show and abomination towards God. I am mortified that this "person" will be given even more media exposure so they can further destroy all that is good on this earth with their reprehensible behavior. I am, of course, talking about Nancy Grace...
This vile, disgusting, evil, pathetic excuse for a human being has absolutely no business being on television. And it only goes to show that the people behind Dancing with the Stars only care about one thing: stirring up controversy to get ratings. Just like Nancy Grace, they obviously don't give a fuck how many people they hurt in their effort to attract viewers. For once I agree with the lamestream conservative media... this is absolutely disgusting, and just one more reason I won't be tuning in for this stupid shit.
UPDATE: Oh. Some readers have pointed out that all the controversy isn't about Nancy Grace after all (as one would expect)... it's instead over Chaz Bono?!? I don't get this at all. So he used to be a woman. Big deal. I'd argue Chaz Bono is more of a man and less sexually confused than Marcus Bachmann or "Doctor" Keith Ablow, yet you don't see anybody complaining about them being on television...
What a crock of bullshit. I have to wonder if all the people in an uproar over this are just confused about their sexual identity, and are taking it out on Chaz Bono because he has the balls to get it all sorted out. Or they are sexually attracted to Chaz Bono and don't know what to do with their self-loathing. Or they really, really hated being subjected to Cher's auto-tune travesty, Believe, being constantly blasted on the radio in the late 1990's (if that's the case, I guess I see their point... Cher's not on television much anymore, so I suppose torturing her offspring is the next best thing?). Whatever the case, I find it fascinating that people are still freaking out over this kind of stuff in the year 2011.
• TV Redux. I have more than a couple friends who are "periphery Apple fans." Meaning that they're not Mac users, but they do like their iPods, iPhones, iPads, and whatnot. This morning I got a call from one of these friends with an Apple TV. He knew I had one, and was wondering why I haven't blogged about it...
I explained that my older television didn't seem to support it because the picture was all fuzzy and jumpy. And since I'm unable to use it, the thing has been collecting dust in my closet for over a year. That's when he drops the bomb and tells me that the Apple TV firmware had been updated a while back which fixed the video display problems for a lot of people. So I dig it out, plug it in, and apply the latest software. Now it works perfectly. And it is awesome.
I love being able to use "AirPlay" to stream stuff from my MacBook, iPhone, and iPad. I really love how much easier it is to use Netflix Streaming (compared to using my Xbox like I do now). And iCloud makes it dead-simple to stream all the television shows I've purchased right to my TV without having to download them to my Mac first. It's an amazing little device and, now that I can use it, worth every penny of the $99 price tag. If you've got an HD television with HDMI, it's worth a look.
• Mercury Redux. In anticipation of his new novel Mercury Rises being released next month, Thrice Fiction contributor Rob Kroese has unleashed a FREE Kindle eBook short story... Mercury Swings...
You can get your copy at Amazon and have it sent to your Kindle or any device with Kindle Reader installed (like Macs, PCs, iPhones, and the like). It's funny and it's free, so what are you waiting for? Go and get Mercury Swings today!
And that's all she wrote for this edition of Bullet Sunday. Tune in next week when all my bullets will be double-jacketed.
Bet you never expected Bullet Sunday on Saturday! NOBODY expects Bullet Sunday on Saturday!
And didn't I just do a Bullet Sunday a couple minutes ago? Time, she is a flying. Probably because I am leaving for vacation in ten days. It's going to be a real struggle to get caught up with work and get myself organized by the time I leave.
• Adapt. And speaking of getting organized for my trip... for years there's been this one plug sitting unwrapped and unused in my Apple World Travel Adapter Kit...
I know this sounds kind of silly, but unwrapping the cellophane from that plug was a pretty emotional experience. This shit is about to get real, yo.
• Heroine. A couple weeks ago, the "Great House" on Sir Richard Branson's private island caught fire. Apparently a storm created by Hurricane Irene caused a lightning strike that burned the place to the ground. Nobody was hurt, but it was a beautiful structure and it's sad that it was destroyed. Sad, but not very interesting. I'll get to the interesting bit in a minute, but first a few photos from Necker Island...
Yes. Yes I know. What a shithole.
If you've got tens of thousands of dollars, you can rent a room for a night. That would put you in good company, because it's a coveted hangout for celebrities, royalty (Princess Diana was a guest), and the über-wealthy. One famous visitor who was there when the fire struck: Kate Winslet. Who, after making sure her kids were okay, ran back into the flames so she could carry out Branson's 90-year-old grandmother...
Beautiful, talented, and heroic.
But that's not the interesting bit. Winslet's ex-husband, director Sam Mendes, was supposed to be on American Airlines Flight 77, which was hijacked on 9/11 and crashed into The Pentagon. For some reason, he wasn't on the flight. One month later, Winslet was on a plane where somebody claiming to be a terrorist stood up and said that everybody was going to die. It apparently turned out to be a hoax of something. After that moment, Mendes and Winslet made a decision never to both be on the same flight together so if something happened, their kids wouldn't be left parentless.
I swear, just when I think there's nothing about the 9/11 tragedy that can surprise me, something utterly surprising comes along to prove me wrong. Until I read about the fire on Necker Island, I had no idea that Kate Winslet's life was touched by the terrorist attacks to this degree. But, then again, I suppose all our lives were in one way or another. Has it really been ten years?
• New? As a huge fan of Zooey Deschanel, I have been eagerly anticipating her new buzz-heavy TV show, New Girl, set to debut later this month. So imagine my surprise when I downloaded the first episode from an iTunes "sneak preview"... only to find that it is complete and total shit...
Holy crap did I hate this unbelievable turd of a show. Hate it.
How in the fuck they managed to take an infinitely adorable and likable person like Zooey Deschanel and turn her into a pathetic, annoying, unwatchable character is simply beyond my ability to fathom. She plays Jess, who is advertised as "Simply Adorkable" but I sure wasn't seeing any of that. When she gets dumped by her boyfriend in the first two minutes I was barely surprised. I was already annoyed with her after the first ONE minute. The story then takes the laughable (but not funny) "surprise turn" by having her move in with three single guys. Hilarity most definitely does not ensue.
Zooey's supporting players aren't much better. Deputy Leo (from Veronica Mars) plays a douchebag. And I'm not being judgmental here... he's literally a douche. His character is such a big douche that they have to make a "Douche Jar" for him to donate a dollar every time he does douchey things. Which is all the time. One of the douchey things he does is take his shirt off when he meets a girl because he thinks he's God's gift or something. His character's name is "Schmidt" which is used in place of "shit" in conversation to be funny. Ha ha ha. Not. Next up is Damon Wayans Jr. who plays "Coach," a fitness trainer with rage issues. The character has zero depth and is given nothing interesting to do. I can only guess that Wayans gets down on his knees every day and thanks the television gods that the brilliant Happy Endings got picked up for a second season so he doesn't have to come back to New Girl and play such a pathetic one-note character. I pity whomever they get to replace him. The last of Zooey's new roommates is "Nick" (played by Jake M. Johnson) who is somewhat likable and interesting (mostly because he's the only character with any depth to him) but ultimately not enough to compensate for everything else going wrong with this horrible show.
I cannot imagine that New Girl will last a full season. Even with Justin Long coming on-board as Zooey's romantic interest. It is so awkward, annoying, and blatantly not-funny that I have no idea who is going to want to watch it. Personally, I am hoping for a quick cancellation so the amazing Zooey Deschanel can go on to something better. Something much, much, better.
• Indebted. Is it possible to hate a movie to the point of despair, yet still love it at the same time? That pretty much sums up my take on The Debt, Helen Mirren's new film as directed by John Madden...
The movie is based on a 2007 Israeli film called HaHov ("The Debt"), which I can find nothing about, because any attempt to search for it on IMDB redirects to this version of The Debt. The story revolves around a former Mossad Nazi-Hunter named Rachel Singer (Mirren) who's past comes back to haunt her 30 years after a mission in East Germany went terribly wrong. The movie jumps back and forth between 1966 and 1997 as Singer recalls past events that changed her life, and their consequences on her future.
The problem with the film... the only problem, really... is that it is boring. Mind-numbingly boring. Stick your head in the microwave boring. Gouge out your spleen so you have something to do boring. I was dumbfounded at how incredibly slow, unnecessarily plodding, and just plain BORING this movie was. Far, far too much time was spent rehashing the past for no particular reason at all. Yes, there's a nice twist in there, but the set-up was so hideously drawn-out that I just didn't give a shit when we got there. They could have easily cut 75% of the hot boring mess from 1966 and used the time to make an interesting film about Rachel cleaning up that mess in 1997. That would have been an amazing, thrilling, exciting film. Instead you get mere glimpses of Mirren being kick-ass cool, which is simply not enough to save The Debt from the bland, banal, repetitive disaster it is.
Holy crap was the acting good. Helen Mirren didn't get nearly enough screen time, but her every second in the film is amazing. And it doesn't stop there. Jessica Chastain, who played the 1966 Rachel, had a role that demanded her to be tough and capable, but with a dark vulnerable side that defined her. She was absolutely mesmerizing. The biggest surprise had to be Sam Worthington, whom I had dismissed for his not-so-engaging performances in films like Avatar and Clash of the Titans, but he really got his shit together for this film. His accent kept lapsing into Aussie casual from time to time, yet his performance was rock-solid. Jesper Christensen's turn as a Hannibal Lecter-ish Nazi war criminal was also worth watching.
So there you have it The Debt is a boring-ass film you hate to love because the performances were too damn good.
• Fini. And now, after two bullets filled with disappointment, I'm going back to organizing my crap so I can be ready to pack my suitcase next weekend.
People offer to send me free things all the time in the hopes that I'll review their stuff on my blog. I always say "no" because if somebody gives me something, then I feel obligated to say something nice even when it's a lie. Sure it means I have to pay for crap that I could get for zero dollars, but at least then I can say what I really feel.
So when my blogging pal Rob "Diesel" Kroese said he wanted to send me a preview copy of his new book, Mercury Rises, I was torn. On one hand, I really liked his first book, and so I'd probably like the sequel too. But, on the other hand sequels can be bad, so what if it sucks ass like REVENGE OF THE NERDS II: NERDS IN PARADISE? What then?
I'll tell you what.
First you make a donation to my favorite charity Doctors Without Borders in Rob Kroese's name so you don't feel bad about what you're saying about his book...
Then you sit down and write a review on your blog because you promised you would.
Mercury Rises is a story about rebel FBI agent Bruce Willis protecting some autistic kid who has unwittingly discovered the key to cracking a top-secret government code. Because of this, the government wants him dead, and only Bruce Willis can save him. Formulaic absurdity ensues. About the only bright spot in this entire mess of a book is villain Alec Baldwin, who manages to deliver some of the cheesiest dialog ever written in a way that makes you not quite want to kill yourself. Which is about the best thing I can say about Mercury Rises.
What I want to know is what Kroese was thinking. I mean, his first book, Mercury Falls, had memorable characters, witty dialogue, and some genuinely funny situations. Why did he jettison all that this time? I guess the pressure of writing a sequel to a successful book was more than Diesel could take, so he traded in his unique and humorous voice for big budget stars and a by-the-numbers action-thriller that fails to deliver. Overall, a big disappointment.
If you're a die-hard (heh) Bruce Willis fan, this might be worth a look. Otherwise I'd skip it.
UPDATE! Umm... it was just pointed out to me that I was confusing Rob's book Mercury Rises with the film Mercury Rising. I could say this is my fault, but honestly... it's easy to see how I would get the two mixed up. Quick suggestion to Mr. Kroese... name your next book something more clever (like Mercury Rises: Nerds in Paradise or Mercury Rises: The Phantom Menace or Weekend at
Anyway, here's me reviewing the BOOK version of Mercury Rises...
It's a pretty darn good read.
IF you've read the original book Mercury Falls. Otherwise, the sequel won't make much sense because there's noooooo hand-holding here. The story picks up right after the original with absolutely no recap or explanation as to what's going on.
But if you HAVE read Mercury Falls, then you're in for a treat, because The Apocalypse is back on and only rogue angel Mercury and recently-out-of-work reporter Christine Temetri can save the world. Again! Along the way we get a peek into the distant past with the origins of Tiamet's Apocalyptic scheming and even more of Kroese's crazy characters and outlandish situations. But past, present, or possible future, it's all wrapped up in the same witty, pop-culture-infused trappings that I enjoyed the first time around.
In more ways than one, Mercury Rises is a more challenging read than the first book. There's a lot going on, a lot to process, and a lot to wade through as the plot moves along. I kind of appreciate this, because it gives me something interesting to latch onto now that the "newness" of Mercury and his heavenly bureaucracy has worn off. But you do have to prepare yourself for some uninterrupted reading time to fully appreciate where the story is taking you. Try to read this one during commercial breaks in Dancing with the Stars and you're in for a tough time of it. Still, it's worth the effort.
I'm giving Mercury Rises ★★★★☆. If you enjoyed Mercury Falls (★★★★★), then you'll probably enjoy the sequel as well. It's available in paperback by following this link to Amazon (or you can buy it for a mere $2.99 by getting the Kindle Edition).
And now a warning.
SHIT! Just a second...
About the only thing I didn't like about Mercury Rises is that it's not complete. It is, in fact, a cliffhanger set-up for the third book, Mercury Rests.
I really, really hate it when this happens.
What if Diesel dies before he can finish the tale? What if Mercury Rises only sells five copies and the publisher doesn't want to print the sequel? What if the ACTUAL APOCALYPSE happens before the third book is released? What if I die and never get to find out how the story ends?
A part of me wants to say the same thing I say whenever I talk about a book with a cliffhanger "ending"... wait until the actual ending is released before you buy it so you can be sure you'll be able to read the complete story. But, in this case, that would be a shame. Mercury Falls is one of those books that leaves you wanting more. Well, here it is. If, like me, you've been waiting... I begrudgingly say take a chance and pick up a copy.
Mercury willing, the grand finale of the trilogy will find its way to us soon enough.
Can you believe it? There's a new issue of Thrice Fiction out! I wrote a short story and made a bunch of pictures for it! And a lot of other cool people contributed awesome stuff too!
Want to take a look? You can download a FREE copy right here. Yes, that's right... FREE!
Thanks to everybody who has supported Mr. RW Spryszak and myself with our little project here. I continue to be amazed at how well it's done as we close out our first year. I thought maybe a few dozen friends would be interested... but we just keep growing. Even bigger things are in store for 2012, so stay tuned!
And speaking of big things, a couple people have asked me how to get our magazine on their iOS devices since we don't have an app for that (yet!). Fortunately, Apple makes it really easy to read Thrice Fiction eBooks on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch! Here's all you gotta do in three easy steps...
STEP 1: Start up Apple's Safari browser (other browsers might work, but Safari has been tested) then navigate to our website at
STEP 2: Click on the Thrice Fiction eBook download link then tap OPEN...
STEP 3: The book will load into your browser then ask where you want to open it. Select Open in iBooks...
And that's it! Your issue of Thrice Fiction will automatically be added to your iBook library (be sure to check out previous issues in the ARCHIVE tab!)...
Just tap the magazine and you're good to go...
Thanks for supporting Thrice Fiction! Tell your friends!
So there I am driving home from work when all of a sudden a pickup truck down the street ahead of me screeches to a halt and starts backing up!
My first instinct was to do nothing. This would be the THIRD time in FOUR months that somebody has backed into my invisible piece-of-shit car. I might as well pick up another insurance check out of the deal.
But then two thoughts hit me at once...
So I honked my horn. They screeched to a halt again (one car-length from my bumper) then pulled forward into a parking spot so I could pass.
And I bet you a million dollars they were cussing me out for daring to honk at them, even though I saved THEM from hitting ME.
I tell you, the only thing keeping me from wanting to be abducted by aliens right now so I can leave this shithole planet behind is this...
I read the first book of George R. R. Martin's epic "Song of Ice and Fire" series, A Game of Thrones, because of a glowing employee recommendation at Powell's City of Books. I liked it well enough that I bought the follow-up, A Clash of Kings when it came out a few months later. A couple years after that, A Storm of Swords came out. It was supposed to be the last book of a trilogy, but Martin decided he wanted to keep going. I then gave up because it took FIVE years for the fourth book, A Feast for Crows to come out... and frickin' SIX years after that for the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, to come out (this past July).
The reason I gave up was because the last thing I want is to get all invested in the series only to have George R. R. Martin up and die before he finally finishes the story (presumably with book seven)...
Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin — ©2011 HBO/Helen Sloan
But thennnnnnn... HBO unleashed an Original Series based upon the books that has been getting rave reviews and awards. Whenever I travel, I always try to catch it when my hotel has HBO. I've seen roughly half of the ten episodes...
I was thinking I'd watch the rest of the episodes when the DVD set was released, but HBO isn't releasing it until frickin' MARCH (and it's priced like EIGHTY DOLLARS or something) so I went ahead and ordered HBO. Now I've been watching it via On Demand, and am pretty amazed at how faithful they are to the book (or what I remember of it).
But now I am back to worrying over whether George R. R. Martin will die before the HBO series can be concluded. Even worse is the thought that Martin will complete the books in a timely manner, but HBO will cancel the series before they've adapted all of them.
When DC Comics rebooted their entire universe with "The New 52," my intent was to buy the first couple issues... be underwhelmed... then stop collecting comic books once and for all. I had already given up on Marvel Comics for being insanely expensive, so dropping DC seemed inevitable. Heck, 90% of the books I bought I never even read anyway. My thirty-three year relationship with comics was at an end.
Except it wasn't.
Against all odds, "The New 52" rejuvenated my love of comic books.
And once I learned that the previous issue of DC's digital titles would drop by $1 when the new issue when on sale, I switched to reading comics on my iPad and never looked back. I am now reading more comics than I ever have before... a full half of DC's entire line-up (impressive even though it's down from the 35 I was reading three months ago).
In fact, four of the titles are so good that I can't wait a month for the $1 price drop... I buy them the minute they are released...
No lie... Writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo have created one of the best Batman series I have ever read. The current "Court of Owls" storyline is dragging just a bit six months in, but it's so fascinating that I can't feel raw about it. The tale has weight to it. A lot of history is being woven into the plot, and it's a fascinating look at Batman that's as good as it gets.
• WONDER WOMAN
My favorite Wonder Woman books were from the George Pérez era where he took her back to her Greek mythology roots and made her into something so much more than a female Superman. Now writer Brian Azzarello and artist Tony Akins have taken those mythological ties to an even deeper and more bizarre level, and I absolutely love it. Sure, it can be a difficult read... the climactic battle in #6 was so confusing that I have no idea what in the hell was going on (and neither did the person setting up the "Guide View" in the digital comic, because it skips some stuff!)... but I can't get enough of this book.
If you would have told me six months ago that a book headed up by Aquaman would be in my "must read" pile, I'd have called you crazy. And yet here we are. I felt that Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis' conclusion to the whole "Trench" storyline was a bit wimpy and anti-climactic... but the journey to that finale was so rewarding that I wasn't bothered. Aquaman has gone from a D-list joke of a character to a truly critical part of the DC lineup. Whoda thunk it?
• JUSTICE LEAGUE
Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are serving up a terrific team book that's larger than life. And though the story has been a little uneven, the beautiful artwork goes a long way towards my enjoyment of the book. And enjoying it I am.
The other titles I'm buying (albeit after a month delay for the $1 price decrease) are...
• Action Comics
• All-Star Western
• Batman & Robin
• Birds of Prey
• Blue Beetle
• Green Lantern
• Justice League Dark
• Justice League International
• Legion of Super-Heroes
• Legion Lost
• OMAC (cancelled)
• Resurrection Man
• Swamp Thing
• Teen Titans
Entirely too many comic books. But I just can't help myself.
I was very sad indeed to learn that beloved children's author Donald J. Sobol has died. When I was a kid, I was positively obsessed with his Encyclopedia Brown books... so much so that I would re-read them over and over again, even though I already knew how the stories would end. I pretty much had to, because there were less than a dozen of them at the time. I also remember reading Sobol's Two-Minute Mysteries, but I think there were only two of those books.
Even after outgrowing Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective, I would still revisit the books on occasion... like when I saw them in the library or something. I think the last one I read was just two years ago. Because they're just that entertaining...
And orange. So very, very orange.
The drive back home this morning was relatively uneventful.
If you discount all the screaming I did when people were driving in the passing lane... WHILE DRIVING TEN MILES UNDER THE SPEED LIMIT WITHOUT PASSING ANYBODY! Could not possibly explain in mere words how badly that pisses me off.
What I need now is a chocolate chip cookie...
Unusually humid and 90° Fahrenheit with more thunderstorms on the way?
Not my favorite weather.
And so another episode of THRICE Fiction has been put to bed. This issue has some amazing stuff in it, arrives wrapped in a beautiful cover by Kyra Wilson, and it's absolutely FREE to download, so what are you waiting for? Head on over to our official site and grab a copy!
As I was on a conference call this morning, I took the time to write up some "Art Director Notes" which discusses my thinking behind all the visuals that are in this issue. If you're interested in that kind of thing, I've put it all in an extended entry. Needless to say, SPOILERS abound, so you might want to go read the issue before you click through...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Going to be in Portland, Oregon this Saturday?
If so, then be sure to drop by the THRICE Fiction table at the Portland Zine Symposium from 10:00am until 5:00pm at Refuge on 116 SE Yamhill. Admission is free, and I will be there representing the magazine and selling copies of our new THRICE Fiction 2011 Black & White Annual for just $7... over half-off the $14.95 retail.
Copies are limited to how many I can fit in my backpack, so show up early if you want one!
Or just stop by and say "hi" to me even if you don't want one!
NOTE: I will be at the show SATURDAY ONLY! If you show up on Sunday, I won't be there. I'll be wandering aimlessly around Portland on a Voodoo Doughnut sugar high.
Back in April, I wrote about a Kickstarter project that I desperately wanted funded...
"The holy grail for Stanley Kubrick fans (outside his movies, obviously) is a copy of a book called Full Metal Jacket Diary by Matthew Modine, who was an actor in the film. The reason it's such a big deal is twofold...
I was over the moon when the project was successfully funded.
Today the app was finally released. And it doesn't suck...
The menu system is fantastic, and disappears when not needed.
The photos change as you scroll the text, which you can have author/actor Matthew Modine read to you.
All the amazing photos have been scanned at hi-resolution and can be zoomed in on at any time.
On the contrary, it is a stunning app. Not only do you get the entirety of the original diary book, but you get complete audio narration by author Matthew Modine. All of which means nothing if the app is bad and hard to use... but it isn't. This project was a labor of love through and through and it shows. Everything is really well thought out... and optimized for Retina Display, which means if looks fantastic.
If you have any interest in film and want some insight into the mind of a true artist of the medium... or you're a fan of Full Metal Jacket... or you're a fan of Kubrick... or you just want to see the kind of apps that iPad was made for... click here to go get a copy. It's just $14.95, and worth every penny.
Since I have never even attended a "zine show" I'm a little nervous about exhibiting at the Portland Zine Symposium this weekend. Part of the problem has to do with a sentence out of the tabling guidelines...
"In order keep the Portland Zine Symposium focused on zines and to maintain the DIY spirit of the Portland Zine Symposium, at least 51% of merchandise at any table must be handmade zines and/or independently published materials."
Sure, THRICE Fiction is independently published... it's just Bob and myself... but we're hardly "Do It Yourself" when it comes to the actual production of the magazine. Digital copies are given away for free, but anything people want to physically purchase is professionally printed. So... the question becomes "Will we be welcomed with our slick printed magazines and books?" or "Will people stop by just to slap me in the face and set our table on fire?"
I honestly don't know.
So last Wednesday I went to Flickr and did a search for Portland Zine Symposium photos.
It's just table after table of handmade books that looks like they were copied at Kinkos and stapled together in somebody's living room.
So now I've gone from being "a little worried" to being "a lot worried." I considered canceling, but I had already bought a non-refundable airline ticket and spent a lot of money printing a book to sell. "Oh well," I thought. "Guess I'll just show up and hope we're 'indy' enough that I don't get slapped and set on fire."
And then realized I don't want to risk getting slapped, so I decided to hand-make a zine instead (which is something Bob had suggested years ago... go figure).
This was easier said than done, as there wasn't time to hand-draw a new zine from scratch. Not knowing what else to do, I figured I'd just assemble some stuff from my blog and see how that went (which is something else Bob had suggested years ago... go figure). Ultimately I decided to make a zine filled with Bad Monkey cartoons. I figured since everybody loves monkeys, this was my best chance of not getting our table set on fire.
Then I spent the next couple nights cobbling together a zine. Then I ordered a booklet stapler and a stack-cutter. Then I printed copies (in color, because I'm That Guy). Then I spent the next couple nights saddle-stitch stapling everything together. My stack-cutter never showed up, so today I had to go bother a print shop to trim my books for me.
And so now I have a hand-made zine for our table...
To make them seem more "hand-made," I worked hard to get them looking beat up and aged. All the interior pages are yellowed and textured. The cover has wear and tear marks printed on it. Then I took each copy and rubbed it on a gem cutter's cloth to add a little bit of scuff. They're as hand-made as I can get, given the time constraints I'm under...
Overall, the experience of making this zine sucked. And I'm still not 100% convinced that the DaveToons will even make sense out of the context of my blog. Oh well (again).
But... it definitely has me anxious to try making more zines in the future. With more time and less anxiety, it seems like this kind of thing would actually be something fun to do!
In the meanwhile, everybody cross their fingers that my first zine show doesn't end up with my getting slapped and a visit from the fire department...
My day started exactly the way every day should start... with perfect toast.
Vahid (from The Iron Fist and Sarah (from Sarah Joy took me to Milo's City Cafe where, I kid you not, they have a guy whose only job is making perfect toast. He has a pair of wooden tongs that he uses to check your toast, flip your toast, and make sure your toast is toasting evenly to just the right toastiness. It's amazing, and his dedication to awesome toast is epic. He's the Toast Master! And perfect toast is what he does. Given my love of toast, I couldn't have been more impressed. I wanted quite badly to go shake his hand after breakfast was over, but I was too star struck. If only every restaurant took toast this seriously.
And then I was off to the Portland Zine Symposium...
Overall, it was a very nice event... though I'm still not sure that THRICE Fiction was a good fit. The majority of the stuff there was DIY hand-crafted works, and that just isn't us. But, even so, we did pretty good for the day. I originally ordered 40 copies of our new 2011 Black and White Annual, 20 for each day... even though I never expected to actually sell that many. Since I was handing out flyers to let people know that we give our magazine away for free on our website, who would spend money to buy it? But, even after telling people how to get THRICE for free, I still ended up selling 14 copies and trading 7 more. So... worth it, I think.
The only real problem with the event was the heat. It was insanely warm at the venue. At the 2:00 half-way point, I had sold 12 copies. The two remaining copies were sold by 3:30. Which means I did nothing from 3:30 to 6:00. It was just too hot in the afternoon. You could see people coming inside... wandering for a bit... then leaving while fanning themselves before ever getting to my table. Only the most dedicated zine fans stuck it out, but they were the ones least likely to buy a book, as they were after the home-grown DIY stuff.
Stuff like tiny little hand-folded, hand-draw books that a guy was selling for 50¢ each. He made me one with monkeys that he traded for a copy of Bad Monkey Comix, and I love it...
And there was a lot of cool stuff at the show. One of my favorite zine tables was near me and called Everything Waffles, a monthly magazine dedicate to a guy who takes photos of himself with his cat, Waffles. Sounds boring, I know... but these aren't ordinary photos... they're costume photos that are really well done...
"American Pride" (with Waffles) by Justin Schwab
Genius. The guy has videos and a podcast too.
I ended up only booking a table for just the one day instead of two... for which I am now grateful. I don't know that I could survive a second day of non-stop sitting in 100° heat. But I am really glad I came, and seeing all the incredible creativity that people have in creating zines has me really, really interested in creating some of my own.
UPDATE: For everyone who has been asking, YES! I am happy to sell my extra copies of THRICE Fiction 2011 B&W Annual and Bad Monkey Comix. When I get home I'll find out the cheapest way to mail them, then let you know how much it costs. And, of course, I will honor the show prices for the THRICE annual ($7, which is just 5¢ more than I paid for them, so it's a pretty good deal!).
In case you hadn't heard, my good friend RW Spryszak and I put out a literary magazine called THRICE Fiction, and we just finished out our second year with volume number 6. As always, the issue is FREE to download in PDF, eBook, or Kindle formats... just follow this link to our website.
When we first created THRICE, my only interest was having a creative outlet for my fictional writing. I'm not a very good writer, but I am enthusiastic about it, so why not? After the first year, our little literary rag started getting thousands of downloads... exceeding any expectations RW or I could have dreamed. But this unexpected success was bittersweet. Thanks to people far, far more talented than I, THRICE Fiction had outgrown my meager writing talents.
This put me in an awkward position. I wanted a place to write! Why would I want to continue to work on the magazine now? I do graphic design for a living, so having my only contribution be graphic design didn't sound like a lot of fun. It sounded like more work. Which meant that THRICE was probably going to die a quick and horrible death, as so many lit-mag attempts before it.
...RW started sending me the stories for the next issue.
They were brilliant, captivating, imaginative, and all the things that I actually enjoy reading. And now that I wasn't having to worry about what I was going to write, I could finally appreciate what everybody else was doing. So I decided to stick around.
And ultimately realized that finding ways to come up with something creative for other people was more "fun" than "work."
And so here we are with another year under our collective belt...
It was not all smooth sailing this time around, however. Two artists who had committed to contributing work had to drop out at the last minute. This left me with no cover plus five additional pieces of artwork that were needed. And this was right in the middle of a very busy travel period, which meant there was no way I could even think about it until December (and it's at this point that I must once again thank Kyra and Chad for not only producing some amazing art, but for getting it to me on time!). Guess I really need to start having firm deadlines for artists like RW does for the writers. Anyway...
When it came to the cover, I kept coming up empty. I had no clue what I was going to do, so I found a random story idea generator on the internet. My first pull was "A FRUSTRATED LEOPARD'S BOWLER HAT IN THE PARK." This was just too insane, so I hit the randomizer again and got "A HAPPY SKELETON'S DREAM DURING ARMAGEDDON." That was even worse. So I combined the two and came up with a frustrated leopard attempting to get his bowler hat back from a skeleton that was dreaming in the park during armageddon. Simple.
I don't know why, but it totally works! The background was grabbed from photo I took of trees in the cemetery. The skeleton was drawn on a yellow pad with a felt-tip pen, using reference pieces I found on the internet (and then scanned). The leopard was traced from a stock photo I bought (because, seriously, I was not going to spend the time trying to figure out how to draw all those spots correctly). Ultimately, I'm pretty happy with it and think everything turned out great. If nothing else, it's colorful.
If you want a "Behind the Scenes" peek at what went on for the rest of the art in THRICE Fiction No. 6... it's all in an extended entry. The art thumbnails are low-res, so you'll be able to see them better if you download the issue...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Despite being a major comic book whore, I've never done a wrap-up of my favorite comics for the year. That needs to change.
Overall, I am reading more comics now that I have in many years. This is mainly due to the beautiful Retina Display on my iPad and its ability to purchase comics instantly and immediately via Comixology. Nobody is mourning the decline of printed comics more than I am, but I already have more than enough physical comic books with no room to put them all. My digital collection, however, takes up no space and is available to me wherever I have an internet connection. So many times I find myself stumbling across a review of some obscure comic that I want to read, then click over to Comixology and buy it. All too easy and addictive!
THE TWELVE BEST...
What can I say? My favorite comic book character of all time has been given some of the best stories ever in his signature book. Writer Scott Snyder has given us two great story arcs with "The Court of Owls" and "Death of the Family," all illustrated with jaw-dropping beauty by Greg Capullo. Looking forward to 2013, I can only hope that the creative team stays put and keeps cranking out some of the best Batman tales I've ever read.
Never a character I've been overly enamored with, Hawkeye has always been nothing more that a Green Arrow knock-off who seems woefully out of place in Avengers stories to me. Enter Matt Fraction and David Aja, who wisely decided to use the character's primary weakness (no super-powers) as a strength by trying to make the book more "reality-based." The Clint Barton in this book is a fascinating effort and I can't wait to see what comes next.
#3 Thor: God of Thunder
With only three issues released thus far, I'm still ready to proclaim the title one of my favorite books of the year, and absolutely my favorite of the new "Marvel NOW" books. I really shouldn't be surprised, because Marvel has consistently given the character quality writers and artists over the past several years. And Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic are right up there. Their stories are epic and wonderfully told. If you haven't checked out Thor in a while, here's a good place to jump on.
#4 Batman, Incorporated
Proving that DC was intent on making sure only top-shelf talent was going to touch their Bat-Books, Grant Morrison is here with some really good Batman & Robin stories that I can't seem to get enough of. I still think the "Incorporated" concept waters down Batman, but it's easy enough to ignore that with stories this good.
#5 Wonder Woman
This is a book I both love and hate in equal measure. Sometimes the art looks great... other times it looks like stick-figures gone bad. Sometimes the stories are brilliant... other times they seem half-written and ill-conceived. But, and this is the important part... Wonder Woman never bores me. It's always fresh and interesting even when I am having issues with it. So much so that this is one of the few books that I buy day-and-date, paying the extra dollar rather than waiting for DC to drop a buck when the next issue comes out. What more praise can I offer than that?
The book is a deep, meaningful, entertaining read with some of the most beautiful art you'll ever see. All too often, the female version of a male character is just a retread of the same material... but with heels and lipstick. With Batwoman, we have a uniquely different character experiencing uniquely different stories, in a uniquely different way, and I love it. There are also heels and lipstick, which means the book pretty much has it all. And, as a special bonus, Batgirl is yet another unique and interesting book in the Batman Family that's also worth reading.
As Robert Kirkman ramps up to issue no. 100, he's got a story arc going on called The Death of Everyone that's going balls-out every issue. And, since it's Kirkman we're talking about, you know that killing off all his characters may not be an idle threat. No... he may very well do exactly that, choosing to start over with all new characters so he can keep surprising his loyal Invincible fans. Regardless of what happens, I'll keep reading. This book has the most consistent quality of any comic out there, and I don't plan on missing out.
#8 Justice League Dark
I dropped this title from the DC Comics "New 52" relaunch after just two issues. It simply wasn't doing anything for me. But then I read The Underwater Welder (see below) and was intrigued as to what Jeff Lemire has been doing there since he took over this book this Spring. What I found was really good stories that were actually better than what the lead Justice League book had going on. And, thanks to Mikel Janin, they were beautifully illustrated to boot. If you like some supernatural in your comics and are looking for something a little different than the standard super-hero fare, this is the book for you.
#9 The Walking Dead.
Just when I think this book is dead, Robert Kirkman somehow manages to save it from the grave with some really good stories. How fitting. And how great for fans of the book. If you are only familiar with the hit television show, the books are quite different... but in a very good way. Though be forewarned that with Kirkman, no character is safe. This was made shockingly clear in the controversial #100 issue that dropped this summer. The book haunts me still and, even though I didn't like where it took me, you can bet I'm going to keep on reading.
#10 The Underwater Welder.
This book was completely off my radar until somebody gave it to me as a gift. As my pick for one of the best comics (well, actually a 216 page graphic novel) of 2012, I obviously owe them a great debt. This is a really good mystery story with borderline awful art that somehow completely hits the mark. Jeff Lemire, who handles some of the better books at DC, also moonlights with indy books like his amazing Essex County and now this. I don't really know how to describe The Underwater Welder, because it doesn't really fit any specific genre. It's angst drama with a splash of sci-fi/horror that's ultimately a kind of a mystery. Or something. But however you want to look at it, this tale of flawed character on the verge of fatherhood who is attempting to sort out issues with his own missing father is worth a look.
It's amazing how a D-List character like Aquaman has been given new life in DC's "New 52" relaunch. Until this effort by Geoff Johns, I always kind of ignored the character. He was occasionally used well in a team book, but ultimately nothing worth getting excited about. But now? Aquaman is actually interesting and the book is nicely entertaining in 2012. If I had one criticism, it would be that the endings to each of the story arcs have been a bit simplistic, easy, and sudden. Almost as if they weren't entirely thought out in the plotting stage. But, ultimately, this is a book well worth reading.
#12 Punk Rock Jesus
I don't even know what to say... except you need to try this book. Seriously.
Here's the thing. I like this book. I like it a lot. It's the classic by-the-numbers super-team heroics I love done really well. But everything always feels cramped and rushed. After reading every issue, I get a feeling that the story would have benefitted greatly if only they had a few more pages to work with. Oh... wait a second... they do have more pages to work with! Except they keep running these fucking "Shazam!" backup tales, STEALING PRECIOUS PAGES FROM THE MAIN STORY! It's so fucking stupid! The book is called JUSTICE LEAGUE, NOT SHAZAM! If you want to tell Shazam stories so fucking bad, GIVE HIM HIS OWN FUCKING BOOK! This is a $3.99 title. If the writer/artist truly only needs a $2.99 page count, THEN CUT PAGES so people who don't give a flying fuck about Shazam aren't forced to pay for this shit. Would have absolutely been in my Top 5 if they'd focus on the actual Justice League. P.S. I know it's probably a legal thing, but renaming "Captain Marvel" to "Shazam!" makes me hate the fucking character even more.
Surprisingly, it is actually all-new. Lucky for us, it's also all-entertaining. Thank you Mr. Bendis!
A really good book destroyed by greed because Marvel is releasing two issues each month at $4 a pop. If they dropped the price a dollar after a month like DC does, I could see paying $6 a month for stories of this quality. $8 just feels like too much, even though I'm certainly enjoying the title.
I was late to this party because I thought I was already getting the best entertainment when it came to a mysterious school with unusual students, thanks to the television show Tower Prep. But then the show was canceled and this book was recommended to me to fill the void. It is unlike anything I expected in the best possible way. Unlike the television show Lost where the writers didn't know what the fuck they were doing with all the mysteries and subplots... writer Nick Spencer has promised that this is not going to be the case here. There is a definite ending planned out, and everything he is doing is leading to that moment. Good enough for me!
There are times I just want something different to read. But, when it comes to comic books, all too often "different" is just another word for something that is different for different's sake instead of something actually interesting. Based on a shitty idea for an old comic book called Dial H for Hero, writer China Miéville has knocked me on my ass with what he's doing in the "New 52" reboot. What a pleasant surprise and a breath of fresh air. I know it sounds hard to believe, but this is a book you really need to try. Most people will be surprised that Saga isn't on my list. For the longest time, it was. Until Dial H knocked it off.
America's Got Powers
Started out brilliant, but then started to fade (not helped by the long delay between issues). In the future, super-powered persons are used as television entertainment in violent sports-like competition, but with some surprising twists. Despite having some "been there, done that" elements (Hunger Games?), the book is fairly fresh and a fun read thanks to scripts by British personality Jonathan Ross and gorgeous art by Bryan Hitch. Still worth checking out.
NOT QUITE A COMIC BOOK COMIC BOOK...
Chris Ware's Building Stories
I am a massively huge Chris Ware fan, but what he does just doesn't feel like a "comic book" to me. His latest epic, Building Stories, is among Ware's best work, and showcases his unparalleled talent in creating true Graphic Novels that exploit the printed medium like nobody else. In this case, it's a $50 box stuffed full of fourteen separate pieces... from comic books to posters, to a fold-out game board... all genius. How you tackle the content is up to you, but everything intersects in different ways to tell a complete story that's not so much a story... but a snippet of everyday life told in separate pieces from different people in three different apartments. Figuring out how these pieces intersect is what makes everything so compelling and uplifting... even though the "story" itself is kinda depressing most of the time. I realize most people are not going to want to spend $50 to buy this tome, or even the $32 you'd spend at discount, and that's a real shame. This is a work of art that demands to be seen and experienced, and is easily one of my favorite "comic books" this year.
One of my all-time favorite books from when I was a kid was Curious George Goes to the Hospital.
Recently I was needing to add a cheap item to my order to push my order total above the FREE SHIPPING threshold. For some reason I remembered this Curious George book, so I ordered a copy.
I am happy to say that it totally holds up, even after all this time. If, for no other reason, than to see Curious George get high on ether fumes (turns out this is from an earlier George book, sorry!).
My review on GoodReads...
After re-reading Curious George Goes to the Hospital I am convinced that it is the peak of literary perfection, unmatched by any other human accomplishment. The entire spectrum of drama is fully represented in a tale so filled with wonder and delight as to make all other books redundant. The fact that the story's wealth of knowledge and inspiration is so remarkably accessible to persons of most any age is surely a testament to the unarguable brilliance of Margret & H.A. Rey. I loathe to attribute something as mundane as a "Star Rating" to such a transcendentally significant work which redefines the boundaries of human/primate existence, and so eloquently conveys the folly and ultimate triumph of monkeykind... but if forced to do so under the GoodReads review standard, I offer TWENTY-SIX STARS (of which only five are be visible for some reason). You owe it to yourself... nay, you owe it to ALL HUMANITY... to read this literary masterwork and thrill to the sublime illustrated artistic triumphs which accompany it. Curious George Goes to the Hospital is, quite simply, the most profoundly perfect book ever created, and shall undoubtedly remain so until the end of time.
Obviously, I give the book my highest possible recommendation. If you haven't read it yet, I'd get on that.
I don't like theater.
I hate musicals.
I have a general distaste for ridiculing somebody's faith.
Which makes the idea of seeing the smash musical The Book of Mormon a strange prospect...
I enjoyed it.
Not really my thing, but South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone kept it funny enough that I didn't mind all the singing and dancing that usually causes my eyes to roll back into my head. The icing on the cake was the set design, which was really well done.
As for ridiculing the Mormons...
This was a tough one for me. I have Mormon friends who are some of the nicest, most generous people I've ever met. And even though I disagree strongly with the church's monetary political maneuverings against things like marriage equality (which should result in them losing their tax-exempt status)... I don't find their religion to be any more strange or as unusual as any other religion.
And that's where I had a problem.
I'm sure the Christians in the audience were laughing their heads off at some of the more outlandish things that come from The Book of Mormon. "Ha ha ha ha! Those Mormons believe some crazy shit... that's so funny!" Which only leads me to believe that they've never actually read their Bible, because it's filled with all kinds of stuff that's equally hard to believe. Unless you have faith in it. Like the Mormons do in their sacred texts.
Whenever a satire like this is made spoofing Christianity or Islam or Judaism or whatever... people go ape-shit. But the Mormons? They have a sense of humor about it all. They take out ads in the Playbill...
This made me feel a little less guilty for laughing along with the crowd, but I couldn't get it out of my head how a chunk of the audience would have a very different reaction if it was their faith that was being poked fun of.
Anyway, back to the show...
The Book of Mormon is a play in two acts. It tells the story of two young Mormons who get sent on a mission to a poor and war-torn area of Uganda. One of them is Elder Price, who is the perfect example of the Mormon faithful, and confident he will succeed in his task to convert Africans to Mormonism. The other is Elder Cunningham, who is basically playing Jonah Hill acting more annoying and stupid than usual, and is the polar opposite of Elder Price.
As the story proceeds, Price starts losing his faith as the task at hand ends up being much more difficult than he ever imagined... and Cunningham becomes an accidental hero thanks to his talent for telling lies. Hilarity (and I mean genuinely funny hilarity) ensues.
Overall, the play is as good as everybody you've ever known who has seen it has said it is. I think it gets a bit sloppy and disjointed in the second act, but it's not a deal-breaker. Parker and Stone (along with Robert Lopez) reveal true genius here, and there's some unexpected sweetness woven into the story that makes it pretty irresistible.
But not for everyone.
The two people sitting next to me arrived very late, taking their seats just as the Hasa Diga Eebowai number was in full swing. It's basically a song where the natives are saying "fuck you, God" as a way of dealing with the abject misery that fills their every waking hour.
They left at intermission and never came back. They let their displeasure be known, however... their Playbills were ripped to pieces and laying on the floor.
I guess everybody is entitled to their opinion, but how in the fuck can you show up to The Book of Mormon at this stage of the game and not know what you're in for? I guess they are just really uninformed. Or totally stupid. Or both.
Oh well. It certainly made me more comfortable to have the extra room.
So... for anybody in Chicago who has a tolerance for naughty words and a bit of blasphemy... I recommend seeing The Book of Mormon if you get a chance. The cast was incredibly talented, the story inspired and, even if you hate musical theater like me, there's enough to make it worth your time and hard-earned money.
Today would have been the 61st birthday of one of my all-time favorite authors, Douglas Adams.
Sadly, he died twelve years ago, leaving a void in the universe where his wit, humor, and astounding talent once resided. Best known as the author of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, he was also a big supporter of the environment and tireless advocate for wildlife conservation... in particular those animals which are most threatened. One of his lesser-known works, Last Chance to See, is among my most favorite books, and documented Adams' attempts to see some of the world's most endangered animals... perhaps for the very last time.
Today Google came up with a Google Doodle in his honor...
It features his most famous phrase "Don't Panic" from his most famous work and it has been words I've tried to live by for decades.
I've met the man at book readings three times. Each time I was allowed to get an item autographed, and these pieces are among my most treasured possessions...
The credit card form was chosen very carefully, as I wanted something unique that he probably hadn't autographed very many times. As I handed it to him, he said "Well this is a first!" as he signed it, and then told me that if I got the credit card approved with his name on it, to please restrain myself when using it.
My favorite memory of Mr. Adams was at a reading for one of his books... I'm thinking perhaps Mostly Harmless, but it could have been The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. Anyway, at this particular reading he had a sign language interpreter that he decided to torture for his audience's amusement. All of a sudden he'd read a paragraph impossibly fast, then put the book down and stare at the interpreter while looking at his watch and tapping his foot as he waited for her to catch up. Later in the reading he got to a passage where the character had an impossibly long and complex name (akin to Hitchhiker's "Slartibartfast"). After saying it, he immediately glanced wryly at the poor girl so he could watch her struggle to spell out the name. It was all in good fun, and the interpreter got a hug at the end, which was just the sort of wonderful thing you expect from Douglas Adams.
I cherish everything he wrote, and have read his books many times over. But oh how I wish he had lived to tell more stories. Just as it always goes, you can never get enough of the good things in life.
Happiest of birthdays to you, Mr. Adams.
Sometimes you get the bear. Sometimes the bear gets you.
Though I would never actually want to kill a bear, so that saying doesn't make much sense for me. Unless I'm "getting" the bear so I can give him a hug. A bear hug!
In any event, the March issue of THRICE Fiction actually slipped a day into April, and there are a lot of excuses I could give as to why that happened. But, the honest truth is that the issue just ended up being a much bigger project than usual (54 pages!), and I didn't budget enough time to get things done.
Oh well. It turned out great, so hopefully our readers will think it's worth the wait...
Download the issue for FREE by visiting the THRICE Fiction website!
The cover this time around was a fun one. Fearless THRICE Fiction editor RW Spryszak told me that he kept on seeing "a man standing at a bus stop in the rain" for the cover as he was reviewing submissions. I thought this was a great idea for a Spring issue, so it didn't take any amount of convincing for me to take the idea and run with it. Especially since I could do a kinda tribute to one of my favorite films of all time... Hayao Miyazaki's wonderful My Neighbor Totoro...
But since Totoro is trademarked, I decided to use geese instead. I also thought geese would be funnier.
The original cover image is composited from 23 separate photos from locations like Costa Rica, Maui, Barcelona, Vancouver, Seattle, and Fiji (among others)... plus one very important piece of stock photo art...
The process of stitching all the photos together into a single cohesive image is long and tedious (as I explained in a step-by-step for a past cover here). Once that's been completed, parts were painted over in Photoshop, then run through various filters to add rain and make the image look kinda-sorta like a painting. As usual, it would probably have been faster had I ACTUALLY painted the thing, but at least this way I didn't get any paint on my clothes. Anyway... here's the end result...
And that's that.
For a look at the rest of the artwork in this issue, click onward to an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
The big news today is the passing of famed movie critic Roger Ebert, which I'll get to in a minute. But also passing today is Carmine Infantino, a prolific comic book artist whose work when a long way towards shaping the comic books as we know them today. The man redefined The Flash, for heaven's sake, and paved the way for The Silver Age of comics.
Despite all his influence and success, I was never a fan of Carmine Infantino. I thought his art style was sketchy and sloppy. I felt his anatomy and proportions were off-putting. I didn't care for the way he used (or didn't use) perspective. And I never like his background art for those rare times he bothered to actually put any detail into his backgrounds. Don't get me wrong, the guy knew how to illustrate a story... I just didn't care for the way he did it...
And yet, it would be impossible for me not to admire the guy who did so much for the comics medium that I love. For that I thank you, Mr. Infantino... rest in peace.
As for Roger Ebert...
Photo by Buena Vista Television/AP Photo
For me, he was THE film critic. Along with Gene Siskel, he created At the Movies, which was a program I obsessed over in the 1980's. I love movies, and back then there wasn't an internet to hang out with fellow buffs to discuss them. Instead there was Siskel and Ebert every week. Of the two, Ebert was the one who was closest to my tastes, and his "thumbs up" sent me to the local movie theater more times than I can count. He expanded my love of cinema, helped me to find films that I still love to this day, and was a tireless voice in the movie geek community that I valued right up until his death. Even when I didn't agree with him.
But movies were not the only thing Roger Ebert helped to open my mind to.
His astounding positive outlook in the face of devastating health problems were inspirational in a way that I can't even begin to enunciate. The guy was in hospitals all the time, he lost his jaw, he lost his ability to speak and eat, he was dealing with crap that would crush the spirit of most anyone. And yet... he refused to let it get him down. He kept working. He kept inspiring. He kept living...
Photo by Associated Press
"I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute to joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."
We should all do so well to leave such a legacy. Rest in peace, Mr. Ebert.
Stand back, it's a big one!
Laying out an issue of THRICE Fiction is like putting together a giant puzzle where all the edge pieces have been removed. Stories have to "flow" into each other in a way that keeps the reader engaged, yet still manage to make them feel like separate entities. You'd think that the more stories you have, the easier it would be to fit the pieces together because there's more options to choose from. You'd be wrong. It's actually quite the opposite. It's the choice that drags things out and makes things hard. If you only have a few stories, then the way they should fit together is more obvious. With a lot of stories? Well...
Yet, it is what it is.
RW Spryszak and I made the decision early on that the size of the magazine would directly relate to what we have to put in it. If we only received two stories that were "right for us" then that issue has two stories. But we never accounted for THRICE getting as popular as it has. RW is getting hundreds of submissions each issue. Hundreds. Our odds of getting great stories that are "the right fit" for us have exploded.
So I ended up with an issue that was 84 pages which I then had to pare down to 70. Because things start getting expensive after that.
And since THRICE shows no signs of slowing down, we've adjusted our publishing schedule to allow more time. The last thing we want to do is start slapping an issue together haphazardly to meet a date on a calendar, so it was our only option. The good news is that the quality of the magazine can be maintained. The bad news is that our submission window has dropped to one month intervals.
I'm choosing to look at this as a good thing.
Once again I am going to write a blog post about all the art that goes into the issue. But this time it will have to come in two parts. Here is the first half...
RW had an idea for a cover after reading one of the stories he accepted. He envisioned the Brooklyn Bridge all lit up at night in the fog. I thought it was a good idea, except I couldn't find a photo that would work. All my photos of Brooklyn were shot in the daytime, and any nighttime shots I found weren't working. I decided to just up and DRAW the idea, but I could never get it to come together. The Brooklyn Bridge is a very specific structure and people know when you get it wrong. I simply didn't have the time to get it right. Or I'm just not that talented an artist. Regardless, I had to try a new approach.
So night became day, fog became clouds, and away we go.
The photos I had taken from my last visit to Brooklyn were a good start. I wanted the cover image to be on the bridge instead of looking at it, and I had plenty of shots for that. But the clouds were never where I wanted them to be. This meant I had to painstakingly cut out the bridge so I could manipulate the sky as I wanted... namely, having a big ol' cloud at the top for the magazine title to sit on! After I composited the bridge and the revised sky, I was dismayed to find that the cables were falling away, so I then had to paint over each and every one to get them to stand out a bit. After a lot of work, I sent the photo through a couple of Photoshop filters to add a bit of watercolor feeling and, voilà, our cover was born.
Except not really.
Everybody thinks that Photoshop filters are a magic button you press to get cool stuff happening with no effort. And, for the most part, that's true. But I'm never satisfied with the "magic button" approach, so I always end up re-painting parts so that they filter better... or using different strengths of filter on different pieces of the photo... or whatever. In this case I ended up with a photo that had twenty-two separate layers in the final composite to get what I wanted.
As usual, I find myself thinking it would have been easier to actually take the time to paint the thing from scratch.
To read about the rest of the art in this issue, you'll have to take a look after the jump. And I'll see you tomorrow for part two!→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
On the bright side, you're half-way there!
This is PART 2 of a two part series on the art found in THRICE Fiction Magazine Issue No. 8. Needless to say, you should probably read PART 1 before continuing if you haven't already.
Or don't... either way, I get paid the same.
When last I left you, we were half-way through the magazine. Kinda. Because while I now have the luxury of going through the issue page-by-page, it doesn't work that way when putting the book together. Absolutely nothing is done in-sequence. Especially this time around, when things were running so late that I didn't have time to reach out to as many artists as I would have liked. Lucky for me, THRICE-regular Kyra Wilson painted two beautiful last-minute pieces she was able to work into her schedule... then Ira Joel Haber came along with his wonderful body of work that really saved my bacon! If not for him, this issue would have slid into September for sure! So, to both of these gifted artists, my heart-felt thanks for your help.
And now, on with the show.
The art of THRICE Fiction No. 8 continues after the jump...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
There's no fate but what we make for ourselves.
The process of putting together an issue of THRICE Fiction seems simple... the editor hands you a stack of stories, you paste them into a document, you add some pictures, and BLAM! a magazine is born.
Except it's nowhere near that straightforward. And most of that is my own fault.
When R.W. and I first began discussing how THRICE was going to work, I had a very clear direction I wanted for the design of it all...
Of course, had I known three years ago what I know now... I probably would have done things differently. A lot differently. I'd hack stories apart, add art only if I could find it, and just cram stuff in any which way. It would have made my life much easier going forward.
But then THRICE Fiction wouldn't be THRICE Fiction, so I guess everything happened as it was meant to all along.
Which brings us to Issue. No. 9...
Download the issue for FREE by visiting the THRICE Fiction website!
As always, the cover was a struggle. Originally I had done painting for it, but I had already done the past three covers and really wanted something different this time. I was working on an alternative, but that didn't come together this time around, so I was back to my design again.
I remembered an incredibly talented artist named Katelin Kinney that I was lining up for Issue. No. 10, and decided to throw a Hail Mary pass in her direction to see if she might have something available. Lucky for all of us, she was perfectly happy to let us borrow some works for her portfolio, and we ended up with this amazing cover to close out our third year. It's a photo art composite titled Seed of a Soul, and the reaction to it has been overwhelmingly favorable, so thanks, Katelin!For a look at the first half of the art included in this issue, click onward to an extended entry... → Click here to continue reading this entry...
And... I'm back!
But before I continue with a look at the art appearing in the second half of THRICE Fiction Issue No. 9, you might want to go read Part One from yesterday first (if you haven't already).
Oh, and if you haven't downloaded your FREE copy of our latest issue, that should be your first stop!
Now then... before I get started, I was going to talk a bit about what it means to be closing out three years and nine issues of THRICE Fiction. On our Facebook somewhere, I was joking about how "People said we wouldn't last... shame on them." But it was more than a joke. People were literally saying that we wouldn't last. Apparently there's past precedent: "New magazines rarely make it past a year... two years if they're lucky," they would say.
At the time, I didn't know why that would be. I guessed it was because the magazine ends up being more work than people realize. You start out strong with the best of intentions... but life gets in the way, and eventually the time between issues grow longer and longer until you realize you just don't want to do this any longer. Or maybe the people who quit started their magazine to get rich (ha ha) and the money never came. Maybe they didn't feel enough people were reading to make it worthwhile. Maybe the experience just wasn't what they expected. I dunno. And while I can't speak for our Editor, RW, I can say that it has never occurred to me to pack it in. I'm as enthusiastic about THRICE Fiction now as I was at the beginning. More so, even, because the response we've received has exceeded my wildest dreams.
So many thanks to all our contributors who have made us look so good these three years... and also to our readers who continue to download issues by the thousands. We're so very grateful, and there's more to come in Year Four!
The art for Issue No. 9... Part Two!
You can find that in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
This is my second year trying to put together a list of my favorite comic books, which isn't easy given that I just don't read many comics any more (my reading has taken a dive now that "The New 52" has kind of died down). But I still love comic books, so it's important to me to put some good books out there in the hopes that more people will support them.
As always, I'm doing most of my reading digitally on my Retina Display iPad, because I just don't have room to store any more comics. Comixology makes it so simple... and they regularly have sales that actually make comic books affordable. So here we go...
THE TWELVE BEST...
How in the heck can a non-Batman book take the top spot in my list of 2013 favorites? When it's this tale of continuing brilliance by Matt Fraction and David Aja. It's just the whole package. Fantastic writing infused with enough action and humor to keep the pages blowing by... paired with some beautiful Giffen-esque art that services the story flawlessly. If I had to point to one thing that pushed this series over the edge for me, it would have to be issue #11. This one issue which... stay with me here... was told entirely from the perspective of Hawkeye's dog, illustrates beautifully just what makes Hawkeye the best book going in 2013.
My favorite comic book character of all time continues to chug along with some of the best Batman stories ever in his signature book. While the title has been a bit uneven compared to 2012, Scott Snyder still knows what makes Batman tick, and Greg Capullo still knows how to thrill with his jaw-dropping art. With "Death of the Family" wrapping up at the start of the year, I was wondering what could possibly come next... the answer? A prequel once again retreading Batman's origins? Really? And yet "Zero Year" kept things entertaining for the rest of the year.
#3 Jupiter's Legacy
This book was hyped as "The Comic Event of 2013," which would normally cause me to roll my eyes and move on. But it's by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely, so you couldn't help but take the buzz seriously. Yes, the book is basically a coat of fresh paint slapped on The Authority which has been fused with Watchmen-esque elements and injected with high Americana... but it's a really good paint job. The story is kind of a Greek Titans / Greek Gods situation, where an older generation of super-heroes are having to deal with the emergence of their super-powered offspring. There's only been three issues released, but you can already tell that Millar is building up to something really special.
#4 Batman, Incorporated
My number 4 from last year is my number 4 again this year... even though the title was canceled mid-year at issue #13. The reason is simple... Grant Morrison kept on doing what he was doing right up until the bitter end, and it worked beautifully. Even when he killed Damian Wayne, which was probably my favorite Robin ever. It's still a bit of a shock that there's no Morrison Batman to be had any more.
#5 Wonder Woman
Still love the book. Probably even more than I did last year, even though it was in the No. 5 spot then as well. What Azzarello and Chiang are doing is taking Greek mythology to epic heights which, given how epic Greek myths already are, is pretty frickin' spectacular. Gods, monsters, and surprises permeate Wonder Woman, and with every issue I have to check my disbelief that somebody isn't building a movie franchise for her. Screw the upcoming "Batman/Superman" cameo... everything you need for an amazing film is right here.
#6 The Sandman: Overture
More Gaiman Sandman? Yes please. And while the story for this mini-series isn't up to the lofty standards of the original book, it's absolutely the most beautiful presentation of the character I've ever seen thanks to the jaw-dropping art of J.H. Williams III. And what else is there to say? It's Sandman.
This is one of those titles I've enjoyed for a while... but it's finally gotten to the point where it's essential reading material. Police detective Tony Chu has the unique ability to get psychic impressions from objects he consumes. Including people. Which means he's got an inside-edge in solving murders... all he has to do is start chowing down on the corpse. But the title is so much more than that, and very much worth your valuable time.
Okay... okay... even though it was written by Matt Fraction and drawn by the incomparable Mike Allred, the wacky premise behind a substitute Fantastic Four in FF was just too much for me (a woman in a Thing-suit named "Miss Thing? Ugh). Until Marvel gave away the first issue for free and I actually read it. I should have known better. I should have given the creative team a chance. Because Fraction (who writes my #1 book, Hawkeye) is at his most unique right here, and Allred is Allred... churning out his magical art page by page. The sheer surprise of how much I enjoy this book should probably rate it higher on my list, but I've settled in and am "just" loving it now.
#9 Superman Unchained.
What happens when Scott Snyder sneaks away from his awesome Batman book to dip his toe in the Superman universe? Well, some pretty great stuff, as it turns out. And it doesn't hurt that he has Jim Lee onboard to illustrate the thing. In many ways, Unchained, should have been the title that anchored "The New 52" all along... it's just so much more streamlined and entertaining that what we've been getting from the launch titles.
#10 Adventure Time.
Yes. All the things that make the Adventure Time cartoon so awesome are perfectly translated to a comic book series. If you love the wacky insanity that defines every episode of the show, this book is a must-read. And if you don't love the cartoon, then you don't love life. Get onboard, will you?
Robert Kirkman continues to pump out issue after issue of the most consistent quality super-hero book there is. And even with all the storyline ups-and-downs of 2013, it was still a book I was anxious to read every month. If you want to rediscover what makes super-hero comics such an enduring genre, this is probably the best place to start.
#12 The Wake
What does Scott Snyder do when he's not crafting some of the best Batman and Superman stories running? Oh... he dabbles in a series that leaves the super-heroics behind with The Wake, a 10-part series that explores the ocean depths... with a survival horror twist that's a mind-bogglingly good read. Half the fun of this series is speculating where it's all leading to... the other half is just grabbing hold and enjoying the ride.
ALSO WORTH LOOKING AT...
Science fiction cut with politics cut with action... all of which rolls together in a surprisingly fresh way. In this book, the super-wealthy own the world, but the world is not enough, and epic battles between families is only survivable by genetically-engineered protectors.
Indestructible Hulk #6-8
Walt Simonson returns to Thor... in the pages of Indestructible Hulk? Wha-?!? But, yes, it's true. Mr. Simonson takes on the art chores for Mark Waid and blows the doors off, much as you'd expect he would. As if that weren't enough, the storyline was pretty darn entertaining.
East of West
I was late coming to this series because Westerns are not my thing... but then the praise-laden reviews started rolling in, and I was compelled to take a look. More like a "Sci-Fi Western," Jonathan Hickman's East of West is a battle between the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse at the end of the world... with Death as mankind's only hope. Really good writing in an imaginative work that's worth checking out.
I miss reading. I used to read a lot. Like... really a lot.
I'd easily tear through 25 books a year, and it wasn't unheard of to do double that. I'm a fairly quick reader, so a book a week is a piece of cake if the material isn't too challenging (Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco was insane and took over a month to get through).
But then stuff started getting in the way.
Video games got more complex and time consuming.
Work got more and more involved.
Social media became a time-suck of epic proportions.
Now-a-days the only time I get to read is when I travel, and even that's diminishing. I'm either catching up with movies on my iPad, using in-flight wi-fi, or playing with my Nintendo 3DS. For a while I thought audio-books were a way to keep "reading" in my life, but so few books are enjoyable to me that way (David Sedaris, for example, is better on audio-book, but good sci-fi is almost impossible for me to get through).
In 2013 I read three books.
And so I've set a goal for myself to read six books in 2014.
Wish me luck.
One of the things R.W. and I set out to do when we created THRICE Fiction was to make sure it was available in a variety of formats so people could read it however they wanted. Want to read a printed magazine? You can order a copy. Want to view it as a PDF? It's there. Want to read it on an eBook reader? We got that. Have a Kindle? We got that too. We've had all of it since Day One, and all the digital editions can be downloaded for FREE.
Like our brand new issue released today (featuring a stunning cover by Chris Walton)...
And we're not stopping there.
Our next outlet for THRICE will be an online edition. We want for people to be able to read every issue right on the THRICE Fiction website. There are many, many solutions for doing this, and I've looked at dozens of them. You can see a sample of one solution (from JooMag) here...
If you expand it to full-screen and have a decent-resolution display, it's pretty nice. I don't know if this is the route we'll take, but we'll get it figured out eventually.
Back to THRICE Fiction No. 10! For a look at the first half of the art included in this issue, click onward to an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
And here we are again... this time with a look at the art appearing in the second half of THRICE Fiction Issue No. 10, you might want to go read Part One from last Saturday first (if you haven't already).
Oh, and if you haven't downloaded your FREE copy of our latest issue, that should be your first stop!
Alright? All right!
Last week when discussing the art from the first half of the book, I talked a little bit about the formats we offer for FREE downloads... and how we're wanting to expand into others. Here's the breakdown average from December's issue...
Anybody looking at this breakdown would say "Wow... why do you even bother with anything but PDF?"
The answer is because our "circulation" was around 2850 last issue and, as always when we release a new issue, it has climbed a bit. As of yesterday, we topped 3200. Which means 4% translates into 130 people who prefer to read THRICE via eBook. That's worth the 90 minutes it takes for me to create it. The Kindle version is automatically created from the eBook, so now we're up to around 150 people.
The print edition is just a higher resolution version of the PDF that takes 2 minutes to generate and 5 to upload to MagCloud. For the 30-50 people who want to have THRICE in print (including yours truly), I'll spend the seven minutes to make it happen.
And if we can expand our readership by adding an online version... an iPad version... or whatever else we can think of? We're going to do that too. Because as our downloads continue to blast past our every expectation, even small percentages are going to account for more people than R.W. and I ever dreamed would be reading in the first place. We're happy... nay, thrilled... to provide THRICE in whatever format people want to have it.
So look for our "Cerebral Implant" edition, coming 2025.
And now... back to the artwork for THRICE Fiction No. 10, which you can read about in an extended edition...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Another summer. Another issue of THRICE Fiction Magazine!
As usual, I'll be discussing the artwork that went into our latest issue. This may or may not include spoilers for the stories, so I urge you to download your FREE copy of Issue No. 11 and give it a read before continuing.
This time around we are very fortunate to feature another beautiful cover by Katelin Kinney...
Even though I do composite photo work like this for a living, Katelin has a way of making it seem like magic to me. I've stopped asking her how she constructs these images for us because the magic is more fun.
For a look at the first half of the art included in this issue, read onward in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Welcome to PART TWO of a discussion about the art that's running in the latest issue of THRICE Fiction Magazine!
If you haven't read PART ONE yet, you should do that first.
And if you haven't downloaded a FREE copy of our August 2014 issue... then you should definitely do that first because, WARNING... SPOILERS MAY ENSUE!
Okey dokey then.
I've said before that laying out an issue of THRICE Fiction is like trying to put a puzzle together where you don't have a box lid to see how it's supposed to end up looking when you're done. Not once have I just dumped all the stories into Adobe InDesign and said "Perfect! I'm done!" Not even close. I move things around over and over and over again... trying to come up with a "flow" between stories that makes for a cohesive reading experience from cover to cover. At least once every issue I'll wake up in the middle of the night and freak out because I suddenly realized I've got the page order all wrong. This issue took a little longer to figure out than most, but I was fairly confident in the layout when it was "finalized" back in June.
It didn't last, of course. Right before release I had a couple of discussions that convinced me I needed to move things around... again. Which wouldn't be a big deal if I wasn't so obsessive about having some symmetry between pages on a spread. Getting that sorted out takes a serious amount of time.
And even though it delayed our release by a few days, I think it was time well-spent. We hope you'll agree.
To read PART TWO of my ramblings about the art of THRICE Fiction Magazine No. 11, read onward in an extended entry!→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Big Hero 6 is a movie well worth a look.
And, if you're a fan of the film like me, I'd recommend checking out the art book. Disney usually does a great job on these, but this is above and beyond...
If ever there was a reason to celebrate Disney buying out Marvel Comics, this would be it. Hopefully this isn't the last animation collaboration we'll see.
Put down that shot of Jägermeister... because Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Foundation! Literary sci-fi nerds around the world (myself included) had a simultaneous orgasm when it was announced that Jonathan Nolan would be adapting Isaac Asimov's seminal work, the Foundation trilogy for HBO...
Foundation's Hari Seldon by Michael Whelan
My fear is, of course, that Foundation will get completely screwed up like Edgar Rice Burrough's A Princess of Mars did... but Nolan seems to be a serious fan, so here's hoping.
• Ash! As if a Foundation TV series isn't enough, it was announced that Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell will be bringing The Evil Dead back as a Starz television series in 2015!
Kind of amazing that a cult property like The Evil Dead would be getting resurrected like this, but I'll take it.
• Salmon. John Oliver's Last Week Tonight came up with a mind-bogglingly cool set of guest-appearances for one of their latest bits...
Now that's pretty epic.
• Lighthouses. Stunning.
• Attack! While I was in Africa, I was always joking about how great it would be to see some kind of unbelievable animal attack scenario... like leopards attacking an elephant... or a herd of impala attacking a lion... or whatever. Little did I know...
Holy cats! I would have put my money on the lions. Way to go there Tantor!
• Ass. A couple months ago Marvel Comics unleashed a shit-storm of controversy when they got famous Italian artist Milo Manara to create an alternate artist collector cover for the Spider-Woman relaunch. I was blissfully unaware of the controversy until I saw a link to an article at Elle magazine where somebody was commenting that she looked like a porn star. I remarked at the time that this was pretty ironic given how Elle Photoshops their models to within an inch of their lives to look like porn stars. And, in many ways, their work was far dangerous because young girls looking at the Spider-Woman cover would immediately know it wasn't real... whereas with Elle they're presented with women that look real and whose beauty is obtainable but, in reality, are not.
Fast-forward to today, and one of my friends sent me this link...
So apparently Maddox is blogging again. Kinda. I don't always agree with him, but I think his take on Spider-Woman #1's alternate cover is pretty dead-on. Especially considering that kids today don't give a crap about comics, and most of the people reading them are adults that grew up with them.
And now... back to my impending hangover, already in progress.
David Sedaris is my favorite living author.
Not just because his wry humor, observational wit, and charming self-deprecation is about the funniest stuff I've ever read... it's because David Sedaris is an exceptional writer. His prose is so flawlessly constructed... so beautifully realized... so wonderfully clever... you don't just read it, you let it wash over your senses like a warm bath from which you never want to leave.
And, as good as an adventure as reading his work may be... it's not even the best way to experience it. Having David Sedaris read his writings to you adds an entirely new load of genius to an already brilliant work. Which is why I always buy the book and the audiobook of everything he releases...
I also try to attend his readings, so I can listen to him live and in person, which is about the best entertainment ever. Sadly, it's never easy with my crazy schedule, and I've only heard him speak once before. But there was no way I was going to miss this event given that it was a mere two-hour drive away.
Especially since I finally got to meet him up-close-and-personal to get his autograph... complete with a bloody tomahawk...
Benaroya Hall, which is truly a lovely space with fantastic acoustics, was completely sold out for the event...
I couldn't have had a better seat. Right on the first level in the second balcony...
Mr. Sedaris was, as expected, completely worth the trip.
Smart, witty, charming... and utterly brilliant in every way... it was an evening I'll not soon forget.
Oh yeah... earlier in the day I also went to go see Big Hero 6 again. Such a great film. And this time I saw it in a pretty great theater. Not for screen size or anything... but for comfort...
The iPic Theater in Redmond is more comfortable than my bed. It doesn't help that people are waiting on you hand and foot. Want a beer and some Junior Mints? Your wish is their command...
Sure it's expensive... but "expensive" means that people won't waste the money to bring their bratty kids along so you won't have to listen to their bullshit. My first time seeing Big Hero 6 was pretty much ruined by kids who would rather be playing video games than stuck in a theater for 105 minutes being quiet. Not this time, baby.
Oh... and I stuck around for the post-credit sequence of the film, which was kinda nice.
Almost as nice as my Big Hero 6 Funko POP! Baymax figure that finally arrived...
I got the "Amazon Exclusive" so he glows in the dark.
Just like a playtime pal should.
Yeah, yeah, it's Friday and I'm two days early... but I can't mess up my end-of-year lists, so... Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Box! Ooh... look... it's the day after Christmas!
Assuming you celebrate that kind of thing.
• Monkeymedic! When a monkey was badly shocked by an electrical line, a monkey friend did their best to revive him...
Monkey buddies for life!
• Land! One of the gifts from Cards Against Humanity's Ten Days or Whatever of Kwanzaa ended up being one square foot of an island in Maine that they renamed Hawaii 2. My piece is here...
Looks like I'm going to have to see if there's a way to get there for my next trip to Maine!
• Cute! There's an article titled 25 of The Cutest Parenting Moments In The Animal Kingdom that's totally worth a look. Though I'd say a photo I took when I was at Mana Pools in Africa of two elephants teaching a baby elephant how to wash grass is just as cute as any of them...
And a photo I took of a mother lion giving her reluctant cub a bath when I was at Hwange National Park is equally sweet...
Doesn't get much more adorable than nature.
• Horrifying! And now for something that's the exact opposite of cute. I was playing Godus (quite a trick when the pile of crap crashes all the time) when a rival tribe, the Astari, started having a celebration. If the celebration makes their people happier than my people, some of my people will defect. I didn't want this to happen, so I used my god powers to call down a meteor strike. I was hoping if I busted some of their buildings they wouldn't be quite so happy. Unexpectedly, all hell broke loose. Before I knew it, all the buildings... and all the little people... were on fire...
The whole scene was just awful, and I felt terrible all day for the horrific destruction I unleashed. I was going to call down some rain to extinguish everything, but the population plummeted to zero and the entire tribe was gone. Guess this is what happens when people try to play god.
• Quest! I'm a bit obsessed with Questlove, best known as co-founder and lead drummer for The Roots (the house band on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon). He absolutely mesmerizes me with his musical talent... especially when he sits in on drums with a guest band at the last minute (always flawlessly). He can play drums on A.N.Y.T.H.I.N.G. Despite being a fan, I never knew he had a memoir out until last week when I discovered... quite by accident... the book "Mo' Meta Blues." It is fantastic. The guy is even more brilliant than I imagined. Highly recommend checking it out...
If you need convincing, here's a terrific excerpt over at Salon.
• ASSHOLERY! One of my favorite internet services is DropBox. It's a storage space in the cloud that allows me to share files and keep my work handy no matter where I am or which computer I'm using. I've been paying for DropBox space for years, and have come to rely on its ease and convenience. At least I did until the last update when the fucking assholes moved the buttons to open the DropBox folder and open the DropBox website... replacing them with a "Pro" button...
And since I am so accustomed to where the buttons used to be, I'm forever accidentally clicking on that stupid-ass "Pro" button, opening up their idiotic "PAY US MORE FUCKING MONEY" website which I DON'T WANT. And I am absolutely livid. First DropBox trains everybody where to click to get what they need... then they trick you into clicking on an ad? terrific way to treat your customers.
UPDATE: I do have a "Pro" account that doesn't expire until April 2015 and has PLENTY of space available. So I have no idea why I am being told I have to go Pro Pro?
And... that's the last Bullet Sunday of 2014!
Since switching to digital comics, I've been more ambitious in trying out new titles. If somebody even hints that they've discovered a great new comic, I'm all over it.
That being said, my list has a lot of the same titles as last year because I'm still digging the same stuff the most.
THE TWELVE BEST...
Matt Fraction and David Aja continue to crank out brilliant issue after brilliant issue of my favorite comic book. Not only do the stories and art continue to be compelling in a way that other comics can only dream of obtaining, there were some genuine surprises along the way that kept me interested. Truly super-heroics at their best.
Just when you think that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have peaked with their Batman run... the blow past your expectations. Endgame is shaping up to be even more amazing than Court of Owls and Zero Year, and I couldn't be more thrilled that my favorite super-hero is in such great hands. All the reasons I love Batman so much are right here.
#3 Black Science.
I alternatively love everything about this book... and am frustrated for all the things the book is not... but still enjoy it enough to have the title jump to No. 3 on my list. If you're looking for high adventure in the darkest reaches of the universe on bizarre alien worlds, then Black Science is what you've been waiting for. I was hooked with issue No. 1, then completely obsessed by issue No. 5. My enthusiasm has wavered a bit after that, but we're at issue No. 11 now, and I'm as big a fan as ever. Worth your valuable time to check out.
#4 Sex Criminals.
I would have bypassed this book without even looking at it if it weren't for the fact that Matt Fraction (writer of Hawkeye, may favorite book two years running) was behind it. So funny. So wrong. So worth picking up.
#5 Ms. Marvel.
This comic was solicited thusly: "Kamala Khan is just an ordinary girl from Jersey City—until she is suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the all-new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm, and prepare for an epic tale that will be remembered by generations to come." Needless to say, I was completely indifferent, as it seemed an obvious attempt at creating something new from something old in the most contrived, forced way possible ("I know! Let's make her a teenage Muslim!"). That never goes well. Right? Well, in this case it not only went very, very well... it quickly became one of the best books on the shelf month after month. A fantastic comic in most every way, It would not surprise me if Ms. Marvel climbs even higher on my list next year (fingers crossed).
#6 The Multiversity.
DC Comics ended up with a comic book universe that was such a huge mess they unleashed Crisis on Infinite Earths to gut everything and make sense of it all. After streamlining everything to a single, coherent universe, they've subsequently devoted a lot of time to screwing it up with needless complexity all over again. Sometimes for the better... most times for the worst. One of the better moments was Grant Morrison's series of one-shot comics that started this year, collectively known as The Multiversity. Here we're meeting comic characters of alternate earths who only exist to the other earths as comic book stories (Holy Flash of Two Worlds, Batman!). In lesser hands, this concept could have floundered badly, but Morrison has given us 52 parallel universes worth exploring, and it's been a joy to read. I can't wait for the finale come April.
#7 Moon Knight.
Warren Ellis took a character I've enjoyed for decades and revitalized him for modern comic book audiences in a way that made me love the character all over again. And, for the first half-dozen issues, it was vying for my favorite comic book month after month. Alas, Ellis left after six issues, and the book (while still pretty darn good) never recovered for me. Still, it's gritty, delicious fun... and as close as Marvel's got to Batman in their corner of the comic book world.
#8 Adventure Time.
I expected that my rabid love of the cartoon show would damn the comic book version to the trash pile, but that's absolutely not the case. If anything, the comic book just makes me love the cartoon even more, and that's about as high praise as I can offer. If you are even a small fan of the TV show, here's the book for you.
The fact that this title has dropped two spots from 2013 is no reflection on the quality of the book... only that there was a lot of good material released this year. Because, I'm here to tell you, the past couple issues (No. 44 in particular), John Layman and Rob Guillory have churned out some of the best issues in the history of the book. Cibopath Tony Chu is having adventures even more bizarre and surreal than ever, and if you're not reading this book (and have the stomach for it) you need to get onboard.
#10 Wonder Woman.
This book has ranked very high on my list since it first debuted, and it was all thanks to the imaginative new take on an old standard by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. They put a heavy mythological slant on Princess Diana that I never liked as well as George Pérez's take, but it all worked well. Very well. Until Azzarello and Chiang's run came to an end this year... not with a bang, but with a "meh." And then they bailed on the title. Leaving us with newcomer writer Meredith Finch, who seems determined to drag the title back to disjointed mediocrity after only two issues. Something tells me that Wonder Woman isn't going to make my list next year, and nobody is sadder about that than me.
Robert Kirkman never seems content with the status quo when it comes to his signature comic book super-hero. Just when you think things are going to calm down, Kirkman takes a hard right into some bizarre new territory that shouldn't be unexpected... but always is. 2014 ended with a bigger bang than usual, which should lead to an even more interesting 2015. For anybody who thought the book had nowhere to go but down after issue #100, the creative team of Invincible spent all year proving you wrong.
DAMMIT! I spent all year enjoying each new issue of Shulkie only to find out that it's being canceled with issue No. 12 (which comes out next month). This book truly had it all... not only a fun, smart take on super-heroics, but also terrific courtroom wrangling via She-Hulk's alter-ego Jen Walters (including a face-off with Matt Murdock, AKA Daredevil!). How in the heck this book never caught on is just beyond me. It's everything you read comics for.
ALSO WORTH LOOKING AT...
I snapped up this title on opening day because Mark Millar has a track record of books I enjoy... and was hooked immediately. A larger than life pulp sci-fi hit, this galaxy-spanning tale of Duke McQueen is well worth your time.
My #3 book from last year dropped completely out of my top twelve because of endless delays. Instead of six bi-monthly issues, we were lucky to get two, and there's no telling when/if any more books are even coming. Still, an awesome take on super-heroics by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely.
A very smart take on a timeless sci-fi hero, this book is a joy to read from cover to cover. It kind of took a dip during the summer months, but the last couple of issues for 2014 were fantastic, and things are looking great for 2015. Flash! Ah Aaahhhhh! He'll save every one of us!
Wicked + The Divine.
Every ninety years, twelve of the old gods are reincarnated as teenagers for two short years. The result is pop stars for a new era, and the story takes that concept to strange places.
Batman scribe Scott Snyder's tale of survival horror is still a mind-bogglingly good read.
East of West.
This excellent series has stumbled a bit as of late, but is still a really good read. Jonathan Hickman knows how to create great comic books, and this ultimate battle of Death vs. Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a great example of his talent.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT...
Holy crap. Robots vs. aliens has never been like this. A digital comic so good that it's being turned into a printed book as well. No explanation I could give would do the title justice, so I recommend you check it out for yourself.
Alex + Ada.
A sci-fi drama that is surprisingly human... considering it's about androids. This series is very slow and deliberate, so it's not going to appeal to everyone, but if you enjoy your comics with a bit of soul-searching it's worth a look.
A critical and fan favorite, Saga is the best book I can't seem to get into. Yes, it's imaginative and very well-written, but it's more fantasy than fiction, which is just not my thing. Still, I continue to enjoy it enough to keep reading, so here we are.
Hey! Did you know there's a brand new issue of THRICE Fiction out?
Well, there is... and it's totally FREE! Click here to download a copy!
As usual, I'll be discussing the artwork that went into our latest issue. This may or may not include spoilers for the stories, so I urge you to please read it before proceeding.
All done? Then off we go...
This issue's beautiful cover was created by Allen Forrest. The guy has created a lot of covers for lit mags, and we're very lucky to have him gracing ours...
I try to make sure there's artistic variety in our collection of cover art, and am rather embarrassed that we didn't have any impressionistic pieces yet. To have that oversight rectified with such a great painting is icing on the cake. Thanks so much, Allen!
And now, for a look at the first half of the art included in this issue, read onward in an extended entry...
→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Welcome to PART TWO of a discussion about the art that's running in the latest issue of THRICE Fiction Magazine!
If you haven't read PART ONE yet, you should do that first.
And if you haven't downloaded a FREE copy of our December 2014 issue... then you should definitely do that first because, WARNING... SPOILERS MAY ENSUE!
Last issue I talked about how assembling an issue of THRICE Fiction is like putting together a puzzle. And how I moved things around over and over and over again before I'm happy with how everything fits together. But I glossed over exactly how that happens, which is like this...
After inputting the stories into Adobe InDesign, I print out half-size pages that I can then move around a big table until I'm happy. Sometimes, if things get too difficult to keep track of, I'll print a second round of pages with color-coding to keep stories and spreads together.
The finalized layout has never come together without a struggle. I change my mind at least a dozen times as I read through the complete magazine over and over trying to make sure that I have created a rhythm from one story to the next, and that everything looks good together. I'll then change my mind a couple more times as I try to figure out which artist would be a good fit for each piece.
This issue came together easier than most, but still took days of working and re-working until I was happy.
And that's how it's done. Low-tech, but effective!
Anyway... to read about the art in the second-half of issue No. 12, click onward to an extended entry.→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Time for a new beginning... because the first Bullet Sunday of 2015 starts... now...
• Back! Anybody who's a fan of the Back to the Future trilogy knows that it's the year 2015 that Marty travels to in the second film when he follows Doc Brown to do something about his kids. The result is a funky look at what the future has in store... as envisioned by filmmakers in 1989. Though, to be honest, I think they were more concerned with entertainment value than actually attempting to predict what was coming down the pipe in 25 years...
Newsweek interviewed some futurists to take a look at what Back to the Future II got right... and what they got wrong... and the result is worth a read.
• Snoopy! Usually, I'm dead-set against "improving" old animation techniques... especially with a property as beloved as Peanuts, but this looks amazing...
Nothing like what's come before, and yet oddly in-tune with the Peanuts aesthetic. I am hopeful that eventually there's a "making-of" which explains how they're achieving this perfect compromise of old and new.
• Remastered! Back before the original Star Wars hit theaters, Marvel Comics had an adaptation in the works... written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Howard Chaykin. It didn't even hit my radar until I saw Star Wars, at which time I was obsessive about tracking down anything and everything that even mentioned the film. Including Marvel's over-sized movie tie-in. Since it would be years before home video would happen, it was about as good as I could get in re-living the movie. Flash-forward to today, and the adaptation of Star Wars is being remastered for release as a hardcover graphic novel this March. The "remastering" is basically cleaning up the original pages and then recoloring them using today's computerized technology. The original looks something like this (which I've muddied a bit because the paper back then was far from white)...
And here's the new hotness...
Nice. I guess. I mean, the Death Star is no longer day-glo yellow and Darth Vader is no longer day-glo blue which is good. But I think they went a bit too far. The intro panel, for example, doesn't look much like the original Chaykin art... it's all coloring. They even colored over the text panel for crying out loud! While I like the idea of having an updated edition of these comics, I just wish they hadn't gone quite so over-the-top gradient air-brushy with everything. More flat colors and a little more respect for the original linework would have gone a long way towards a better looking updated book.
• Giving! Taylor Swift, who seems to have a genuine appreciation for her fans, decided to celebrate her hugely successful foray into pop music this year by sending presents to some of the people who made it possible...
It's a sweet video, and I would have thought that anybody seeing it would love Taylor just a little bit more. And most people did. Except, of course, her haters, which were quick to point out that the millionaire country/pop star spent a mere couple hundred dollars of her massive fortune on this obvious publicity stunt.
So I'd like to point out that even if you're this cynical, there is one thing you can't deny: Taylor Swift doesn't stop at a couple hundred dollars when it comes to giving back. In fact, she topped the "Most Charitable Celebrities" list for 2014... for the third year in a row. Say what you want about her music or how she interacts with her fans but, when it comes to charity in the world of celebrities, it would seem as though few people are doing more than Taylor Swift.
• Connectivity! When my Mac displayed an incoming call at work, I couldn't find my iPhone so I accepted the call through my Mac. After the call was over I tore my office apart trying to locate my mobile (which was obviously on silent mode) and couldn't find it. Finally I realized that my Mac was connecting to my iPhone out in my car. I parked close enough that Bluetooth could still reach. Wonderful and bizarre at the same time. Which is how new technology should be, but often isn't. Most of the times now it's just frustration. Like trying to get a file from my iPhone to my Mac using "AirDrop" only to find that it only works half the time. Why? FOR THE LOVE OF JOBS, WHY?!? WHY CAN'T IT WORK EVERY TIME? You got me. And, while I should be happy for the times that this stuff "just works," the fact that you can't count on it is enough me make me want to light my Mac on fire.
• Devil! Back when I was at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, I posted photos of insane people on the Zambia side of the Zambezi taking a dip in what's known as "The Devil's Pool"...
Yesterday I was searching YouTube for people who might have actually filmed the event, and was surprised to find all kinds of videos. Here's just two of them...
Given the opportunity, would I partake in this craziness? I really don't know.
And there you have it. Don't forget to use "2015" when you write the date!
Lucky you! There's a brand-spanking-new (and FREE!) issue of Thrice Fiction out today!
As usual, I'll be discussing the artwork that went into our latest issue. This may or may not include spoilers for the stories, so I urge you to please read it before proceeding.
All done? Then off we go...
Our Editor at Large, RW, has long been lobbying to add some comics to Thrice Fiction. On the surface, this sounds easy. But finding the right comics to include in our pages is easier said than done. My first choice was the brilliant stuff that Reza Farazmand is doing over at Poorly Drawn Lines. Not only because I'm a huge fan... but because his work seemed the perfect "fit" for what we're doing.
Not that I expected he would say "yes," of course. Surely he has better things to do than hang out in our little lit mag, right? But nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I worked up some samples of how his work would be presented in Thrice and dashed off an email.
Much to my surprise and delight, Reza not only agreed to let us re-print some of his strips... he also agreed to re-work a panel from one of my favorite Poorly Drawn Lines comics as our cover! And that's how Small Cat came to end up fronting Issue No. 13...
Glorious, is it not?
And now, for a look at the first half of the art included in this issue, read onward in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Welcome to PART TWO of a discussion about the art that's running in the latest issue of THRICE Fiction Magazine!
If you haven't read PART ONE yet, you should do that first.
And if you haven't downloaded a FREE copy of our April 2015 issue... then you should definitely do that first because, WARNING... SPOILERS MAY ENSUE!
Putting together an issue of Thrice Fiction is no walk in the park. There's hours of work put into it from myself and others before it all comes together. Once all the art is in, I then get to assemble the Print PDF (for those wanting to purchase a printed copy at MagCloud), the Download PDFs (for those grabbing their FREE copy off our website), and the ePub/Kindle versions (for those who have an e-reader, also available FREE at our website). Then there's proofing, revising, and correcting... it goes on and on. Until it doesn't, then we're done.
There are times along the way where I ask myself "Is this really worth all the time and effort it takes to put this thing together?"
And then I take one look at the finished issue and the answer is always the same... yes, it most definitely is worth it. This issue was more difficult than usual, which made the finished magazine even more worth it.
And in four months we do it all again.
Now on with the second half of the art you'll find in our latest issue...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
One of my favorite animated series of all time is Invader Zim.
Created by Jhonen Vasquez for Nickelodeon Animation Studio, the show was about as strange as a cartoon could get... with visuals and stories that have to be seen to be believed. Chronicling the never-ending schemes of Irken alien invader Zim (along with his faithful robot sidekick GIR) to conquer the earth, Invader Zim ran for a heartbreakingly short 27 episodes before being cancelled by the complete idiots at Nickelodeon.
But now, thanks to the magic of comic books and a return by Jhonen Vasquez, Zim is back...
And it is glorious.
If you are even a passing fan of the cartoon (and how could you not be?) it is well worth picking up at your local comic book shop... or online digitally via Comixology.
My day was consumed by work, as it has been since I returned from L.A. last week.
And yet... I still managed to get the August edition of Thrice Fiction out the door while it is still August. I'm pretty happy about that...
If you would like to get a FREE digital copy (and why wouldn't you?), just head over to our website and pick your poison... PDF or eBook. If you want to read from an actual physical copy with ink on paper, you can order up a printed copy from MagCloud for the ridiculously paltry sum of $9.80 (plus shipping).
As always, thanks to everybody for reading. RW and I continue to be grateful for how well Thrice has been received, and we couldn't keep doing what we're doing without your support.
In a day or so I'll take a look at the art that went into this terrific issue.
Today's your lucky day! There's a brand-spanking-new (and FREE!) issue of Thrice Fiction out today!
As usual, I'll be discussing the artwork that went into our latest issue. This may or may not include spoilers for the stories, so I urge you to please read it before proceeding.
All done? Then... here... we... go...
Putting together the artwork for a non-profit magazine which relies solely on the generosity of its contributors is both a thrilling and frightening prospect. On one hand, you get to work with some amazingly talented people at the top of their game who regularly blow you away with their creativity and their kindness. On the other hand, people working for free can be an unreliable resource. And who can blame them? If a paying gig comes along that's going to take care of your rent and put food on your table, you drop everything and take the job. If you have an opportunity to do something that will advance your career as an artist, you drop everything and do it. Heck, even if it's something frivolous and fun that comes your way when the alternative is slaving away on something you're not getting paid for? Yeah, go for it. I get it. Honestly I do. And I try not to be upset when it happens, because that's just the way free work goes.
This month I had the grand ambition of letting our stable of "regulars" have an issue off. It's a busy summer for everybody, I've gotten plenty of new submissions for artwork, and it seemed a nice thing to do.
Except when all four of your new artists end up not working out. Then it's just plain folly.
Luckily for me, begging and pleading to Thrice Fiction staples Kyra, Katelin, and Chad were met with offers of help, or you'd be reading this is October. The fact that they not only took time out of their busy schedule to step up and bail me out... but that they did so at the last possible moment with a ridiculously short deadline is what I'm talking about when I say "amazingly talented people at the top of their game who regularly blow you away with their creativity and their kindness." Truly, from the bottom of my heart, thanks so much for your dedication to Thrice Fiction, which would be something entirely different if not for you.
And now for a look at the art that went into the first half of Issue No. 14...
This installment's cover was dreamed up by yours truly. It came about as I was reading an article about the increasingly horrific consequences of all the "space junk" humans are leaving in orbit with breakfast one morning. Then, as I was driving to work, I saw that somebody had tossed a sack of McDonald's garbage on the road, and it occurred to me that it's only a matter of time before that stuff like this ends up in orbit as well. Yadda yadda yadda... heeeere's our cover! Originally I used a photo of that same McDonald's garbage (which I stopped and picked up) for the elements on the cover. But it wasn't blowing my socks off, so I decided to use a metal Coke can instead of the McPaper Cup since it reflects light better... and a previous photo of McDonald's fries that was more interesting than what I got. The background image is a photo I shot out of an airplane which has been layered with a starry night photo I took in Africa. All thirteen parts of the finished illustration were independently textured, shaded, then composited Photoshop.
It turned out rather good, if I do say so myself. If nothing else, it has terrific visual impact and a good sense of "What the heck?!?" which is what I like for our covers in the hopes that it makes people curious enough to download the magazine.
And now, for a look at the first half of the art included in this issue, read onward in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Welcome to PART TWO of a discussion about the art that's running in the latest issue of THRICE Fiction Magazine!
If you haven't read PART ONE yet, you should do that first.
And if you haven't downloaded a FREE copy of our August 2015 issue... then you should definitely do that first because, WARNING... SPOILERS MAY ENSUE!
After our last issue was released, I received a comment from a friend who said "I like how you do such a good job of including so many women writers and artists." This kind of took me by surprise, because this is not something that ever entered my head. When it comes to the artwork, the women in our pages are not here because they're women, they're here because they are amazingly talented artists who are kind enough donate their time and wonderful works. There was no conscious effort on my part to make this happen, it just kind of worked out this way. If you bring your A-game, show me terrific stuff, and know how to compliment a story with your art... I couldn't care less what restroom you use, what ethnicity box you check, who you love, what you believe, or where you're from. I mean, sure I'd care if you were into kicking puppies or something equally heinous. I wouldn't want to support a puppy-kicker. But if you have a respect for puppies and make me want to have your work in our magazine, I'll be ringing your doorbell. Actually, I wouldn't do that... that's kind of creepy. But I would send you an email asking if I can send you some stories to look over.
And I can't imagine that things would be any different on the editorial side of Thrice. What makes RW so good at his job is that he literally doesn't care about anything except what he's reading. He made this quite clear in our submission guidelines when he says "Cover letters are a matter of complete indifference to us. So is your bio. We don’t care who you are or what you’ve done or where you have been published. We're happy to just let the work speak for itself." And those are not just empty words... that encapsulates everything Thrice Fiction is about.
And now that that's out of the way... if you think you've got what it takes to appear in our pages... we want to hear from you!
No matter who you are.
And now... back to Issue No. 14, already in progress...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
The explosion of diversity in comic books lately has been amazing, but it's only been half-hearted. While there have been CHARACTERS coming along that are non-White, non-straight, non-Christian... the writers and artists BEHIND the characters haven't necessarily followed suit. But that's starting to change, and it's a great time for comic book fans because of it. By embracing diversity behind the scenes, there's going to be an even better mix of stories to read instead of the same old take over and over again.
DC Comics' Batman is my favorite comic book character. His equivalent on the Marvel side is Black Panther, also a favorite. In some ways, Black Panther is even MORE interesting than Bruce Wayne, as T'Challa is the ruler of the entire country of Wakanda, one of the wealthiest and most technologically advanced nations on earth, and the sole producer of the rare metal vibranium...
And now Black Panther is going to be written by Ta-Nehisi Coates! I cannot wait to see where he takes the character, and am hopeful that it will be something new, different, authentic, and exciting!
All this and a movie too. A good time to be a Black Panther fan!
The pressure's on the screen
To sell you things that you don't need
It's too much information for me
—Too Much Information by Duran Duran
For quite a while now, I've been simplifying my life by getting rid of junk I don't need. And, more importantly, I've been trying to stop buying the stuff I don't really need which will turn into tomorrow's junk.
For the most part, I've been fairly successful. I rarely purchase any kind of "luxury good" on impulse now-a-days. Everything I buy is carefully thought-out. If there's something I think I just have to have, I'll put it on a wish-list and sit on it for a week. It's shocking how most of the time things I was so desperate to buy seven days ago gets scratched off the list because, upon further reflection, it isn't that important to improving my life.
The one area where I fail miserably is books.
For the most part, I've switched to digital books and digital comics because I just don't have room to store any more of them... but I love physical books so much that it's impossible for me to give them up completely.
"Art of the Movie" books are my worst offenders. I buy every Marvel Cinematic Universe book they release... which includes not just the movies, but the TV series too. I also buy every Pixar "Art of the Movie" book and most of the Disney ones as well. Needless to say, I buy loads of Star Wars and Star Trek books because it's impossible not to. I absolutely love being able to get a peek behind the scenes of how the movies I love are developed and crafted, and this is not something that translates well to digital eBooks, so I bite the bullet and purchase the real books. And a lot of the time they're fairly large. Which means more clutter.
Comic books are also problematic, because I would far rather own a physical copy over some digital representation. Alas, I have more comics than I can manage as it is, so digital it is. Unless... I run across issues that are missing from my epic runs of Batman, Action, Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Legion of Super-Heroes* If I see any holes in my collection I can fill for a reasonable price, my wallet is out so fast that my credit card never knew what hit it.
Things wouldn't be so bad if I could convince myself to unload the hundreds of crappy comics I don't even like... but I never can. You just don't know when an emergency situation will arise where I'll be desperate to read an issue of Rob Liefeld's Youngblood, for example.
And so I have boxes and boxes of comics and shelves and shelves of books that probably aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
Which is a pity, because I could really use the space for my LEGO collection.
*Well, not any of the actually comics titled Legion of Super-Heroes, because I have all those... I'm talking about the team's appearances in other books, like Adventure Comics). Totally my Kryptonite.
I think that I've mentioned a couple times now how much I love "making of" and "art of" books for movies I enjoy. There's something about getting a behind-the-scenes look at the filmmaking process and all the hard work involved that makes me love great movies even more.
My obsession started when I was 11 years old. I saw Star Wars and was desperate to find out everything I could about the movie. In the days before the internet, this meant scouring the magazine stands. Fortunately, Star Wars was such a huge phenomena that there was no shortage of magazine articles. Unfortunately, most of them were devoted to fluff pieces and corny interviews with the stars. Nothing had much depth or new information.
Until I discovered Starlog magazine, issue no. 7...
This amazing resource for science fiction fans provided a glimpse into movies that was unlike anything else. Not only did they talk about the films I loved... they featured articles that discussed how they were made...
You too can download issues of Starlog from the Internet Archive!
And I was hooked.
Starlog eventually led to a love affair with Cinefex in 1980, which was nothing but lush, in-depth, behind the scenes information! The magazine dissected movie special effects to an unprecedented level, and I was in cinephile heaven...
Eventually the "making of" books came along. Most of the time they were a step backwards from Cinefex, but I still bought them. Reluctantly.
All that changed in 2007 when The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film was released...
This absolute masterpiece of film documentation reignited my love of "behind the scenes" books and has been leading me on the road to bankruptcy ever since. Not just with new releases, but with past releases as well. Like The Story of The Fifth Element, a terrific book from 1997...
Currently, I'm obsessed with all the "art of" books for Disney/Pixar feature films... and, of course, all the Marvel movie books, which have been fantastic...
If you're a fan of these books like me, there are two new releases you should be aware of...
"Ultimate Visual History" books for Back to the Future and Ghostbusters!
Both volumes are very nicely made and have loads of great info. Spot varnish on the photos is featured throughout (something I love in a book!) and they tried to make them a bit more fun and accessible by including "souvenirs" from the movies that they stick to pages here and there.
In the Back to the Future book you get such things as the "Save the Clock Tower" flyer that Jennifer writes her phone number on (but it's white instead of blue)... the letter Marty writes to Doc to warn him about getting shot... the receipt from "Blast from the Past" for Grays Sports Almanac (but it's paper instead of clear plastic).
The Ghostbusters book doesn't have "souvenirs" so much as "production inserts" that feature artwork, storyboards, and an animation cell. Overall I wish they had not included the extra pieces, because they're just going to damage the pages they've been adhered to. You can easily remove them (the "glue" they use is that removable "booger snot" stuff) but then they're going to get lost. This kind of gimmicky crap never works as well as publishers think it does.
Still, Back to the Future and Ghostbusters are two of my favorite movies of all time, so I'm happy to have these editions. They claim to feature never-before-seen images and exclusive interviews, so that alone will make the books essential buys for the completist.
Hopefully publisher Insight Editions will release other books in this series. I'm still waiting for a making of Spaceballs book.
You know... I would never presume to tell a parent what they should or should not allow their child to read.
Even the stupid parents. It's their kid... they should get to decide that. But it is quite another matter for said parent to decide FOR ALL OTHER KIDS what should or should not be read.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is absolutely fascinating reading, and there is much to be learned from her story (I can't wait for the movie!). There is NOTHING in the book that could even remotely be considered "pornography." Especially for a 15 year old kid who lives in the Real World. And yet, some bored woman in Tennessee with a bug up her vagina is wanting to have it banned...
Well fuck her.
Let other parents decide for themselves if it's appropriate reading for THEIR OWN DAMN KIDS. I am so sick and tired of ignorant dumbasses constantly pushing for society to be lowered to their level of idiocy.
Stay in your ignorance bubble if you want... just leave the rest of us out of your dumbfuckery.
If you want to know more about the woman whom the book in question is written about, here's the Wikipedia page for Henrietta Lacks. And if that's not enough... I can't recommend The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks highly enough.
Fascinating, fascinating stuff.
Just in time to start your New Year right, there's a brand-spanking-new (and FREE!) issue of Thrice Fiction out today!
As usual, I'll be discussing the artwork that went into our latest issue. This may or may not include spoilers for the stories, so I urge you to please read it before proceeding. Okay? Okay!
This issue was a bit strange for the way it came together so very quickly... and then proceeded to fall apart with equal rapidity.
And throughout the entire ordeal of trying to get our latest issue out the door before the end of December, I kept thinking what an incredible honor it is for writers to trust us with their works... and how mind-bogglingly easy it would be to drop the ball and have have that trust be misplaced. Which is why every time we run into a new problem, I keep saying to myself "Better late than crappy!" and that somehow gets me through.
The biggest challenge I faced was my grandmother's sudden illness and eventual passing. Time spent with her became more precious to me than anything else on earth, including everyone's favorite fiction magazine. A big part of who I am was formed by her example, and dedicating Issue No. 15 to her memory seems only fitting as I... and by extension the magazine... wouldn't be here without her.
One of the last problems to face me was also the biggest... what to do about the cover. I had lined up an artist which I had been trying to work with for over a year now, but things fell apart at zero hour. Looking back at the last several covers of our past issues, they all had a "cold" look to them, so I was trying to come up with a "warm" color idea to break things up. That's when I remembered a beautiful "fiery" piece that frequent contributor Chad Roseburg had shown to me. I didn't know if he'd be willing to let me butcher it with a new crop for the cover, but it didn't hurt to ask. Lucky for all of us, he was happy to let me use it, and this was the amazing result...
Chad says "That painting was one of those combinations of pure luck and a tight deadline. I never paint as confidently and fluidly as this painting might suggest. Usually I over-think and over-paint." Which sounds like a stressful process, but you can't argue with the results! The left half of the piece was cut off, which was a truly interesting bit, so I placed it opposite RW's notes for the issue...
And now, for a look at the first half of the art included in this issue, read onward in an extended entry...→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Welcome to PART TWO of a discussion about the art that's running in the latest issue of THRICE Fiction Magazine!
If you haven't read PART ONE yet, you should do that first.
And if you haven't downloaded a FREE copy of our August 2015 issue... then you should definitely do that first because, WARNING... SPOILERS MAY ENSUE!
It's a forgone conclusion that not all writers are going to be happy with the art that gets paired with their work. And while the idea of such a thing is upsetting to me, I've pretty much made my peace with it. Artwork is highly subjective to begin with, and then you've got to take into account all the possible pitfalls that come with trying to interpret the written word for a visual representation. And it doesn't seem to matter how much detail the writer puts into their story. On the contrary, the more specific the writer is, the more difficult it can be to meet expectations. "I said the main character had a big nose... but I didn't mean THAT big!"
But if the alternative to sometimes getting it wrong from the author's perspective is to have no artwork at all, I think it's a risk worth taking.
Because I can't imagine THRICE Fiction without the art.
And, on that note... on with the show...
→ Click here to continue reading this entry...
Welcome to the first installment of Things I Bought Week, showcasing stuff that I recently purchased and what I think of what I got for my hard earned money!
First up? The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens...
I liked The Force Awakens okay, and will review the film in another couple weeks (once I'm sure most of the people who want to see it have seen it). If you are one of the billions of people who has already seen the film and also enjoyed it, the Art Of... book is worth a look.
Like all of these type books, it's a compilation of a shit-ton of pre-production art that was used when developing the look of the movie. What makes this one a little different is that it's not organized into sections (locations, characters, props, vehicles, etc.) but is instead presented chronologically. This is very cool in the case of Force Awakens, where the story, concepts, and characters changed quite a lot as the movie what coming together. Seeing how things evolved in relations to each other is fascinating, and it's interesting to learn how changes in one part of the film influenced changes in another.
A lot of times, these books are only as good as the talented people creating the art and, since this is Lucasfilm, you're getting a great many people who are the absolute best in the industry being showcased. This would all be all for nothing if the images of their work were cut down to tiny sizes, but a lot of the time it's occupying full pages... and double-page spreads. And since the book is a nice size, you really get a good look at the painstaking detail that went into every piece.
Overall, this is a beautiful book with a lot of interesting information about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If you're a fan of the film... or just a fan of the Star Wars universe in general, this is pretty much essential reading.
RATING: A • DAVE APPROVED • Currently selling for $24 at Amazon.
Like reading stories and looking at art?
You do? I'm not surprised. Did you know that the latest issue of Thrice Fiction is now available? And did you know you can download it absolutely FREE from our website?
If you didn't, now you do! Go check it out, won't you? We're now sixteen issues strong, and every issue is available absolutely FREE for immediate download...
I'll be back next week to discuss the works that appear in the issue. In the meanwhile, enjoy!
It's Star Wars Day! May The Fourth Be With You!
Interestingly enough, Star Wars has been on my mind a lot lately because I'm finally getting around to looking at all the cool books I bought when The Force Awakens was unleashed. By far my favorite has been Star Wars: The Force Awakens... Incredible Cross-Sections.
I've long been a huge fan of cross-section illustrations. It all started when I bought a cross-section poster of the USS Enterprise when the movie franchise was started. It was glorious, and made the ship (thus the show) seem more real to me...
It was around that time that I discovered the incredible books by Stephen Biesty. He did many amazing illustrations of both fantasy, history, and contemporary places and things. I spent hours looking through as many as I could find...
Biesty led me to a love of all things David Macaulay, who isn't so much a cross-section artist, but an illustrator who excels at explaining things. He even had his own TV show which supplemented documentary-style looks at cool stuff like the pyramids with his illustrations...
But I digress...
Star Wars: The Force Awakens... Incredible Cross-Sections is a book filled with exactly what you'd think it would be filled with... amazing illustrations of all things Star Wars cut away to show inside and how they work...
And yes, this is the infamous book that showed how Han Solo installed a kitchen for Princess Leia that had the internet up in arms a while back. Though, to be honest, I never saw this as sexist... I just saw it as Leia refusing to live like savages...
Anyway... even if you're not a massive cross-sections fan like myself, if you're a Star Wars fan, this book is still definitely worth a look...
You can get your own copy of Star Wars: The Force Awakens... Incredible Cross-Sections for pretty cheap... it's just $14 at Amazon.
It would seem that DC's not-a-reboot reboot Batman has a super-power now... IN HIS PANTS! Apparently DC is now hiring porn artists for its new books? Batman's dick looks like it could punch through steel. Or possibly... A MAN OF STEEL? Talk about the ultimate Batman vs. Superman scenario. What in the hell is going on with REBIRTH?
Yeah. Taking the opportunity to just dump all my DC reads now. Haven't enjoyed them in ages, and this ain't making me change my mind.
Fight through that leftover turkey tryptophan food coma... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• More. As a fan of the show Gilmore Girls, I was naturally curious about the Netflix revival, Gilmore Girls: Year in the Life. The show kind of lost its way in Season 6, then really lost its way in Season 7 after creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and writing/directing partner Daniel Palladino left the show. But now they (and the entire surviving cast) is back for another go in four 90-minute "films" entitled Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall...
For the most part, I was happy to see all the characters again and felt the stories for all four episodes were solid... even though many of the mistakes I thought were made in Season 6 & 7 were, oddly enough, repeated all over again. As if that weren't enough, we finally got to hear those Four Final Words that Amy Sherman-Palladino had wanted to end the series with all along. And though the words make perfect sense and took the series to a logical place, I had two problems with how things ended. 1) It pretty much begs for more episodes. And 2) I don't know that the words mean as much now when Rory is in her 30's as they would have had they been spoken when she was in her 20's back when the series ended.
All that being said, boy was Edward Herrmann missed as Richard Gilmore. He was always such a big presence in the show, and his death left a huge void. That the Palladinos used this as an exceptional opportunity to move Emily Gilmore's story forward is to their credit.
Here's hoping Netflix will bless us with another series in the future.
• Watching. Speaking of television shows... my favorite show going right now is No Tomorrow...
Girl meets boy. Boy thinks the world is going to get hit by a meteor and be destroyed. Adventures in life ensue. And it's funny to boot. Give it a shot if you have some free time in your television schedule!
• Strange? Doctor Strange has the best "Art of the Movie" book from Marvel yet. So much thought went into the bizarre visuals, and you get a terrific look at how the filmmakers agonized over them. A very cool companion to a very cool movie...
If you're a fan of the film... or even the comic book... this is a book worth checking out.
• LEGO. As if the upcoming LEGO Batman Movie isn't super-awesome enough...
LEGO has just announced that the next series of MiniFigs will come from the film!
Am dying to own them all, but here's the one that I can't live without...
Fairy Princess Batman! Classic!
• Scream. Pretty much the theme song for my life these past weeks...
And... there's your bullets for the week.
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!...
for behold! An all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Groot! There can be no greater news on the internet right now than the new teaser trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2...
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn't open until May and I already want to see Guardians of the Galaxy
• Less. Having a mortgage wouldn't be so bad if nothing would ever break down and require expensive repairs. But it does. About every two months. And just when you think everything that has broken down has broken down and been fixed? Along comes something new. Which is why a letter for my lender was cause for excitement...
LETTER: "Congratulations! Your mortgage payment has gone down!"
ME: "No way!"
ME: "NO! WAY!"
LETTER: "YES WAY!"
ME: "Dude, sweet!"
LETTER: "We're deducting $4.15 from your payment starting next month."
ME: "Fuck you, Letter."
• Fixed? I love the HGTV series Fixer Upper. Chip and Joanna's design aesthetic and rapport makes for a great show... especially if you're into home renovation like I am. And while I am able to mentally divide my entertainment personality's personal life from their work... it's really tough to watch the show knowing that they attend a church which would happily push conversion therapy on their four kids should any of them be gay. How can you support that?
Even if the Gaines's don't advocate conversion therapy or aren't opposed to marriage equality... they (assumably) financially support a church that does. They are a part of the segment of society persecuting LGBT persons and, more specifically LGBT youth, just for being who they are. And it's this part of our society which is responsible for the toxicity behind the epidemic of suicides among our gay youth. They listen to the idiotic rhetoric of a church like this and think nobody... including God... will accept them as they are and see no way out. No amount of Texas charm or design sense can compensate for that.
• Our Dolphin. Here it is... the first book out of Thrice Fiction Magazine's Thrice Publishing. It is a wonderful, wonderful novella by Joel Allegretti that I'm incredibly proud to have had a small part in unleashing on the world...
Order a copy for your holiday reading list... or order a dozen for gifts that are sure to be appreciated! Click here to get Our Dolphin at Amazon.
• Crazy. I don't know what's more shocking. That Fake Jake pounded into the catio at a full-on sprint across the back yard... or that Real Jake just sat there at the point of impact and watched it happen without even blinking...
Jenny is still scared of Fake Jake's crazy antics... but Jake is all "meh" about it now.
• DST. Global humiliation, domestic devastation, and the threat of nuclear war would all be worth it if President Trump abolishes clock changes and makes Daylight Savings Time permanent this coming Spring. Just sayin'.
Well, I guess that's it for bullets. Probably. I dunno. Maybe in an hour I'll come back and add ten more.
This afternoon as I was mentally preparing myself to drive home a day earlier than planned, I saw a kid with a Curious George backpack walk by. As I've mentioned numerous times, Curious George is a personal hero of mine, and any time I see him being embraced by a new generation, it's worth celebrating.
Which reminds me of my GoodReads review of one of my favorite books ever...
Curious George Goes to the Hospital by Margret Rey, H.A. Rey
Recommended to David by: God
Recommended for: All Humanity
After re-reading "Curious George Goes to the Hospital" I am convinced that it is the peak of literary perfection, unmatched by any other human accomplishment. The entire spectrum of drama is fully represented in a tale so filled with wonder and delight as to make all other books redundant. The fact that the story's wealth of knowledge and inspiration is so remarkably accessible to persons of most any age is surely a testament to the unarguable brilliance of Margret & H.A. Rey. I loathe to attribute something as mundane as a "Star Rating" to such a transcendentally significant work which redefines the boundaries of human/primate existence, and so eloquently conveys the folly and ultimate triumph of monkeykind... but if forced to do so under the GoodReads review standard, I offer TWENTY-SIX STARS (of which only five are be visible for some reason). You owe it to yourself... nay, you owe it to ALL HUMANITY... to read this literary masterwork and thrill to the sublime illustrated artistic triumphs which accompany it. "Curious George Goes to the Hospital" is, quite simply, the most profoundly perfect book ever created, and shall undoubtedly remain so until the end of time.
Yes. It really is that good.
Now, if you'll excuse me, my cats are crawling all over me because my being gone for two days apparently felt like it was two months.
Did you know that yet another issue of Thrice Fiction Magazine will be debuting this month (hopefully)?
Well, it's true!
And while I don't want to give any of the awesome stories away, I thought I'd take a minute to share one of the art pieces I put together last night.
My favorite way of creating art to accompany a story is to draw, paint, or photograph something of my very own. But there are times that it's just not possible for what I'm trying to communicate. For one particular story in our next issue, I wanted to create a Bon Appetit magazine-style page. My vision was to have a kind of fried fish/prawn hybrid sitting on a plate in a Japanese restaurant... perhaps with a dollop of wasabi on the side. Being a vegetarian who hates seafood, the idea of putting fish parts in my deep-fat fryer filled me with horror, so I decided the best way to get what I wanted was to buy stock photos and assemble them into what I was envisioning.
And so I searched Adobe Stock for the pieces I needed...
Then downloaded preview images into Photoshop so I could see if they would fit together well...
Then, once I was happy with all the parts and pieces I found, I'd purchase the full-res photos and get to work. I had to combine three pieces of fried fish/prawns into one... add it to a plate with some wasabi and chopsticks... then paint in shadows to bring it all together and make it look "real-ish"...
And voilà! A fish-prawn thing is served!
To find out why it's served... you'll have to download the April issue of Thrice Fiction, coming soon!
Time to celebrate another week down the toilet, because an all-new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• DC! I have made no secret of my love of all things coming out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe... and my deep loathing of all things coming out of the DC Cinematic Universe. This fan video puts the reason why in vivid relief...
100% accurate. DC has a habit of taking fun, exciting, uplifting hero stories and degrading them to joyless sequences of death and destruction that are a chore to watch. Why in the hell they don't put the team in charge of their TV shows in charge of their movies I will never know. At least they know how to make the characters fun to watch. Justice League, a movie I should be on pins and needles to see, is something I honestly don't give a shit about. Not when we've got Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther coming up. Not to mention Infinity War, which promises to blow the doors off of any super-hero film yet seen.
• Piper! I never got to see Finding Dory in theaters, but bought the Blue-Ray in 3D so I could watch it at home. Never had time to explore the "extras" on the disc, but today discovered it has a Pixar Short called Piper included...
That snippet is just the tip of the iceberg. Such a wonderfully adorable bit of animation! Well worth tracking down if you haven't seen it yet.
• Tarzan! The novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs are some of the most imaginative and entertaining reads I've ever experienced. That he started writing them in 1912 just goes to show how incredible a storyteller he was. Between John Carter of Mars and Tarzan of the Apes (and a slew of others), he has a wealth of material just begging to be adapted into movies.
And they have been.
Unfortunately, they've mostly sucked. John Carter was a total shit-fest that abandoned everything that made the character so compelling. And Tarzan? In the books he is an extremely intelligent character who speaks dozens of languages and is as accomplished in civilization as Lord Greystoke as he is in the jungle as Tarzan. But what do we get? Every time Tarzan comes to the screen, he's a grunting ignoramus that barely knows how to speak because he's written more as an animal than a man. For any Tarzan fan it's a massive disappointment, and I'd all but given up hope that we'd ever get an adaptation of The Lord of The Jungle that wasn't crap. Enter The Legend of Tarzan...
Now, this is not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination. It's not even a flawless adaptation of Tarzan. But holy crap... it's the closest thing I've yet seen, and I loved it. All that plus it has Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz in it! And gone are the days of Tarzan being a stupid savage! Hell, they even made an effort for Jane to be more than a damsel in perpetual distress! Sure the CGI, which actually started out quite good, ultimately degrades to a level that was below-par, but it didn't destroy how much I enjoyed watching the story unfold. So... ignore the critics. If you like Tarzan... the REAL Tarzan... this is a film that's definitely worth a look!
• TRADER JOE'S CONSUMER ALERT!
"Have you got any more Black Bean and Jack Cheese burritos? I took the last two."
"I think that's all we got. Have you tried the Super Burrito? It's the same except it's made with quinoa and sweet potatoes. Really good."
"Okay, I'll try it, thanks!"
And so tonight I decided to have a late lunch /slash/ early dinner and give it a try. I take a bite and it's not bad... light on the sweet potato and heavy on the quinoa... but it's got a nice spicy bite to it. And then... AND THEN... I take another bite and there's something crunchy/leafy/weird. Is that spinach, I wonder? I dig the wrapper out of the garbage and... IT'S NOT SPINACH... IT'S FUCKING KALE!
TRADER JOE'S TRICKED ME INTO EATING KALE AND NOW I FEEL LIKE I'M GOING TO DIE!!!
Needless to say, I am not in a good place right now, and I appreciate everybody's understanding as I attempt to mentally and physically recover from this tragedy. I will soon be setting up a GoFundMe page in an effort to help with the massive costs involved in getting me healthy again. WAAAAAHHH!!!! WHO PUTS KALE IN A BURRITO?!? WHY, LORD? WHYYYYYYY?!?.
• Let's Play! Alrighty then... time once again to play the "Will the piece of shit turn out to be a godless liberal... or will they be from the party of family values and moral righteousness?"...
JUDGE ARRESTED ON CHARGES OF HUMAN SEX TRAFFICKING OF A MINOR.
Oh yeah. Big fucking surprise... he's not only Tea Party and Ku Klux Klan supporter, but also a former Trump campaign chair! Because disgusting shit like this is only bad when Democrats are doing it, I guess? Republicans do this kind of heinous shit and "their base" elects them to the school board!
"Will the piece of shit turn out to be a godless liberal... or will they be from the party of family values and moral righteousness?"...
GOVERNOR RESIGNS AMID SEX SCANDAL.
Hmmm... let me guess...
• Bullshit! And lastly, an article that's well-worth a read, regardless of religious affiliation is here: America Isn’t Growing Hostile Towards Christians, It’s Growing Hostile Towards Religious Bullies. Because, look... so long as you can walk into a post office and buy a stamp with Jesus on it for Christmas... I've had just about enough of this bullshit notion that Christians are some kind of persecuted class and there's a war on Christian ideology. As somebody who is not a Christian and sees just how pervasive the religion is in dominating so many aspects of American culture, it's embarrassing that people are trying to keep this one alive. And yet FOX "News" is undoubtedly already warming up new ideas to make "The War on Christmas" become something out of nothing again. Because what plays better than victimization on TV?
Time to reload...
Hey! Yesterday was the last day of April!
It was also the last day RW and I had to get our "April" issue of Thrice Fiction released, which we did. It's our nineteenth installment of everybody's favorite lit-mag. A fact I bring up because I still remember being told not once... but many times... that we'd never last past our first year because most endeavors like this are doomed to failure.
But not us, baby.
You can take a look at it over at ThriceFiction.com and, in a first for us, you can also read it online! No special browser plug-in needed! In fact, all nineteen issues are available for reading or download absolutely FREE!
That amazing cover is courtesy of frequent Thrice Fiction contributor Katelin Kinney. Beautiful, isn't it?
The insides are equally wonderful... filled with great stories and terrific artwork from a bunch of talented people.
So what are you waiting for? Go get some!
I am very pleased to announce that Thrice Publishing (the Not For Profit company behind Thrice Fiction Magazine) has released their second book publication... So What If It's True.
This remarkable collection of poems, letters, and writings by the late Lorri Jackson is a lush snapshot of street culture in 1980's Chicago as edited by Thrice co-founder RW Spryszak and designed by Thrice co-founder David Simmer II (yours truly)...
You can read more about the book over at Thrice Publishing.
And if you'd like to order a copy, you can purchase it at Amazon with free 2-Day Prime shipping (for Prime members) or at the CreateSpace Store.
Thanks to everybody for your continued support!
Thanks to ceiling fans and evening ventilation, I have yet to turn on the air conditioner this year despite having some 90°+ days.
Needless to say, I'm ecstatic. Next to heating, running the air conditioner is the most expensive use of electricity I have. It can easily approach $100 per month if I'm not careful. Like last year when, apparently, I really liked being cool on hot days. This year I can't afford not to be careful, hence my ecstatic nature.
Next week this time I will be in Las Vegas for some meetings and to visit friends. The temperature there has consistently been over 100° with the forecast calling for a high of 116°... that's ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTEEN DEGREES.
Fortunately I am not paying for that air conditioning.
In other news, I finally got my hands on the Wonder Woman: The Art and The Making of the Film book...
I love these kind of movie books... especially for the Marvel super-hero films and the Disney/Pixar films. I usually end up buying all of them, as the "how" is sometimes even more interesting than the movies themselves. This one is no exception. The production values on Wonder Woman were incredible, and seeing all the thought behind some of the decisions made just adds to the experience.
Of particular interest is the design for Themiscyra, home of the Amazons. If you've seen the film, you can just imagine.
And if you've seen the film and like it as much as I do, then checking out this book is a must.
Comixology (an online comic book distributor) has been adding older issues of Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes to their offerings. When I logged on last night, they happened to be displaying the first book of the series I ever read, issue no. 253 (courtesy of a Whitman Comics poly-bag-three-pack* I found in the local Safeway)...
Looking back, this was a pretty stupid cover. A bunch of costumed people come breaking through the wall of your clubhouse and you think they're there to join? Pretty sure I'd knock on the front door if I wanted to join up. But, this was par for the course back in the day. They always took the thrust of the story and found a way to repackage it in some ridiculous context to sell the book.
It was at this point... with this very issue... that I went from being a casual comic book reader to an obsessive comic book reader. I bought up every issue of Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes I could find, and then started hunting for all the back-issues, all the way back to issue no. 197, which was when Superboy was re-titled Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes. No easy feat. And it wasn't cheap either. Especially for somebody who mowed lawns to earn pocket money.
I don't know what it was about the Legion that made it so appealing to me. Perhaps because it was a super-hero book (which I already liked) with the added element of science fiction (something I also like). Superboy would time-travel to the future so he could have adventures with the team in the 30th century. An intriguing concept to be sure.
And then there were the sheer variety of super-heroes in the book. You name it, Legion probably had it at one time or another. The cast of characters is vast...
From the time I started reading the book in 1980, many many changes would occur. The most notorious were the numerous ret-cons** that took place in the early 90's. Since Superboy was phased out of continuity at the time, suddenly the entire foundation of the Legion (which was inspired by Superboy) was no longer available. This left the writers scrambling for stories to keep the book's very existence relevant in the DC Comics Universe. And boy did they dream up some doozies. It was a confusing time, but the stories were still interesting, so I kept reading.
Eventually the huge mess that The Legion of Super-Heroes had become was too unmanageable even for writers with the best imaginations, so the entirety of their universe was completely rebooted in 1994.
The book was never the same.
But still I hung in there.
Ten years later in 2004, the book was completely rebooted again. It was okay, but not the Legion I wanted to read.
But still I hung in there.
Various mini-series and guest appearances would come and go after the last reboot died at issue 50. It was a depressing time for Legion fans because nothing made sense. Appearances would contradict each other and there was no overriding narrative to keep the team going.
But still I hung in there.
Then DC Comics' New 52 "reboot to end all reboots" happened and the Legion was brought back with two new books, neither of which were that great. I think they were canceled inside of two years.
But still I hung in there.
Then DC rebooted everything yet again with their "Rebirth" initiative. The Legion hasn't gotten a new book in the new continuity yet, but I'm sure it's coming. It always does.
And even though it's bound to disappoint compared to the glorious 80's that defined the series for me, I'll undoubtedly hang in there and buy the books.
It's hard not to be a fan for life when it comes to the Legion of Super-Heroes.
* Whitman was an imprint of Gold Key Comics. They would commission special print runs of DC Comics with their logo on the cover, bag three books together, then sell them in huge quantities all over the country in all kinds of stores... including the local Safeway grocery store where I got mine.
** The term "ret-con" means "retroactive continuity" and is when story elements established in past stories is changed, contradicted, or ignored in order to make past events have continuity with current storylines. Wikipedia has a fascinating article on the practice.
I am not much for nostalgia or wishing I could return to bygone days, but I do love me some history. Studying world history is a byproduct of my world religions studies, and it always surprises me just how much I don't know about what's gone on in the world.
Take, for instance, James Whitcomb Riley.
I ran across a book by the guy this morning... The Complete Works of James Whitcomb Riley, Volume VII. "Volume SEVEN?" I thought. How is it that a prolific author with seven volumes of works like this could be somebody I never heard of?
I kept digging and ultimately found out there were SIXTEEN TOTAL VOLUMES...
I opened one up, was terribly unimpressed with what I scanned, and decided I would not need to be reading any of his works. But I did note his name on my iPhone so that I could look him up when I got home.
Which is now.
Turns out, I do know of him. I just didn't know I knew.
Ever heard of The Duck Test? — "When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck."
TOTALLY THIS GUY!
Ever heard of Little Orphan Annie? It's based on a poem called Little Orphant Annie?
TOTALLY THIS GUY!
According to his Wikipedia page, James Whitcomb Riley was a literary giant back in the 1890's and remained hugely popular until his death in 1916. From Wikipedia:
Although Riley was wealthy from his books, he was able to triple his annual income by touring. He found the lure hard to resist and decided to return to the lecture circuit in 1892. He hired William C. Glass to assist Henry Eitel in managing his affairs. While Eitel handled the finances, Glass worked to organize his lecture tours. Glass worked closely with Riley's publishers to have his tours coincide with the release of new books, and ensured his tours were geographically varied enough to maintain his popularity in all regions of the nation. He was careful not to book busy schedules; Riley only performed four times a week and the tours were short, lasting only three months.
So, essentially, James Whitcomb Riley was a rock star before there were rock stars...
In 1895 Riley made his last tour, making stops in most of the major cities in the United States. Advertised as his final performances, there was incredible demand for tickets and Riley performed before his largest audiences during the tour. He and Sherley continued a show very similar to those that he and Nye had done. Riley often lamented the lack of change in the program, but found when he tried to introduce new material, or left out any of his most popular poems, the crowds would demand encores until he agreed to recite their favorites.
And what, pray-tell, qualifies as one of those favorites? Here ya go...
O the days gone by! O the days gone by!
The apples in the orchard, and the pathway through the rye;
The chirrup of the robin, and the whistle of the quail
As he piped across the meadows sweet as any nightingale;
When the bloom was on the clover, and the blue was in the sky,
And my happy heart brimmed over in the days gone by.
In the days gone by, when my naked feet were tripped
By the honey-suckle’s tangles where the water-lilies dipped,
And the ripples of the river lipped the moss along the brink
Where the placid-eyed and lazy-footed cattle came to drink,
And the tilting snipe stood fearless of the truant’s wayward cry
And the splashing of the swimmer, in the days gone by.
O the days gone by! O the days gone by!
The music of the laughing lip, the luster of the eye;
The childish faith in fairies, and Aladdin’s magic ring—
The simple, soul-reposing, glad belief in everything,—
When life was like a story, holding neither sob nor sigh,
In the golden olden glory of the days gone by.
Well, he's no Walt Whitman, but okay.
I guess if they didn't have a Nintendo back then, this was as good as it got.
Good news, everyone!
The twentieth issue of Thrice Fiction magazine has been released... just in the nick of time for the August cover date to still be in August! And you can read it online or download it for FREE at our website!
This time we are honored to feature a gorgeous cover illustration by Chilean artist Alvaro Tapia Hidalgo, who does work for The New Yorker, The Washington Post, Wired, Rolling Stone, New Republic, Forbes, Harper's Bazaar, and other fine publications. Many thanks for his kind generosity in allowing us to feature his artwork in this issue...
If you'd like to see more of Alvaro's stunning work, head over to his website and prepare to be blown away!
And now... what are you waiting for? Go take a look at the latest issue of the best fiction 'zine you're not reading: Thrice Fiction!
Don't let smoke inhalation get you down, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• FIRE! Once again it would seem that the Columbia Basin is on fire. This is the view I had on the drive over the mountains...
• Chase! My... My... My pants! Jake chases Jenny. Jenny chases Jake...
It's the circle of life up in my house.
• Tolerance! A short but bittersweet article that's worth a minute of your time: The Christians Making Atheists. The decline of Christianity in a nutshell. But, in reality, it could also hold true for other religions that attempt to hide their bigotry in the guise of religion.
• Fresh! This is what happens when you travel a lot and keep forgetting to pack deodorant...
That's a lot of money tied up in antiperspirant products!
• Thrice! Hey! Did I happen to mention that the latest issue of Thrice Fiction has been released, and you can read it online or download it for FREE?!? Well, you totally can! Just visit the Thrice Fiction website!
If you like fiction and like to read... it's worth the price of admission. Which is FREE!
• All That We Share! Nice to know that while this country is tearing itself apart that other countries are making an effort to keep it together...
Viva la Denmark!
Have a good Labor Day weekend, everybody.
Hugh Hefner died today!
I can't say that I really know much about the pajama-wearing guy with the pipe who was always hip-deep in scantily-clad ladies... all I knew of him came from his guest appearances on TV shows and movies (like Beverly Hills Cop 2). I am, of course, very familiar with his work.
The first issue of Playboy I recall seeing had a butterfly lady on it. There was also an issue with a woman with flag on it. I look them up in a Google search and found that they are the July and August issues from 1976...
I don't think I actually looked at them in 1976... I would have been 10 years old then... they were probably old issues I saw when I was 12 or 13 maybe?
The first issue I personally owned was a birthday present from a friend... the March, 1980 issue with Bo Derek on the cover. I was only 14 at the time, so it was kept well-hidden...
I had the issue for many years, but it got badly water-damaged while in storage and had to be tossed out. A pity, because it was kept in great shape and was probably worth some money.
With the abundance of naked ladies on the internet, I was not a regular consumer of the magazine. Though I would buy an issue every once in a while if there was somebody I really wanted to see. I purchased several issues when Anna Nicole Smith appeared, because her pectorals were beautiful in a way that was unreal...
I also purchase some issues for the articles (YES, FOR THE ARTICLES!!!) because Playboy had some pretty great interviews. One of the most expensive issues I ever bought was the 1985 issue with a Steve Jobs interview.
Thank you Hugh Hefner! For a good part of my youth, you were doing The Lord's work!
Photo by Elayne Lodge/Playboy
I'd wish you a great time in heaven, but if there's anybody who found heaven on earth, it's you.
With all the crazy shit that's going on in this country right now, I'm afraid to turn on my television, look at a newspaper, or even go online. I've been beaten down and just don't want to hear it any more.
The bad news is that bad news is unavoidable now.
And so I'm reading all the Tarzan books again, starting with the brilliant original, to take my mind of everything...
Yes, it's a bit dated... the thing was published in 1912 for heaven's sake... yet it's surprising just how well it holds up. Incredibly imaginative and engaging fiction that's very different than so many of the stupid "Tarzan" movies that were inspired by it. The Lord of the Jungle is far from the grunting ignoramus he so often gets portrayed as on the silver screen and television. He's smart, crafty, and can be oddly devious when the need arises.
Much like the apes who raised him.
If you've never read the original book that started it all, I highly recommend giving it a read. It's just the ticket for escaping these trying times.
Prepare yourself, because a Very Special BLACK PANTHER EDITION of Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Art! One of the best things about Black Panther is the production design. A lot of what went into that is explored in yet another wonderful edition of Marvel Studio's Art of the Movie books, which somebody on YouTube was kind enough to thumb through...
There's very little of the book that's not fascinating... or gorgeous...
I own the entire series and love them. You can pick up the absolutely beautiful Black Panther edition from Amazon.
• Trevor! The detractors for Black Panther have been pretty stupid about it. I mean, if you don't like the movie, fine... to each their own. But the whole "This movie is racist because it's mostly Black people" is laughably stupid. My favorite commentary on this was by Trevor Noah from The Daily Show...
Speaking of Trevor Noah, if you haven't read or, better yet, listened to the audiobook of his Born a Crime, then it is absolutely worth your valuable time to do so. While interviewing Lupita Nyong'o for Black Panther, it was revealed that she will be producing and playing his mother in the movie adaptation...
• Mother! Speaking of audiobooks, a momentary aside... I am just now finding out that Jenifer Lewis released a book last month called The Mother of Black Hollywood. Whether you know her as Ruby from Blackish or one of her many roles over nearly 30 years in Hollywood, it is so good...
Here is Jenifer Lewis being Jenifer Lewis... while plugging her book (and other things)...
If you want to be entertained for hours, search for "Jenifer Lewis" on YouTube and prepare yourself. This video is an hour of amazing...
I have only just started listening to the audiobook, but it is fantastic already. If you are a member of Audible, it's worth a credit. If you are not a member of Audible, you get a FREE credit when you sign up! Go do that and get this book!
• Comics! If you've seen the movie (and I'm assuming you have), there's a lot more to the story in the original comic books. Here's my four favorite series...
I would be remiss if I didn't add Jack Kirby's work on the Black Panther, which is also an important read.
• Wrong Panther! It'll be reiterated below, but I think it important to state it here: There is NO relation between the Black Panther of the comic books and the Black Panther Party. And yet... I've seen this pop up more times than I can count online.
• Panther Facts! Let's wrap up this Bullet Sunday with a list of interesting Black Panther bullets, courtesy of Kevin E. Ross, who has asked that people share it...
Until next week... WAKANDA FOREVER!
I remember how gutted I was when Jon Stewart left The Daily Show... thinking that nobody could ever take his place... swearing I'd dump the show. And then Trevor Noah came and he was a little rough but I saw how it might work out if he was given a chance. So everybody gave him a chance. And it ended up working because Trevor didn't even attempt to replace Jon Stewart... he just did his own thing within the format he was given. And now it's almost impossible for me to think of The Daily Show ever having been anybody's show but Trevor's, and I am glued to my TV every week night watching him dazzle with his charisma and brutally smart commentary on current events.
A while back I mentioned Trevor's audiobook, Born a Crime, which made me want to listen to it all over again.
And so I did. Seriously, even if you don't like Trevor, The Daily Show, or his politics, his story of growing up under Apartheid is unbelievably compelling. Highest possible recommendation...
As I said, you can sign up for Audible and get a free book credit so you can listen to his book for Free. Assuming you're not already a member. If you are a member, it's worth the credit. If neither of those are an option, check to see if your local library has audiobooks. Many of them do.
In the meanwhile, if you want to get a taste of what Born a Crime is about, check out this fantastic 90-minute interview that The Guardian which touches on a lot of the book's story...
Absolutely amazing how things worked out for him!
And he recently renewed his Comedy Central contract to host The Daily Show through 2022, so it's also amazing how things worked out for his fans too!
I've never been a "Superman guy."
Not that I didn't like the character... on the contrary, I own hundreds and hundreds of Superman comic books. My problem is that Superman, as a character, never made much sense to me. And I never really knew why. I always assumed that it was because I was more of a "Batman guy," having put more stock into the idea that a rich guy wanting to fight crime to avenge his parents made more sense than an alien with god-like powers wanting to be a newspaper reporter.
Then I saw Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill...
And there it was...
"Clark Kent is Superman's critique on the whole human race."
It wasn't that Superman wanted to be a newspaper reporter... it was that Superman wanted to be human at all. The excuse has always been that he slums with humans as a way to not lose touch with the humanity he found while being raised by the Kents. That's all well and good... but it still doesn't make much sense. He's an adult man. If he's still worried about losing his humanity by now, he might as well give up. "Fake it until you make it" may be a valid course of action for a job... but for being human?
And considering he can toss planets around with his bare hands, how human could he ever really be? I don't get it.
But apparently a lot of people do, because Superman is in a comic book that just hit 1000 issues...
The best Superman stories are always those which come up with a way of finding something new while maintaining the continuity which came before. The best of the best being Alan Moore's For the Man Who Has Everything and Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? and Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman. There have been others I've enjoyed, but they usually involve some kind of smart take on why Superman is the way he is... not stories that come up with somebody bigger and stronger to pound on Superman for a few issues.
And don't get me started on the current cinematic take on Superman with Man of Steel, Batman vs. Superman, and Justice League, which just plain suck because they are exactly what make a bad Superman story.
But anyway... back to Action Comics #1000...
I haven't been following the character since George Pérez jumped ship after the New 52 reboot years ago. I am aware that there was yet another reboot called "Rebirth" last year, but I haven't read any of it. So you can imagine my surprise when I find that Superman is married to Lois Lane and has a son named Jon that is Superboy. Not that this really affects what's happening in Action Comics #1000, but it's still something that permeates the issue.
The bulk of the issue is a love-letter to Superman by a chunk of very talented writers and artists and it's mostly wonderful. Many of the things you would hope to find in a landmark issue like this are there. And then there's the money-story... Brian Michael Bendis starting his run on the character with artwork by Jim Lee!
And what we get is... meh.
Because here we go again, somebody bigger and stronger to pound on Superman for a few issues. There's a twist, of course, but its one that's of little consequence in the grand scheme of things. In general, I like the stuff that Bendis does, but I'll not be tuning in for this. I'm just not a big enough Superman fan to get involved... especially when DC is probably going to reboot the Rebirth reboot to the New 52 reboot to the Flashpoint reboot to the Infinite Crisis reboot to the Zero Hour reboot to the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot.
Maybe I'll have a change of heart in the reboot after that. You never know.
I started paying for CBS All Access because it was the only way to watch Star Trek: Discovery. I kept paying so I could watch The Good Fight. In-between all that, I started re-watching episodes of 60 Minutes, a show I've never had much interest in until I found out that CBS All Access has nearly 200 episodes available for streaming. My biggest problem with the show is how they take interesting subjects and drag them out to the point of tedium. Which is why it's such a great show to have running as background noise while I work. I can safely ignore it while still absorbing relevant snippets.
Until something pops up that destroys my ability to ignore it.
While watching an old 60 Minutes segment on Bob Mankoff... cartoon editor of The New Yorker... there was a segment about cartoonists pitching their latest yucks to him. Most of the cartoons get rejected, but a few get through. Among them is a cartoon about Tarzan...
Mankoff: "The apes are saying 'We found you and raised you as one of us, so we were just wondering at what point did you learn to shave?"
Cartoonist: "I have researched this. There is no iteration of Tarzan in literature, comic books, or movies in which he has facial hair. It makes no sense!"
Doesn't make sense?
You don't have to be a Tarzan fan like me who has read all the books dozens of times to know this is 100% bullshit.
In the very first book... Tarzan of the Apes... the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel that started it all... the original Tarzan source for all the literature, comic books, and movies... it is explained that Tarzan started scraping the hair from his face because he understood he was a man, not an ape, and he was afraid of turning into an ape...
“But of these things Tarzan did not think. He was worried because he had not clothing to indicate to all the jungle folks that he was a man and not an ape, and grave doubt often entered his mind as to whether he might not yet become an ape.
Was not hair commencing to grow upon his face? All the apes had hair upon theirs but the black men were entirely hairless, with very few exceptions.
True, he had seen pictures in his books of men with great masses of hair upon lip and cheek and chin, but, nevertheless, Tarzan was afraid. Almost daily he whetted his keen knife and scraped and whittled at his young beard to eradicate this degrading emblem of apehood.
And so he learned to shave—rudely and painfully, it is true—but, nevertheless, effectively."
—Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes
Which begs the question... exactly how much "research" did this cartoonist do that he didn't run across the reason his cartoon is stupid? Apparently he didn't even read half-way through the first Tarzan book.
I wish I knew why crap like this pisses me off.
Is it because the cartoonist lied and obviously didn't research anything? Is it because I get sick and tired of Tarzan being continuously misrepresented? Who knows. I wish it didn't piss me off, because then I wouldn't have to stop working so I can blog about it.
Oh look! The latest issue of Thrice Fiction magazine is out!
And you can read it online or grab a copy in PDF or eBook format absolutely FREE by visiting our website at ThriceFiction.com.
As always, it's got a great slate of writers and artists...
Including art by yours truly. And guess who is making his Thrice Fiction debut in our latest issue? IT'S JAKE! No... he didn't write a story... but I did use him in the artwork I created for a story by Meg Tuite!
Alas, all efforts in getting him to hold a Rolodex met in failure, so there's some Photoshop involved... but he's just as adorable as ever!
So what are you waiting for? Go check it out!
It may be the last day of the week, but this holiday weekend keeps on rolling... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Pooh! Of all the movies coming up, I have to admit that Christopher Robin is the one I'm most looking forward to at the moment...
With all the advancements in special effects, it's the ability to make films like this which impress me most.
• Whoa! Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder? Sign me up!
I'm not a romantic-comedy "romcom" kinda guy, but this movie will be worth seeing for the casting alone. Not in theaters, of course, but when it hits HBO or Netflix, I'm on it.
• Hotness! I've been running across a lot of treasures from my past as I work my way through my garage. As an example... look how brutally hot I was on my learner permit!
Yep... if I were legal in that photo, I'd do me!
• Togs! The closer they get to making Mon-El have his iconic comic book costume, the closer my inner fanboy gets to peeing my pants...
Almost there. Just need that waistcoat... then call it good!
• Thanks, Obama! Yes, I had problems with some of President Obama's policies... but I never stopped admiring him as a person. That goes double Michelle Obama, who was such an exemplary First Lady. So to say that I'm anxious to get my hands on her forthcoming book is an epic understatement...
The unabridged audiobook is available for pre-order at Audible. Since Michelle Obama is narrating all 14 hours of it, I couldn't press the purchase button fast enough.
• Quilt! Hey OG bloggers! Somebody made this incredible quilt for me back in the day, but I can't remember who it was? Does anybody know?
I'm hanging it up to display in my room, and I'd like to attach a tag with the author.
What are you still doing here? The bullets are over. They're over! Go home. There's nothing more for you here.
This was one of those days.
I compensated by hiding in my bedroom and reading through all the of "Art of the Movie" books from the first eight Marvel Studios films. Except... it's actually nine books because I bought the art book for the Peggy Carter series that was on ABC, which I love (there's also books for the Agents of SHIELD series, but I don't love that show even a little bit). It made me want to watch Agent Carter all over again, but that will have to wait...
The only book I'm missing is the one for Agent Carter: Season Two, which was an okay-not-great-series, but I'd still like to have it because the production design was fantastic for it. But... $48. Yeesh. That's a chunk of money considering I wasn't a big fan of the show.
And now It's time to re-watch one of the best movies ever so I can finish up this entry!
Continuing on with my revisiting of every Marvel Studios movie...
MARVEL STUDIOS MOVIE OF THE DAY, No. 9: Captain America: Winter Soldier
Original Grade: A+ • Today's Grade: A+
There's a part of me that wants to call this my favorite Marvel Studios film. It gives us a flawless portrayal of Captain America, Black Widow, Winter Soldier, Nick Fury, Agent 13, and also? Robert Redford(!) as Alexander Pierce! But the real beauty of this movie is that it defines Captain America in a way that makes his 1940's mentality painfully relevant to the modern world, and positions him as the definitive conscience of the entire MCU. And speaking of relevant... how cool is it that a film set in 2014 managed to continue story elements of the first movie set in 1942 so amazingly well. Bucky, Zola, and Hydra were old ideas made fresh. And not in a way that rang hollow or was contrived. Even Cap's original uniform (which is far superior to what he got in The Avengers) was dusted off and came back. Genius.
SCENE TO BEAT: Pick one. There are no wasted moments in this entire film. The action sequences are all brilliant. But that scene where Steve goes to visit a dying Peggy Carter... yargh... a lump in my throat every time.
COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Not a damn thing. If a perfect comic book movie exists, this is a contender.
SIDENOTE: The way they updated Falcon is, as with everything else in this movie, perfect. By the way... that's Jenny Agutter as the lone woman on The World Security Council and the one that Black Widow impersonates to infiltrate SHIELD. Many Americans probably won't know who she is, but anybody familiar with British Television knows that this is just as cool casting as Robert Redford!
Oh look! The new issue of Thrice Fiction is out!
With everything that had been going on in my life these past months, I admit that it was tougher than usual to get things to come together. Many thanks to the artists who stepped up and helped me out, even when they had a shorter deadline than usual to work with...
If you want to check it out, the online editions are FREE! Click here to get a copy!
The reason I enjoy working on the magazine so much is that I can use whatever style or technique I want. And I can experiment with new stuff. Thanks to goofing around for ThriceFiction, I have transitioned to creating art 98% digitally (I still do scratchboard & ink by hand). Some of the very first 100% digital art I created was for Thrice Fiction No. 1, and with our latest issue I was able to revisit a piece I made for a story by longtime blogging friend Marty Mankins (of Banal Leakage fame) seven years ago. I grabbed the original drawing, swapped out the background with a radiator, changed Aquaman trunks for Speedos, added some chest hair, and BAM! New story art! Just for fun I decided to honor the original art by adding a faux color-separation overlay like you'd find in an Aquaman comic book...
And now we start work all over again for December's issue.
Fall has arrived and warm Summer days are over, but all is not lost... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Dark! Whilst looking for something new to watch on Netflix I happened upon Dark Tourist. The show was a bit meh until the fourth episode when host David Farrier visited Turkmenistan. Holy shit. If not for North Korea, this would be the most bizarre restricted country on earth! Even if you don't want to watch the show you owe it to yourself to at least watch the animated intro, which is fantastic...
And here's the trailer for the actual show...
If you're bored and like off-the-grid travel, Dark Tourist is worth checking out!
• Tourist! And speaking of travel...
It's funny because it's true.
• Tammy! And speaking of things that are funny because they're true...
Classic Redneck Tammy!
• Solo! It's difficult to sort through my feeling on a movie which was essentially two hours of Easter eggs. Most likely because this ended up being both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it firmly entrenches the film in the Star Wars universe. A curse because you spend the entire film going "So that's why that happens" and "So that's how that started." Fun as this was, it was a bit distracting. And not in a good way...
The story was actually kind of good, and having it constantly being interrupted with made for a bit of a slog. Even so, it's a beautiful film to look at. It has a great cast. The special effects and sound design are incredible and the action sequences are well-constructed. I just wish it had more of an imagination about it and broke new ground to keep moving the Star Wars Universe forward. Instead it's more of the same. Which puts it in the middle of the pack of Star Wars movies for me...
I was hoping for a bit more, but still liked it quite a lot. I wish I had seen it in a really good theater, but I bought into the rumors that Alden Ehrenreich was so terrible that he required an acting coach and the movie was going to be terrible. But he was terrific as Han Solo. Guess that's what I get for believing internet rumors.
• Caught! You know how you happen across a video and it's pretty great and you want to see more so you click over to YouTube to see what else there is? Yeah... this started it all...
Adorable. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all judges were like this instead of megalomaniac assholes? If you want to fall down a YouTube rabbit hole of entertaining videos, the Caught in Providence channel is worth a look!
• Heart! Ooh! The latest book from Thrice Publishing is out! This wonderful tale of growing up in Ireland from longtime Thrice Fiction contributor James Claffey is a perfect add to your Fall reading list, and is now in-stock at Amazon with Free 2-Day Shipping for Amazon Prime members!
And that's a wrap. Have a great week!
When I first got into comic books, I was more a DC guy than a Marvel guy. The biggest reason for this was The Legion of Super-Heroes which gathered dozens of differently-powered individuals from different worlds in the far future. For a very long time, it was that one book I could count on no matter who the creative team behind it was. It was pretty good even when it was bad.
And when it was great? Holy cow was it great!
Eventually sales were such that they let Keith Giffen try something entirely new by taking them from hopeful super-powered teens in a bright future to hopeless super-powered adults in a dystopian nightmare. I absolutely loved it. The comic book I had loved forever had somehow changed completely yet was somehow even better. But then DC wanted to go back to the teen Legion and things started to slide. It was fine for a while... but then kept getting worse and worse until I just wasn't interested anymore. By then I had mostly moved on to Marvel anyway, but it was still a sad day.
For this ranking, I'm taking the Gold/Silver/Bronze age Legionnaires and figured out which I liked best... and which I liked least...
I maintain that The Legion could make an excellent television series. We got a taste in the last season of Supergirl but there is still so many places they could go. Maybe one day.
Do you enjoy the ramblings of somebody with frozen feet? Then you're in for a treat... because Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Pooh! I was anxious to see the new Disney movie Christopher Robin, but it was never showing on any flight I was on, so I had to buy it from iTunes when it was released. It's a good (not great) film that I enjoyed quite a lot. Mostly because the CGI version of the animals are amazing. Jaw-dropping amazing. The way they are rendered and the way they move is remarkable. You can believe these stuffed animals are alive...
And here's the trailer...
I adore the wit and wisdom of Winnie the Pooh. All the Winnie the Pooh. I love the original A.A. Milne books, the Disney movies and book adaptations, and the Benjamin Hoff Tao of Pooh and Te of Piglet books too. If you are a Winnie the Pooh fan (and why wouldn't you be?) the movie is worth a look. Disney movie magic!
• Care! Hallmark has been airing some wonderful commercials for their #CareEnough campaign...
This last one reminded me of one of my all-time favorite ads...
Always amazed that people can create commercials I want to stop and watch!
• Proposal! This was my favorite thing on the internet this past week...
So sweet. And that reminded me of this...
The effort that must go into planning these things is mind-boggling.
• Winter is NEVER Coming!
"George R.R. Martin will be on Colbert to promote his new book..."
"WINDS OF WINTER IS FINISHED?!??"
"Of course not. He wasted his time on yet another Westeros history book. He still has no idea when Winds of Winter will be completed."
In all honesty, I don't think Martin will ever finish A Song of Ice and Fire. I don't think he gives a shit (regardless of how much he pretends to care). He's got the HBO money coming in. He's got a Nightflyers series coming up. He's got the Game of Thrones prequels coming up. He's got millions of dollars. And he has said repeatedly that writing the Song of Ice and Fire books is hard work, so why would he bother? The HBO series will wrap things up so he doesn't have to, and he can keep getting distracted with writing "easy books" that still make him tons of money. What incentive is there to finish up Westeros? It's all too easy to procrastinate until you die and leave your notes to another author so THEY can deal with it.
All that being said... how excited am I for April to get here so we can see the final season of Game of Thrones?
• Unpossible! Mission Impossible: Fallout (AKA MI6) is easily the best of the entire series. Everybody is brilliant in it, and Henry Cavill is exceptionally good. Which makes me all the happier that Paramount told Warner Bros. to go fuck themselves when they wanted Cavill to shave his mustache for reshoots as Superman on the abysmally shitty Justice League movie. Otherwise Cavill's continuity would be jeopardized and he may have had some of his part cut in a far, far better film...
Tom Cruise does the majority of his own stunts. And the dedication he has in delivering some really scary and dangerous scenes really pay off in Fallout. If you haven't seen it and like a good action flick, this is the movie for you.
• No NOAA! Now that winter is here, I wanted to see if I could re-code the program which controls the heat tapes on my roof. Right now they turn on when it's 33° or less. Which is better than having them on all the time, but also not ideal because they turn on whether there's snow on my roof or not. What I want to do is capture NOAA data to see if it's snowing and then turn on the heat tapes. If we have heavy snowfall with a lot of accumulation, then I'll switch to the old temperature-based program until it's melted.
Problem is... the local NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) station has closed. So now I'm having to pull data from 6 miles away. Which would be fine if I lived on a flat plain, but I'm in a valley. The weather 6 miles away will be similar, but different. And so... better than nothing, but now I don't know if trying to adapt for snow is going to be worth it since the data may not apply to me. Time to start my own weather station, I guess.
And there's your bullets this fine Sunday.
December is here and you shopping days are numbered. But don't despair... because the greatest gift of all is here! Bullet Sunday starts now...
• Cap! I didn't think it was possible for me to want to see Captain Marvel more than I already did... but then this poster was released...
UPDATE: And then the second trailer was released...
And holy crap am I dying to see it now!
• SO CUTE! And now I want kittens! Again!
But... Jake and Jenny are plenty of cats in my house, so I'll just have to keep watching YouTube videos like this.
• A Catch! Speaking of cats and YouTube... my current obsession is watching cats catching fish videos...
Amazing. I don't know why I always thought that fish were an unnatural food for cats. Something that we humans got them addicted to. Maybe because most cats don't like water? But now that I've seen it? Makes perfect sense.
• Becoming! I purchased the audiobook of former First Lady Michelle Obama's Becoming because I wanted the experience of having her read it to me. I'm half-way through and it does not disappoint...
Of course Obama-haters were going to crap all over her no matter what she wrote... and people hoping for dirt will be better-served elsewhere... but I enjoyed going behind the scenes of her life from her own perspective. Mrs. Obama's ability to advocate for hope is inspiring, and I found her words was a welcome distraction.
• IN THE NEWS! "REPUBLICAN SENATORS WHO TRIED TO KILL YEMEN WAR RESOLUTION WERE PAID BY SAUDI LOBBYISTS" — We truly do have the best government money can buy. This is fucking disgraceful. For the life of me, I don't understand why Americans aren't rioting in the streets over this bullshit.
• A Man Called Ove! I've seen this remarkable Swedish film four times now. I think I love it more with each viewing...
I honestly don't know how to feel about Tom Hanks doing an American remake. Usually Americanizing a foreign film doesn't bode well, but... Tom Hanks. I want so badly for it to be good. If, for no other reason, that Americans who don't like watching films with subtitles will get to see this terrific story.
And that's the end of that. Fun times await me, as I'm flying out tonight.
At the end of 2018 my mom's post office box expired and I closed it out. I had kept it open for six months so I could be sure to get all her remaining bills paid. Also to find out who hadn't heard she had died and was still sending her cards and letters and such. All she's getting now is mail from places like Degree of Honor and AARP Life Insurance. I have been marking up their crap "DECEASED - RETURN TO SENDER" for months, but they won't stop sending. I've even called them and sent them letters (strange they don't have email) but AARP Life Insurance is still mailing her every damn week. No exaggeration. EVERY WEEK! How the fuck can they afford that postage bill?
For some reason I thought that shutting down a PO Box would act as some kind of closure.
Of course it wasn't.
I've gotten rid of her clothes. I've gotten rid of her furniture. Heck, I've gotten rid of most of her possessions.* None of that worked. How stupid was I to think that letting go of a frickin' PO Box go was going to be any different? I dunno. Maybe I was just being optimistic. Or naive.
There will probably never be closure when your mom dies. Even if you weren't as fantastically close to her as I was.
Last night when I was burning through episodes of Schitt's Creek in an attempt to get caught up before the fifth season starts in a couple weeks, I noted that Marie Kodo has a new show on Netflix!
For those not in the know, Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizational consultant who developed the "KonMari Method" of tidying your home. I discovered her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up before I bought my new place. I used her methods once with my possessions before moving in. Then let things settle for a year before using her method once more to sort through my mother's things, simplify my life, and declutter my new home. It's a magical process that's difficult to explain to people who have not studied it or seen it in action. It's essentially forming a relationship with your stuff and only surrounding yourself with things that "spark joy."
KonMari changed my life.
My garage, for example, used to be a heinous mess with crap stacked to the rafters. I couldn't even park in it, things were such a mess. After KonMari, I was able to get rid of 2/3 of my junk. A huge amount of that being travel souvenirs that were never organized and just tossed into boxes. But not anymore...
On the left is my wood supply, all organized and easy to get to. Next to that in the middle of the shelf is seven plastic bins for my souvenirs (I've since bough two more for a total of nine). Originally my souvenirs were in 22 massive boxes. Most of it was stuff I didn't even care about, so KonMari made it easy to pare down to a much more manageable level, all organized by country and stored vertically for easy access. The only other things I kept were my Hard Rock T-shirt collection, some of my mom's Christmas decorations, touch-up paint for the interior and exterior of my home (with paint supplies), winter tires, plus extra bathroom tiles and extra hardwood planks in case I need to replace anything. There's also some LEGO sets I'm keeping for my grand-nephew when he gets older. Everything else? Gone. Donated or trashed.
My biggest tidy improvement in my garage was going all KonMari on my tool collection. For the longest time they were just stacked in boxes. This did not spark joy. Eventually I found that having them all hanging on a wall so I could find them is the best way for me...
Kondo-san's Netflix show is a total of eight episodes.** They are entertaining and insightful, but I don't know how helpful they would be if you hadn't read her book. At best they just show you the process in action...
I didn't learn anything new from the show, but I did enjoy watching them (Marie Kondo is ten tons of adorable in a tiny package). If you're in need of tidying your home, check out the show and see if her book might be for you.
And now back to Schitt's Creek. I should be able to watch a couple more episodes before I have to go to work.
*I still have some of mom's collectibles I need to try and sell. I am sooooo not looking forward to that. But, what else is there? leave them boxed up in the garage until I die and somebody else has to deal with it? Better to get rid of it all now while I can. Another goal for 2019 to add to the list.
**Interesting to note that the seventh episode of Tidying Up has the song A Home to Come To over the closing credits which is from the No. 6 album on my Best Music of 2018 list. How is it that Silhouettes can have their music popping up all over and still be a mystery band you can barely find?
"Perhaps it's good for one to suffer. Can an artist do anything if he's happy? Would he ever want to do anything? What is art, after all, but a protest against the horrible inclemency of life?"
A lot of artists are of the belief that their art is born out of suffering and in order to create good art you have to suffer for it. If that's the case, I'm a pretty shitty artist because I don't think I have ever "suffered" for my art. Though, to be honest, referring to myself as an "artist" is kind of laughable because that's a gross overstatement as to where my talents lay. I'm a very good designer. I'm a pretty good photographer. I'm a decent craftsman. I'm an amazing burrito-maker. But true "art" has always eluded me.
Probably because I'm just not suffering enough to create it.
Although I did come close to suffering in creating my "art" for the latest issue of Thrice Fiction Magazine, which you can get for FREE over at our website...
Delicious cover by SEIGAR, an actual artist.
Originally I had art for three stories assigned to myself. Eventually I ended up with a lot more because the holidays wrecked havoc with people's schedules and they had to drop out.
One of those original stories I had was titled The Woman Thinking of Nothing by Beth Shirley. I liked it a lot, and had an idea what I wanted to do for the image after reading the first two sentences of the second paragraph...
She ordered a vodka martini, very dry with two olives. She ordered a basket of fries after the first drink and ate nearly half of them slowly while she drank a second martini.
I absolutely loved the imagery of ordering a high-class drink like a martini with two olives and pairing it with something as low-rent as a basket of fries. When I read that, I was... I dunno... "tickled" at the thought of it, I guess you'd say.
But I worried that since the art needed to be a full page that I'd make a mess of it, so I handed the story to another artist. But when they had to bow out, I took the story back for myself. Because you don't defy The Universe when they give you a second chance.
I decided to go to a bar, order a martini and a basket of fries, take a photo, and call it a day.
After trying on four separate occasions over a period of eight days to be served what I was envisioning in my head, I came up empty. Either the bar...
Which lead to a lot of suffering because...
After spending $75 on martini lunches to no avail, I decided to stage my own photo in a studio. So I borrowed a martini glass. I found a piece of wood that looked like it could be a bar top. I had some liquor bottles I could place out-of-focus in the background. All there was left to do was go buy some fries and find a basket to put them in.
The basket, which I thought would be an easy get, was impossible to find. I wanted one of those cheap-looking plastic flat baskets like you used to find in diners all the time. You know, the ones they hand you when you play pull tabs to put your losing tickets into. Looked everywhere. Couldn't find one. The closest I could find was a blue plastic basket at The Dollar Store. And then there were the fries...
I wanted crinkle-cut. I really wanted crinkle-cut. But time was pressing and the only bar that served them would have taken too long so I went to Wendy's. I prefer Wendy's because every once in a while I like to treat myself to a tiny 89¢ Jr. Frosty, and everywhere else you go you have to buy a giant cup. Can you guess what happened on the drive back? Yep. I forgot why I bought the fries and ate them all along with my tiny Frosty on the way home!
Don't get old, folks. No good can come of it.
Frustrated that it was going on three weeks for a photo that I thought would take fifteen minutes, I grabbed my little blue Dollar Store basket, went back to the bar which had both martini glasses and crinkle-cut fries, then staged my photo.
The wall of bottles was too far away, so the background ended up being boring and I removed it...
I took a second photo for the background like so...
Compositing them and straightening out the foreground elements resulted in this...
With the exception of the basket not being what I originally had in mind, this was pretty darn close to what I was going for. But when I went to drop it into the story, it looked... odd. So I decided to paint over it and run the image through some Photoshop filters to make it look a little more interesting. And there you have it...
I toyed with at least changing the basket color to red, but the blue stood out better so I left it.
And if all that wasn't "suffering for my art" then what is?
All things considered, I'm fairly happy with it. I guess. Probably should have just drawn it from the start, but I really wanted a photo for this one.
I did a few more pieces for the issue. To understand why I decided on what I did, you might want to read the stories first. Otherwise I'm not sure how much sense this will all make.
For a pair of stories by the always-amazing Howie Good called Prayer Vigil and The Rain Side of the Rain-Snow Line, I wanted a drowning cross and a bird/person mashup. Again constructed from stock photos then Photoshopped...
For loneliness for taste, a story by dN eQ, I had wanted to do something which had to do with a barber shop. Like a pair of scissors and a comb or something. But that wasn't what the story was saying to me. I rethought things and decided I wanted to somehow illustrate life moving forward in ways that were both mundane and interesting. This is what I came up with...
For Mountain High Pizza Pie, a story by the always-interesting Matthew Dexter, I kept coming back to the way he'd echo pizza toppings and a fetus. I put the two together and... voilà...
Whenever I have a spread of two stories, like Her Love by Megan Gordon and Call Me Kumiktuq (Scratch) by Tom Sheehan, I try to find a commonality which I can illustrate that will tie them together. For Megan's story, I really wanted to find a way of showing lemons and lavender flower. I had no idea what to do for Tom Sheehan's story. Eventually I liked his line about snowflakes and lightbulbs and decided I could have the lemon play off the lightbulb, then use lavender and snowflakes in the backgrounds...
For the story Children of Survivors by Miriam Sagan I wanted quite badly to come up with something that would compel you to read the story... but without giving anything away as to what the actual story was about. So I zeroed in on a bit of conjecture by one of the characters which had somebody being killed over half an apple. This was taking place in an internment camp, so I had to be careful about showing the apple being too red and too tasty because, I figured, that if they were given apples at all they would undoubtedly be shriveled and older...
For a brutal story called Honeymoon (by Beate Sigriddaughter), I wanted a lit candle being strangled by vines. Originally I just drew it, but didn't like what I came up with, so I composited four stock photos and ran it through some Photoshop filters. On the page opposite is a vivid story called Clown Town by Couri Johnson where I wanted to composite stock balloons over a bright blue sky. This looked strange next to my drab candle, so I changed out the drab candle I used to a bright purple one. This ended up being kismet, because it actually fit the story better. The hope being that the character's brightness and light won't be completely crushed out
And that's the end of my contributions to Thrice Fiction Magazine No. 24! If you'd like to take a look at the issue (and see some real artists creating actual art)... head over to our website where you can take a look for FREE!
Last night the Oscar for Best Picture went (unsurprisingly) to Green Book, yet another "white savior" film where stories detailing the lives of Black people are told through the lens of the white people who "rescued them" from racism and made life better for the entire Black race because of it. It's a trope that's been done to death, but Hollywood just can't seem to help themselves.
Whether it's a story of outright theft, as in The Help where a young white woman "liberates" Black servants in the 1960's by publishing their stories in her best-selling book (the story of which was stolen in real-life too)... or real events being reframed, as in 42 where Jackie Robinson's story is snatched away from him to be viewed from the perspective of the white Major League Baseball executive who decided to integrate the sport (and his white teammates who overcame their prejudices to accept him as a player)... or the unforgivable revisionist history in Hidden Figures where white Kevin Costner rips down a "whites only" sign on the bathroom so Katherine Johnson didn't have to run across campus to pee (something that never fucking happened)... it's a tired trend of making white people the hero in the lives of Black heroes when the actual stories are compelling enough as they are.
In the case of the Oscar-winning film Green Book, we get the story of real-life Black pianist great Don Shirley hiring a racist white chauffeur to drive him for a concert tour. Something which would be a great story, right? Except it ends up being the story of how Don Shirley's driver overcame his racism to build a friendship with him instead, making the white guy the hero of the movie. Because of course he was. Getting a movie about Don Shirley told from the perspective of Don Shirley is apparently asking too much. That film wouldn't get an Oscar for Best Picture because white voters wouldn't have somebody to root for (Black Panther had white Agent Ross, but he was only a minor hero in the movie... if Marvel wanted Black Panther to be a real Oscar contender, they apparently should have told T'Challa's story from the perspective of the white guy and how he saved all of Wakanda).
But I digress...
I'm not holding my breath that we'll get a major motion picture about Don Shirley from Don Shirley's perspective, but tonight on The Smithsonian Channel we did get a documentary on The Negro Motorist Green-Book, which inspired the name of the big budget film that did see release...
Titled The Green Book Guide to Freedom, the documentary is a terrific exploration of the "travel and survival book" for African-Americans who dared to travel during a time when traveling while Black was a potentially life-ending experience. Stay out too late in the wrong city with the wrong color of skin, and it could mean your death. Something that we like to think happened hundreds of years ago in this country... but "Sundown Towns" were still in existence into the 1960's... less than 60 years ago. Meaning that there are people alive today who survived this horrific segregation brutality first-hand (and some of them are interviewed in this program).
If you have the opportunity to see it, The Green Book Guide to Freedom gets my highest possible recommendation.
NOTE: The documentary is excellent, must-see material that's well worth your valuable time. As of this writing, iTunes has it available for FREE and I think other streaming services may be giving it away as well.
NOTE: Another resource I enjoyed was this article from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture which has links to digitized copies of The Green-Book as well as a US map where locations have been mapped out... and even a Green-Book travel planner tool!
The first I had heard of The Green-Book was when I was visiting one of the best museums I've ever seen... The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. They explained that away-games for Black players was often a difficult ordeal given that there may not be restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and other kind of services available between cities (or even in the city once you got there). Everything had to be meticulously planned, and even then you could still end up in danger if a bus broke down or some other pitfall ensued.
As I was reading about this abhorrent concept, I overheard a couple nearby talking about "The Green-Book." I had never heard of it before, so I investigated further on Wikipedia when I got back to my hotel...
I found out that it's essentially an AAA Guide with a specific audience in mind. Namely, Black motorists during the time of segregation. Inside you get a list of African-American friendly hotels, restaurants, and other businesses designed to make travel safer and more enjoyable...
As explained on The Green Book Guide to Freedom, the books often-times had editorials and articles that went beyond travel, delving into civil rights issues of the day. As also explained on the program, the book was created in the hopes that one day it wouldn't be needed. Ultimately creator Victor Hugo Green got his wish, and the final issue was published the year I was born, 1966. Sadly Green died in 1960, four years before the Civil Rights Act came into being and six years before his book ceased publication.
Not that the end of segregation was the end of segregation. South Carolina Republican Governor Henry McMaster infamously refused to give up his all-white country club membership when he took office... just two years ago in 2017. Not to mention a president who has said white nationalists have some very fine people in their ranks. Apparently to some people, The Negro Motorist Green-Book was not a symbol of escaping oppression but a symbol of "the good ol' days." Which kinds of puts that whole "Make America Great Again" bullshit into proper perspective, doesn't it?
Seek out The Smithsonian Channel's The Green Book Guide to Freedom. You'll be glad you did.
Have you heard?
The latest issue of Thrice Fiction has been released! And you can read it online (or download it as a PDF) absolutely FREE! To see a bunch cool stories and terrific art for the bargain price of free-fitty-free, just click here and enjoy!
This issue's cover features our raccoon mascot and was lovingly painted by the ever-talented Kyra Wilson!
As always, I'm going to take a minute to talk about the art that I created for the issue. This may involve spoilers, so it's probably best that you read it before proceeding!
The first piece I created is for the story Convenience by Gregory Wolos. In the story a couple loses their dog "Bark" and all they have left is his collar. Since this happens almost immediately in the story, I didn't think it would be spoiling anything to use that in the image...
This is a stock photo of a collar that I combined with a stock photo of a name tag (which I had to erase then "engrave" myself) that I then Photoshopped on a formica countertop stock photo so I could add shadows. My goal was to have something look fairly realistic so that it reflected the very real stuff going on in the story.
This next piece for the story Last Wednesday by Djanaina Salamon was not something I felt that I should take on myself. It specifically speaks to experiences of a Black woman, and I felt if needed that voice for the accompanying artwork. I tracked down an artist that was a good fit, but it fell through. I tried to get a replacement, but that fell through. And so... the night before we went to press... I pulled out my laptop to paint something myself...
I used Adobe Illustrator and the brush pallet to "finger-paint" the image, which I wanted to look a bit raw and abstract... but still capture a sense of beauty. The idea here is that she's burning with righteous fury over the microaggressions and other daily injustices that would probably drive a white person insane if we experienced even a fraction of it. I didn't want the fire to be actual fire... that just reads as "anger" to me. I wanted it to appear "holy," in a sense, so that it could be interpreted as "righteous." So I decided to make it silver. I also decided to make it be more of a "glow" than wild flames, so it didn't seem like the woman was out of control. There had to be an internal strength there. Originally, her hair was much shorter... but then I got the idea to make an afro which was a perfect circle, like a halo around her head. In the end, I'm happy with the illustration... but I still struggle as to whether it was appropriate for a white guy to try and interpret something he will never have to experience. I really wish I could have found an artist better suited. But I was my only option if we wanted to make deadline. Such is the life of an art director.
For the story Away, Away by past Thrice Fiction contributor MaryAnne Kolton, I wanted to come up with something which illustrated what I perceived to be the essence of the story. It's the story of a woman thought of as weak and inconsequential by her abusive husband... a "dead fish" as he refers to her... who has to find the strength to do the unthinkable...
MaryAnne was specific as to the firearm used in the story... a Phoenix Arms Semi-Automatic Pistol... and I wanted to be accurate in my illustration. A stock photo of a dead fish was easy to find. But I couldn't find the right pistol at the right angle which could be used. So I called my brother, who works at a gun shop in Montana to see if he could help me out. He didn't have one. But a friend of his happened to walk in that did have one, so I had him prop it up against something of fish-height and send me a photo. I then composited them in Photoshop, painted over everything (being sure that "Phoenix Arms" was visible), adjusted the colors to be almost monotone and bleak, then ran it through some filters until I had what I was looking for.
Ali Azar's story A Drifted Sorrowful Soul was dense with imagery I could pull from... but I couldn't get the idea of a young Iranian boy being inundated with images from the television out of my head. At first I was just going to illustrate it like out of a children's book. But I bristled at the idea of taking such a serious subject and reducing it to a kiddie illustration, so I took my drawing and cut out textures as shapes that I could paste over it...
Every piece of the illustration is a texture except the Iranian flag, which is the real deal (but not really, because you can't see the center identifying mark). As you can imagine, this took a long, long time to construct. But the result is what I was looking for so I guess it's worth it. Kinda childlike... but "real" in the sense that the textures are all real.
For Paul Beckmans awesome bit of flash, it was critical to not give the ending away, which is what makes it so great. So I grabbed an image from the front-end of the story of a running dog and used that. In order to throw readers off balance and make it so they couldn't possibly guess what the story was about, yet be compelled to read it so they could understand what was going on in the picture, I intentionally drew something goofy and simplistic...
I then added old-fashioned halftone dots to the image to make it look like something out of a comic book. For no other reason than I love the story and the illustration I came up with amuses me, this is my favorite work in this issue.
For the cross-spread story of Larry, Said a Voice from Inside by Frank Candeloro, I knew exactly what I wanted to draw. The thing that sets everything in motion... a dying cellphone battery...
To match the previous page, I rendered it in the exact same style. Nothing round. All angles. Despite the simplicity, I love how it turned out.
And there you have my artistic contributions to Issue No. 25 of Thrice Fiction Magazine. If you haven't already, please do check it out... it's FREE, after all.
As I've probably mentioned numerous times, I was a massively huge comic book fan for many years. Now-a-days I purchase everything digitally and don't buy many titles, but I've got an entire storage room filled with the physical comics from my past.
Back when I first started collecting, I hated subscribing to comics from the comic book companies because they would arrive in a brown wrapper with no protection and often came damaged. Instead I'd go to the two local drug stores and hope that the comics I wanted were stocked. Popular titles like Batman could always be found. Less popular titles may not be. I'd show up on the day they arrived whenever I could so I could get a mint copy instead of one that had been mangled on the rack.
When the comics I wanted weren't available at the drug store, I'd have to beg my mom to take me to The Big City so I could visit the News Agency there. The Agency was a wholesale distributor of magazines and newspapers to businesses. But they also had a retail store. The general public had to pay full price, but they usually had a copy of everything available.
What I remember most about the News Agency was the smell when you walked in.
All that paper. Like a book store, but fresher and less musty. I loved it there.
Jack, the guy who owned the place, sold it in 1995. By that time I was actually living in The Big City and buying my comics at the local comic book shop that had opened a decade earlier. I think the News Agency maybe lasted another five years before shutting down. I have no idea where local businesses get their magazines now.
The News Agency isn't all fond memories though. Three or four years ago I read an article about an apparent unsolved murder of one of the News Agency employees back in the 70's. His car was found abandoned in a hotel parking lot and he was never seen again. The article was about his family wanting the cold case re-opened to see if anything new could be discovered.
I was thinking about all this on my walk to work this morning.
How even the things that build our happiest memories can be tainted by tragedy.
And I'm pretty sure it relates back to how David Ortiz, one of my favorite baseball players to ever play the game, was shot in the back on Sunday. I can't get it out of my head. The Boston Red Socks, something which has given me so many happy memories, has been tainted by tragedy.
The news is reporting that Big Papi is resting and in good condition after a second surgery, so here's hoping the tragedy ends with him being shot.
Leave it to The Universe to ruin comic books and baseball for me.
What's next? Ice cream?
My morning walks to work are starting to become the best part of my day. When I'm not nearly getting run down in the sidewalks, I'm discovering all kinds of things that make life interesting.
Far and away my most favorite thing each morning is looking to see if the family of cats that live on my route is out. The kittens spark joy in my cold, dead heart, so it's always a good day when I can start it out with kittens. Today they were indeed lounging in the front yard, watching me warily as I approached like they always do...
Much to my dismay, the little puffball cat was not there again. That's the third time in a row, and I'm heartbroken at the thought that he was attacked or got run over or something...
The only thing keeping me from going crazy and adopting every kitten I see is space and money. I had better never win the lottery or else I will end up buying a big house and filling it with homeless cats. I think we all know that this never ends well.
UPDATE: Well would you look at that! The kitten is back! All three accounted for...
Interesting how the puffball sibling is always alone or hanging out with mom. It's never playing with the other two (who are forever wrestling around).
In other news... inside the "Little Library Box" this morning was a new book. A children's book made famous because it was written by Madonna. This one from her The English Roses series is called A Rose by Any Other Name...
I remember when Madonna released her first English Roses book and went on MTV(?) to read it to a group of kids. She was trying to read with an English accent but it wasn't working out so well.
I thought I might grab the book because I was intrigued about the offer for a free MyEnglishRoses.net access card... but the domain is dead now, so I guess it's not quite the bonus I was lead to believe.
Guess I'll spend the rest of my day wondering where that kitten ended up. I think I might choose to believe that he was adopted and is now living happily in a new forever home.
Sometimes the best ending we can hope for is the one we make up for ourselves.
You are not ready... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• "You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down." I was sad to learn that Toni Morrison has passed away. I read her first novel, The Bluest Eye, after graduating high school. I was looking for new voices to expand my thinking and Morrison absolutely fit that bill. She was a master of the written word, able to construct beautiful prose which can inspire you one minute then destroy you the next. Beloved, her gut-wrenching fictional account of an escaped slave who is haunted by her past, won a slew of awards (including a Pulitzer), and is essential reading. When it comes to voices defining this country, Toni Morrison will definitely be missed.
• Alien! If you love the movie "Alien," you should know that J.W. Rinzler's massive The Making of Alien book is on sale at Amazon for $33... regular $60. It is incredible. Easily on-par with Rinzler's other "Making of" books (like Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back). Absolutely everything that went into making the film is thoroughly covered. So many amazing pre-production design drawings by H.R. Giger and many others... tons of behind-the-scenes photos... all kinds of insights into the production from people who were there... it's all so well done...
Seriously, this book is easily worth $60. It's a downright steal at $33. Love love love it.
• Epidemic Scary as hell... and getting scarier. Big Pharma is destroying us, and politicians sucking Big Pharma lobbyist cock are looking the other way...
Lobbyist payola should be banned. Any politician accepting lobbyist payola should be shot for treason.
• Rookie. Well this fucking sucks. Afton Williamson is a huge reason I love The Rookie so much. This past week she quit the show, alleging that she endured sexual assault and racism while working on it...
WTF is wrong with people? And WTF is wrong with ABC for not creating a safe environment for their employees? This is such a great show and, to be honest, I can't really picture how it can continue without Talia Bishop. It probably can't. At least not for me.
• The Truth is Out There. While I would have preferred to get a sequel to Paul, I will absolutely take Truth Seekers, a new ghost-hunting show from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Amazon Prime seems to be serious about investing real money into some top=shelf talent for their streaming programs, and this should definitely (hopefully) be a feather in their cap.
• Bro! I have been far from a fan of Bernie Sanders. While some of his ideas make sense, he's always been past the "tipping point" on the Democrat scale for me. Then I saw this interview by Joe Rogan where he was given time to actually explain his positions and... I have to say... I'm warming up to him as a candidate. No, he likely won't get to do all the things he wants to do because he has Congressional approval to deal with, but I do think he would move this country in a more healthy direction. He certainly couldn't be worse than what we have now...
In other news? Please let Joe Rogan interview all the candidates. These idiotic "debates" that keep happening are less than useless.
Bye bye bye, Bullet Sunday.
The penultimate issue of Thrice Fiction Magazine has just been released. You can check it out on our website absolutely FREE! Our next issue... No. 27, coming in December... will be our last.
I'll be talking about all that later though. Right now I want to talk about the current issue, which is pretty darn cool if we do say so ourselves!
The cover image is something I originally created for the story Ode to Oceans in the interior. I really liked the story, and the minute I read about a cat being "a gingery thing" and belonging to the ruler of the universe who lives by the sea I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Take one of my photos of water, flip it so the sea was the sky and the sky was the sea, then have Jenny sitting on the sky as if it were ground. Because the ruler of the universe can do that. Problem was... it didn't end up fitting the story well. So I took the cat out, put the image right-side up, then used that instead. It was better for the story and had really good impact.
But I couldn't let go of the original image. It was just so cool. Cool enough for the cover...
The cat is my sweet Jenny. So that means both my cats have now appeared in the magazine (Jake appeared in Issue No. 22). And here's the image for the story Ode to Oceans by Elena Botts...
That's a real photo I took. I just cut out the middle section which had a shore and some trees... then glued the sky and sea together to create a kind of weird mirror.
The next piece I created was for the story Way Cross, Georgia, 1937 by James Lloyd Davis...
The story is one which has an emotional gut-punch and I wanted to have artwork to reflect that. But what I came up with originally didn't work for two reasons...
First of all... I had second thoughts on using a noose. It's a symbol of fear and hate and just seeing it can be hurtful to many people. I justified it because it's reflective of the story, yet I was still uneasy. But the reason I ultimately took the noose out was because it was a spoiler. The story has two distinct parts, and I was very careful to have a page break occur before the first section was over so the second part would be more impactful to the reader. But what good does that do if I give away the second part in the image?
And speaking of the image (a composite of four stock photos run through a paint filter)... the characters in the story are selling fake holy oil. I wanted to make it appear authentically holy by having a golden glow emanate from behind. It sure turned out pretty.
The last story I worked on was called Her Climb by George Hook...
The story is the lament of a man pining after a Dutch girl who was climbing ahead of him. But, alas, the Dutch girl ended up with a French boy, and the man was left alone. He envisions the girl and boy from the climb in the room next to his being together (a climb of a different kind), which is even more painful to him.
I knew immediately what I wanted for the image. Since they were in the same building but different rooms, I imagined a hotel. And I imagined a pair of women's climbing boots handing off the door handle like a "Do Not Disturb" sign. My mom had a very nice pair of boots I bought her for our trip to Africa, but I couldn't find them to photograph them. I probably gave them to Goodwill or the Veteran's Exchange. So I ended up having to cut apart a bunch of stock images to create what I wanted... then drew around them with a heavy black outline. The resulting image was then run through a watercolor filter. I did several versions before I found one that would "read" for a small 2-1/4" square image.
The final two images I created for the magazine were a flower from the side of my house on the inside-front cover... and a shot of a toy riding horse I photographed in Malaga, Spain...
And that was the end of that issue! One more to go...
I see you've tuned in to the same Bat-Channel at the same Bat-Time, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Printing Errors. I've designed nearly a dozen books and I've made my share of mistakes along the way. But one thing I've never done is run text into the gutter. And yet Marvel's "The Art of the Movie" books excel at it. Including Marvel's Avengers: Endgame, The Art of the Movie which was released last week...
It shocks me every damn time. How are you supposed to read this shit? Even if you tip up the opposite side at a 90° angle, it's tough...
I guess you're supposed to break the binding and pound it flat? This is infuriating. These are not cheap books.
• Thanksgiving Art. Artist Hannah Rothstein created Thanksgiving dinner plates as imagined by various artists in 2014 (and a second helping in 2015). The results are pretty great...
To see all of her photos, be sure to check out her website.
• Nippon Bunka. When I saw that the latest season of Queer Eye was in Japan, I was curious to see how it was going to work... but didn't tune in right away. And when I finally decided to take a look, I was surprised at how some of the language came rushing back to me. Then mortified because there were a lot of cringeworthy moments. They obviously didn’t take the time to learn anything about Japanese culture, and I finally had to stop watching half-way through the third episode. I just couldn’t take it any more. The show was highly disrespectful of how Japanese culture works, and how people there have a mindset to fit into society for the benefit of the greater harmony. It is essentially Americans invading these people’s homes, trouncing over everything they believe, and telling them how much better there lives would be if they were more American. Then likely not realizing that politeness would preclude the Fab-Five being told if the Japanese person in question was uncomfortable or didn't want to go along with what was being dumped on them. It was just too awful. Then I read this article and see it went even deeper than I realized. Quite a step backwards from the shows that came before.
• Not Cats. There is absolutely NO condition under which I want to see this movie. If I am in a coma... and you visit me... and this is playing on the television... CHANGE THE CHANNEL! Good Lord what a heinous CGI abomination. I mean, yeah, I wasn't interested in the Broadway musical either... but at least THAT I understood. This CGI weirdness is absurd, and I would have rather they had this amazing cast just dress up like they did at the theater performances. THAT I would have probably watched. When it came to HBO or Netflix or whatever. But this?!?
• Whoa. Well these natural works of art by Andy Goldsworthy are amazing...
I found out about them over here.
• Awww. Melts.
The entire channel is gold, and you can visit it here.
Until next time, Bat-Fans.
I really need a vacation.
Not a work trip. Not a staycation. Not a trip for a party or wedding or any other occasion. A real, honest-to-goodness vacation where I can go somewhere new, do interesting stuff, and just relax. Since the days have been cold, dreary, wet, and largely dark (given the early sunsets), I'd prefer going somewhere that's the opposite of all that.
Also adding to my desire to get the fuck out of dodge? These amazing, amazing travel journals by José Naranja. He sells reproductions that are impeccably crafted which I would love to own, but the two volumes cost $320 and $360 each...
He also sells posters of some of his most popular interior page spreads, but they ain't cheap either. A single print costs $45...
Gorgeous. Every page is a work of art.
It makes me want to drag out my hand-drawn travel maps. When I first started traveling, I drew them for each of the places I went. My favorite was a map of Japan with all the sights I saw plus all the Hard Rock Cafes I visited marked on it. It's pretty good size... probably 12 x 20... on Bristol board rendered in colored pencil, inks, and watercolor. Took me a month of most nights and some weekends to complete. No idea where it is, but it's likely rolled up with old posters somewhere.
Assuming that I could come up with the money or time to go on a vacation, I'm note sure where I would go. I still want to get to India and Peru one of these days, so maybe one of those.
But since I don't have the money or time, I guess I'll just go to work tomorrow.
After nine years, Thrice Fiction magazine (the amazing venue for short-form fiction that I created with RW Spryszak), came to an end with our December 2019 issue (You can still read all 27 issues absolutely FREE on our website).
But we're not dead yet.
RW and I just wanted to be freed from the thrice-yearly schedule that was becoming more and more difficult to keep. We don't get paid, we just do this for the love of it all, so the magazine always has to take a back-seat to Real Life. This kind of scenario is not conducive to a deadline.
And so we've relaunched with Volume 2, which no longer has a schedule. It's also no longer free, but it's as cheap as we can possibly make it (neither of us is getting rich here, we just need something to help cover our costs, which are more than you might think).
Here's our fist issue of the new Thrice Fiction...
You can buy a copy with its glorious 128 pages for just $12 at the Lulu Book Shop.
For the next two or three entries here at Blogography, I thought I'd go over the design process that went into it.
Starting with the new logo.
My goal with the original Thrice Fiction was to have the design fade away. Elements were intentionally stark, plain, and forgettable. The logo I came up with wasn't so much a "logo" as some of the plainest type I had available stacked up and centered...
I actually had people comment about how "Thrice is pretty in execution, but plain in presentation." And I was like "Well, yeah, that's what it was designed to be!" We had some amazing artists contribute to our covers, and making sure a fancy logo didn't detract from their generously-donated work was all part of the plan.
But since Volume 2 was going to be sold in book stores and such, a different approach needed to be had. Slapping some plain type on it was not going to work, so I made a list of objectives...
The last one, cheap was probably the biggest part of the puzzle. And so when I designed the interior I picked from typefaces which I already owned licenses for. The main typeface then became the base for the logo upon which I could build. The only "design" thing I did here was to rough in an extension for the leg of the "R" so I'd know to leave space for it...
Now comes the part where my ADHD kicks in. I am obsessive about spacing consistency and working to make sure that elements are lined up as much as possible. It just makes for a cleaner logo that way. A lot of work goes into a project like this before I even get to a starting place...
It's not uncommon for me to use dozens... or even hundreds of guides as I am figuring out the placement of all the pieces...
The "T" at the beginning of "Thrice" is problematic, because its width is defined at the very top by the crossbar. This leaves the "F" in "Fiction" looking off-center. I wanted to address this in case the logo ends up in a place where it would be helpful to look more balanced, so I roughed in a swash there so it would add visual width...
Note that at this point I planned on putting the "3" endmark (which signifies the end of each story of the interior) within the "C" because I thought it would look cool. It did look very cool. But it also added clutter and distraction, so it was dropped. Also note that I was planning on hiding a backwards "3" in the swash to be clever. This would also be dropped for clutter.
And here you can see me once again going crazy with the guides so I can line everything up in a mathematically-pleasing manner...
From there it's just endless futzing around.
Making the leg of the R be swoopy and pretty. Adding curls on the R, C, and E to tie them to the curls on the swash across the T and H. Cleaning up the letterforms by narrowing or widening the space they occupy to better line things up. That kind of thing...
This is what I went to print with because I ran out of futzing time. There are still some minor tweaks I need to take care of until I'm happy with our new logo (starting with the swash going too narrow too quickly and looking jerky as it crosses the "T", which really, really bugs me). The work is never truly done until the deadline arrives, and even then it doesn't stop.
That's "design" in a nutshell.
Overall I'm quite happy with the logo because I think it fits my objectives well and looks nice on the shelf. So way to go, me!
If this kind of stuff interests you, tune in tomorrow when I discuss the cover art... then again on Wednesday when I discuss the interior art. Big fun awaits.
This is part two of a three-part dive into the redesign of Thrice Fiction magazine on the occasion of releasing the first issue of Volume 2. If you missed it, you can read Part One right here.
After the type had been selected and the logo had been designed, I moved to the cover. Our old magazine was graced with a variety of amazing artists contributing their talents but, just like with Volume One, I decided to do the first one myself.
I had many, many ideas.
For the longest time I had it in my head that since this was a relaunch, I was going to have a young boy on a tropical island looking up to the heavens... while a bunch of missiles were ready to launch nearby. I liked that it was implying even paradise can be meanacing. I ultimately abandoned this idea for being too dark but, never fear, I repurposed the idea for a piece on the interior.
The next day I woke up and couldn't remember the name of my favorite restaurant in Prague (maybe I was dreaming about it?), so I went to my blog and searched for it (the name is Lehká Hlava, and it has my highest recommendation). Two images above where I was talking about the restaurant is one of my most favorite photos I've taken of all time...
Now... you may be asking yourself... is that angel drowning a cupid baby angel in a bathtub? Or maybe a chicken? I honestly don't know, but it sure looks that way to me!
Despite the horror element, I always thought she was gorgeous. And the fact that I was blessed with those stormy skies just makes the photo that much more beautiful to me.
And that's when I had a thought... if Thrice Fiction is undergoing a rebirth, of sorts, we're essentially drowning Volume 1 in a bathtub (even though you can still read all 27 issues for FREE on our site). Maybe this is the image I'm going for?
Except this is going to be sold in book stores, and I thought the angsty, brooding, dark imagery has been done to death. Such a cover would fade into the rest of the books. Soooo... what if the angel was drowning the cupid in broad daylight... under bright blue skies? How disturbing would that be? Very. And so... I went through my photo archives to find the original image and see if it was something I could work with.
Bad news. It was cropped too tight and there wasn't enough in the original image to create a cover out of. Oh well. Back to the drawing board. Except... I had visited that cemetery on the day prior when it wasn't rainy and dark. Maybe with better weather I stuck around longer to take more photos? Turns out I did!
The second photo had the same angle I liked from the original photo, but it wasn't the cover I wanted. Too dark. Cropped too tight. It would never work.
Except... maybe it would if I put some work into it? Let's take a look, shall we?
Well, lightening it up a bit showed that there's enough pixel information in the shadows to work with... but how will I fill in the missing information at the bottom? Hmmm... remember that first photo that was kinda boring and flat? How about I cut out of that one and see if I can make use of it...
Oh yeah. That's perfect. I can easily warp it into a base for my murdering angel...
Cool. But there's still a long ways to go before this is the cover I've got in my head. First of all I have to paint in the missing bits and paint out the panels with stock photos so the names of our contributing authors can be easily read. It also needs to be much, much brighter. And maybe I could place a building back behind it to add a little visual interest? I've got tons of photos of Prague, so I could probably find one that works. And, say, what if instead of a bright blue sky I tried a brilliant orange sky in an attempt to tie everything together into a cohesive image?
Blergh. That building is adding nothing but confusion. It needs to go. And while I like the idea of an orange sky, that's a color that doesn't reproduce well in CMYK printing, so I really think it needs to be blue like I originally envisioned...
Now we're getting somewhere.
From here on out it's a lot of painting. There's a "watercolor" filter I use to speed up the process, but you can't just push a button and have all the work done for you. Well, actually you can do that, it's just that the results aren't that great. I go in and repaint features... do the watercolor filter... see what works and what needs to be worked on... undo the watercolor filter... then repeat. FOR HOURS! The face of the angel is practically untouched, and I went very light on the watercolor, because I wanted it to be easily "understood" by the reader. The further I got away from her face, the more radical the repainting becomes. I adjust contrast... add stock photo paint splotches for interest... simplify details to be more impressionistic for the watercolor filter... it's just refine... refine... refine...
Eventually I get to a point where I've gone too far. So I step back to a previous version and I'm done. Thrice Fiction is reborn...
You'll note that the black strip on the left side (a carryover from the original magazine design) was abandoned. There's precious little horizontal space on the smaller book size, and I wanted to devote as much cover area as possible so our artists can fill it up. I also zoomed in on the angel quite a lot because I thought it was more impactful and prettier to look at this way.
Not exactly what I had in my head, but pretty close... murdered cupid and all. You can buy a copy with its glorious 128 pages for just $12 at the Lulu Book Shop.
Tomorrow I'll take a look at the interior of the book and go through all that drama for you. Sounds like fun, no?
This is part three of a three-part dive into the redesign of Thrice Fiction magazine on the occasion of releasing the first issue of Volume 2. If you missed it, you can read Part One right here and Part Two right here.
With all 27 FREE issues of Volume 1 of Thrice Fiction, I had the luxury of color. It was designed from the very beginning with color in mind. The focus of each issue, the stories, were (out of necessity) black and white for readability. I carried this theme to the contributor photos, which were also black and white. Everything else (i.e. the art) would be in color.
The problem with color is that it's expensive. Very expensive. But you can justify it when you have a small number of pages because the cost doesn't have a chance to accumulate that much. Since the format for Volume 2 was over a hundred pages, it wasn't an option. All interior pages would be black and white so we wouldn't have to charge $50 a copy.
All our artists were in a pandemic for 2020, so I decided to just do all the interior art myself after a few false starts in rounding up contributors. This actually turned out for the best, because I had no idea how our publisher (Lulu) would reproduce greyscale art. Since it's just me, I made a list of different styles to experiment with... line art... photo art... vector art... and so on.
And here's how that went.
Ann Bogle is a remarkable writer and it's always been a thrill to see her work in our pages. Needless to say that when RW informed me that she would be the "featured contributor" for our debut issue, I was thrilled. I read through all her stories a couple times looking for an idea... but I kept coming back to the second paragraph of her very first story, Credenza, where it was Abe Lincoln's 200th birthday. It's just too dang good an image to ignore. So I didn't...
Originally there was no "happy birthday" banner in the background, as the idea was to put a party hat on top of Lincoln's famous stovepipe hat. It proved too clutzy, so I made the change. Also? Abraham Lincoln was originally drawn as a decomposing corpse, because that's the only way I could still have his beard on there. But that was pretty gruesome, so I went with a skeleton head, left the beard, and took all the rotting flesh off his hands. No, it doesn't make sense, but I actually think it's more humorous this way. This was knocked out on my iPad in ProCreate over a couple nights while watching Hallmark movies.
If you read yesterday's entry, you know that I was originally planning on the cover being a little boy looking up to the heavens as missiles stand ready to launch (for our relaunch, get it?). I thought this might be a little dark, but I liked the idea of the image so much that I decided to draw it up and slap it in the interior as a break-point...
I thought this actually turned out better than what was in my head. I also think it probably works better as a block-cut than a color painting. The palms are extracted from a photo I took on the Big Island of Hawaii. The boy, Saturn, and the missiles are stock photos I cut out. It was all assembled in Photoshop, had extraction filters and edge filters run on it, then I imported it to ProCreate on my iPad so I could add texture and linework.
Amantine Brodur's work was a tough challenge to typeset because half of what makes it work is the formatting. Translating the formatting of The Anaphora House from a MS Word document to book pages took a long, long time of goofing around until I was satisfied that I had done the best job I could. Then a couple days later I would look at it again and decide to change half of it. =sigh= There was an abundance of riches to be had when it came time to figuring out what I wanted to do for the art. But once I got to the section titled Empires of Toast I just knew that was going to be where my piece came from...
This is just pure symbolism, "empires" being represented by a chess set. I knew I wanted a toaster ejecting "toast" on the board, but I took it a bit further than that. The "theme" of our "Subject Paper" this issue was discussing "cultural appropriation." I drew a white pawn also ejecting from the toaster, the idea being that it wants to appear black, but couldn't take the heat that comes from being black. Deep, I know.
Eckhard Gerdes packs a lot in the slightly more than four pages of The Babble-Ons. I went from worrying that there wouldn't be enough visual ideas to draw from... to being completely overwhelmed by how much there was to choose from. I abandoned the idea of pulling literal passages and instead combined a rowboat and snails because I thought it would make for a fun image...
Don't ask me how that snail is rowing his boat. This is a half-dozen stock photos which have been reworked and combined into a single image in Adobe Photoshop... then outlined in Adobe Illustrator. I wanted to have an example for future artist contributors so they could see how photos reproduce at Lulu and how contrast has to be heightened to get something other than a mushy grey blob. It took a lot more effort than I was anticipating, and I'm pretty sure I put in just under three hours for an image that would have taken me 20 minutes if it were in color.
Art was never going to be the focus of Volume 2. It was always going to be the written word. But I still wanted some art in there to add breaks between sections and pieces. This was an idea I had years ago that I never did anything with, but kinda liked the thought of dusting it off and retooling it to be a collage overlaid by block-print. Something about the concept of aliens invading and not caring which god you worship reeeeeally stuck with me...
I cannot for the life of me remember where I took the photo of the monk with baby Jesus. I want to say Italy maybe? Columbia? I think it was in a courtyard somewhere. Could even be New Orleans. Since I pulled the photo out of my archives quite a long while ago, I can't remember. Everything else is composed of eight stock photos that I chopped up and combined. Before I started converting, painting, filtering, and drawing on top of it, this is what it looked like...
Had I done this in color, I would have painted over everything to make it "more my own" since all the pieces around the statue were created by somebody else. But it worked really well as a block-cut, so I spent considerable time massaging the pieces in Photoshop so it would work well. Minutes before publishing this issue, I went in and changed baby Jesus's eyes and the cross on the monk's robe to pure white and did a heavier outline around Jesus so they stood out better.
Originally I had created this art for the subject essay Who Do You Think You Are? by Franny Forsman which discusses cultural appropriation. This is a subject which hits at me personally from a number of different directions, and almost everybody has an opinion... from weak ("I don't care and don't see anything wrong with it because it doesn't affect me") to very strong ("This is pillaging my people and my culture and using it in inappropriate ways which I find deeply insulting"). Despite being 100% white boy with a "cultural heritage" that consists of a hodgepodge of other cultures (AKA "no culture to speak of"), I am in the latter category. And it stems from the simple idea of just being fucking decent and kind to people. If somebody tells you that their culture is not a costume and they are offended when people treat it that way... just pick a different Halloween costume. If somebody tells you that your football team has a shitty name and mascot because it is taken from a painful slur celebrating genocide against their people... just pick a different name. This is not rocket science, and you have to be kinda awful to not want to change when it's pointed out to you. And that's what I was trying to say with this piece depicting a butterfly seeing a poster advertising a movie about a butterfly... starring a cockroach...
This is a composite of a bunch of stock photos that I cut into Photoshop (though I think the butterfly image is mine, taken from a butterfly sanctuary in Australia). The butterfly wings on the cockroach were drawn on in Procreate because I wanted them to look like they were badly colored with a crayon. The credits for my fake movie Butterfly are actually taken from the movie poster for White Boy Rick, which seemed appropriate. Ultimately I worried that any art put in front of such a serious subject would be distracting and inappropriate and decided to go with no art at all. But I kinda liked what Cheap Imitation was saying, so I stuck it at the back of the book.
And there you have it... all the art I came up with for the first issue of Volume 2! You can see it all in print by buying a copy with its glorious 128 pages for just $12 at the Lulu Book Shop. A bargain at half the price with some cool stuff to be had!
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, everybody!
I am fortunate enough to get the day off, but I still ended up working so I could get caught up while not having new work dropped on me. That's almost like a holiday right there!
As is my custom, I started my day by listening to his I Have A Dream speech in its entirety. I also pulled out my copy of The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. which I haven't re-read in a while. Last year I re-read Where Do We Go from Here and the year before that Strength to Love, so it's time to be inspired.
Illustration from Doodles by Drea
And now... I should probably clean my house or wash clothes or make dinner or do something productive. Though I've already performed a firmware update on my NAS and backed up my files, so maybe that counts as productivity?
Still need to make dinner and clean my kitchen though.
That's more than enough productivity.
ZOMFG! FACEBOOK IS DOWN! FACEBOOK IS DOWN! Everywhere you look in the news today, it's the same story and the same headline... Facebook is indeed down. What a tragedy (insert eyeroll).
Which struck me funny because I recently re-read Watership Down... a beautiful story about rabbits which is surprisingly deep and smart for something meant to be a children's tale. If you haven't read it yet, I can't recommend it highly enough.
So every time I see "FACEBOOK IS DOWN!" I'm thinking "WATERSHIP DOWN!" which is a far more important thing to focus on.
And so I shall.
So I shall.
You guys... YOU GUYS! Kurzgesagt is one of my favorite YouTube channels, and the first book from the channel's creator, IMMUNE, just landed. It is incredible. I swear, I'm only an hour into it and it's one of the most fascinating things I've EVER read. The book seems more like science fiction than science fact because it's just so bizarre and improbable...
If you'd like a taste, they've got the first two chapters as audio on a YouTube video...
But beware... you'll definitely want to buy a copy of the book if you listen to this! It's fascinating and gorgeous. Highest possible recommendation.
UPDATE: I'm loving this book so much that I went ahead and bought the AudioBook as well. The idea of having Steve Taylor read it to me was too much to resist. Now I can listen to the audiobook while looking at the illustrations in the book-book. The best of both worlds.
UPDATE-UPDATE: There's a cool new Kurzgesagt video that's supporting the book...
The news of the day? Taika Waititi is adapting The Incal by Jodorowsky and Mœbius.
This is interesting from any number of viewpoints, not the least of which is that Waititi is one of my favorite directors going. Between What We Do In The Shadows, Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, the guy seems incapable of making a bad film. But holy crap... he's already attached to Akira, Flash Gordon, and a few television series... how does he have the time for all this?
But still, The Incal is a fantastic work, and seeing it adapted into a movie or series seems like a no-brainer...
Kinda timely that this was announced on the heels of the success that Denis Villeneuve's Dune movie is experiencing.
Back before the David Lynch Dune in 1984, Alejandro Jodorowsky was working on a movie of his own based on the novel. His efforts were famously made into a documentary called Jodorowsky's Dune that had some truly amazing ideas that were equal parts interesting and bizarre. The documentary is worth a look, if you have a chance to see it.
Anyway... after his Dune movie fell apart, Jodorowsky took his concepts and reworked them into a series of comics called The Incal (Mœbius having been one of his collaborators for the visuals on Dune). I could explain it, but this really good YouTuber did that for me last year...
And for more, here's Jodorowsky and Taika himself...
Probably won't see anything come of this until 2025, but thems the breaks.
Snow has finally come to Redneckistan! But will it last? Doesn't matter... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• MACGRUBER! This coming Thursday. Four more days. I love, love, loved the MacGruber movie. I've watched it an embarrassing number of times and have been wanting a sequel forever. But a TV series will do just fine...
It looks like it's going to be even better than the movie. Can't wait!
• Beautiful! Flawless...
Dumbass bigots self-own so often that I just accept it as their default.
• Enter the Matrix! I'm intrigued...
Though I remember being excited for the two shitty sequels we got last time, so I'm cautiously optimistic.
• Crossed-Stitched! This made my entire morning (here's a link if TikTok is being a dick)...
This. Took. So. Long. 😢 ##pleasehitlike ##myfingershurt ##TubiTaughtMe ##crossstitch ##xstitch ##summer ##foryourpride ##shecamedowninabubbledoug♬ original sound - Collecting Weekly Clips
• BACON! In general, not buying Kellogg's products has been easy for me... except Morning Star Farms fake bacon. I eat this stuff by the truckload. I put it on sandwiches. I eat it for breakfast. I crumble it and put it on everything... E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G... because it's such a great product. There are few alternatives in my area, and the ones I've tried have been awful. I seriously hope that Kellogg reconsiders their abhorrent behavior so I can start buying it again... but... oh well. I refuse to buy any of their products now, and may never buy them again. Hopefully stores will replace Morning Star Farms "Bacon" with Lightlife "Smart Bacon" or something I like.
It's so weird. I've been buying shitloads of Morning Star Farms since I first became a vegetarian in 1986. In many stores where I live, they were the only option. And many of their products remain a favorite... Grillers Original Burgers... Sausage Patties... OH LORD, THOSE GLORIOUS CORN DOGS... and, of course, the bacon. At most, it's been an inconvenience for me. I dipped and fried my own Lightlife corn dogs and they were every bit as delicious as the Morning Star Farms (better even!), but a hassle to make. I will have to see if I can made 100 of them and hope they freeze well? I dunno. Fingers crossed..
• Happy Holidays! The irony is not lost on me that it may very well end up that my favorite Hallmark Christmas movie of 2021 is actually a Hanukkah movie...
Maybe it's because they only get one Hanukkah movie each year that they get to put all their good ideas in a single movie... unlike Christmas where all the ideas are split between 40 movies... but this is another winner after an equally good flick last year.
• Interview! I met Anne Rice twice at book signings. When people ask me what she was like, I had the same response both times... "She was nice. But disconcerting because it felt like she could see right through me." And it's true. Nice as can be... made some sweet chit-chat with me... and made me feel like she had supernatural eyesight that was more than a little intimidating.
Which is why I was very sad to hear of her passing. I liked some of her books. Was less enchanted by others. But ultimately enjoyed the entertainment she generously offered me. But I'm more upset because I feel that a total stranger who knew me better than I knew myself has gone. And, yeah, I know that doesn't make much sense. But it does to me.
And I guess that's all I got to say about that.
I was deeply saddened to learn that Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh has died. He was a welcome voice and teacher for me since I became interested in Buddhism way back in 1998 (his book The Heart of Buddha's Teaching was one of the first I read). A consistent advocate for peace, the last book I read of his, The Art of Living: Peace and Freedom in the Here and Now was in 2017... and his last book from 2021 (Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet) is on my list...
In a world that's besieged by darkness, his teachings were a light that guided me. And will likely continue to do so for the rest of my days.
In the darkest time of my life Master Thích Nhất Hạnh was there. His words about his own mother's death got me through mine...
The day my mother died I wrote in my journal, "A serious misfortune of my life has arrived." I suffered for more than one year after the passing away of my mother. But one night, in the highlands of Vietnam, I was sleeping in the hut in my hermitage. I dreamed of my mother. I saw myself sitting with her, and we were having a wonderful talk. She looked young and beautiful, her hair flowing down. It was so pleasant to sit there and talk to her as if she had never died. When I woke up it was about two in the morning, and I felt very strongly that I had never lost my mother. The impression that my mother was still with me was very clear. I understood then that the idea of having lost my mother was just an idea. It was obvious in that moment that my mother is always alive in me.
I opened the door and went outside. The entire hillside was bathed in moonlight. It was a hill covered with tea plants, and my hut was set behind the temple halfway up. Walking slowly in the moonlight through the rows of tea plants, I noticed my mother was still with me. She was the moonlight caressing me as she had done so often, very tender, very sweet... wonderful! Each time my feet touched the earth I knew my mother was there with me. I knew this body was not mine but a living continuation of my mother and my father and my grandparents and great-grandparents. Of all my ancestors. Those feet that I saw as "my" feet were actually "our" feet. Together my mother and I were leaving footprints in the damp soil.
From that moment on, the idea that I had lost my mother no longer existed. All I had to do was look at the palm of my hand, feel the breeze on my face or the earth under my feet to remember that my mother is always with me, available at any time.
I cannot fathom how many lives this gentle man's teaching have touched. Because it's not just those who listened to his words, read his books, and learned from his teachings... it's all the people that those people touched.
Kindness can be more contagious than Omicron.
You will be sorely missed Master Thích Nhất Hạnh, but your love and light will never die so long as somebody somewhere offers a kindness to another. Because it's not irrational to think that a kindness you initiated was patient zero for a kindness today.
I don't see why we have to say "I will die," because
I can already see myself in you, in other people, and in future generations.
In my work I've had the opportunity to be around vast wealth. I'm not talking mere millions (though that is certainly "vast" to me!)... we're talking obscene levels of wealth. People who never have to consider the price of anything. Dropping a million dollars at Crystal Shops on a Vegas weekend is like a drop in the bucket to them. They don't look at price tags because $5 or $50,000 is all the same to them. They have more money than they could spend in several lifetimes, so the idea of being concerned over such a pittance doesn't even hit their radar.
Now, I've never had ambition to be so wealthy. It's not something my value system can accomodate. So long as I can afford to pay rent, buy the things I need, and be able to afford cat food, I'm good.
Every once in a while something comes along where I really, really wish that I had such vast wealth that I could just buy something cool without having to worry about paying for it. Or selling a kidney. Not like a Lamborghini or a beach house or anything like that (though I certainly wouldn't turn them down if you're offering). I'm talking about random stuff that should be accessible to everybody, but has been priced so that only the über-wealthy can afford it.
Like this book set called The Sistine Chapel. It's a massive tome filled with actual 1:1-sized images from some of the most remarkable art ever created (with Michelangelo's ceiling being the most well-known). The size you're looking at the art in the book is the size that it is in real life. It's sublimely cool...
It's limited to 1,999 copies and costs $22,000.
Of course I can't spend this kind of money. And if I had the option of being able to pay off a chunk of my mortgage or have this book, obviously I'd put that money on my mortgage.
That's not the point.
The point is that it's insane how something like this is so far out of reach out of the people who might most appreciate it. People who could never afford to fly to Italy, make their way to Vatican City, then take the time off to stand in line and see it in person (not that you'd be able to study the images at the level of detail offered in this book, but still). Some struggling artist who can barely afford to afford groceries, but loves looking at such incredible works like this, is completely out of the loop. And that just seems... wrong. Because these books will end up in the homes at people who buy it to have it as a status symbol, barely look through the pages, then put it on a shelf with all the other expensive things that they buy just because they can.
Not that this is different than anything else now-a-days.
It's quickly getting to the point that only the über-wealthy can afford to own a home, let alone a $22,000 book.
And so I guess I will be waiting for the paperback release or whatever. Perhaps His Holiness the Pope will deem us pleebs worthy and consider such a thing one day.
It was announced that George Pérez, one of my favorite comic book writers and artists of all time, has died at 67 years old. The guy had been battling for a while now, so it shouldn't have been unexpected... but it still felt that way. Before I started seeing his work in comics, I didn't really think about the art on the books I read. Some of it was better than others, but I just didn't take much note of it. What I most definitely did take note of was when George started penciling The Avengers at Marvel. His hyper-detailed pages were imaginative, brilliant, and thrilling to look at. I was in love with his work from the moment I first saw it.
Then he was on The New Teen Titans and suddenly the entirety of comic book fandom was taking note. Then he ended up on Justice League and it was comic book heaven for me.
Then came Crisis on Infinite Earths, after which he rebooted Wonder Woman, which I remember thinking was a total waste of his talents at the time. Then the book was actually released, of course I bought it because I bought everything George did, and it ended up being my favorite thing that he ever worked on...
Rest in Peace, sir. You and your work will be very much missed.
To all of George’s fans and friends,
Constance here, with the update no one wants to read. George passed away yesterday, peacefully at home with his wife of 490 months and family by his side. He was not in pain and knew he was very, very loved.
We are all very much grieving but, at the same time, we are so incredibly grateful for the joy he brought to our lives. To know George was to love him; and he loved back. Fiercely and with his whole heart. The world is a lot less vibrant today without him in it.
He loved all of you. He loved hearing your posts and seeing the drawings you sent and the tributes you made. He was deeply proud to have brought so much joy to so many.
Everyone knows George’s legacy as a creator. His art, characters and stories will be revered for years to come. But, as towering as that legacy is, it pales in comparison to the legacy of the man George was. George’s true legacy is his kindness. It’s the love he had for bringing others joy - and I hope you all carry that with you always.
Today is Free Comic Book Day. A day George absolutely loved and a fitting day to remember his contributions to comics and to our lives. I hope you’ll enjoy your day today with him in mind. He would have loved that.
Please keep his wife Carol in your thoughts and again, I thank you for respecting her privacy. I remain available through the contact on the page.
George's memorial service will take place at MEGACON Orlando at 6pm on Sunday, May 22nd. It will be open to all. Details to follow.
We will miss him always.
NEWSFLASH: Major Layoffs Reported At Amazon And ComiXology.
I am a big comic book fan. I used to be a huge comic book fan. So much a fan that I have a small storage room devoted to housing my massive collection of books. Then the digital age was upon us... I was running out of room to store my comics... and so I made the painful transition from physical printed comics to the digital version that lives on the internet and takes no space at all.
It was a tough transition to make. There's something about the feel... the smell... the experience of reading a real comic book as opposed to staring at a computer or your iPad.
That being said, ComiXology made the experience as good as it could be. I mostly read my comics on a computer with a large screen so I could experience them as full page spreads as the artist (and God) intended. On an iPad I usually use "GuideView" which presents the comics panel-by-panel. Once I got my 12.9-inch iPad Pro it was a little easier to read full pages, but I often decided not to.
Then Amazon bought ComiXology.
And things were fine at first. You still went to ComiXology, you just signed in with your credentials from Amazon. Everything was fine.
Until it wasn't.
Amazon eventually folded ComiXology into their Kindle app, and it was fucking awful. Horrendous experience from start to finish. Even finding your comics was a shitty experience. I fucking hated it so much that I pretty much stopped buying digital comics. Now I only bother when something I want to read is on sale. Instead I wait for the trade paperback to be released and wither buy a physical copy or check it out from the library.
Amazon fucking destroyed ComiXology.
And though improvements have been made, it still sucks compared to the ComiXology experience that I bought into.
Now, to the surprise of absolutely nobody who has had to suffer through reading comics on Kindle, profits are down so Amazon is laying off a chunk of their "ComiXology" team (though why they call it that when they murdered ComiXology in favor of Kindle I have no idea).
I feel bad for the ComiXology team members losing their job because Amazon management fucked over their product so bad that nobody wants to use it. That's not fair. But that's Amazon for you. Jeff Bezos probably wants another super-yacht, so he's getting rid of a bunch of people so he doesn't have to dip into his $120 billion (or whatever).
And isn't that the way it always goes? People with insane wealth that they could never spend in dozens of lifetimes making life utterly miserable for people scratching out a living? Just look at Twitter.
I save a lot of stuff throughout the week, then choose the top six or seven items for that week's Bullet Sunday post. But with this one I just can't wait.
I saw this video which shows how the book Dune compares to the movie Dune: Part One and was so frickin' impressed that I re-watched it on my television. I've read the book at least a dozen times... watched the movie a half-dozen... and this video flawlessly shows how smart choices have to be made when filming an "unfilmable" novel.
Dune: Part One leaves a lot of stuff out, because you pretty much have to, but the stuff they jettisoned built a movie that honored the spirit of the original in a way that you could only dream of...
So many movies fail... badly... by either keeping too much or keeping the wrong stuff... or making changes that ruin the story. Dune: Part One is an example of how you do it right, even though the video points out that some things get lost that changes how you perceive the story.
But hopefully if people enjoyed the movie they'll read the book to get all that stuff back. The movie adaptation really doesn't change anything in a way that no longer makes sense when you experience the source material, which is exactly how you should do it.
I don't understand people who don't find space exploration utterly fascinating.
The United Arab Emirates has a Mars probe (named Hope) that sent back one of the most amazing shots I've ever seen. It's of the moon Deimos above The Red Planet, and the image composition is so amazing that you'd think it was Photoshopped. Or CGI. Or a painting. Or anything except a photograph...
Photo from Emirates Mars Mission
The mission was originally set to end by now, but the UAE just extended it another year. The probe's wide orbit of the planet allows study of the planet and its moons in a way we haven't had before.
My fascination with Mars is directly attributed to the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom novels...
Incredible painting by Michael Whelan shown the Martian moons of Barsoom for Thuvia, Maid of Mars
Burroughs had a fascinating take on the moons Phoebus and Deimos, which Barsoomians (AKA "Martians") call Thuria and Cluros. Because the moons are very small... just 17 miles and 9 miles across, respectively)... people shrink when they approach them. John Carter visits Thuria in the book Swords of Mars only to find the surface area was similar to that of Mars, relative to his tiny size.
Phoebus and Deimos are notable not just because they are so small, but also because their orbits are really close to Mars. Phoebus is just 5,800 miles away... Deimos 14,500. Earth's moon, for comparison is 238,900 miles! But it gets worse. Phoebos's orbit is decaying 6 feet every hundred years. Which means it's likely to break apart (Mars gets a ring!) or crash into the planet in another 50 million years.
Thanks to NASA's Perseverance rover, we actually know what a solar eclipse looks like on Mars...
I could go on for pages writing about Mars and its moons. The exploration of our neighboring planet is a fascinating subject on which there are volumes of research, photos, speculation, and fiction available. It's a bottomless pit from which I'm happy to keep falling.