Happy Towel Day, you hoopy froods!

It’s not understatement when I say I owe my love of reading to Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

My (much loved) first copy of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

In 7th grade, I was burnt out on assigned reading in school. Too many depressing stories with kids, parents and/or dogs dying or old language that I didn’t really enjoy reading. I can’t remember the context of the conversation, but my Mom and I were downstairs working on the computer. We had a bookshelf of their old books behind the door and I assumed that since they were my parent’s books, they were boring. I had seen the book on the shelf and assumed it was some kind of astronomy guide.

But then my Mom made some crack about “42” and when I gave her a blank stare, she grabbed the book off the shelf and told me I should read it, that it was a really funny book. So while she clicked away at the computer (probably helping me type up a paper since, at 13, my typing was still painfully slow) I flipped through the first few pages and instantly fell in love.

The Guide became a huge part of my life from then on. I read the first book and was overjoyed to find out there were four more in the series. I got them all from the library and found myself crying as I finished up the last page of Mostly Harmless. I moved on to the ‘Dirk Gently’ series and listened to the audiobook of ‘Long Dark Teatime of the Soul’ on repeat all summer.

I found old creative writing papers from later on that year and Ford Prefect made several appearances (I’m guessing my English teacher wasn’t familiar with the book since they never called me out on what was essentially fanfic). The book became a litmus test for which friends really got me. When I began working at the library a few years later, any time someone donated a copy of a Douglas Adams book, I would take it home with me (somewhere in my parent’s house is a big box of Guides I need to reclaim and redistribute). By some weird twist of fate, PBS ran the miniseries that summer and I recorded it to VHS then, like the uberfan I was, I transferred the audio over to cassette so I could listen to it and memorize it all.

To top off the nerdiness of all of this, when I won a chance to meet Dave Matthews before a concert I bought a copy of the book and GAVE IT TO HIM as a gift. I mean, it is the best book and everyone should have a copy, so I was just looking out for him but still, what a dork!

Now the book is on the assigned reading list for schools in my area which kind of makes me sad. I liked it being a cult classic to be discovered. I liked giving it to kids who thought that reading for fun wasn’t a thing. I feel like making any book homework is the kiss of death for enjoyment. Plus, I know the humor isn’t for everyone, you have to have that very dry British wit.

Anyway, I am exciting to wear my towel today, to see how many hoopy froods come into the library and get it. Have a wonderful day and remember – don’t panic!

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Books Read in March

Here’s what I read in March. Not as impressive as February but still some good stuff in the mix!

The Daily Show: An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and GuestsThe Daily Show: An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests by Chris Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read half of this and then listened to the rest. I was a little disappointed the audiobook wasn’t narrated by anyone from the show but that would be pretty amazing to get that cast back together. That being said, the readers did a wonderful job mimicking the voices and tone where they could without it being too distracting.

I was watching the Daily Show with Craig Kilborn in high school and I remember when it changed hands to Jon Stewart. I have always been relatively progressive/liberal in my world view, so I wouldn’t say that Jon changed that, but The Daily Show did let me know that I was not alone in thinking that way, it made me want to stay up to date on the news, it made me understand how politics really work.

The show, Stewart’s version of the show, played a HUGE role in my young adult life and this book does an amazing job covering its evolution over the course of 12 years. If you are a fan of the show, if you remember watching it every night, if you attended the ‘Rally for Sanity’ — pick up this book or give it a listen. You will be impressed by how much hard work this entire cast and crew put into keeping us both informed and entertained all these years, and how that ended up changing the media as a whole.

MooseMoose by Max de Radiguès
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this because we were discussing how it made it onto lots of top comic lists for teen readers but we cataloged it in adult. I understand the cataloging since our YA section is both a mix of middle and high school materials and this definitely is very mature content.

The story deals with bullying, and not just being picked on, but physical violence and a level of abuse that was disturbing.

I think it is a powerful story that will find its way into the hands of readers that need to find it, but I can understand why we opted to put it in the adult collection.

Me and Marvin GardensMe and Marvin Gardens by A.S. King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A.S. King is one of my favorite young adult authors so I was surprised to see this title cataloged as Children’s Fiction. It still has that trademark King bit of magical realism, but the characters and themes run a little bit younger, or maybe just things that work for a wider age range of readers.

While not my favorite King book, this has a great story to give to kids who have a passion about the environment and interest in humans finding that balance between nature and progress. Definitely for the more thinky middle school reader who has already realized that their parents are not perfect and that the world has shades of gray.

Paper Girls, Vol. 2Paper Girls, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Even better than the first volume (I did not think that would be possible). This series is amazing.

Don’t read anything about it, don’t find spoilers, just find the books and read them.

Samanthasaurus RexSamanthasaurus Rex by B.B. Mandell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How could I not read this? Adorable dinosaur with my name. The trick with the diamond seemed like a stretch. If there is a Samantha in your life, this is a solid purchase.

I Am Jim HensonI Am Jim Henson by Brad Meltzer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sweet and simple book, this would be great for a read-aloud to older elementary kids. The author does not mention that Jim has passed away, though kids can see it if they look at the timeline included on the last couple pages.

One of my personal heroes and I’m always glad to see his story being told and shared.

They Can't Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice MovementThey Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think Lowery does a good job of staying objective in his recounting of the tumult of the last few years. I knew about most of these events, but not all of them, and lumping them all together in this book, realizing that this is just a snapshot of two years in America, you can’t help but wonder what, if anything, has changed.

The saddest part is how optimistic the afterward sounds when it comes to continuing to deal with these issues as a country…I feel like this has all be pushed out of the spotlight since November and the national rhetoric is not one that encourages discussion of racial issues.

The Private EyeThe Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is becoming VERY DISTURBING that every book I pick up this year has some kind of “THE CLOUD WILL END US ALL!” message to it…and Private Eye wasn’t even a NEW book!

BKV does it again with a twisted story about a not-to-distant future where the world has gone to shit and, as usual, most people just deal with it. Loved the characters and their hints of backstory. I’m kind of glad this is a one-off, that the little teases are all we get and we have to make it up from there. The main story is enough to satisfy.

Sci-Fi Noir Action Thriller Graphic Novel.

Decelerate BlueDecelerate Blue by Adam Rapp
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another commentary on our short-attention span world. I liked the ideas here but I wish it had a little more to it all. I never felt like I got to know Angela and Gladys as well as I could have.

Still, some cool themes and ideas to talk about.

View all my reviews

testing, testing, is this thing on?

I swear I have NOT forgotten about this blog. Actually, I spend a lot of time thinking of things I could post about, crafting the entries in my mind while doing other things at work or making dinner…but then I get free time and instead go and do the things I was going to write about – read a book, play a game, watch a tv show etc.

So if anyone even still reads this thing, I’ll try to get more than just “What I Read in March” posted by the end of this month.

what I read in September

what I read in September

This was a pretty great month with lots of really good books, some that I had been meaning to read for awhile and others that I stumbled upon (the dangers of helping with the new materials delivery is that I see all the shiny new graphic novels that I’ve never heard of before but sound awesome. Also the same danger of working with people who read a wide variety of books themselves and then you want to read what they say is good).

Citizen: An American LyricCitizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve never really read a book of freeform poetry before. Luckily, Rankine eased me into it by starting with more of a prose style and then slowly moving into more of a poetry rhythm. A short little book with lots of powerful moments. These feelings and images will stick with me for awhile.

Batman: Earth One, Vol. 1Batman: Earth One, Vol. 1 by Geoff Johns

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn’t expecting much from yet another Batman comic but WOW! I loved the reimagining of Gotham and the Wayne family, and, of course, Alfred. This was not at all what I was expecting and really hard to put down – which I didn’t! Read it all in one sitting.

Wonder Woman: Earth One, Vol. 1Wonder Woman: Earth One, Vol. 1 by Grant Morrison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars.

I didn’t feel this one was quite as good as Batman. I don’t know why it is so hard to write a good Wonder Woman story. Maybe it is because that she, like Thor, is just born awesome. She doesn’t have the whole “death of her family” like Superman and Batman, nothing to really overcome so her origin story isn’t quite as engaging. They tried to give her some mother issues but she came off more as a spoiled brat than a struggling hero.

Also, the art was just so typical…all the girls have their mouths hanging half open and they were supposed to be shocked when Diana came home wearing makeup but…um, she didn’t look that much different from when she left.

I love that in a world that is devoid of men and no influence from men, everyone likes to imagine women would still wear skimpy clothing and bustiers. Be real – it would be a land of sweatpants and t-shirts, maybe jean shorts when it is cold.

Dark Night: A True Batman StoryDark Night: A True Batman Story by Paul Dini

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really loved this book and the idea of using your superhero figures to help you cope with life. Dini really took a chance, bearing his soul like this, but he did it right and this is a great book, a great story, inspiring and affirming but not in a cliche kind of way? He’s not perfect but that is what made it such a great read – I could identify with his insecurities even if I wasn’t exactly like him.

Nobody Likes a GoblinNobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cute story, great illustrations, perfect for the older picture book reader who likes a silly fantasy tale. Pair this with The Princess and the Pony for a quirky family read-together.

Lumberjanes, Vol. 4: Out of TimeLumberjanes, Vol. 4: Out of Time by Noelle Stevenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This series just keeps getting better! What could have just been a goofy, one-note story about a group of goofy girl scouts has turned into an epic, layered tale of hardcore lady-types. Keep it coming Team Lumberjanes!

Jackaby (Jackaby, #1)Jackaby by William Ritter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this book! I would suggest it for fans that lik “Monstrumologist” or “The X Files” – anything with a supernatural twist. I love that all the monsters are not “bad” and that it pulls from a variety of myths and stories to create the creature world.

I definitely plan on picking up the second book soon!

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super FamousMs. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This might be my favorite Ms. Marvel arc yet! It is a lesson that all of us need to be reminded of from time to time – teens and adults. Just loved it.

View all my reviews

movie thoughts: Eight Days a Week (2016)

movie thoughts: Eight Days a Week (2016)

beatles-eight-days-a-week-270x400

I’m a pretty hardcore Beatles fan. Or, at least, I used to be. In middle school and high school I pretty much eat/sleep/breathed the Fab Four. I hung out in the library so much looking for their albums and books about them, I credit them with my career choice. I hadn’t really done anything Beatles related in awhile, so I wasn’t sure how I felt about this film coming out. Luckily, it was streaming on Hulu so it was pretty easy for me to sit and watch it.

Within the first few seconds, I could feel the fangirl in my awakening. The sheer emotion I felt at hearing that music, watching the clips – it surprised me! And as a fan who enjoys talking with other fans, I really liked the clips from the different celebrities sharing their own Beatles memories.

But after the first 45 minutes, the reality set in – I knew all of this already. In fact, I had seen most of these concert clips before and a lot of the Beatles quotes were lifted from the Anthology (though Paul and Ringo did participate but they really didn’t say anything new). Now, the audio remastering was impressive, especially the Hollywood Bowl concert clips (the complete concert is available now in audio and it will be a bonus on the blu-ray release). I’m not sure how those sound engineers managed to find the Beatles’ voices in that din of screams, but they pulled it off (you can listen to the album right now on Spotify if you want to hear it).

There was one factoid I didn’t remember from before – probably because it is more a reflection of U.S. history rather than Beatles history – which was about the Jacksonville concert and The Beatles supporting integration, commenting that such a thing was ridiculous. That never came up in the Anthology (it doesn’t really try to connect The Beatles story to the rest of the world) and having it appear in this documentary with everything else going on right now, it feels like history is somehow stuck in a loop and I’m not really convinced we’ve learned anything. Or maybe we have but we keep forgetting (“And once every five years, everyone chooses to forget what they’ve learned. Democracy in action.”)

I felt like the film lost steam near the end, trying to find a way to wrap up a story in the middle, because the end of the touring years is the start of the studio years, and those albums are more memorable than the previous because they start experimenting and branching out. So it just kinda ends then jumps ahead to give us a clip from the Let It Be roof concert.

I’m guessing most people don’t have The Anthology memorized the way I do (I watched that special at least 3 times and I have the CDs, which I also listened to over and over) so maybe the repetition won’t be as noticeable to them. I mean, that documentary is several hours long while this clocks in at about 90 minutes so the non-Beatlemaniac can enjoy it.

All in all, a fun watch for a Beatles fan and probably interesting for the uninitiated too. I can only hope that there is another kid out there, like me, looking for something to watch to kill time and they might turn on Hulu and see this special and decide to learn more about The Beatles. Give it a watch, but don’t expect any revelations.

3 1/2 stars

Blog Project: Star Trek: The Next Generation

Blog Project: Star Trek: The Next Generation

My friend Andy cannot resist an amazing blu-ray deal so when Amazon.uk had Star Trek: The Next Generation on sale for some obscenely low price earlier this month, he ordered it. I had been wanting to rewatch TNG for awhile, so we are taking this opportunity to team up and watch the show, blogging our thoughts and reactions 30 years later.

A little background for me: TNG was a HUGE part of my childhood. I have lots of happy memories of Saturday nights, getting Pizza Hut on the way home from church (my parents were big fans of the 5 o’clock mass) and sitting at the table in front of the tv in the basement, happily watching and eating together. We never really had a show like that again, that kept us all entertained, that brought us together, and I remember the emotions of watching the series finale and knowing that this was more than an end to a TV show…

So it has been interesting watching these episodes, produced in 1987, watching on an HDTV screen in 2016 (well, bouncing between my TV and my iPad, and realizing how much my life has started to mirror the Star Trek technology, especially when I start watching by asking Cortana to launch the Netflix app on my Xbox). I’m not sure I will be able to blog in-depth reactions to every episode – there are seven seasons worth! But I want to at least give a mention to them and see what memories, if any, surface while watching.

S1:E1/2 “Encounter at Farpoint”
I remember this episode pretty well but I think that is because it was rerun the most and I’ve tried to start the series over before and become distracted. Plus, Q. Q is one of my favorite characters in the series and a lot of the episodes I remember have Q in them (and Barkley…but we’ll get to him later!).

I think this is a pretty solid pilot. They manage to introduce everyone without making it feel like a line-up. And there are a lot of characters on this show – we have a whole crew of people! And the plot of the first half of the premiere, with Q putting them on trial for the crimes of humanity, gives the audience a chance to catch up on the history between 1987 – The Original Series (TOS) – to TNG.

The second half we meet Riker and Wesley, who I think are written to be the audiences eyes. Riker is new to the Enterprise, Wesley was there for the kids. I love the hint we get of Riker and Troi’s previous relationship, calling him “Imzadi”. If I had to trace back in fandom and find my first “ship”, I’d say it was Riker/Troi and Picard/Crusher. Not the most imaginative, but they were the first show relationships I was invested in and wanted to happen.

The end of the episode sets up the series – that Q will always be watching and judging and they have plenty of time to prove if humans are worthy.

S1:E3 “The Naked Now”
The next two episodes felt like homages to the original series, which makes sense. Unbeknownst to me at the time, TNG met with some push back from TOS fans, plus I’m sure the network wasn’t sold on the idea of a science fiction show. Sci Fi shows are expensive and never seem to get as big of a following. This episode was supposed to be similar to “The Naked Time” from TOS, which I’m sure writers hoped would appease the TOS fans, but had the opposite effect of making it look like TNG was just going to copy+paste episodes.

S1:E4 “Code of Honor”
And if “Naked Now” hadn’t been trouble enough, this episode is very problematic, even more so 30 years later. Again, it feels like a throw back to TOS, with the ridiculous “fight to the death” challenge. It is hard to watch this episode now, with a planet population by black people who talk with slight accents and who act uncivilized, making comments about Tasha being head of security and a woman and all other kinds of things that make your eyes roll back into your head.

For some reason E3 and E4 focus a LOT on Tasha Yar. I suppose have a woman as Head of Security was a big deal for this reboot and they were really proud of it, but in “Naked Now” she ends up getting brainwashed by the virus and running around in a skimpy outfit, trying to seduce Data and in “Code of Honor” she is made to fight to the death with another woman.

S1:E5 “The Last Outpost”
This episode was a little more straight forward, with the introduction of the Ferengi. I was excited to see proto-Quark because isn’t he one of the best things on DS9? I have a few thoughts on the Ferengi but I want to see a few more episodes with them before I come to any conclusions.

One thing that Andy and I have already talked about – it seems the best TV shows have some of the worst first seasons. Watching TNG, I was reminded of the first season of one of my favorites shows of all time Parks and Recreation. P&R has a terrible first season (in fact, I didn’t watch it when it originally aired because I was so turned off by the first few episodes). They are trying way too hard to be The Office and 1) we already had that show airing on the same channel and 2) we were ready for something new.

Right now, TNG feels like it is trying really hard to be TOS. But that’s not what the people of 1987 wanted – they already had TOS. They knew those episodes by heart. They didn’t want lessons from the 60s, they needed stories about the 80s, stories about our future. So I expected these first few episodes to be bumpy and awful. Thank goodness CBS kept it going. Nowadays shows barely get a chance (**coughFIREFLYcough**) before they are cancelled. I can’t wait to get to the classic episodes, but I want to watch the whole series, see how the characters grow and change and evolve over the seven seasons. And I can really only appreciate that if I watch them all again.

Make it so.

WWW Wednesdays – August 3 2016

WWW Wednesdays – August 3 2016

A weekly meme revived by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading:

I’m about halfway through two non-fiction books right now – Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx by Sonia Manzano a.k.a. Maria from Sesame Street. It is her autobiography and I am listening to it on my drive to work, which means it is lasting a long time since my commute is all of 15 minutes. She reads the book and I think that adds a lot more since she is telling the story. It is not quite what I expected, a very different kind of autobiography, she is telling it from her point of view as a child/teen so you don’t get any nostalgia or side notes about how life in the 1960s New York City compares to life today. It is all very matter of fact, the way a kid would tell their story.

The other is the latest by Mary Roach – Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. She tries to keep it as light as she can, but when it comes down to it, even though she is avoiding talking about weapons and the actual act of fighting, so much of the science around war is about survival and even discussions about sweating eventually lead to a conversation about horrible ways to die while in the line of duty. It is still fascinating, and I think she tries her best to inject some humor where she can, but it is hard to separate the reality of what happens to these soldiers after she talk with them about diarrhea while on a sniper mission.

Recently Finished:

Filmish: a graphic journey through film by Edward Ross was a fantastic primer on film and film history and film studies. When I first picked up this book, I wondered why Ross didn’t just make a documentary, but then as I read through, I realized it would have been impossible for him to get the rights to all the films he cites in the book. If you love movies, if you love that art of movies and love to sit and think about a film long after the screen has gone dark, this quick read is one you won’t want to miss.

Up Next:

I have SO MANY BOOKS on my desk at work and my temptation is to always reach for the graphic novels first because they take less time to read. I never factor into this equation that I have EVEN MORE graphics on request so by the time I finish these, a new one will be on my desk, pushing the prose novels down the line yet again.
Last month I read Relish by Lucy Knisley and I really enjoyed it so I requested French Milk, one of her earlier publications. It appearedon my desk today, on special loan from another library system so it gets bumped to the top of the pile.

I have been a big BKV fan since I read Y: The Last Man so many years ago and I was so thrilled to see We Stand On Guard on the new book cart at the library, so I immediately snatched it up.

So what are you reading?