A book, some art, and a movie... so, pretty much the usual
I really thought I was going to start vomitting up content more frequently...and then I dropped the ball yet again. Let's just say that I'm the only person in my household who thinks the time spent coming up with this drivel is a worthwhile endeavor. So it will always be a battle to find time to do this. If I didn't feel obligated to give Dan something to read and complain about, I probably wouldn't bother butting heads with the little woman at all.
I was approached by another author selling on Amazon, Jeff Gunhus, to read his book and offer up an opinion. Enter Resurrection America. I'm happy to report that unlike some of the other books I've been asked to read and review, this was a book well worth reading. It was well-edited, the characters were generally 3-dimensional and fully-developed, and the story was adequately suspenseful and not entirely predictable (for me, anyway - but that could be because I'm just a simpleton). I didn't anticipate the ending at all or the many twists and turns of the story. If you like a good dystopian story with a little bit of conspiracy theory thrown in, if you harbor just a little concern about computers working their tendrils into every facet of our lives, and if you appreciate a story with little guys standing up to bullies...have I got a story for you!
Here's the setting: In the near future, the madness and madmen in the middle east have failed to be dominated by the constant efforts of the United States and its allies. More and more soldiers have been shipped out the the Middle East and returned traumatized and with missing limbs. But don't worry, we have fully-functional prosthetics in the future that are every bit as functional as the missing parts - and even stronger - thanks to being directly wired into the recipient's brain. The story's protagonist, Rick, is one of these prosthetic recipients. Beyond the Middle East, Europe is a mess thanks to the overwhelming Middle Eastern migration, Russia has all but collapsed, and China is overwhelming all its neighbors as it steamrolls over everything with its massive military. The White house is rubble after a jihadist attack and American dominance in the world is diminishing as it falls back into a protectionist stance and locks up its borders. Interestingly, one of the complaints of the characters in the book is about the shoddy undependable American-made electronics he now has to use with the cessation of all Asian-manufactured electronic imports.
He considered the chances that Manny's radio was receiving but couldn't send. It was possible. The last few years spent using American-made electronics had proven there was no end to the ways they could malfunction. He hoped his deputy just had a flat tire or some mechanical problem and that's why he wasn't at the mine where Rick had expected to find him. But another look at the fence told him there was more than a flat tire at work. He hoped there was a simple explanation for it all. The fence. Manny's absence from the spot of his last radio transmission. But his gut told him he was hoping for too much.
I drew comparisons, as I was reading Resurrection America, to a lot of different books/movies I'm familiar with. It started out feeling similar to the fine EMP-apocalyptic books of William Forstchen (One Second After and One Year Later - which I may be mentioning here sooner or later) and the TV series Designated Survivor. It slowly evolved into something closer to Terminator, the Matrix, or 2001: A Space Odyssey. And then ultimately, it unexpectedly ends like none of them. Or kind of ends, anyway. Let's just say Book #2 can pick right up where book #1 ended.
The title of the book has several meanings, but the first, and most obvious, is the name of the town the book's events take place within: Resurrection, Colorado. Resurrection is a small town that has been dying a slow, economic-failure induced death for years. The main character is a sheriff named Rick. So I, of course, pictured Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead every time I read "Rick" in the story. I don't know how close my mental image of the book's "Rick" was to the author's conceived image of Rick, but my mind's eye's Rick was a pretty bad dude. Bad in a good way, that is.
"That's nothing to you guys. You and I both know it," Rick said. "And I figure it's worth twice as much not to have the entire town up here a couple of hours from now picketing this place." Rick indicated down the hill. "Tomorrow's the Fall Festival. People from all over are coming into town. Most of them from other mining communities. Bet we could get a thousand people up here. The press would eat that."
Keefer narrowed his eyes, looking Rick up and down as if just seeing him for the first time. "Marines always were a pain in my ass."
Rick ignored Keefer's show of knowledge about his background. He almost let a Oorah slip, but instead just stared the man down.
"Fifteen million and I get three days," Keefer said. "Anything sooner and it goes back to ten. The town gets out of control once it finds out and it's on you. The money goes away. All of it."
Rick assumed the money was off the table if the town blew up either way, so he didn't feel like he was giving anything up. He knew he couldn't tell anyone, not even Bertie. If she knew then she'd call off the festival and march right up the hill herself. No, he'd have to keep this secret. What difference would two days make? "Agreed," he said, holding out his hand.
Keefer shook it, and when he did, he pressed the stack of cash into Rick's hand. When Rick pulled his hand away, there was ten thousand dollars in it.
"Down payment," Keefer said. "Do with it what you want."
Rick weighed the money in his hand. "Really?"
"Sure," Keefer said, his tone saying he'd known all along Rick could be paid off. "It's all yours."
Rick bent the paperclip back slightly on both the front and the back of the wad of bills. Then, with a quick movement that made Keefer flinch, he chucked the money at the fence. When the paper clip hit, the money exploded into a ball of spark and flame, sending tiny fragments of paper money into the air like confetti.
"Oorah, asshole," Rick said. He turned and walked back to his Blazer, a smile spreading across his face. He might have to do business with the man, but that didn't mean he had to like it.
In George RR Martin fashion (yeah, I know he's not the only one - but he's the one you kids are most familiar with), there was little reluctance to kill off major characters throughout the story. It felt like no one was safe, which is both good and bad - I suppose it depends on how much "control" you need to fell like you have in the story. Or something. What do I know? I'm just a hack talking about a book I enjoyed.
Don't be fooled into thinking this is an extended anti-American diatribe. This dark future is just a logical progression of the events taking place today. If they're not careful, today's politicians could easily take us right to this dark future. Other than some of the tech that doesn't currently exist, there's little in this story beyond imagining. And I read the eBook version (which is a medium I don't love) and actually finished this book before completing the physical book I'm currently reading (one of the new Star Wars novels).
I really wanted to talk about Greg Bear's War Dogs and Killing Titan because of the futuristic military connection and the aforementioned One Year After for its dystopian/military elements that also relate to this book (I read them months ago), but I've run out of steam. Next time. Maybe.
Quite a while back, we discovered Pizza Studio in Poway and it quickly became our favorite pizza place. The price is fair, the quantity is perfect, and the selection of unlimited toppings is awesome. But I'm not going to talk about pizza now. I'm going to talk about something else I discovered in Pizza Studio - local artists displaying (and selling) their art on its walls. I've tried to buy one of these paintings, though its creator has been very non-responsive to my contact attempts, and I'm also planning to try to buy another of these if I ever get around to it.
The first of these paintings I noticed is titled Growing Together, by a local artist named Tina Staub. My first thought, when I saw the painting, was that it was very Tim Burton-esque (which is funny, since the contact email address for this painting was Vampire_Hottie2000). And then I looked more closely at the actual content of the painting and decided it was more Groot than Corpse Bride. If you don't find the Groot character to be anthropomorphically lovable, then pick your own animated tree character. It isn't really very Treebeard-ish and I can't think of any other anthropomorphic trees, so for me it's all Groot. But the the artist either really doesn't want to sell it or just really doesn't want to sell to me, because my emails have gone unanswered.
The other Pizza Studio painting I've really liked is, as are many of the paintings, ocean-themed. It's a painting of a swimming turtle called Into The Deep by a local artist named Deborah Collins. I've always had an affinity for turtles. Maybe it was the long, skinny neck (before obesity turned it into a series of chins) and my introvert-ish tendencies. Or maybe I'm just weird. I haven't tried contacting the artist yet, so I'll probably be too late to get this one.
I came across another, even more amazing, piece of art at the Sparks Gallery: Unconditional by AmandaLynn. The Sparks Gallery is an art gallery in downtown San Diego where my multi-talented daughter, Emeli, was performing for a fundraiser/benefit a few months ago. I've been meaning to mention Unconditional forever, but...well, it fell into the abyss with the rest of the stuff I've never bothered to mention. The Sparks Gallery had a whole bunch of art that was interesting, but very little that I found amazing. Unconditional was clearly amazing - a pencil drawing on a big piece of wood. You could clearly see every pencil line if you stood close enough to the piece, but the whole blended beautifully. It's just an amazing thing. Weird, but amazing. If it hadn't been so pricey, it would be hanging in my living room. Pizza studio's artists are about the limit of my art purchasing power. And I haven't even managed to get one of those yet.
And while on the subject of Emeli and art, here are a few things my amazingly talented Emeli has created. She's so much more talented than me. And just about everyone else, too. I actually created a web site for her to showcase her talents, but it's not quite ready yet. It will be sooner or later.
One last art-related thing. A few months ago, Disney (or possibly someone else, I forget - the list I saw was put out by Disney) put out a bunch of more life-like images of the biggest Disney princesses. The Ariel one was super sweet, so I grabbed it. I didn't hold on to any of the others. I think they were all slightly animated.
And I don't want to sound like a big ol' bragger, but I have a complete set of The Little Mermaid trading cards from the 90s. Yeah, I'm quite a catch. I know.
Speaking of alternate versions of Arial, this version of Arial has been showing up on a lot of t-shirts and posters lately (well, lately when I had origially planned to mention it) and Joe Linsner's Ariel from many years ago has long been a favorite.
I was having fun doodling again for a little while, but have lost interest again. I'm still working on one doodle of a train (when I say "working", I mean I'm avoiding working on it at all), but it's far from being worth showing here. here's just one last thing I'm going to blather on about before I slither back to the shadows again...a movie that I liked well enough that I felt like I had to recommend it to other people right after seeing it.
Mckenna Grace, the little girl in this film, steals the show. She's only ten (her character is seven), but already has some serious acting chops. If you're not convinced she feels everything her character feels in this movie...well, maybe you don't have kids. I don't know.
And Chris Evans is basically the same cool dude he is in everything. I suspect he's just playing himself (as most actors seem to do most of the time). He just seems like the kind of guy that would be easy to hang out with - just a regular dude.
As for the movie itself, it's not exactly relatable (there aren't a lot of genius-level elementary kids out there living with their uncles because their math-genius mothers killed themselves), but who says everything has to be relatable to your own life? The characters draw you in and make you feel what they're feeling and even a heartless old troll like me got teary a few times.
McKenna and Chris did a bunch of publicity stuff together that you can find on YouTube that's well worth watching, too. Very cute.
Also...I just saw that David Sedaris has a new book coming out in May. And I realized that I totally forgot to mention his stuff when talking about the comedic autobiographies I've read and enjoyed. My bad. He's a funny guy, too. It's been a few years since I read any of his stuff, but it was really funny as I recall. Maybe I'll pick up Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) when I see it.