I started blogging thinking that this is where I would review whatever media I felt like ranting about. It quickly changed direction. So this is my online diary. Comments are welcome.
Apparently this has been a bad year for movies and music. Okay. I'll buy that. But what if I offered some of my favorites of this year so far? Sound good? You got it dude.
I'll start with music. Music is easy for me, because I like everything (except Florida Georgia Line). One of my favorite albums this year is Sturgill Simpson's A Sailor's Guide to Earth. I really liked Simpson's previous album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, and had been anticipating this release. I was pleasantly surprised when the opening song of this record, "Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)," rolled from a sweet wailing tribute into a swinging alt-county bop. Most of the rest of the album continues in this fashion. Sometimes, while listening, you could swear it was written decades ago. Perhaps it's Simpson's vocals, or the "Free Bird-esque" lap steel solos in songs like, "Sea Stories" and "Brace for Impact." A soulful country cover of Nirvana's "In Bloom" is a nice gem embedded in the middle of the tracklist. Overall I like the album. With the exception of a couple of songs, I feel like it's best listened to as a whole. I absolutely recommend giving this one a listen.
Here are a few other ear worms I've liked this year:
There were plenty of movies that I really liked this year. I have a habit of completely disagreeing with critics. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Ghostbusters. BvS only scored 27% on Rotten Tomatoes with critics, while audiences seemed to like it much better. Ghostbusters had the opposite outcome scoring a 74% with critics, but much lower with audiences. I liked them both, and of course they weren't the only ones I liked, but they stand out because of the social media backlash they received.
<rant>I'm a big-time DC comic fan, but I wouldn't be upset to see DC/Warner Bros. put the brakes on their cinematic universe. It's not that I don't enjoy their movies, because I very much do, but I don't like wading through the sea of negativity surrounding every one of their releases. Besides, they're making exceptional television shows (live action & animated). It would be nice to see them put more focus and money towards those projects, and maybe bring some big characters to the TV universe. I could offer my thoughts on why so many people dislike the DC movies, but that would start a fight, and I already told you I don't like wading through the negativity. I'll suggest this, read more comics if you don't like what you see on screen. You might just come across some source material.</rant>
I'll leave you with a couple of reading materials from this year. The first is a novel by sci-fi writer, Pierce Brown, called Morning Star. It's the final book in his Red Rising trilogy. I can't go into the premise of the series much without giving away the best parts. I'll say this, you will love and hate the main characters at one time or another. You won't likely relate to them much, because of the sci-fi aspect, but you will find yourself on their side. The world building happens rapidly in this series, so try to keep up. You'll follow Darrow through all three books, and learn things about his world at the same time he does. The storytelling is captivating, and the language is intriguing. Overall the series is an easy and fast read. Please don't let that deter you from reading this series. Also, don't let children read this. Teens, okay. Kids, NO! Book 1, Red Rising, will captivate you and leave you wanting more. Book 2, Golden Son, progresses the story, as it should. Book 3... Morning Star is the best final chapter to any series I've ever read.
The second is an ongoing comic series called, Injustice: Gods Among Us. It began in 2013 as a prequel to a well-received video game of the same title. I like the series because it explores the, "what if" side of having super heroes around. What if they decided to take over the world? What if they considered themselves above the law? What if they considered themselves to BE the law? What if Batman thought all that was a bad idea?
The series has had several different runners, artists, and writers. Those are things you can see in the material, but the direction of the story has always seemed to stay the same. At least as far as I can tell. You know, I just remembered that I wrote a post about this series back in September 2013. Yep. I'm still reading it, and I still love it. It's a dark series a lot of the time. I like that. So, if Batman fighting the Justice League is your bag, then you've gotta check this one out. If you hate it you can always blame me. Then come back here and tell me all about it. But I bet you won't hate all of it.
So there you go. A small sample of things I really liked so far this year. I have a confession to make. When I was thinking about music I had a whole bunch of stuff in mind... but it all came out last year. So, maybe there's something to the idea that this year hasn't been great for music. Not to mention the incredible losses the music community has had this year alone. The movies weren't as hard, because honestly, I go into a movie expecting to like it. I'm not going to waste my $10 on something I'm sure I'll hate.
I should really do more of these. I enjoy writing them. Can anybody help me figure out a way to can become a productive writer?
Phantom Vibration Syndrome Part 2
I wanted to touch on this topic again and tell you what I've been working on. Since I blogged about the phantom vibrations that you feel because of your mobile phone I have been reading a lot more. I have read a couple of books, lots of comics and plenty of current events. The more important thing is that I got my creative swing back.
It's true. I'm playing my guitar more and letting myself get consumed in a melody. I've attempted to cook some things I had never cooked before. I'm writing again. I'm currently working on a short story that I'm really excited to share with everybody. (When it's ready, of course.) I've spent a lot of time with friends and family, and you know, I've missed you guys. But I'm most excited about developing a comic book. This is something I've always wanted to do, and I have a really great team of folks working with me. I can bundle a lot of creativity into this one project. I'm writing and learning the art of inking. I'm researching a lot of content as well as directing the project. There is so much to do that it will keep me busy for months. We are shooting for a March release of issue 1. That will be around the time of the 2014 Planet Comicon in Kansas City, MO, although we will not be participating in the con.
My point is this. We should all rediscover something that we've lost touch with. Especially if we are good at that "something." Or if it is a thing we enjoy immensely. I'm aiming for happiness in my life. And it's definitely working for me. What are your goals? I'd like to know.
What Am I Reading?
There isn't anything better than a good horror story this time of year. So that's exactly what I went in search of at a recent book sale at our local shopping mall. I found a lot of titles that caught my attention, most of which were authored by Stephen King. However, I didn't find anything that had that nagging pull to pick it up and read it.
I've been reading a lot of comics lately. I'm a big fan of "The Walking Dead" by Robert Kirkman and this month's issue left me feeling a little bit hungry for some gnarly zombie action. I've also been reading "The Sixth Gun" by Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt. So far this is a great western story about six revolvers with supernatural powers and the terror they raise. I'm only three volumes into it and the main characters have met with ghosts, ghouls and a giant mummy. I suppose this is filling my need for spooky, but I just can't seem to be satisfied.
I've also been reading a superhero story by Kirkman called "Invincible." It's an original story that tends to mirror some of our favorites from DC and Marvel. I finished reading Vol. 11 recently, and I immediately remembered a story I had entirely forgotten about...
Almost two years ago I stumbled upon a Kindle Single while browsing the Amazon book store called, "Ex-Heroes" by Peter Clines. This book was amazing! It combined all the things I love; zombies (here called "Ex-Humans"), superheroes, giant-robot-mech suits and all of it set in a post-apocalyptic world. Genius! There are two sequels to "Ex-Heroes." "Ex-Patriots", and most recently, "Ex-Communication." I have these in digital format and somehow I had forgotten about the most recent sequel that I'd downloaded around August. I intended to read it right away, but I've been busy reading a lot of other fiction and learning my new job. But now I can say that this Fall is off to a great start. The new season of "The Walking Dead" is on AMC, pumpkin spice lattes are back, pumpkin/seasonal ales are here, the Kansas City Chiefs are undefeated, the World Series is starting and now I have something to read this month.
Injustice: Gods Among Us
I have not played any version of this game from collaborators at DC Comics and Mortal Kombat's NetherRealm Studios. The idea, I felt, had already been explored as the dark side of the Justice League was shown in the not-so-popular fighter game, "Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe." (I would like to state that I thought that game was fantastic.) I personally know fans of the game that are giving it two thumbs up with recommendation. I know. I get it. Superheroes, the "good guys", punching each other. Fantastic. I will add it to my must play list. I'm not here to review this game.
I have been a comic book fan since I picked up my fist telephone volume of Silver Age Superman when I was in high school. Until then the only exposure I had to comics were some oldies my uncle had, like Scrooge McDuck, and something cheap Dad would buy from the second hand store. I remember thumbing through some Bloodshot, Legion of Super-Heroes, Metamorpho, The Outsiders, Blood Syndicate, The New Mutants, Transformers and many more. It was enough to sink my teeth into the art and story telling, but mostly just action. Which was exactly what I wanted when I was 9 or 10 years old. No matter how cool those heroes and villains were, (and some of them were just down right cool) Superman is the one that stood out to me the most. Maybe it's because his legend is instilled in me as an American midwestern boy. Maybe it's because the Super Friends were on Saturday morning cartoons. Whatever the reason I am a life-long fan.
After reading books like Alex Ross' Kingdom Come and Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman, Superman was cemented as my favorite character ever. I love the mythology. I'm a huge fan of his sincerity and gentleness; of his versatility and confidence. (Read Superman: Red Son) I am a fan, to say, of Superman - the hero.
Let me be clear Injustice: Gods Among Us is a beautifully drawn and exceptionally written series. See for yourself. Now, Tom Taylor must be an absolute freakin' genius. Through only 35 issues he has managed to break down and dispose of everything I have come to love about my favorite character. So much so that I literally cringe when I see Superman in a panel. I start thinking, "what awful thing will he do next?" And to Mr. Taylor's credit he delivers exactly what you aren't expecting week after week.
I don't want to be one of those reviewers that just summarizes the story for you and then tells you to read it or save your money. I want to be the guy that says, I like super heroes and everything they represent and parody. This is one that actually hits metaphorically without the blatant attempt at satire and it keeps hitting all the way through. This is a story of bad blood and friendship turned sour. This is a story about how the world will end. I am ready to ride this one out. The stories continue to build into what I can only hope is a climax for the record books.
On the skeptic side I am a little disappointed with the lack of character arc. Let's take the seat of a reader with little to no DC or Justice League exposure. There are characters popping in for an issue and killed, or never seen again, that you won't have any story to wrap around them. I understand the reasoning behind this, but at some point I'm afraid we'll look back and ask, "who's left to stop the madness?"
If you want my suggestion I say read it. It will destroy your naive perception of Superman, but it is a good read. You can pick it up on Amazon or Comixology for .99¢ an issue or try a local comic store for the current volume in print.
Thank you Tom Taylor and Jheremy Raapack and those at NetherRealm Studios for bringing my greatest fear to life.
I discovered reading and writing for fun when I was in the 4th grade and I haven't been able to stop. I discovered my musical talent when I was 12 and started a band with my brother and my best friends. I have been on a journey of discovery that has shaped and molded my tastes for music, reading, writing, art, food and extracurricular activities since I was a high school freshman. And I'm not quite finished, so come along.