Category Archives: Uncategorized
My wife directs our attention to the best music.
I often find that I love different singles I hear on the radio or Spotify but when I listen to the whole album, its a dud. Here are 5 albums that won’t disappoint if you like the band or their radio singles!
We’ve heard Radioactive over and over again till nausea has set in but Imagine Dragons is actually a much better band than just that hit. If you like their radio singles I would recommend their album “Smoke and Mirrors.” There is not a bad song on the album. I like this album because all the songs are sing-able and catchy but also different than every pop song on the radio. The most famous songs from this album are probably “I Bet My Life” and “Polaroid” but my favorite are “Shots”, and “I’m So Sorry.” This is a great road trip album or get excited album or…
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Lonely Hearts Book Club! And it sounds like a James Bond movie that never happened!
We do talk the Edgar Awards, but again, I don’t love mysteries. I also don’t love books getting left behind. And that’s why we talk about a book in our collection that hasn’t checked out in decades. Sure, it’s not a book I would read. But maybe you would! Maybe you like those kinds of books! Maybe you don’t even know you like them because you’ve never tried. How can you know you don’t like it if you’ve never tried it! If you don’t eat your meat, how can you have any pudding?!
Don’t look at me, I’ve tried those sensual mystery books. I know myself.
See you next week, podcats!
I read Dragon Teeth months ago because I got a Advance Readers Copy because I’m a librarian, but I’m talking about it now because I’m a bad blogger.
So this is a western, using dinosaur bones as a means of getting me to read a genre I tend to avoid. In fact, this might only be third western I’ve ever read (the other two being Doc by Mary Doria Russell and Appaloosa by Robert B. Parker, both recommended). I can’t say I’m not disappointed by Dragon Teeth, because what I wanted was dinosaur-facts and paleontology. And, to be fair, the cover wants so badly to remind us of Jurassic Park that we can’t be faulted for expecting something else.
But what about this book as it is? It reads like Crichton’s early work, having more in common with The Great Train Robbery than Jurassic Park. This is history brought to life through action and characters that are almost on tour through the world’s events. Our main protagonist, William Johnson, is that classic Crichton non-character, a cipher for the world and ideas the author wants to explore. Johnson is our lead because he has to get to the dinosaur bones, because he has to get to Deadwood, because he has to meet Wyatt Earp. He’s not going down as a great character, but then, which Crichton characters do we remember apart from their movie counterparts? Even Ian Malcolm is more of machine to ramble chaos theory than a living, breathing character.
The action is fine in Dragon Teeth, this isn’t a book of ideas but history and the history never stands out. You miss the depth of research presented in Crichton’s other work, those wonderful paragraphs of information that trick you in to learning.
But we have to be patient with this book. It’s not like Crichton wanted this read. He didn’t submit this to be published. It strikes me that he finished it, decided the Terminal Man and Congo were better and simply moved on from this draft. Reviewing this book feels unfair because what we’re reading is a draft, written by a younger man who learned better from it.
While it’s incredibly sad for me that this will be (most likely) the last book we see published under Crichton’s name, it’s not the best one to go out on. But being a book that was written so early in his career, there’s a nostalgia to it as well. It almost brings all his work full circle, asking us to start all over again.
Oh boy. 2017, am I right? It’s going to be busy for people like me, who go to the theater for every single superhero movie. We have seven of them coming out this year, if you count The Lego Batman Movie. And you should count it. Don’t be so cold.
The Lego Batman Movie (February 10)
Just like my rundown for 2016, I’m putting this list out too late to give my predictions for the first super hero movie of the year. Because The Lego Batman movie is already out, and I’ve already seen it! But if I had to guess, I’d say I’ll like it.
I say that because I did like it. As someone who didn’t love The Dark Knight Rises and just feels sorry for Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, it was nice to feel excited for a Batman movie again It actually packed a few emotional punches I wasn’t ready to handle. While the film was never as funny as its first 15-20 minutes, it was enjoyable, beautifully and uniquely animated and still true to Batman as a character.
Excitement Level = Everything is Awesome
Logan (March 3)
While my love for the X-Men movies has always been strong, the Wolverine solo films are at 50% approval rating. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is one of the worst super hero films ever and killed a slew of planned X-Men solo films. The Wolverine, on the other hand, is one of my favorites, both as an X-Men and super hero film. It was thoughtful, true to the character and unique. And now the same creative team is putting out what might be the last show for Hugh Jackman’s iconic take of the world’s favorite mutant.
I’ll save the emotions I have about seeing the man who played one of my favorite heroes for the past 17 years for after I see the film. I’m both excited to see another unique and focused take on the character, but the R rating doesn’t thrill me like it does for some. I get it and it makes sense when a man’s powers are razor sharp claws that can cut through bone like paper. I just don’t need gore and f-bombs for the sake of being grown up. But then, I’m lame.
That hesitation aside, I’m excited for this. I like the western-vibe the trailers are providing, I like the inclusion of X-23 and I’m always happy to see Wolverine cut loose. If this is as good as the Wolverine, I think we’ll be very happy.
Excitement Level = X-Static
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (May 5)
One of the best Marvel films is getting a sequel. The first movie did a better job with the characters than some of their comic outings and it was hilarious to boot. I’m having a hard time coming up with things to say about the first movie, just because it was as good as it was and most people saw it. I should watch it again.
The second outing looks like more of the same, but in this case, that should be a good thing. With the introduction of these characters out of the way, we can get straight to the fun and team interaction. I’m pumped to see Kurt Russell in this film and to see how they pull of Ego the Living Planet. What’s great about 2017 is that, even with this movie coming out, it’s not the Marvel movie I’m most excited for, but we’ll get to that.
Excitement Level = High
Wonder Woman (June 2)
It’s 2017. They’ve been making big budget super hero movies since 1978. If we’re talking about the time since the first X-Men movie, than comic book movies have been in the golden age for 17 years. So it’s either been almost two or four decades before they made a Wonder Woman film. That’s insane, considering Warner Bros. and DC comics have made a Steel, Jonah Hex, Constantine, Catwoman and Suicide Squad movie before one of the biggest characters on the planet. They should be embarrassed.
Unfortunately, Wonder Woman is coming at a time where I’m not at all excited for DC movies. They just don’t seem to making super hero movies I want to see. And it has nothing to do with being dark and/or gritty. I like plenty of dark and/or gritty films, super heroes are no exception. If I’m enjoying Daredevil and Jessica Jones on Netflix, I can handle a grown up take on characters I like. But stupid, that’s another thing entirely. And Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were stupid.
I want Wonder Woman to buck that trend. I want it to be great. And from the trailers I’ve seen, it looks like it could be something unique and exciting. While setting it in World War I might play a bit too close to Captain America: The First Avenger, I doubt it will be a problem. Here’s hoping that this is the first DC film since Man of Steel that values character over imagery, while still giving us the super heroics.
Excitement Level = Hopeful
Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 5)
Boy, just writing the title has made me tired.
It’s not that I don’t like Spider-Man! I love the guy! He’s one of my favorites. The first Spider-Man movie (2002) felt like a defining moment in my life and the sequel (2004) is one of my favorite movies ever, definitely in my top five super hero films of all time. It’s just that after fifteen years, five movies in which the last three weren’t the best and the speed of the reboot has left me underwhelmed.
Tom Holland was fantastic in Captain America: Civil War and he won me over quickly. I guess what keeps me from getting excited about this new movie is that we know what to expect from a Spider-Man film, a Marvel film, a coming of age film, ect. While we’re close to the film I’m most excited for, this one is at the bottom of my priorities. I’m sure it will be great. It will be charming, action-packed and a fun time. But that assurance also comes with a lack of anticipation. I hope to change my tune soon.
Excitement Level = Less than Amazing
Thor: Ragnarok (November 3)
Now we’re talking. Now we’re firing on all cylinders. Now we’re discussing a film with a director I’m excited to see work his weird craft. Taika Waititi is such a strange choice to helm the movie but I’m glad to see him aboard. This is a case of me liking both character and director for different reasons and wanting to see what the two will produce.
The Thor films are in this weird, separate world from the other Marvel films and I’ve liked both offerings. The second is underwhelming until Loki is on the scene, but the first is almost a near perfect origin film, almost on par with Iron Man.
Now the third is going to be bringing the Hulk into the fray, along with Doctor Strange, making an almost complete Defenders team-up (not the Netflix version of the Defenders, the comic version, with Thor standing in for Silver Surfer and Namor, the Sub-Mariner). I have high expectations for this one and I hope those are met.
Excitement Level = The Highest
Justice League (November 17)
Zach Snyder made a divisive Superman movie, one that I hate. But that’s okay, he gets a second chance with the first Batman/Superman team-up film. And then it was stupid. Embarrassingly so. Well, that’s okay. He may have film a crappy version of two heroes, but now he’s done and will move on…oh, wait. He’s going to direct the Justice League now.
Great. Just great. That’s fantastic. When thinking of the Justice League, I always see them as dark, violent, image focused and stupid idiots who get tricked by dumb villain plans. This should work out just fine.
Or maybe my sarcasm will be for naught. Maybe we’ll get an iconic, inspiring and larger than life story with some of the greatest heroes ever created. Maybe it won’t be warehouse scenes and mother issues and fish hobos and super villains no one has heard about. Maybe they’ll be surprised and fantastic character moments. Maybe Maybe Maybe…
Excitement Level = Not Again, Lord. Please. Not again.
So, what are we talking about this week? Graphic novels! Now, every week, in our Bookmark segment, Nic and I always have at least one graphic novel we’ve just read and talk about for a bit, but this week, we really focus on this medium.
The idea of this episode is to suggest graphic novels for those who don’t like superheroes, or maybe even graphic novels in general. If you think superheroes are silly and not worth your time, that’s great! Stay away from Spider-Man comics. But if you think that genre is all that makes up the world of graphic novels and the art form, get ready for a wild ride!
We talk Sandman, Usagi Yojimbo, Y: The Last Man, The Walking Dead, Saga, Paper Girls, Transmetropolitan, Fables, Ex Machina (actually, a lot of Brian K. Vaughan) and a lot more. It’s just another topic that I’ve been training my whole life for. If you want more from me on this, I wrote a blog a while ago about this very subject! Find it here.
We also talk book news and other events, including NBC’s list of books to read during Black History Month.
So, let us know what you think. Did we leave your favorite graphics out? Did this not win you over AT ALL. What else should we talk about?
See you next week, podcats!
I just finished the Jedi Academy trilogy and instantly stared reading Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden. My enjoyment of the latter helped me figure out my disappointment with the former.
Now, I don’t want this to upset any fans of Jedi Academy. The reason I wasn’t won over by the trilogy, or the Thrawn trilogy is a personal preference, subjective as it gets. Both have pointed out two things I dislike in Star Wars books so far, and that’s trilogies and post-Return of the Jedi stories.
First, on trilogies, they have to have a huge cast of characters. All those characters have to have stories and side missions and everything has to lead to the big final of the series. That tends to mean a lot of filler. Characters will have quests that happen apart from the main story just so they have something to do until the end. Some stories will be important to the series but will take three books to reach the end.
And I don’t like this. With so many important (or at least note-worthy) characters, the writers need to include them for face value, even if they aren’t necessary to the grand scheme of things. I want all the characters to feel important to the story. I don’t like extra fat, even in epics. Keep in mind, it’s not trilogies I dislike, it’s trilogies in the Star Wars books.
My dislike of stories taking place after Return of the Jedi is also one that won’t be shared by everyone. For me, the holy trinity of Luke, Leia and Han doesn’t really click. Their stories have already been told. Luke’s most important adventure ended when he defeated the Emperor. Stories following a now-stoic Skywalker don’t do it for me, nor do stories of a married and fathering Han Solo.
What I want in stories taking place after Return of the Jedi is new characters and new adventures. It’s part of the reason I loved Star Wars: Legacy so much and part of the reason I’m hesitant about the trinity showing up in Episode VII. The future of Star Wars belongs to a new set of heroes.
That’s part of the reason stories taking place before A New Hope work for me. The Skywalker twins are nowhere to be seen and there are large gaps of history that can filled. But those gaps aren’t so large as to need trilogies. Stand alone stories work just fine.
And I like stand alone Star Wars books. Instead of a large cast, they can focus on one or two. Instead of interconnecting threads and filler, they can have a specific plot and goal, digestible in a few hours of reading.
Those traits benefit Star Wars: Dark Disciple. The book itself isn’t the best in the world and it’s based on an unproduced script for the Clone Wars cartoon. But because it’s focused and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, it’s enjoyable.
Telling the story of an undercover Jedi and Asajj Ventress, villain of the Clone Wars, Dark Disciple is about an assassination plot against Count Dooku. Now, we know nothing will happen to Dooku, as his fate lies in the films, but Ventress has been question for a while. A popular character from the Expanded Universe, her story wasn’t given a full conclusion in the show or comics. Now we get to see where she goes after the Clone Wars.
It’s an interesting tale, partly because we get up close and personal with Ventress and see how her mind works. The Jedi of the tale, Quinlan Vos, is also great to read about because he has to straddle the line between the light and dark to work with Ventress. Both characters have fates that are up in the air when this book begins and I was intrigued to see where it would all lead.
The book reads quick, helping when the third act starts to drag, but it’s a satisfying end. I’m finding Star Wars can read like a popular thriller, like Clive Cussler in space, and it’s not a bad way to do things. They’re adventure stories, they don’t always have to have the fate of the galaxy at hand, but they have to matter to the characters involved. Dark Disciple matters for Ventress and Quinlan and they matter to us.
It’s an encouraging read for the quality of the new Star Wars canon. I’ll be reviewing Lords of the Sith next, since I picked it up right after I finished Dark Disciple and it benefits in the same way for being a one shot.
If you haven’t picked up Dark Disciple, give it a try.
Star Wars fans are spoiled brats.
They’ve been given one the best movie trilogies of all time, tv shows, books, games, toys and comics based on those movies and all they ever do is complain.
They complain about editions, about title changes, about prequels, about casting and Disney and canon.
Look, at this point, a lot of the people who complain about the same old things are either aging or latching on to dead concerns. Take the video above for example. They make the joke (it’s not that funny of a video) that they’re refusing to call the first Star Wars movie A New Hope. Considering that the movie came out in 1977, I have a feeling that the people making Honest Trailer weren’t even around when it came out, or at least too young to care.
I’m on board with the special editions of the first three films having problems. Trying to watch A New Hope and having dated CGI get in the way of shots is annoying, because so much of that first film based in the grandeur of 70s film making. But there is plenty to like about them as well. Considering how much continuity matters to geek culture, the changes to make them consistent with each other seems like it should win people over. Lightsabers are the right color, voices are the right voices and actors are the same characters throughout. George Lucas ignored the Expanded Universe and fans found it annoying but if he made sure the films made sense with each other, they got angry.
And the prequels. They won’t shut up about the prequels.
I want to meet any child of 1999-2005 who had their life ruined by these films. I was thirteen when Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace hit theaters and I lived a pretty good life my teenage years, with Star Wars being an enjoyable part of them. When the Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones came out, I had a great time at the theaters and when it was over, I was more pumped for the franchise then ever before. I had seen the original trilogy and thought they were great, but they didn’t push me to be a huge fan of the series. When I saw Episode II, I just got excited about it. I started playing the games, reading the comics, watching the cartoons. I was hooked.
I understand the film is not great and as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized the last forty minutes are the best parts that don’t include Obiwan Kenobi, but it still got me (and plenty of people) jazzed for Star Wars. By the time Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was out, I was all in. I saw the film three times, even knowing what was wrong with the movie. The flaws are aggravating, especially when the good is so good, but it holds up. Maybe not to the hardcore Star Wars fan base who wants to relive their childhood over and over again, everyday of the year, but to someone who was a kid when the movie was happening, it was great.
So the Star Wars prequels didn’t ruin my childhood and they didn’t ruin the original trilogy for me either, and I have a hard time see how that would happen. They’re not great, and the first prequel is agreeably bad, but it’s not a scar I or any reasonable person carries around with them. My younger brother was ten when the last prequel came out, and he enjoyed the Lego Star Wars games based on the that trilogy, had a poster that has a lot of prequel characters on his wall and enjoyed the Clone Wars cartoon. Childhood saved.
Here’s the part that is driving me crazy lately. This hate for the prequels, and the changes of the original trilogy, is being transferred to a generation that could have been just fine. People who grew up when the prequels were out, who enjoyed them as kids and teens are now forced to say how much they hate the movies to not anger the real fans.
When I was in college, I had heard two people talking about the movies. One of them asked, “What’s a Midi-chlorian?” The other answered, “Something George Lucas made up to ruin Star Wars.” This kid was younger than me(!), probably didn’t see the films until the early 90s and was acting like he was there opening night of the first Star Wars and had to carry on the defense of changes and mistakes.
I tend to be a fan to the max degree. If I love something, I love it. But I try not to blind to the problems of what I love. I love the X-Men movies, but boy, do they have flaws. But my love for them lets me forgive those flaws, laugh about them, and enjoy the rest.
Star Wars fans haven’t been able to laugh since the 80s and it’s their fault. They can blame George Lucas, they can blame CGI and Hayden Christensen but they’re the one’s stopping them from enjoying the prequels and anything else that bothers them. If they could just roll their eyes and laugh when Anakin talks about sand instead of burning with hate, they could have a good time. Don’t they realize that hate leads to suffering?
You know what, I enjoy the prequels. They’re not amazing, not always well written or acted, but who cares. They’re still Star Wars, they have some great moments and characters, they gave us the Clone Wars and Ewan McGregor as Obiwan. The gave us John Willaim’s score for those films, each one with a standout piece (Duel of the Fates, Across the Stars and Battle of the Heroes). I don’t give into hating on them, because they didn’t ruin my (or anyone’s) childhood, they didn’t ruin the original trilogy and they won’t bother anybody as we move into the future.
As we prepare for J.J. Abrams entry into the series, the fans will come down on the prequels again, to hold Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens above them, even if that movie is just a greatest hits collections of A New Hope. But I’d prefer they just stop talking about, stop pushing your hate on the rest of us and grow up. Find something else to start talking about or just stop talking because ten years after Revenge of the Sith, you’re starting to need a new edition.
A problem with reviewing a book like Armada by Ernest Cline is that there’s two types of people reading it. Those who have read Ready Player One and those who haven’t. The diversity isn’t the real issue, it’s that there will be some people who think the book would have been better if they had been on the other side of the option. I’m going to say that it wouldn’t really matter either way because Armada is not well written.
In Ready Player One, our hero was a teenage boy who was obsessed with 80’s pop culture so he could win a contest in a virtual reality game. That was why it was believable that kids in the near future would be into the same stuff that the writer was into, they characters had to be into 80’s pop or they wouldn’t win the money.
In Armada, our hero is a teenage boy who is obsessed with 80’s pop culture because… well, his dad was into that stuff too but his dad is gone and so getting into the same movies and games that his dad liked helps him feel closer to his dad, except it wouldn’t because he’s angry at his dad and tries to forget about him… yeah, it doesn’t work as well.
The book moves fast, you’ll finish it in a two or three sittings if you’re invested. But it moves quickly more from being simple and very A to B to C in plotting rather than keeping you guessing. Subplots are non-existent, there’s no breathing to get to know our character outside of his love for pop culture and his anger issues. The supporting characters never get any chance to shine or be interesting. Most people are just there to explain the plot or to tell our hero how good he is at video games.
I was hoping Armada would be subversive, playing on our expectations of a plot straight out of The Last Starfighter but it doesn’t go that route. It really is as simple as Earth is being invaded by aliens. I wonder if, since Ready Player One is taking forever to become a movie, Cline wrote this book to be simpler and easier to adapt into film? That would be clever but I could have lived my life without both. Cline’s first book took place in virtual reality for most of the book but there was more heart in that world than in Armada.
It also doesn’t help that his references and nods to geek culture feel like pandering and marking boxes off a list. Last Starfighter reference? Check! 80s arcade nostalgia? Check! Fight about fantasy weaponry? Check!
When everyone gets every reference, every quote, when they like all the same movies and shows and have all spend hours and hours rewatching the same scenes, it all loses the thing that makes it special. Geeks just become a single minded, personality-less blob. No one dislikes a popular show, no one has not played a popular game.
It’s almost like you have to stay popular to stay a geek. You’re missing the point Ernest Cline.
Customer service has become me. Working at my two jobs, the library and a clothing store I shall not name (but it’s not a new sea-based military), I’ve heard a lot of dumb questions and comments. I’m just going to share a few I’ve heard this week. I’ve also included some things I wish I could say in response.
What size is a large?
I didn’t see any signs, is this on sale?
Yes, it’s part of our super secret finder’s sale!
The lady up front said I can only buy five flip flops. Can I get six?
Those are different numbers, so why not?
The new Transformers movie wasn’t as good as the others.
As the others?!
Can you point me to the boy’s department?
I can point you to the 1950s where your gender seperation makes sense!
Do you need my library card?
No, just allow us to hook you up to our new mindjacker system.
Where are you’re movies?
Can you take care of my late fees for me?
Yes…for a price!
I don’t remember the novel’s title or the name of the author. Can you help me find it?
Sure, let’s try looking under ‘books’.
Can you tell me which book comes next in the series?
I could if there were such a thing as the internet.
Sometimes I forget that this is my blog and I can do more than write about other things like comics and movies. Even though, when writing about my own life, comics and movies come in to play.
First off, the wife and I adopted a dog. His name is Scooter, he’s a Corgi/Terrier mix and five years old. We’ve had him for about a month and he’s great. Or at least, I think so. He doesn’t like when strangers charge at him, even if they want to share affection, but you know what? I don’t like when strangers do that to me, so I understand the pup. I’ve got him leash trained, thanks to the Dog Whisperer and he’s the reason I walk two hours a day. On an unrelated note, my foot feels broken.
We also bought a second guinea pig. Her name is Mango and she’s just a tiny ball of fluff compared to our first pig, Penelope. At first, it didn’t sound like the two were getting along, with Penelope hogging the pigloo and evil-cavy purring whenever Mango came near. But now, they’re fine and Mango seems to be coming out of her shell. I think I’ve learned a lot from these guinea pigs and its that owning guinea pigs is a lot of give and not a lot of take. Go figure.
We’re making our way through the best picture nominations three months too late. So far, I haven’t seen anything to beat 12 Years a Slave and I can’t figure out how American Hustle made the billing but not All is Lost. Good job, Oscars. actually, maybe I shouldn’t say that even in sarcasm because you might think I’m being serious. Because you’re dumb. Like, ‘don’t know the order of the planets’ dumb.
Speaking of awards, I signed up to vote for this year’s Hugo Awards. I’ll talk more about this in a separate post, but the short point is that I get the packet with all the nominated works (ALL THE WHEEL OF TIME) and get to play an active part in Science Fiction’s future. I’m excited.
Now, transitioning to books, I finished writing mine. This is also something that needs its own post. After MY ENTIRE LIFE of wanting to write a full book, I finished my first novel. The last story I ever wrote to completion was fifty-two notebook pages back in eighth grade. Today, the last thing I wrote is a seventy-plus thousand word novel. It may have taken me way too long, but I’ve done it and it feels pretty good.
Speaking of…well, I just want to talk about my new laptop. My old one, the machine I was given my first year of Houghton College, finally said, “No more”. Luckily, like a wild animal, I had feelings of it’s coming death and backed it all up. From there, I went out and got myself a new laptop. It’s an HP, touch screen and more powerful than the custom job I build in ’05. What I couldn’t wrap my head around was why the lesser machines were more expensive at the store. It turns out people will pay more for a thinner computer with less power and space than they will for a slightly bigger one. I got the bigger one and save big bucks on a laptop that can actually do things well.
I think that’s it, for now. I need to write up a summer movie preview and talk about the X-Men soon. I’ll try to do that tomorrow.