Category Archives: Books

“Deathly Hallows” – Parts I & II

Variety reports that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be made into two movies, with the second to be released 6 months after the first.

For those not familiar with the books (no spoilers here), they keep getting bigger. By the fourth book, Goblet of Fire, Rowling was including enough material for two films. In fact, director Mike Newell was planning on splitting it when Alfonso Cuarón (director of Prisoner of Azkaban) convinced him it would be better to cut out tons of material and make one movie.

I was pissed, as were many (most?) other Potter fans. The movie turned out good, but when Order of the Phoenix was released, I think it became too obvious that subplots were missing, as well as chunks of the main plot. It felt very rushed.

So when I read that Hallows will be split I got pissed off again – because this means Half-Blood Prince won’t be split! Which only gives me 3 more shots at getting tickets to a premier and hitting on Emma Watson. Who, by the way, turns 18 next month. Just saying.

DM of the Rings

I’ve been really enjoying the web comic DM of the Rings by Shamus Young. It tells the tale of a dungeon master leading a group of typical players on a Dungeons & Dragons adventure based on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Only the players have never heard of LOTR, much less MERP1.

Yes, a little far fetched considering D&D stole heavily from LOTR, and I can’t imagine a gamer who hasn’t seen the LOTR movies. But no matter, the comic is very funny, and the actions of the players are uncannily similar to every group I’ve ever gamed with.

The real ingenuity is that it’s “illustrated” using only screencaps from the films with some occasional Photoshopping. The looks on the characters’ faces is often priceless. By the time you’re halfway through the series, you’ll be convinced Viggo Mortensen went through the whole trilogy with a blank stare.

  1. I actually owned MERP some years ago, but never got around to playing it, or meeting anyone else who had. []

The Fashionably Late Book Review

Some writers can claim, with justifiable pride, to have the best reviews, oftentimes before the books even hit your local bookseller. However, since I no longer work for your local bookseller (and even then, I would only have been local if “local” for you meant one of the uglier corners of Union County), and since I no longer have free books thrown at me like Tom Jones gets panties (ie. I pay for this stuff), I may be a bit behind the times. But I digress… Two favorites from recent reading:

Voices of Time: A Life in Stories by Eduardo Galeano, translated by Mark Fried. Metropolitan Books, 2006.

Reading Eduardo Galeano is like the literary equivalent of Pablo Neruda via Wire’s “Pink Flag:” Short, sharp vignettes, each with a lovely economy, abound over many of the Uruguayan author’s best works, from the Memory of Fire trilogy through his 1998 bestseller Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking Glass World. There’s a certain anger here, but it’s anger as well-directed as it is deeply felt; and it’s suffused with a warmth for those who’ve gotten the short end of the stick, without stooping to condescension.

But there’s also a certain danger in reviewing Galeano, especially if you enjoy his works. There’s the temptation to just quote your favorite bits, and let them stand in for the whole, sort of like a film trailer. Having said that, I’ll open with one line that could easily stand in for the collection: “Reporters don’t cover dreams.”

It’s true enough of the nightly news, but not of the author’s work; dreams have been Galeano’s beat for years, in tandem with–and sometimes jostling against–the waking world that he chronicles. And for every famous name encountered in the stories, from Caetano Veloso to Diego Maradona or Sebastiao Salgado, it’s the quotidian details of the lives of everyone else–blue algae, ants, pensioners, bartenders, and strangers met along the way–that give the book its real heft.

And whereas the Memory of Fire trilogy encompassed the history of the Americas, Voices in Time starts with the beginnings of life itself, progresses through (but, fittingly, does not end with) death, and takes the scenic route to a number of points in between.

There’s probably much more that could be said about this book, but nothing that would add to the work itself. Suffice to say that the collection is like life itself: sprawling, messy, sometimes sad, often funny, and ultimately, entirely too short.

Pursuit, by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza.

This is the fifth, and perhaps final (but perhaps not), installment of bestselling Brazilian author Garcia-Roza’s Espinosa series. I’ll forego the customary pull-quote hyperbole (“An enchanting, riveting read that will hold you completely in its thrall from start to finish!”) since there’s plenty of that to be found on the dust-jacket.

But don’t begrudge the author his accolades; he’s earned them. At a time when detective fiction/mystery seems to consist of either A: Softcore porn and a handful of dead bodies, or B: recipies for baked goods, a cat, a few chaste kisses, and a handful of dead bodies–and yes, I’m aware that there are exceptions, but please, go to the Mystery section of your local bookstore and see if the selection doesn’t bear me out–this is a rare bird: creative, thoughtful, literary, and sometimes given to flights of fancy.

And that, I suppose, could apply equally to the series’ protagonist, Espinosa. This isn’t a hardboiled detective in the tradtion of Chandler, Cain, or Hammett; he’s something else altogether. Rather than try to do the writer, and his character, justice, I’ll let Espinosa give a thumbnail description of himself:

“I’m not a warrior, I’m a cop; I’m not a hero, I’m a public employee; and I’m no philosopher, despite my name.” If you can picture a less-neurotic Woody Allen channeling Sam Spade, you’d still be out in left field, but at least in the ballpark.

In a recent interview, Garcia-Roza stated that he was through with the Espinosa series–for now–and that a new series, with one of the current series’ characters as its protagonist, would begin to appear soon. My money would be on Welber, the most fully-developed character in the series apart from its protagonist; that said, I wouldn’t be surprised if that–like so much else in this series–is another red herring.

Catching Up With a Decade of Comics (Gifted, Dangerous, House of M Reviews)

After watching X-Men: The Last Stand, I decided I wanted to catch up on changes to the comic book universe. I’ve been out of comics since the mid-nineties, when I graduated from college and moved out to SoCal. So I’ve missed almost a decade’s worth of stories. Gotta be something big that went down between then and now, right? The major stories should be nicely packaged in graphic novel format by now.

So I go down to my local comic book store to see what I could find. What I found, sitting behind the counter, was a guy who looked and dressed exactly like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. I shit you not: brown hair in a pony tail, goatee, overweight, wearing a t-shirt tucked into sweatshorts pulled up to his bellybutton. Surreal. I figured this would be the guy to talk to. I give him a rundown of the situation, figuring he won’t even know where to start. Actually, I was pretty sure he would know where to start. But he doesn’t. He tells me nothing really stands out when you look at the last ten years. Things are pretty much the same as I left them. I think, maybe it’s like when you talk to someone you haven’t heard from in a while, and nothing really stands out: same job, same house, same life – nope, nothing new to report. Oh, but it has been hot out, recently… Anyway, he points out a book that’s gotten good reviews, written by Joss Whedon of Firefly/Serenity fame. I pay the man and take it home.

About two pages into it I’m thinking, who’s the blonde bimbo sleeping with Scott Summers? Flipflip. She’s in charge of the school? Where’s Professor X? Flipflip. Flipflipflip. Where’s the hell is Professor X?

Those were exactly the kinds of changes I wanted to read about. So I jump into the Batmobile and make a bee line back to the store. “What’s the deal?” I ask Comic Book Guy. “You said nothing changed. Trust me, things have changed!” He sticks to his guns for few seconds before he breaks down and admits that running a comic book store doesn’t actually leave him time to read comics. He hadn’t read comics since Magneto was on trial for, I don’t know, being Jewish or something. It was before I got into comics, so he was useless to me.

Well, I was on my own, so I turned to the most reliable source of wisdom I knew of: Amazon reader reviews. I really want to support my local comic book store, but if they can’t give me the advice I need, then I don’t mind saving over 30% at Amazon. I mean, that comes to about $5 a book. Combined with my Amazon Prime trial, I get everything cheap, tax free, and delivered within 3 days. And so far, I haven’t been disappointed. Sure, you can’t flip through them, but I’m after the major stories everyone knows about and has enjoyed. Previewing usually has little effect on my purchase decision unless the art is truly sub par.

So I plowed ahead and bought some highly rated stuff, and over time I’ll be chiming in on them with short reviews, starting with these. I’m still not caught up with the stories, but I’m definitely impressed with the state of the art (litterally). The artists are fully utilizing digital ink and paint systems, to the point where they’re adding things like motion blur and depth of field. Yes, depth of field! In a comic book! Like I’ve said before, we’re living in the future.

The only complaint I have is the book bindings. No, they’re not falling apart, they’re actually bound too tightly. This is fine until you come across two-page spreads showing epic battles (House of M is full of these), and you can’t clearly or fully see the part where the pages meet. They need to use the lay-flat binding that O’Reilly uses for their computer books. That would work perfectly.

Gifted / Dangerous
These two books collect Astonishing X-Men 1-12. They’re written by Joss Whedon, so there’s a lot more humor than usual. One issue I had with Gifted is that X-Men: The Last Stand borrowed heavily from it, so there are many plot parallels (figures, the first book I buy has a storyline I’m already familar with). As soon as it’s released, I plan on picking up Torn, which collects issues 13-18.

House of M
This is HUGE, meaning world altering. Meaning it alters the current, mainstream Marvel universe instead of creating yet another alternate. It involves the X-men, Avengers (new, old, I really don’t know since I never read that series), Spiderman, and others. Also features Scarlett Witch, Magneto, and Quicksilver (at least they were baddies in the 90’s; nothing’s clear anymore). The art is pretty fantastic, IMHO. Without giving anything away, it’s a good place to start to see the state of the universe after certain super-powers have their way with it.

On the way:

  • Decimation: X-Men – The Day After: follow-up to House of M
  • X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga: Ok, this took place before I started reading comics, but is supposedly an all-time great and I’ve never read it.

If anyone has any suggestions, preferably in the mainstream Marvel or DC universes (I’ll get to non-superhero stuff later), I’d appreciate them!

Wolverine’s Origin

30 years after his introduction, Marvel has finally released an official backstory for Wolverine. It was released in a miniseries (available in TPB) called Origin. The art is quite good, as you’d expect of a work of such importance. Without giving spoilers, it covers his parentage, upbringing, awakening, and passage into adulthood. Some details are given through innuendo, but it’s certainly clear enough for any adult reader with decent comprehension. A few plot points are a bit contrived; the character is fairly complex, and they tried to give an origin/cause for all major character traits and interests. Considering the age of the character (detailed in the book, finally), you’d figure some interests were developed later in life. Still, a must read for any fan, and who isn’t?

The Art of Nature’s Call

Here is a link I posted to It contains the same information as below. Feel Free to pass this along. Calls for submissions are being posted to every Craigslist location as well as other sites.

Photographers! I have been compiling my book of Bathroom Graffiti Art and I’m looking for more submissions to add to the book before the upcoming deadline.

Send us your best photos of bathroom graffiti. High Resolution preferred. Please be sure to include all the geographical information. Name of place, City, State as well as your first and last name and contact information.

This could be a great way to get your photos published in a high quality large format ART book. If your submission is used you will be notified and given proper credit within the book as well as a copy.

Please send photos to:

“THE ART OF NATURE’S CALL: Inside the worlds’ stall walls”
Thank you for your time, interest and contributions.

Happy Hunting!


Please feel free to pass this along. I’m looking forward to everyone’s submissions.

Cavaliers and Clay Men

If you’ve ever wondered what it was like for writers of Golden Age comic books, I heartily recommend The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (The Wonder Boys). The two heros are comic book pioneers whose basic background closely resembles that of Siegel and Shuster, the creators of Superman.
     The level of detail in setting and and character were truly awe inspiring. Most of the story takes place in late 1930s-40s NYC, and I couldn’t tell where fact ended and fiction began. It’s a masterful book that feels exhaustively researched.
     Michael Chabon received the Pulitzer Prize for it, joining some of my other favorite authors: Roger Ebert, Dave Barry, and Scott McNeely. Who says I’m not cultured?