Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Podcast Marathon

Summer vacation + Not much TV to watch = Lots of time to listen to podcasts. Here is what I listened to on Monday:

No Agenda #734 - Media analysts John C. Dvorak and Adam Curry talked about the President's eulogy in South Carolina, international relations, and the sorry state of US cyber-security.

Satellite Sisters, 6/28 - Lian, Sheila, and Liz Dolan talked about the Paris taxi strike, recent SCOTUS decisions, and making up with a dry cleaner.

Secret Origins #5 - Host Ryan Daly and guest host Siskoid talked about issue #5 of the Secret Origins podcast, which tells the origin story of the Crimson Avenger.

Writing Excuses, season 10, episode 26 - This is the halfway point of the podcast's "Master Class" for 2015. In this episode, they answered listener questions about writing topics, such as "show don't tell" and writing scenes. 

The Mighty Thorcast #123 - Chef Teri and her co-host Ed talked about The Mighty Thor 316 from 1982, as well as the new issues of Thors and Angela Witch Hunter. 

The Tony Kornheiser Show - Monday's episode included guests Michael Wilbon and Howard Fineman, talking about sporting events and world news from the weekend.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

This Week in Reading

Angelology, by Danielle Trussoni, pages 268 – 404.
Paul & The Faithfulness of God (pb), by N.T. Wright, pages 370 – 404.
The Queen of Katwe, by Tim Crothers, COMPLETED.
The Transforming Path, by Terry Wardle, pages 46 – 57.

Amazing Spider-Man 677
Avengers Annual 8
Daredevil 1 – 10, 10.1
Darkstars 6
Giant-Size Avengers 3
Star Trek: The Early Voyages 2

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review of The Walking Dead 109 - 120

The Walking Dead, issues 109-120. Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard.

We are continuing to see the natural results of Rick’s bad decisions and poor leadership skills. After the events of the last batch of issues, our crew finds themselves marching to war against Negan, who is clearly more rational than Rick, and has probably been making better decisions. Even his killings seem to have a point, and his reactions to the death of his own people are more logical and reasonable that Rick’s reactions are, which are far more emotional and irrational.

The first attack by Negan on Rick’s community is defeated by the literary device of “tiger ex machina,” as the character of King Ezekiel comes to the rescue. Ezekiel debuted in the prior volume (reviewed here), and has turned into an important character.

Ezekiel and Rick are able to ally with Jesus’ people on the hilltop, and the three communities organize a massive attack on Negan’s stronghold. Here, Rick’s strategic skills come to the forefront, and their plan is audacious and potentially successful. Casualties are had on both sides, though at the end of this volume, decisive victory has not been achieved by either side. But I imagine that this storyline can’t last much further into the next batch of issues.

Amidst all of the excitement of war, Kirkman is able to develop characters in these issues. Ezekiel and his tiger Shiva spend some quality time with Michonne, as do Rick and Andrea. That relationship is reasonable and has grown slowly, although she needs to talk more sense into Rick. Carl’s journey to potential eventual leadership continues, as he is tasked with more responsibility, and acts with more responsibility.

Again, this range of issues more resembles a suspense or action tale more than a horror tale. This ongoing fight for survival is not just a battle with zombies, but a battle against humans, in a fight to define humanity.

Source: public library

Monday, June 22, 2015

Another Babylon 5 Podcast Bites the Dust

In a prior post, I eulogized the Babylon Podcast, a podcast that discussed J Michael Straczynski’s groundbreaking television show Babylon 5. It is one of my absolute favorite television shows, and I loved reliving it through the podcast. And a few months after it was over, and I got the urge to think more about Babylon 5, I started looking for another re-watch podcast.

This was another great podcast, because hosts Matt & Gillian tailored the show for both newbies finding B5 for the first time, and for veterans like myself who’ve seen it and thought about it quite a bit already. By dividing their episode discussions into “sections,” they keep from “spoiling forward,” which for a show like Babylon 5, could be a real problem.

Each podcast episode covers two TV episodes, making for very long (often nearing or passing 3 hours) episodes. But again, the “sections” that they divide the show into make it easier to listen to each show in smaller slices of time. Along with interview episodes with series creator J Michael Straczynski, a few holiday specials, and reviewing the TV movies that accompanied the series, this podcast ran for 65 episodes.
The Babble On Project is still on iTunes, and I recommend the podcast to any fan of Babylon 5 who is planning a re-watch of the series any time soon. The hosts do a great job, and the running jokes that develop over the course of the Project are enjoyable, as is getting to know the group of fans who send in feedback.

The hosts mentioned that they may return to podcasting at some point, either individually or as a team. But after the effort and energy they out into this show, I think it’s fair to give them plenty of time off. They did an excellent job.

And now that Babble On Project podcast is over? Well, I am thinking about checking out the Down Below Podcast …

Saturday, June 20, 2015

This Week in Reading

The Woman Who Died a Lot (ua), by Jasper Fforde, COMPLETED. Reviewed here.
Angelology, by Danielle Trussoni, pages 1 – 268.
The Queen of Katwe, by Tim Crothers, pages 1 – 121.
The Transforming Path, by Terry Wardle, pages 1 – 46.

Coyote trade paperback, volume 1
Gotham by Midnight 1 – 4
Starslayer 6, 11
Superman 94
Superman: Man of Steel 38
Tales of the Teen Titans 82
Wonder Woman 30 – 35

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review of The Woman Who Died A Lot

Book #25. The Woman Who Died a Lot, by Jasper Fforde. Unabridged audio.

This is the seventh book in Fforde’s Thursday Next series, and I have read and enjoyed the prior six. As the series have gone on, they have tended to become a little less light-hearted, a little less pun-driven, and a little more serious in terms of the consequences to the characters. This novel continues those trends.

Moving into semi-retirement after her previous adventures in the Book World, legendary enforcement officer Thursday Next takes up the cushy position as Chief Librarian of the Swindon Library service. But semi-retirement is not as easy as it should be for Thursday, as she faces a 100% departmental budget cut, as well as dealing with memories of a child who does not exist. And her two children who do exist have problems of their own. And Swindon is only a few days away from receiving an old-fashioned a smiting from an angry deity. And there is always the Goliath Corporation, always there to cause trouble to the Next clan.

There are still funny moments in this novel, although these are balanced by the saddest and creepiest moments of the series so far. For as wacky as the premise and the world are, the “mind worm” that makes various members of the Next family think they have a daughter that they don’t … that’s rough stuff. And there are other time-travel aspects of loss explored here, in terms of knowing a future that might have been and no longer will be. There are many surprisingly insightful and thought-provoking moments.

Fforde does a very good job keeping the plot moving forward, and handling the intricacies of a story involving time-travel and changing the future. This novel is a fine mix of solid plotting, humorous moments, and high stakes for the world and the characters.

Narrator Emily Gray again delivers an outstanding performing. She knows how to deliver the outrageous funny bits in a matter-of-fact way, allowing Fforde’s words to convey the humor. This approach adds to the absurdist nature of the novel.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Review of Rumours of Glory

Book #24: Rumours of Glory: A Memoir, by Bruce Cockburn. Hardcover.

The first thing I look for in picking up a biography is the “as told to” or “with” notation, indicating that the subject did not in fact write the book. But there is no such indication on this memoir, and reading it, I have no doubt the Canadian singer and songwriter penned every word. The writing is just too good to NOT have been written by him.

Cockburn is vulnerable about his own shortcomings as an artist, a businessman, and occasionally a man. His honesty is refreshing, and I was regularly surprised by the depth he was willing to go in telling his story. Either he took notes over the years, or he has an excellent memory, because he recalls some moments in a lot of detail. My favorite album by Cockburn is “Nothing But A Burning Light,” and he explains in detail the process of recording those songs with the now-legendary T Bone Burnett.

This is not just the story of a man’s life in music, because Cockburn’s life has involved so much more than just music. Much of the book tracks his transition into a political and social activist. His travels to third-world countries, before, after, and during times of war, are gripping. His views of American policy do not always align with mine, but I appreciate his wisdom and his good heart. One of my favorite stories is how this liberal hippie folk-singer became a fan of shooting, became a friend of many shooters (which confused his liberal hippie friends), and even became a defender of some aspects of the Second Amendment.

And throughout the story, Cockburn shares the story of a man on a lifelong pilgrimage to experience and understand God. He details his attempts to “fit in” with the religious music industry early in his career, and then how his relationship with the Divine found its way into his music to varying degrees over the years. His thoughts on this topic are as interesting to me as his musings on creativity or current events.

This is not a quick read, coming in at over 500 pages. Cockburn has a lot to say, and continually manages to find interesting ways to say those things.

Source: Purchased from Amazon.com

Saturday, June 13, 2015

This Week in Reading

Rumours of Glory (hc), by Bruce Cockburn, pages COMPLETED.
Flesh & Blood (ua), by Patricia Cornwell, COMPLETED. Reviewed here.
The Woman Who Died a Lot (ua), by Jasper Fforde, pages 1 – 249.

Action Comics 0
Adventures of Superman 0
Captain America Annual 12
Constantine the Hellblazer 1
Doctor Doom & the Masters of Evil 1 – 4
Starfire 1
X-Files (Topps) 1 – 9