Friday, March 30, 2012

"Day n. A Period of 24 Hours, Mostly Misspent." -- Ambrose Bierce

Supposed to be the Dubai skyline, but I don't see the Burj Khalifa!!!

Hey, wait a minute.... ;P

OK, so I was going to wait until April 1st for my next post, for the start of the A to Z Challenge, but I figured, what the heck. I was "in the mood", so here I am. In the mood to write a new post, silly... not "that" in the mood... how can your mind be in the gutter and at the top of the Burj Khalifa at the same time?! Sheesh!

Crazy week... well, crazy end to the week, anyway... Easter rehearsal tonight, trying to do 4 things at once the entire 3+ hours of practice... ran myself ragged; now trying to unwind. More tomorrow and Sunday... won't see a breather until Monday morning, I think... do you pity me? Should I change my last name from Wagner to Whiner yet? They sound similar already... just a little tweak...

OK, I've watched this video about 2 dozen times since Thursday, I need to share it. I'm a total sucker for these types of videos... (I realize in the still shot there, it looks like those two people are burping, but they're not... they're singing! Click "play" and see for yourself!)

Made me weep -- what a voice.

Oh, you think that's bad, check this "dog rescue" video out... get a kleenex ready...

Man, what a one-two punch, eh? Here you dropped in to hopefully grab a couple chuckles, maybe see a funny pic or two, eh?

OK, fine, here's a couple funny pics, to kick things up a notch...

Hmm.... that one might push the absurdity envelope out a bit too far to qualify as truly "funny"... You have to be kind of subtle about these things sometimes, otherwise it sounds a note that is just "off" enough to grate slightly upon the soul... let me try again...

Hmm... OK, creative pet grooming, that can be funny... but in this case it borders on unnerving... I mean, doesn't it almost look like a loaf of sliced bread? And really, who would do that to their cat? It's a bit cruel. How long would that take to grow back out to normal? Probably makes for awkward petting, too... unpleasant for both the petter and the pettee, methinks...

Lemme try again...

OK, an eel telling a bad pun... closer... it's set up nicely with the corny truism, soft colors and the silhouette, and yes, eels do always look like they've just told a punchline to a bad joke and are waiting for people to laugh... and, actually, it is a pretty funny pun, and no mistake... hmm... should I call that a winner, or try again..?

Gahh!!! Flew way back over into absurd again... man, and I was so close! I should have quit while I was ahead...


So I finished The Heroes (J. Abercombie), and I've decided it's my second favorite book of all time, right behind Gates of Fire (Steven Pressfield). For all the blood and guts and coarse language and morally flawed characters, I just love the heck out of it. Great, great stuff. Having read it before, and therefore knowing what would happen, did nothing to detract from the enjoyment. In fact, I was able to savor the scenes that much more because the unpredictability of it all was laid aside, and I could enjoy each sentence and bit of dialog, like enjoying a great meal. If you've got the stomach for it, by all means, read it. At least grab the sample and see if the style agrees with you.

I've moved on to The Blade Itself (Book One in Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy), since I miss the Bloody Nine.

I tried a few other books and samples before launching into The Blade Itself... I tell you, I don't envy Rebecca, having to read/evaluate manuscripts from writers trying to get published... I definitely would not have the patience to do that as a job... I mean, I can barely get into published books if they don't hit me just right. Friday, I picked up and started reading a book that a friend of mine hyped up recently, eager to dive in and enjoy it... and was very sadly disappointed by the underwhelming quality... maybe I'm just jaded, or finicky, or a snob or whatever... but I have little patience for books that don't grab me right off, and display in themselves a level of competence befitting a professional... I feel like I can tell on the first page whether a writer has "it" or not... I'm sure Rebecca can as well... but where she finds the resolve to power through a lackluster, mediocre, or outright abysmal manuscript, I have no idea... hats off to you, Reb and those like you.

A great sample I read recently is The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron. Very creative and solidly written and just plain fun. I'll get it when the price drops a bit, or when I get a gift card.

I won't list all of the ones that, shall we say, failed to impress me lately. Man, I sound like such a jerk! I'm sorry! I don't know what to say... but it seems for every one I like, there are at least 5 that I don't.

OK, here's another Bollywood fight scene that had me laughing so hard, I almost passed out. Please, you really have to watch this -- from the beginning, if you can. If not, at least skip forward to the (3:40) mark and watch the Flying Slap of Doom... (and yes, that is a lamppost Singham is holding as he runs there, in the thumbnail, lol)

OMG, have you ever laughed that hard? LOVE the tiger growls, lol. And when Singham spanks them with the belt at the end. Now THAT is a real man.... maybe I'm just fond of him because he has the Wagner Scowl... we must be brothers somehow... I should get together with the Fowlers and film a Bollywood-style fight scene, lol...

OK, what else?

Oh, in the "advice" column on the A to Z Challenge site, they strongly suggest that the daily posts be brief... that... is going to be hard for me... you know how long-winded I am... that will be a "challenge" more than posting daily, for sure. Hey, I posted daily for a whole year, easy-peasy for a man as full of hot air as I am... but can I be brief? And can I type the word "brief" without making a joke about wearing briefs?

We shall see.

Adios for now.

Dave the Brief

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

We Are Errant Knaves, All: Believe None of Us

Yes! Another waterfall picture! Oh, come on... you love them as much as I do, admit it! Admit it!!! Now, now, don't be afraid... there there, we're friends, right? I mean, we've known each other for so long, you can trust me... now, just admit that you love waterfall pictures, and we can move on... ok? Friend-O?


Ha! I knew it! BUAHAHAHA!!! I laugh in your face! What a tool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!

Yeah, I know... hardly original. Sorry, that's one of the pitfalls of free-association blogging. When I'm making things up off the top of my pointy little head, sometimes the material is weak. Did I say "sometimes"? I meant every time, from the dawn of time. Did I say "weak"? I meant nauseatingly pathetic.

Wait, what were we talking about?

Ah, yes, you came here today, hoping that I would post the weirdest video you've seen all year thus far... right? Well, I aims to please... WARNING: If, like a certain woman I happen to be married to, you have a zero tolerance policy for absurdity, your head will explode while watching this clip.

Of course, if you had a zero tolerance policy for absurdity, you would not be reading this blog. Spagett!!!!

So I've decided to follow the lead of fellow blogger and world-traveler Rebecca and sign up for the A-to-Z blogging challenge this year. Yeah, I'm a copycat like that. I have a litterbox and everything. Anyway, starting April 1st, I'll be blogging every day, with each day's post having something to do with the next letter in the alphabet... so, follow with me here, class... April 1st will be associated with which letter..?

Yes, Albert?

Nope. You fail.

Yes, Wolverine? Which letter will I be starting with on April first?

Not even close....

OK, follow me here, class... We go through the alphabet, each day a new blog post, somehow associated with the next letter... so, starting on April first, which letter will the post be tied into?

Yes, Cookie Monster?

Oh, good grief, people! The letter A! For crying out loud!!!! You all fail! All of you!

Well, except for you, Fonzie...

OK, so, there's that to look forward to....

Man... this post may well represent the low point in the blog's history.... cotton candy has more substance and nutritional value than tonight's post... I really should just lay down on the ground and let you each take turns kicking me in the head.... then once I'm out cold, you can rifle through my pockets for spare change, random legos and other choice loot...

Last year, I posted a video clip of the greatest action scene evar! Well, there's a new Bollywood clip making the rounds that is so ridiculous, it will fit in perfectly with tonight's post. You must watch this...

LOL, love the sound effects.  And those jingle belts... the ultimate weapons!  Too bad it wasn't filmed in 3D...

Speaking of warriors, I am, at present, 59% through my latest re-read of The Heroes, by Joe Abercrombie. I am enjoying it even more than I did when I first read it last year. Soooo good. And, Logan, I disagree with you about Bremer dan Gorst. I think Bremer is a fascinating, rich, awesome character. My favorite, in a book full of great characters. I already reviewed the book last year... I'm fighting the urge to review it again. Not that my review would be much different or any more/less enthusiastic... I just am enjoying it again so much, it feels like a shame to let it go unelaborated-upon, untouted.

Well, I suppose that's that for tonight. Time for me to mosey on down the road...

Adios for now.

Dave the Turtle

Saturday, March 24, 2012

"A Lot of People Like Snow. I Find it to be an Unnecessary Freezing of Water." -- Carl Reiner

Smack-dab in the middle of the weekend? Seriously? Why on earth would I take time out in the middle of a glorious southern Cauliflowernia weekend to update my blog? Well, because I want to, so there!

>:O - BUURP!

Man, it's been a while since I busted out the Angry Burper emoticon... aren't you lucky?

So, yeah, the big news I alluded to in a previous post has solidified enough to warrant a mention here. Eldest Daughter is going to get married in November.


I'm trying to decide if I should wax long-winded and ramble a while on that topic... or just leave it at that and move on to something less personal...

I think I'll wait a while before elaborating. She's getting married, and bottom line is, I'm good with it.

Ooh, another waterfall! I detect a possible theme in tonight's pictures!

So, we finished the bulk of the filming for our Easter short movie. On one level, it was as fun as I'd hoped it would be. On the other hand, it was hard. I went into the first night's filming familiar with the script, but not having memorized my lines. I figured I'd just carve out a little space in my short-term memory, toss a few lines in there when I needed them, film a few takes, empty out the mental space and toss a few more lines in, film more, etc., and work our way through the script. No biggie, right? I mean, I've kept entire play's worth of lines in my head many times, for live performances... how much easier it will be to adopt a quick "memorize and forget" approach, right?

Wrong. With the lights, sound, camera's all set up, the other actors in place, the call of ACTION, etc., I tell you... trying to remember a few words, much less several lines (even short ones) was almost impossible. It was humiliating, really. It was like drops of water on a hot griddle, which danced for a moment and then evaporated into thin air... I couldn't remember a line that had three words in it... three words. I sat there like a moron, as we did take after take... I wanted to run screaming from the room... me! I can navigate a live performance in front of a packed house like a champ! But stick me in a small room with a handful of people and a camera and I freeze!

Ultimately, I got to where I made it through the lines, but it made for a long first night. Plus, I shudder to think of the quality of the acting. So much for making my part really sing... I'm hoping there is enough decent footage to at least tell my part of the story without inducing painful eye-strain in the audience members (from repeated eye rolling) on Easter.

The big positive is that now I know what to expect for next time, and how to be prepared. It was great to finally get the process of film acting from theory to reality... and to learn it in a comfortable, safe environment. Next time, I will be infinitely better prepared. As for this time, I'm confident that Todd will be able to edit together a good little film - he and Abbie did much better on the acting side of it, so they'll have to carry it a bit.

As soon as I get some photos of the shoot from Trevor and/or Ethan, I'll post some here. Again, the process was great fun, and I'm super-glad I got the chance to participate. But it was humbling, that's for sure. Here I thought I would go in and kill it... I suppose getting my legs chopped out from under me like that was a good thing.

When the final cut is available, I'll post it here (after Easter, of course).

So much for the waterfall theme...

Aw, nuts... gotta head off to town for a supply run with Wifey... I have more to talk about, so I shall return and edit it in here, and you'll likely never know, since the odds that you'll be spending your valuable weekend minutes reading this post instead of doing what normal people do are slim to none... by the time Tuesday (or so) rolls around, and you finally skim through this, you'll never know the difference, because this part will be gone! MUAHAHAHA!!!

Back in a bit...

Dave the Interrupted


I'm back. I decided to keep the previous paragraph + sign-off in place... since it lets you know that I do, in fact, get out of the office on occasion and stumble blindly out into the "real world". I don't just spend my time squirreled away playing games in front of this glowing box... in fact, OOOH! I have a quick game-related rant that no one could possibly want to waste time reading, but I'm going to vent it anyway, because it's my danged blog and I can write whatever I want to, dangit! MUAHAHAHAH!!! The Power!!!!

[For those uninterested in such things, feel free to scroll down to the next waterfall picture. Sincerely, the Management.]

OK, so I'm playing Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad recently (the single player campaign, of course, since I'm too much of a wuss to try multiplayer yet), and I'm working my way through the ruins of some big nazi-infested factory of some sort with my Russian comrades, right? And as I'm crouched and darting around the perimeter, look for a good insertion point, I keep receiving small arms fire from the defending nazi scumbags... and I keep trying to drop flat on the ground to avoid the incoming fire and I keep getting a little message saying there's "no room here to go prone"... WHAT!!! So I have to scoot around, under direct fire, looking for a proper distance away from surrounding walls to flop down flat on my stomach! And usually I get killed.

Of course, when I get killed, my dead body flops right down on the ground, no matter where I am. But God forbid I actually am allowed to flop down when I'm alive. What, may I ask, the heck! It's so frustrating and it makes me hate my life!!! >:O - BUUURP! (actually, it's merely mildly annoying - it doesn't make me hate my life at all... I just know that no one is reading this, so I'm winging it here. I could post a recipe for a nice grilled goat-cheese sandwich right now and it would make no difference. In fact, I could unload a juicy personal secret or two, safe in the knowledge that no one would ever know! MUAHAHAH! The power!!!)

OK, where was I? Oh, yeah, hate my life. OK, so I can't think of anywhere walking around out in the real world where, if I wanted to, I couldn't just drop onto my stomach to avoid small arms fire. So why can't I go prone anywhere in the game? That's all I'm saying.

And now, another cool waterfall photo...

Ooh, and it has monks in it as well! That's an added bonus, eh? Man, it's probably loud there... they could each pass unrestrained wind there without the risk of being heard, I'm sure. Which is a good thing, if they've taken a vow of silence. That reminds me, in my fantasy novel, the character I made that's based on my friend Josh is a monk... yes, he fights with a staff, which is a cliche, but that's part of the charm of the story, I think... taking certain cliche's and turning them on their heads... wait til you see how I handle it... MUAHAHAH!!!

OK, now what? Man, I haven't posted a video yet. Here, watch this TV ad for Guinness... I know you're going to love it...

Good stuff, methinks...

OK, so, against all logic, I have decided to read The Heroes again, by the great Joe Abercrombie. My favorite book from the past year (beating out the one-two punch from Greg Hamerton). With all the titles I've yet to read that are clogging up my Kindle app, I decided to read The Heroes again, just because I have such fond memories of it. I needed a good blast of Abercrombie humor and grit.

Here, let me pull a great little monologue, for your enjoyment.

Early on, we're introduced to a soldier character named Corporal Tunny, who's kind of a gambling, drinking ne'er-do-well, notoriously not fond of fighting. A certain First Sergeant Forest is introducing four new recruits to Tunny, who is to be their new commanding officer.

"Boys, this here is the famous Corporal Tunny, one of the longest serving non-commissioned officers in General Jalenhorm's division. A veteran of the Starikland Rebellion, the Gurkish War, the last Northern War, the Siege of Adua, this current unpleasantness and a quantity of peacetime soldiering that would have bored a keener mind to death. He has survived the runs, the rot, the grip, the autumn shudders, the caresses of Northern winds, the buffets of Southern women, thousands of miles of marching, many years of his Majesty's rations and even a tiny bit of actual fighting to stand -- or sit -- before you now. He has four times been Sergeant Tunny, once even Colour Sergeant Tunny, but always, like a homing pigeon to its humble cage, returned to his current station. He now holds the exalted post of standard-bearer of his August Majesty's indomitable First Regiment of cavalry. That gives him the responsibility for the regimental riders, tasked with carrying messages to and from our much admired commanding officer, Colonel Vallimir. Which is where you boys come in... You lads stick close to Corporal Tunny here. He'll keep you out of danger. If there was ever a soldier for staying clear of danger, it's Corporal Tunny. Just don't play cards with him!"

Of course, you can probably guess that Corporal Tunny accidentally manages to factor into the climax of the book, in spite of his every effort to live up to his description there.

Great book. I look forward to tearing through it again, then perhaps getting started on another read-through of the First Law series. I miss the Bloody Nine... I like reading about complex warrior-types running rampage across the battlefield! Ah, well, we all have our hobbies, I suppose...

Well, I just received an invite from an eFriend to go play Left 4 Dead 2 for a while, so I'm going to skedaddle. Adios, y'all.

Dave, Part 2

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Run, by Blake Crouch: A Review

I have, over the course of the past year or so, accumulated a healthy, growing digital library of books and book samples, most of which I've heard of either from various book blogs or from Amazon itself, under the section "people who bought/looked at this book also bought/looked at these titles." As I finish one title, the rest jostle each other, waving their arms, trying to get my attention, sort of like Donkey from Shrek, shouting "Pick me! Pick me!" I never really know which book/sample I'll read next - it really is a spontaneous decision, for the most part. Kindle Roulette, in a way.

Such was the process that led to me and Run, by Blake Crouch meeting up a few days ago.

Run is a variation of the post-apocalyptic zombie-survival genre, except without the zombies (in the traditional sense). Instead of undead, what happens is that there is a nation-wide aurora event one night that a good percentage of the US population witnesses. It ends up radically affecting all who had witnessed it, changing them, turning them insanely violent. They somehow instinctively recognize anyone who hadn't seen the event (some sort of afterglow effect that only those affected can see/not see), and so they are able to tell who "their kind" are. Those that have been affected band together and ruthlessly, remorselessly hunt down and annihilate those who weren't so affected.

Into this scenario are thrust normal people, who suddenly have to find a way to survive in a world gone mad. Families like the Colclough family - a family that was on the brink of dissolution to begin with. Dee and Jack are about to divorce. Their teen daughter Naomi is rebellious and in her goth phase, and their reclusive 7 year old son Cole doesn't know what to make of it all. This world-changing event, and the Colclough family's subsequent battle for survival, will knit them back together again, with a vengeance.

And a battle it is. These types of tales aren't normally my cup of tea. Instinctively, I want people to be safe and healthy and happy, so watching people endure a buffet of near-unimaginable hardship and terror doesn't normally set well with me. And this tale was no different. Not only does the world become unhinged, but every time the Colclough family escapes one crazy-hard scenario, they stumble headlong into something worse, as they run, run, run.

Therein lies my chief criticism of the book -- which is admittedly my own issue, and not the story. It makes for a grueling read. And after a while, it seems contrived; sort of like, "OK, now that they've endured that hardship, what fresh level of hell can I drag them through now, to top it?" Until, by the ending, it just gets silly. And in the tie-up chapter at the very end, when it is theorized that the aurora event that triggered the month-long apocalypse was just nature's way of purging the earth a bit, alleviating the stresses associated with over-population, it's rather unsatisfying.

And yet, I read the whole thing. Technically, it was well-written, and a smooth, fast ride. If you enjoy tagging along with a "normal" family while they hopscotch through a long series of insanely difficult, often-ghoulish scenarios and emerge victorious, then perhaps you'll enjoy this tale. I feel the author did the best he possibly could within the story parameters he gave himself. I mean, it likely would have been boring for the main characters to actually find someplace safe to hole-up and ride out the apocalypse, cut-off from the world but together, safe and happy.

Summary: 3.75/5 A non-stop ride through hell with an average American family, forced to quickly evolve into well-above-average. Some profanity and (modestly handled) adult interactions, along with a dumptruck full of no-holds-barred violence, injustice and death, with a healthy dose of torture thrown in. Somewhat unsatisfying  ending notwithstanding, I can say no ill about the author or the tale. Mr. Crouch can navigate the page like a champ. I may try other titles of his, but I likely won't be reading this one again.

"Fear of Death Increases in Exact Proportion to Increase in Wealth." -- Ernest Hemingway

Ah, the house of the setting sun... or something like that... Is that east or west, I wonder? Quick, are you a "sunset" person or a "sunrise" person?

Greetings to all you wonderful, beautiful people out there! And, what the heck, hello to the homely ones, too...

First, the good news... yes, I bought Oscar on DVD, and we watched it tonight, and it's terrific. I've seen that movie a hundred or more times, and it gets me every time...

If you've never seen that movie, trust me on this one, it's one of the greatest comedy scripts ever. Don't let the fact that it stars Stallone throw you. He nails it, and the all-star cast is terrific, across the board. So many great scenes, plot twists and clever lines of dialog, you'll have to watch it repeatedly to catch it all.

There, I'm done with that commercial.

Speaking of films, we've got our location for the film shoot for this week. We're filming the Easter film (the one about Lazarus) on Wednesday and Thursday night. I can't wait. I went over to T.'s house tonight and we got costuming straightened away, set up the lights, sound and camera equipment, and did some test shots. We'll be set. We're filming at a law firm in Miramar that agreed to let us film there after hours. I'm excited, since it's my first legitimate film shoot. I can't wait.

Of course, once it's finished and ready for prime time, I'll post it up here for y'all to see, if it's OK with T., that is... if not, you'll have to pirate a black-market copy, or else wait a couple decades for my "Best Of" DVD library to come out, with this film on one of the discs as a hidden Easter egg... (get it? Cuz it's an Easter film... get it???!?!?!)

I'm glad we did some test shots tonight, since it gave me a chance to see how I do on film... let's just say, I was way too jumpy and fidgety... I'm going to have to remember to mellow out and keep my eyes from darting around so much.

Yeah, like I'm sure you needed to know that. Sheesh!

Uh oh... those honey badgers are baaaaad news... doesn't look good for Pooh...

Well, speaking of video links, click here to see a man destroy a new iPad3 with random guns/ammo. And click here to see a gadget in action that I hope to someday use to make a movie (it's an HD video camera mounted on a remote controlled helicopter - trust me, the results are amazing...)

And click the following photo to see a gallery of the most incredible ant-related pictures ever put to film, by photographer Andrey Pavlov...

By the way, you really need to go see those ant photographs... just saying...

So I'm reading a book called Run by an author named Blake Crouch, which is a fresh take on the ol' "zombie apocalypse-slash-survival" genre. Expect a review soon - it might be worth your time if you dig "end of the world" type stuff...

I'm trying to think of a nice personal anecdote to share, but I can't... only because I have one huge piece of personal info which I can't share yet, which is sort of eclipsing my mind at the moment, preventing me from waxing as random as I'd like to right now. Let's just say, as soon as things solidify, I'll spill it and you can all be shocked with me...

Until that day, here, watch these Japanese dancers do a crazy synchronized dance to some techno music, in the dark, wearing only LED light suits... yeah, sounds odd, but, again, you need to trust me on this one. For best results, start the video, then switch it to 720dpi (by clicking that little gear icon that will appear after you start the video) and hit the full-screen icon.

See? Told you that was awesome.

And finally, a funny T-shirt that would have been more funny about 4 years ago...

If you don't get it, sorry. I'm tired. I'll try again soon... if you do get it, well then, geee, ain't I funneh?

Yeah, didn't think so.

Adios for now,

Dave the Gollywomper

PS By the way, the movie quote about being in the depths of despair (from the previous post) was from the movie Anne of Green Gables. And the line that followed it was "No. To despair is to turn your back on God." No one wins the prize! Which is a good thing, I suppose, since the prize was a big, sloppy smooch...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

OK, So Which One Do You Like Better?

Yay!, A new post! Here, lemme type it in all caps... A NEW POST!!!!! And now, with 20% more semi-feigned enthusiasm!

I bet you were wondering how I'm doing today, right? I mean, it is a day or two away from St. Patrick's Day... and you know what that means... yep, absosmurfly nothing! Yes, my favorite color is green, but I celebrate that fact every day of the year! By spending money, of course... I throw the green around all the time, cuz that's how playas like me roll.

I-rish I could think of an appropriate pun. I mean, O my guinness! You'd be dublin' over, for sure...

Anyway, how am I doing at the moment? Good! So there! What, you wanted me to say I was in the dumps, so you could gloat over me in my misery? Haven't you ever been in the depths of despair? (Quick, what movie is that line from!? Give the answer in the comments and win a prize! Give the next line in the movie and win another prize!)

Speaking of the depths...

OK, which cave-diving picture do you like better?

This one:

Or this one...

So I have been vindicated! I recently got some third-hand information that confirmed something I've always suspected, to my own selfish benefit... I was talking to my mommy, who has been reading a collection of articles by recently-deceased writer Christopher Hitchens, who, among other things, was interested in American History, and stated that Abraham Lincoln was deeply amused by scatological humor...  See!? That proves it! I've always somewhat suspected that people who feel farts and fart jokes are inordinately humorous are more likely to be geniuses. So, we have Abe Lincoln, Eddie Murphy, Jim Carrey and me. And we're all geniuses!! I know, right?!

I think I'm ready to take the Mensa entrance test now... I'm pretty sure I'll pass it!

And now, time for a little fresh guacamole:

So I hope you enjoyed the interview I did with Rory Aronsky in the last post. And I hope you check in on his blog to see if it clicks with you. Different strokes for different folks, I understand. But I think his blog is a gem. And it was fun to interview him! I wish him every success.

I'm between books at the moment, cycling through samples. I've read some good stuff, though. I started a full book called The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi... I'll let you know if it hooks me. Also read a sample of a book by author Rachel Aaron called The Legend of Eli Monpress, which is very fun and well-done... once the price drops a bit, I'll grab it, for sure. Plus, my copy of Tuf Voyaging (By GRRMartin) is whispering to me from my Forgotten Bookshelf on my wall. An actual book? How retro! I should sell that book - it is unavailable, as far as I can tell on Amazon. It isn't available for Kindle (yet), I can't find the trade paperback anywhere (except my bookshelf) and there's one hardcover for sale for $215. I should sell it to some collector soon, before they release it on Kindle and people can grab it for cheap.

Yeah, I'm greedy like that...

Other good news - Joe Abercrombie's next book Red Country will be out by Thanksgiving! Yay! Oh, and Diablo 3 will be out on May 15th as well! Good days ahead!

Of course, tax day also looms, and I might not survive. I wish I was smarter when it comes to taxes. It's really going to cost me this year...

OK, which side of the room do you like better?

 Not sure I'd be able to sleep in a room like that. And I'm not sure I'd ever hire that interior decorator again... Then again, perhaps I'd feel at home, what with my split personality and all.

So I found a great website, which I added to the links bar over there on the right. It's called All That Is Interesting, and they have some of the most stunning photographs I've ever seen. I swiped some for my archive, since I dig awesome landscape shots. In fact, one of those two cave-diving photos up there (probably the one you liked better) came from that site (just to give them credit). If you go right now, you can see an incredible photo of a tree-lined path with an amazing star-filled night sky above it. I suggest browsing through a few pages there, when you have some minutes to burn. Very cool site. Here is the link again, in case you don't want to click the bolded name of the site a few lines above... man, you're so lazy sometimes!

And now, German butterflies...

Yes, in Germany, they say things with an attitude!

I'd like to visit Germany sometime in my life, before I kick the bucket. So I can visit the battlefields my dad fought at in World War 2. What? My dad was in Vietnam, not World War 2? Hmm... well, I'm not really interested in Vietnam... can we pretend he fought in WW2 instead? Then maybe I can get a trip to Japan out of it as well... yes, he fought on both fronts, probably! Oh, hey, Italy too! But not North Africa... too hot. He wouldn't have fought there. Of course, he was probably stationed in England for a while, before D-Day as well, so I'll have to visit the UK...

OK, it's settled, my dad fought in World War 2.

Well, they do things differently in Russia, as well... as this video clip of some Russian teens will demonstrate...

Who... on EARTH... would even think of trying that stunt? Are they insane? Did those two guys in that spool survive? I'm fascinated by the possible lines of thought that could have gone into the decision to do that.


OK, which famous comedian do you like better?

In case you can't tell, that's a very old Groucho Marx with a very young George Carlin... I saw this pic recently. Not sure the story behind it, but I had to snatch it up, since I'm a big fan of them both. They both loved words, wordplay, puns, clever turns of phrase, etc. In fact, if I ever get around to finishing it, I have a video involving the movie Duck Soup that I'm going to post up here, where I talk about it and share some of my favorite moments from it.

OK, fine, I'll end this post. I think I've bounced around enough. Man, if there wasn't something in this post that made your visit worthwhile, then color me failed. I gave it my best.

Adios for now, eh! Long live the queen!

Dave the Goofus

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Meeting Rory Aronsky: An Author Interview by D. Wagner

I became acquainted with 27-year-old writer and polymath Rory L. Aronsky in March of 2011. I found him by clicking the Next Blog button up at the top of the screen there and I happened upon his blog, Scraps of Literacy. Most of the time, the Next Blog button yields little of interest (to me)... but in this case, I struck gold. Now, initially, this "struck gold" comment might strike you as odd... Rory's blog is about as different from this blog as possible, so why would I be drawn so strongly to it -- strongly enough to want to interview him here? Let me explain...

Rory is a man of many deep interests - I don't think I'd call them "obsessions", per se, but he's a man who sinks deeply into things that interest him. People I know "in real life" may delve this deeply into one or two areas of interest... Rory has a whole collection of them, and reading his blog is like taking a spin on the Wheel of Fortune... I never know which trail he will wander down on any given day.

Writing comes easily to Rory. In a way, he reminds me of a gentleman in a tuxedo and a top hat, waltzing down city streets, every night a different street, his walking cane clicking on the sidewalk with every other step, taking in the sights, sharing tidbits of information about things he sees, chatting warmly. The antithesis of me and this blog, in other words. Mellow, warm, comfortable... his blog has a calming effect on me, so I check it frequently. He updates it just about every day.

Rory claims to be a private person, but you'd never know that from his blog. I feel like I know him, his parents and his sister Meridith quite well, just from the quiet, wandering, down-home posts he makes. Sometimes he does nothing more than detail what he did during the day -- and strangely enough, I eat it up like candy.

He is the co-author of the book What If They Lived?, which I reviewed here last year, and is doing the research on his latest book, tentatively titled "Mayday! Mayday! The Making of the Airport Movies." I recently sent Rory some questions about his books, his interests and his life in general. Go grab a snack, settle in, and take a stroll with Rory...


1) You're a man of many fascinations. I suppose the best one to start with would be your deep love for Disneyland/Disneyworld. Could you tell us a bit about how this fascination started for you? 

I was born in Plantation, Florida in 1984. There are pink flamingos in the state, and they can stand on one leg.

I started reading when I was 2.

I fairly grew up at the Southern restaurant Po Folks, first sitting in a high chair, then reaching the age in which I could eat country fried steak from there, and did, taking advantage often of their all-you-can-eat country fried steak special.

We lived in Casselberry for many years, where there was a basketball hoop next to our driveway, a huge tree in the front yard that I considered building a treehouse in but only succeeded in falling out of it once, a tangerine tree next to the left side of the house that died one winter, and every time the radio announced that the space shuttle was lifting off, we ran to the backyard to watch. It took off so close to our area that we could see the American flag on the left wing, and “U.S.A.” on the right. When it re-entered the atmosphere, the sonic boom was so loud that the dishes shook in the kitchen cabinets. My elementary school had a huge playground with a yellow tunnel that was always good for seeing how many kids could jam themselves into it. And the library there was a rotunda, with the indoor entrance to each grade level building next to a tall bookcase, and the checkout desk down a few carpeted steps in the middle circle. It was basically a wheel-and-spoke pattern.

We went to The Bubble Room restaurant in Captiva for birthdays and just to go once in a while besides birthdays. It had a lot of fun memorabilia from the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, with bubbles floating all around. It’s still there. And there was Old Town in Kissimmee, where I loved to watch the taffy-pulling machine when I was a toddler, and always watched in amazement the candle makers in that particular store dipping a mold into many colors and carving designs into it that revealed rainbows every time.

It’s a wonder that I didn’t turn into a writer by all this alone. But I was born into a household that had Mickey and Minnie-shaped wall mirrors, a Mickey telephone we actually used for a time, and other memorabilia as well. In Casselberry, we were situated so close to Walt Disney World that we went every weekend and sometimes during the week just for dinner. Monorail pilots knew us by name, and performers in the parades stopped by on their route to say hello. I remember sitting in a rented stroller at the Magic Kingdom, watching stage shows in Tomorrowland and at the castle, and certain secondhand cigarette smoke reminds me of those days, because back then, people could smoke wherever they wanted in the parks.

-- If you had to pick a single favorite aspect of all things Disney, what would it be?

I love how Walt Disney World seems to exist in between fantasy and reality, taking in each as it sees fit, which influenced me to live and write the same way. It offers the opportunity to submerse yourself completely in imagination. What exists there cannot be found at any other Disney park. Each park is unique. For example, in later years, after we had moved from Casselberry to South Florida, we visited Walt Disney World occasionally, and I loved riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, watching the crowds below and the scenery above, thinking, and also loving this one curve where, before you arrived in a tunnel where there was a model of the EPCOT Walt Disney hoped for, you could see Cinderella Castle right from where you were sitting. Here you were in Tomorrowland and there was something totally unrelated to it. I loved that mix.

The Disney purists argue that each land at the Magic Kingdom and the other parks that make up Walt Disney World should be untouched by any other lands, and that’s true for, say, Frontierland and Fantasyland. It would be uncomfortably weird to see Disney princesses walking past Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. But seeing the castle from the Tomorrowland Transit Authority is acceptable because you can’t see the castle from that height anywhere else in the park. You can only look at it from different vantage points, or look up at it before you walk through it.

-- Do you have a least favorite Disney-related aspect and/or experience? 

Before Stitch’s Great Escape in Tomorrowland, there was ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter in the same space, which involved teleportation technology presented by X-S Tech (“excess technology”), an unscrupulous corporation headed by a subtly greedy chairman, L.C. Clench (Jeffrey Jones in full makeup). First was a demonstration involving the botched teleportation of a cute, fuzzy alien named Skippy, and then a bigger demonstration in the main room with a huge teleportation tube in the middle, with the seats in the round, shoulder restraints included. Clench wants to be teleported to Earth to demonstrate that the technology works and there are no safety risks, and to answer any questions we might have. But the two technicians, Spinlok and Dr. Femus (Kevin Pollak and Kathy Najimy, also in full makeup), bicker over if the demonstration should proceed, Dr. Femus (Najimy) worrying about safety. The demonstration proceeds. Spinlok (Pollak) insists that the teleportation signal is Clench’s, though it turns out to be a nasty alien teleported to Earth. The alien breaks out of the tube and flies around the room, spitting (warm water from a tube at the back of the seat) and breathing heavily on the back of your neck (warm air also from a tube), and growling and roaring a lot. Oh, and it was nearly all in the dark! How much fun is that?!

I went on this with a few friends during my school’s 8th grade end-of-the-year trip (four hours from Pembroke Pines to Orlando, and four hours back), and it scared me horribly. I was utterly shaken and pale when I exited. I never went on it again. But in retrospect, it truly represented what Tomorrowland is supposed to be. There should be futuristic attractions that play with the mind and expand the imagination, and this one did. Stitch’s Great Escape, at least from watching it on YouTube, doesn’t have the same effect. It’s just playing off the popularity of a Disney movie, which is understandable, but it dilutes the imaginative power of Tomorrowland.

2) Another obvious fascination for you is the history of Las Vegas. Could you elaborate a bit on why you find Las Vegas so fascinating?

In 11th grade, when I heard that an acquaintance was moving to Las Vegas, I thought it was a desolate gambling outpost.

When my family and I first visited in 2007, parking in the lot of America’s Best Value Inn on Tropicana Avenue, located behind part of the Strip, I got out of our rented SUV and was worried because Las Vegas felt so abandoned. I might have been correct in my assessment.

But when we arrived on the Strip, having a late dinner at the Carnegie Deli at Mirage, and visiting New York-New York, I began to like this city. I liked how it simply gave people whatever they wanted. If they wanted to tackle a few buffets in four or five days, they could. If they wanted to gamble for 12 hours at a shot, they could. If they wanted to visit as many strip clubs as they could from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., they could. Las Vegas doesn’t seem to be afraid of human nature. It profits from it. I just wanted to walk through a few casinos, to see what they were like, and I did.

We’ve visited a few times since, and it’s become where I want to live, where my family and I hope to move to in the next few months, or, rather, nearby Henderson, which is always welcoming, no matter how busy it gets. You could walk the Galleria at Sunset mall there on a weekend, crowds all around you, and you’d still feel at ease. Living in Henderson, we’ll always have access to Las Vegas, but we don’t have to be bombarded by it all the time. It wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but I don’t want its effect to be lost on me.

When we stayed at America’s Best Value Inn, there was a basketball hoop next to the pool area that my sister Meridith and I used, and the back end of the MGM Grand was right across the street, Hooters Casino Hotel was next to us, the Luxor pyramid was diagonal from us, Tropicana was next to Hooters, and if you stood closer to the hoop, you could see part of the façade of New York-New York. Essentially, Meridith and I were shooting hoops in the shadow of the MGM Grand! Try finding that experience anywhere else!

To me, Las Vegas is a hedonistic paradise, mirroring exactly how I like to live, and it’s one of the few cities that will be whatever you want it to be. It’s adaptable to any desires. Whatever you want, it’s there somewhere.

3) The very first post I read on your blog was about a trip to a Presidential Library. Do you have a deep interest in American History in general, or just in the US Presidents? Where does your love for the President come from - patriotism or something deeper? 

My passion for history is genetic. My father taught high school in New York in the ‘70s, and wanted to eventually be a history teacher, but then he moved to Florida, and Southern Bell, the phone company, became his career for 19 years, after which he decided to go back into teaching. He knows facts and dates like I do, but I dwell in it a lot more than he does. When we talk politics, we sometimes discuss past presidents as if I also lived in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. I know about them that well.

I’m mainly interested in the US Presidents, but I think that spreads out to all history, really. You think of Abraham Lincoln, and you also think of the Civil War. You think of FDR, and you think of the Depression and World War II. Presidential history gives you the presidents, and so much else.

My love for presidential history comes from wanting to know what power is like from the inside. How does it affect men and women? Who creates policies from the White House? How involved is the president? What are their methods? How do they relax? What are those moments like in the Situation Room where it’s imperative that they make a decision? I think about Obama’s order to the SEALs to raid the bin Laden compound, and I hope there’s a book written about that some day. There’s bits and pieces known, but I hope, and I think, there’s a reporter considering exactly this topic for a book, because everything in a presidency gets ink, no matter how inconsequential to the life of an administration.

I’m also interested in the Supreme Court and certain lower courts, which is also genetic. My maternal grandfather, who I knew briefly when I was a baby, was a careful, considerate, and caring lawyer. I’ve no desire to be a lawyer, but I am interested in the law, and the personalities behind the law, especially in the Supreme Court. Last year, I read Joan Biskupic’s biography of Justice Antonin Scalia, and I’m currently in the middle of her biography of former justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

I also follow what’s going on at the Supreme Court, and listen to audio of the arguments. I tried to follow the Court from the beginning of its latest term, and succeeded for about a month, listening to the audio of each argument and reading what each case was about, but I let it get away from me. Too many cases have followed that make it impossible to catch up now. I still listen to the cases that interest me, though. That’s probably the best way to go about it and leave the arc of a term to reporters and other Court watchers.

I think it’s also the isolation in both branches of the government that fascinates me. The justices work amongst themselves. There are protocols, and traditions, just like there are with the presidency, but they’re all they have in that workspace. Cloistered might be the word. I’m an easily sociable person when the opportunity is there, but I mostly live privately. So that’s probably another reason why the presidency and the Supreme Court interest me so much. The president is a public figure, but even surrounded by advisors, he’s still working alone. He gives the orders.

-- Also, do you plan on making good on your goal to visit all of the Presidential Libraries? 

I will absolutely make good on visiting all the presidential libraries in the nation. I’ve been to Nixon’s once, and Reagan’s many times, once for the museum and the Air Force One pavilion, and the other times for the view from the South Lawn replica and for the Country Café there that my family and I like, especially for the freshly-made potato chips.

Visiting the rest of the presidential libraries is my only major goal in life, since I still read voraciously, and I write all the time, and something will eventually emerge again to hopefully be published. No need to establish lifetime goals there.

I have to wait about a year or two after my family and I move to Henderson, because I need to earn enough money at a full-time job there first before I can even begin to think about traveling. Once I feel secure enough, I’m going. Missouri (Truman), Arkansas (Clinton), Texas (LBJ, H.W. Bush, and eventually W. Bush), New York (FDR), Kansas (Eisenhower), and on and on. I’ve also found smaller presidential libraries not run by the National Archives, including the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum in Staunton, Virginia. So I’ve got to add those on too. And New Mexico. I want to travel throughout there. That’s been simmering since I was 9 and 10, starting to really write, and I read writing books by Natalie Goldberg, who lives in Taos, New Mexico. It stuck in my mind and then exploded last September when I read The Secret of Everything by Barbara O’Neal, which is centered on a fictional town in New Mexico called Las Ladronas. I learned from a New Mexico resident’s blog that Las Ladronas is just like Santa Fe and Taos, so I’m even more psyched to go!

4) Your love for movies certainly must have been a motivating factor in writing your first book,  What If They Lived? In this book, you researched the lives of many Hollywood stars that died "early" (for lack of a better word), and after giving a brief history of their careers, you postulated on where their careers may have gone, had they lived. Were there any stars in the book that the books' coauthor (Phil Hall) covered that you wish you had gotten to write on instead?

Phil sent me the list of actors and actresses he wanted in the book, and told me to pick whoever I wanted to write about. I did, and he took the rest. I bought many books for my research, and one was about an actress named Carole Landis. The book I bought about her was badly written, atrociously edited, and while I picked my set of actors and actresses because some aspect of them interested me, I became less and less interested in Carole Landis, and the book sealed it for me. I asked Phil to take her away from me, and he did. What you see in that book is everything I wanted to write.

5) It seems your love for movie history has combined with your love for books to lead to your latest project, the book Mayday! Mayday! The Making of the Airport Movies. Can you tell us what it is about the Airport series that intrigued you enough to want to write a book on it?

This is another case of something in childhood leading to something bigger. When I was a tyke, living in Casselberry, my parents took me to Orlando International Airport to watch the planes take off and land. At 11 years old, I spent hours upon hours on a dial-up Internet connection, looking at photos of crashed planes, wondering what had caused the disasters, and reading as much as I could find on various airplanes, the Boeing 747 and Concorde becoming my favorites.

There was one cold winter night in Coral Springs, Florida in which Dad and I went to a Blockbuster, and I found Airplane! and Airport, neither of which I had seen before, and owing to my fast-budding interest in aviation which eventually turned me into an enthusiast, I had to see them.

That experienced turned into a VHS tape of Airplane! and a VHS box set of the Airport movies. I wore out that box set throughout my teens. George Kennedy’s Joe Patroni, featured in all four movies, inspired me to seriously consider a career in aviation. I wanted to have the same passion he had for aviation, and at that time, I did. I thought about being a pilot, then an aircraft mechanic, then a mechanic for Air Force One, then either an FAA or NTSB investigator. Then in 2004, my family got me the DVD set of those movies for my birthday. Last year, I decided that I’d be happiest reading and writing, moreso than aviation, with money coming in from another job. I hope to make money from my books, but I’ve also got to live day to day.

George Kennedy is the cause of this book. His memoir, Trust Me, was published last November, and in it, he wrote that for The Concorde: Airport ’79, Universal rented one for $40,000 an hour, and he was even permitted to taxi it at Le Bourget Airport in Paris. I read that and thought, “This has to become a book of its own!” My motivation for this book stems from that DVD set. Universal provided no audio commentaries and no documentaries. Only trailers. I want what they didn’t give me, and I’m going to get it myself. So far, I’ve interviewed a few actors from the series, as well as production crew, and I have countless more interviews to conduct.

6) You claim a goal of yours is to be published again by the time you are 30 years old. Is there something symbolic about that age, other than the fact that it is a nice, round number? Does 30 represent a pivotal point in your life, or does it just happen to fall a certain number of years from another significant life event already past?

Pivotal, yes. I’ll be far out of the way of being a teenager, and my drifting 20s will be gone. I know that I want to write for the rest of my life, but I have to focus. I have to have a plan. I have to sit down and write these books. After Mayday! Mayday!, I have at least seven more nonfiction books I want to write. I don’t need to be motivated to write these books, since it’s what I want to do, but having a goal of being published by the time I’m 30 makes me move faster than I used to when I was thinking of writing books when I was in my late teens. Even at 27, time is starting to go faster. I’ll be 28 on March 21, which gives me two more years to achieve my goal. Next thing I know, it’ll be Christmas again, and before I can even think about it, I’ll be 35, then 40, and so on. I want to start my next decade on the greatest high I know and keep to that standard for the rest of my life.

7) Do you have any Fiction cooking inside you, waiting to be spilled out onto paper?

Surprisingly, I do. I thought I’d only be a nonfiction writer since I love to wander throughout history, picking up what I need and carrying it with me until I figure out where to place it. But a few years ago, I came up with an idea for a modern-day adaptation of a classic novel that I want to try. I still have to read the novel, but I like what it represents. And two months ago, I had a dream involving time travel that I think will become a novel. It fits, because when I was little, I told my mom I wanted to build a time machine. That obviously never happened, but this is the one way I can do it. My method for time travel in this possible novel is significantly scaled back from a DeLorean or a TARDIS, and I love that I get to read a slew of time travel novels in order to figure out how I’m going to write my own.

8) Would it be possible for you to come up with a list of your 5 Favorite Films and/or 5 Favorite Books of all time? Or are there so many that such a list would be impossible?

I have a list of 5 favorite movies, but it’s going to have to be 7, because it’s 7. These are my seven favorite movies of all time, as ranked: Mary Poppins, The Remains of the Day, The Jungle Book (1967), The Swimmer (1968), The Fabulous Baker Boys, 84 Charing Cross Road, and My Blueberry Nights. I wrote a blog entry about why these are my all-time favorite movies, here: CLICK HERE

That list is easy, because I don’t watch as many movies as I used to, certainly not like I did when I wrote reviews for 10 years. It’s tougher with books because I’m discovering new favorites every few months. 

My concrete list of favorites, those that will never change, include The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes, Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene, Subways are for Sleeping by Edmund G. Love, The Music of Your Life by John Rowell, The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby, Harlan Ellison’s Watching by Harlan Ellison, and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow.

Newer titles that are starting to settle in and become concrete are The Secret of Everything by Barbara O’Neal, Angelina’s Bachelors by Brian O’Reilly, Greyhound by Steffan Piper, The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones, and Taft 2012 by Jason Heller. I also love anything by Neil Simon and Charles Bukowski, and I proudly own the two beautifully-made volumes of Stephen Sondheim’s collected lyrics.


For more from Rory Aronsky, see his blog Scraps of Literacy.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson: A Review

If you've frequented this blog for any length of time, you already know that I am a big Brandon Sanderson fan. His Mistborn series sits near the top of my Favorite Fantasy Stories of All Time, in spite of the fact that he is not the most skilled of writers. I take that back - he's very skilled at not standing in the way of his stories. His style is very straight-forward, and he doesn't seem to try to wow his readers with polished prose, flowery presentation, clever turns of phrase... he just loads up both barrels and lets loose with a great ride. It is very effective and (to me) very enjoyable.

When The Way of Kings was released in late August 2010, I bought it immediately. The thought of a massive new series (to include a dozen books, I think?) being cranked out by Sanderson seemed a dream come true, not just because I've enjoyed everything of his that I've read before, but because his work ethic sees him releasing new books at a pace far more frequent than most of my other favorite authors. But a funny thing happened after buying the book... I waited. And waited. I loaned the book out, got it back and loaned it out again. I read and re-read the prologue, marveling at how well it set up an epic tale in so few pages. It seemed to forever sit there, begging me to read it. But I wouldn't pick it up. I could say it was the sheer overwhelming size of the thing, but I'd read books that big before it (Martin, Rothfuss) without issue. I don't know why I waited - and I still don't.

But the wait ended last week, when, with an odd mixture of dread and anticipation, I dove in.

To spare you having to wade through this post, I'll cut to the chase first. I ended up really enjoying this book, in spite of some obstacles.

I suppose if I had a chief complaint about fantasy books in general, it would be having to keep track of dozens of odd names, for characters and places and events in histories. Along this line, it was really hard to get my feet under me with this book. Ultimately, Sanderson kept the bulk of the tale alternating between two story lines, so by the time the book was half done, I was able to track the people well enough. The names of the countries and cities, on the other hand, I still am unclear on.

The story is fairly traditional, as far as fantasy goes. The world is threatened by an impending doom. A young man from a backwoods village (Kaladin) is swept up into world events and is forced to mature far faster than he should have. An aged noble warrior (Dalinar) struggles to keep control of his family, his lands and his sanity, in the face of incompetent peers, disgruntled heirs and divine visitations. A young, sheltered woman (Shallan) with a talent for art and research comes to a big city on an impossible mission to help save her family from destruction - and uncovers mysteries both personal and international that set her on a new, dangerous path. The heretical daughter of a slain king (Jasnah) seeks to find out why her father was killed, and discovers a plot that may bring about the end of the world. An extremely skilled assassin (Szeth) employs ancient arts to make him an unstoppable killing machine, all the while conflicted and guilty over the blood he must spill.

The story is sound, and the chapters involving Kaladin were especially captivating. There are supernatural elements, time travel elements, magical monsters, extreme weather, anthropological discoveries, theological discussions, historical puzzle-solving, elemental magics and more battlefield action than you can shake a spear at.

My main beef would be that the book felt bloated. There are odd chapters wedged in that introduce new characters/places, and then are not heard from again. There are occasional stretches of boring description, and scenes with dialog that doesn't seem to accomplish anything. Many characters began to blend into one another in my mind, since they were so similar, in speech and in personality. Many occasions of "Wait, who is this guy again?" Many occasions where I read exchanges between two characters, only to realize that I had them mixed up, and when I re-read the scenes, accurately assigning statements to the right characters, it made no difference, as far as my understanding what was happening.

However, there were far more scenes that were very memorable. The bridge runs on the Shattered Plains were all memorable. As was the fight with the chasmfiend that saw The Blackthorne come out of hiding (so to speak). Kaladin's transformation, followed by his transformation of Bridge Four, was definitely memorable. Dalinar's visions during the storms were fascinating. Watching Szeth the Truthless manipulate gravity was great fun.

So, ultimately, my opinion is mixed but favorable. There is plenty to love about The Way of Kings, but it isn't entirely smooth sailing. Perhaps you have no problem keeping track of many weirdly-named people. Perhaps you don't mind stretches of description and inconsequential dialog. Perhaps you're not a big fan of violent confrontation and exhibitions of extreme martial skill. Perhaps you enjoy a faster pace with your fantasy tales. In my case, the positives far outweighed the negatives, and I ended up greatly enjoying the book. I will likely buy the sequel as soon as it is released... and then wait half a year or more to crack it open and continue the tale.

Summary: 4/5 A quality ride, and a solid beginning to an epic fantasy series that I will hopefully spend the next decade or two enjoying. Nothing too original, but well done (for the most part) and enjoyable nonetheless.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

And Then There Were None

So, we meet again. It has come to this. At long last, all else is said and done, and lo, here we are. The logical conclusion. The moment we've been waiting for... hoping it would never arrive, but knowing it had to, sooner or later. That moment... is now.

Wait, what are we talking about again?

Oh, nevermind.

Greetings, everyone!

So, remember a post or two (or three?) ago, when I told you about an opportunity I had to submit some questions to author Greg Hamerton, so he could do an "author interview" post for my bloggie? And, if you recall, the only stipulation was that the questions not contain or refer to story spoilers. And that, after writing the questions out, I realized that they all violated the stipulation. And that I submitted them anyway, content that Greg would at least read them, and know what this goofball thought about after reading his great books.

Well, after slightly massaging the wording of the questions to make them less spoilerish, he answered them all, and is posting them to his website! How cool is that! The first set of questions/answers can be seen at his site right now, with the remaining two posts scheduled to go live on his site on 3/9 and 3/16! If you'd like to check it out, go over to his site and give it a read! Thanks a ton to Greg for taking the time to answer my questions so thoroughly. I hope there are others who find both his books and his answers to be fascinating reading.

Oddly enough, I was thinking about "author interviews", and decided to contact another author I know, asking him if I could interview him for my blog! And he said yes, so I submitted several questions to him a couple days ago. I expect to receive his answers soon, and I'll post them here, for your entertainment. I won't tell you who -- that's a surprise! You'll just have to check back soon and see! MUAHAHAHA!!!

Of course, in the interim, I am in continuous contact with one of my very favorite authors EVER, and thought I'd ask him a few questions for tonight's post.

Dave Wagner interviews Author and All-Around Goofball David Wagner!
Dave: Greetings, Dave, and thank you for letting me interview today. I wanted to-- 
David: No comment. 
Dave: Um... I-- 
David: I said no comment. Leave me be, or I'll give you a hearty swat. 
Dang. I was hoping to find out what my favorite color was... I guess I'll try to catch me another time, when I'm in a better mood. Maybe I should have told me that I'm my biggest fan. Oh well, it just gives me more time to gather questions to ask myself. If you want to help, you can submit questions in the comments section. I'll add them to the question list and maybe I will answer them (without giving you a hearty swat).

Ahh, nothin' like a good pun.

So I'm about halfway through A Way of Kings (Brandon Sanderson) and I have to admit, I'm fairly underwhelmed. I was soooo prepared to love it, but it just isn't doing it for me -- and I've given it a very healthy chance. Other than a character named Kaladin, the people are of little interest to me, the world-building is clunky, the flashbacks disruptive, the pace plodding, and all the promise shown in the prologue and first chapter unfulfilled, for the most part. Oh, I'll certainly finish it, I'm just a little bummed is all. It's surprisingly bloated. I doubt I'll write a full review of it, even if it finishes well, since I don't want to be down on Brandon -- he is a terrific author, and has penned some of my favorite fantasy moments. So I'll cut him some slack. It will be interesting to read reviews of the book after I finish reading it, to see what others say about it.

Sorry about the shaky camera work in this next video. But the video is cool, nonetheless.

That would have been great to see in person. Man, good thing there wasn't a sailboat in the way when that thing splashed down.

My mind keeps going back to the "interview" thing... it might be fun to start a blog, and just do interviews of the people in my life. Friends, family, etc., and just ask fun/funny questions. I wonder if anyone would agree to be interviewed? I wonder if anyone not in my little circle would even read such a blog? It might be fun - people, as a rule, seem to like talking about themselves.

I recently edited an interview that Joe Polish did with a man named Dave Logan, and he had an interesting idea, called a "Reputation Audit"... here's a snippet...

Dave Logan: I realize that people listening to this are probably waiting for the steps. Number one, if you want to get specific, you can do things like a reputation audit, which is where you go up to people and say, "Joe, I'm trying to get a sense of how I come across. It's one of those things that's in a blind spot for most people. So, just tell me, what is my reputation?" Write down what they say. Go do that with 10 people. Don't correct them, don't agree, don't get a smile on your face. Just write it down. That will show you how you "occur" to people, assuming they're being honest. Then the questions is, what shifts would you like to make?

I have to admit, this idea of doing that is at once fascinating and frightening. Honestly, I'm not sure I'd want to know the clear, unadulterated truth. I'd only want to hear good things. I'd like to think I'd be able to handle the good and the bad, but I'm not sure. Interesting idea, though...

I decided to see what all the fuss was about, and watched the first couple episodes of The Walking Dead, which is a zombie TV show on AMC, currently in its second season. They have season one on Netflix Watch Instantly, so I gave it a go. I was a bit surprised at the cliche opening, as far as setting the story in motion... the main character wakes up in a hospital, and the place is deserted (except for decaying carnage, of course), with no idea what has happened. He stumbles out into a decimated world, and tries to figure out what the heck happened while he was "out". Meh, how unoriginal. But it takes off well, and the first two episodes carry themselves well. I'll probably keep watching, though honestly, zombies aren't really my thing.

Blog Round-Up:
Logan is preparing to travel.
Diz recounts some recent miracles, and prepares a book review.
Rebecca has reviewed her 2011.
Josh is doing a chapter-by-chapter review of a book called Beautiful Outlaw.
Rory lost power while researching his latest book.
Naader is eating everything he sees.
Peter is discussing book discussing!
Shellie shows us some upcoming books to grab.

I'm thinking of pulling the plug on my Wagnervana site. Not sure the point of it anymore, really. I could build a comparable site on a free platform if I wanted to, instead of paying $14/month for the Squarespace site that it's on now. Been looking for ways to save $$$, so everything's on the table for consideration.

OK, I think that's it for now. If I think of anything else, I'll hit the EDIT button and sneak it in. You'll never know! MUAHAHAHA!!!

Dave the Sneaky