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Responses to this rant
Dandy   Wednesday, 7/12/2017 12:25 AM
Dandy   Wednesday, 7/12/2017 12:26 AM
Bartski   Wednesday, 7/12/2017 12:31 AM
Bartski   Wednesday, 7/12/2017 12:34 AM
Older rants
Nov 14, 2017   Grace Vanderwaal - Just the Beginning
Nov 11, 2017   Tim Powers Signing at Mysterious Galaxy for Down and Out in Purgatory
November 4, 2017   Return to Disneyland, Halloween at the office, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Long Cosmos Maximus One year After War Dogs, Killing Titan Daddy, Stop Talking
October 29, 2017   Bruce Campbell Signing, Hail to the Chin, Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor
October 20, 2017   Meg & Dia, Imagine Dragons in concert, 2 Years 8 months and 28 Nights
October 17, 2017   All Apologies
October 16, 2017   Thrawn
Septempber 7, 2017   The Rage of Dragons, The Lincoln Myth
August 10, 2017   The Molly Ringwalds, Dia Frampton Musical awesomeness, Beauty and the Feast
July 28, 2017   The IT Sweatshop revisited, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, American Gods and The Magicians, Rogue One, Camino Island
July 24, 2017   CRV glovebox difficulties, San Diego Comic Con rant
July 11, 2017   Beauty and the Beast at the Lyceum, Earthweeds, Sons of Neptune Book 1, Aftermath, Empire's End, If Chin's Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor
June 30, 2017   Eastwood: No Direction Home book 2
June 23, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 4/4) - The PCH family vacation tale concludes, my new record, record player, and Emeli's site is live!
Jun 14, 2017   A noteworthy eBook mention before I return to my vacation ranting - No Direction Home
June 9, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 3/4) - The PCH family vacation tale concludes...almost. More pictures of spooky old houses, trees, rocks, and other things that nobody cares about! Plus, Goonies stuff
June 2, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 2/4) - The PCH family vacation tale continues... And more pictures of trees and other things that nobody cares about!
May 31, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 1/4) - Way more detail than anyone wants about our vacation up the coast of California and Oregon. And lots of pictures of trees!
Apr 26, 2017   Resurrection America, Pizza Studio art, AmandaLynn, Emeli art, and Disney art, and Gifted
Apr 14, 2017   My San Fransisco OSI PI adventure & "Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be"
Apr 12, 2017   Neil Gaiman speaks, Norse Mythology, American Gods comic adaptation, The Magicians TV series, and Dirk Gently on TV
Feb 2, 2017   A trip to the ever-less-magical land of Disney, The Prince of Outcasts, the Whistler, and a brief mention of The Magicians.
Jan 21, 2017   An update to my nerd wall at work, Found out about Richard Thompson (Cul De Sac) being gone, A list of all the stuff (or most, anyway) I've given up to new homes, A review of Dave! and Warp, and a couple of new doodles.
Dec 23, 2016   My final visit to Potterland and a couple of doodles
Dec 11, 2016   Books and related comics, and free/cheap stuff. Not taco Bell Material, President Me, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, The Hedge Knight (comic), The Sworn Sword (comic) Ooma, Ringplus, Amazon prime and other money-saving stuff.
Dec 4, 2016   I'm sharing my sad doodles with the world again. They're not very good, but I'll bet they're better than your scribbles!
Nov 12, 2016   Yet another trip to The Wonderful World of Harry Potter!
Nov 7, 2016   Blathering on about a few of the books I've read recently - Spire, The Check, and Dangercide, Pirate Detective
Oct 7, 2016   Yet another Visit to Harry Potterland. Oh, and my lease-mileage calculator.
July 25, 2016   Another Visit to Harry Potterland, a new car, a new shirt, a new dog, and a whole lot of the same old complaining
May 17, 2016   Email spoofers, Phishing emails, and scammers galore!
Apr 30, 2016   Winter's Edge and a Management zombie attack
Apr 23, 2016   Harry Potter land re-visited
Apr 9, 2016   Xenia...again
Apr 2, 2016   Sing Street, Batman vs Superman, Craigslist griping
Mar 1, 2016   The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood preview, fun at work, Xenia's new song, A Vanishing Glow, Our Fair Eden, Race Wars, The Force Awakens
Jan 27, 2016   Text Wars, Books I've read... Yup, that's pretty much it
Jul 30, 2015   Xenia Martinez news Still selling stuff on eBay, Hyperbole and a Half (the book), The Path Between the Seas, Trigger Warning, In Fifty years We'll all Be Chicks
Mar 17, 2015   Selling my treasures on eBay, Hyperbole and a Half, the Long Mars, Gray Mountain, Anathem, The Golden Princess, The Given Sacrifice
Mar 12, 2015   You'll be sorely missed, Sir Terry
Jan 21, 2015   More BBC 4 radio dramatizations by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett: The Amazing Maurice, Guards! Guards!, Neverwhere, Night Watch, Small Gods, Wyrd Sisters
Jan 10, 2015   JabberWocky, Neil Gaiman style!
Dec 24, 2014   The Good Omens BBC treatment
Aug 03, 2014   Every hobby has to end eventually, right?
Oct 8, 2013   Warning: Extreme Geekness ahead!
Oct 1, 2013   The Bloody Crown of iGoogle
Aug 26, 2013   Headphones at work
Aug 22, 2013   The guvmint is gonna getcha
June 25, 2013   Dweebs vs Big Bang vs IT Crowd
Jul 3, 2012   Xenia Martinez & Dia Frampton concert
Feb 24, 2012   Reading...just not much
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Being an idiot with Lev Grossman
Jan 7, 2012   If it ain't broke...
Aug 22, 2011   non-ComicCon report 2011
A Thousand Splendid Suns
An Act of Self Defense
May 5, 2011   On Stranger Tides
vs.
On Stranger Tides
March 2, 2011   I'm a gigantic slacker...
Ikariam
Wild Guns
Lord of Ultima
Metin 2
Lord of the Rings Online
Dec 15, 2010   Bring out your dead!
Aug 17, 2010   San DiegoComicCon 2010
August 11, 2010   I'm not dead yet...
May 3, 2010   Hero Comics
Liberty Comics
Dr Horrible
Neil Gaiman & Sam Keith in Batman
The Guild, Felicia Day
April 27, 2010   Mean Gene Wilder! Grrr!!!
April 24, 2010   If it's not one Jihad, it's another...
April 20, 2010   The Satanic Verses
March 15, 2010   Unseen Academicals
Feblueberry 8, 2010   The un-reading shelf (from most of 2009)
Feblueberry 2, 2010   Emily the Strange, the Lost Days...a novel
Nov 25, 2009   Happy Halloween, Mom!
Nov 18, 2009   Summer Vacation in Idaho
Aug 20, 2009   San Diego ComicCon 2009
Aug 12, 2009   I'm a big, fat slacker
June 05, 2009   The networks are helping me cut back on my TV viewing
June 04, 2009   Mandy Moore's Amanda Leigh,
Chris Isaak's Mr Lucky
and
My name is Bruce?
and Emmy Rossum? Where am I going with this?
May 21, 2009   Randy would have really liked Fanboys...sigh
May 3, 2009   The Spring reading shelf
Apr 21, 2009   Holidays On Ice (a little late for Christmas)
Apr 18, 2009   Leviticus Cross and other Hector Sevilla comic book stuff
Apr 16, 2009   The fantastically amazing and banal Badbartopia RSS Feed
Mar 31, 2009   Neil Gaiman's Blueberry Girl
Mar 30, 2009   My Amazon mis-order turns out to be not so annoying as previously expected...
(AKA the Dr Horrible soundtrack)
Mar 23, 2009   Stephan Pastis & Richard Thompson have me looking forward to the 2009 SD ComicCon
Mar 19, 2009   Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog,
The Guild
Mar 08, 2009   The Wonderful Wizard of Oz comic adaptation,
Neil Gaiman's Sandman: The Dream Hunters
Mar 04, 2009   Little Brother
Mar 1, 2009   Pete & Pickles
Feb 11, 2009   She & Him
Flakes
Pushing Daisies
Jan 26, 2009   The Scourge of God,
When You are Engulfed in Flames
Jan 14, 2009   On the Road = hippy nonsense
Jan 12, 2009   One-by-one, my fish have met their maker
Dec 26, 2008   My Azeroth-avoidance continues
Dec 23, 2008   Nothing to see...move along
Dec 15, 2008   New scribbles
Dec 10, 2008   The Oct-Nov-Dec reading shelf
Dec 1, 2008   Shalimar the Clown
the economic impact of the events in Mumbai
Nov 21, 2008   Star Wars: Allegiance
Nov 20, 2008   Daredevil Black Widow: Abattoir
Nov 17, 2008   Travel Team
Nov 16, 2008   A new comic adaptation of The Wizard of Oz
Nov 14, 2008   Berke's Books:
The Last Basselope
Edward Fudwupper Fibbed Big
Mars Needs Moms
Opus: 25 years
Nov 13, 2008   Return to Azeroth?
Nov 12, 2008   Goodbye, Opus
Oct 29, 2008   Halloween costumes of 2008
Project Superpowers
Marvels
Ruins
Oct 23, 2008   The Graveyard Book
Interworld
Oct 16, 2008   Nation
Oct 10, 2008   The Joy of Programming
My foray into Ajax
Oct 9, 2008   My Saturn Scare
Opus ends
Terry Pratchett's condition
Oct 3, 2008   The Hitchhiker's Guide, Book 6...by Eoin Colfer?
Oct 2, 2008   Media master - music online
Sony builds a "better" camera
Sept 24, 2008   The September reading shelf
Sept 17, 2008   Still missing Randall
The Fish tank...again
The Graveyard Book
Sept 15, 2008   Slacking...as usual
The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang
Sept 9, 2008   The dearth of Opus strips
yes, I meant to say "dearth"
Sept 8, 2008   A new monitor goes bad...but it all ends happily
Sept 3, 2008   A Boy and His Dog,
Richard Corben,
H.P. Lovecraft's Haunt of Horror
Sept 2, 2008   A slightly newish look
(aka "why I will never be a graphic designer")
Aug 11, 2008   Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in all its incarnations Mike Kunkel's re-imagining of Shazam
July 29, 2008   San Diego Comiccon 2008
July 24, 2008   Neil Gaiman
July 17, 2008   Chris Isaak!
June 30, 2008   The Woman Who Wouldn't
Legends II
Mouse Guard Fall 1152
the Jetta's latest round of repairs
fishtank overpopulation
June 10, 2008   The Reading Shelf
Fish tank jungle
Attack of the bees
June 3, 2008   Missing Randall
May 9, 2008   My French Whore
Apr 28, 2008   Fish tank fatality
Flight of the Conchords
The Dangerous Alphabet
Mar 5, 2008   Gene Wilder book signing at Borders
new fish tank
subpoenaed!
Jan 11, 2008   The Jetta Strikes back!
The Plucker
The Anubis Gates
National Treasure II
Nov 8, 2007   San Diego on Fire,
A clean break from WoW,
UCSD Extension Java I graduation (kinda)
Making Money
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Oct 2, 2007   Back to school, Java class at UCSD
AT&T's Uverse
new sketches
Blockbuster movie pass
August 28, 2007   Mandy Moore concert!
Aug 19, 2007   ComicCon 2007 - Neil Gaiman, Iron Man and all the usual suspects
May 22, 2007   World of Spamcraft (and other spamalicious topics), forum fun...gus, the woes of being a contractor and PIRATES!!
Apr 5, 2007   I'm a conservative - bite me!
Timbaland? Dumb!
Marie Antoinette - snaggle teeth and teasing glimpes. Sweet!
John Q - a lesson about fatherhood or a liberal-propoganda film?
Mar 30, 2007   Things that make me grumpy-er,
employed again at last,
Finn and assorted other ramblings
Feb 8, 2007   The search for employment continues..and the unemployment benefits are NOT pouring in!
Jan, 22, 2007   Freed from the bondage of employment, a very brief review of a few books and films
Dec 17, 2006   Sad excuses, The Innocent Man, 1776, THe Man in High Castle, Absolute Sandman, Wintersmith, garage sale treasures: Ghost in the Machine
Aug 20, 2006   Writers of the Future XXII/Tim Powers, more movie reivews
July 20, 2006   San Diego ComicCon 2006
July 15, 2006   Superman Returns, inconsiderate morons, Peewee's Playhouse returns, my plea for more pirate movies
July 8, 2006   Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Wild Animal Park critters, site remodeling
Jun 27, 2006   The good, the bad and the mediocre (a bunch of movie reviews in the new forum).
June 15, 2006   Because of Romek - A Holocaust Survivor's Memoir
May 21, 2006   The DaVinci Code, Aeon Flux, Everything You Want
May 12, 2006   World of Warcrack, the Office, Coraline, my apologies...
Jan 24, 2006   Christmas Vacation 2006, Syriana, Traveling Pants, Wish You Were Here
Dec 19, 2005   Festive Neighbors, the death of Olivia, Media Misinformation surrounding Brent Wilkes/ADCS, Make Love the bruce campbell way
Nov 15, 2005   Microsoft Technet 2005 launch party, Lexmark printer problem, a bad, bad day, changing dentists.
Oct 22, 2005   Thud!, Anansi Boys, Where's my cow
Oct 18, 2005   Terry Pratchet Thud! signing, Neil Gaiman Anansi Boys signing
Oct 15, 2005   A very, very late Comiccon 2005 report.
Jun 23, 2005   The black hole of Warcraft, The Years of Rice and Salt, After the Sunset, Madagascar, Mr and Mrs Smith, Taxi.
Jun 3, 2005   All is quiet on the PM Front, War of the Worlds (the novel), Kingdom of Heaven, Sahara, Star Wars Episode III, Flight of the Phoenix
May 9, 2005   The program managers strike again, More of my horrendous sketches, Spanglish, A Lot Like Love, Elektra, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the film)
Apr 9, 2005   Stuck in Corporate Hell, a few of my recent sketches, Miss Congeniality 2, Collateral
Mar 21, 2005   Revenge of the Jetta (car problems), a Newegg purchase, a few new drawings, more Opus
Feb 13, 2005   The Mail mystery solved, more of my crappy sketches, A few new photos of the girls, bill-bert (introducing the new Project Manager), sweet phone skills, Opus, Dungeons and Dragons, In Good Company
Jan 27, 2005   Mystery mail, new photos of my beautiful kids, some new sketches, an Episode 3 spoiler, Opus, Going Postal, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Ubik, Remember the Titans, Lemony Snicket`s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Dodgeball
Jan 7, 2005   Christmas 2004, Update to the site, Elf & King Arthur revisited, National Treasure, Opus, Blade Runner
Dec 18, 2004   A new Stephanie sketch, another Target web page goof, the SD Union Tribune confirms Greg Bear`s research for Vitals, Miramar VW proves my dealer service assertions wrong, neighborhood Christmas fun, Opus
Nov 24, 2004   More of my mediocre drawings, nw russian mail-order coins, Star Wars toys, a big green spider comes to visit, Opus, Dies the Fire, Digital fortress, The Incredibles, Twisted, Van Helsing
Nov 03, 2004   Some thoughts regarding the 2004 election, rants about the environment, a memory rebate update, new computer issues, Opus, The Lone Drow, Deception Point, Roswell season 2 on DVD
Oct 12, 2004   An interesting quiz, mal-in rebates, a parrot joke, my new computer, thoughts on frame removal, web logs, Opus, Vitals, Star Wars trilogy on DVD, Ladykillers
Sep 23, 2004   My "Heath" sketch for Mark Oakley, an update on my a PNY rebate check, the fictitious AWNA Act, Browser Issues with the site, Opus/Pickles, The DaVinci Code, Garden State (Natalie Portman), Man on Fire
Sep 11, 2004   A new drawing: "Stephanie", redneck wisdom, my salary to hourly reclassification, funny video: news from iraq, an update on my mail-in pny rebate, a new rebate through Costco, Ella Enchanted, Highlander Endgame, Princess of Thieves, The Whole Ten Yards
Aug 27, 2004   Fun with my VW Warranty, Opus, Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix, The Land of SokMunster, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Wedding, Napoleon Dynamite, Hidalgo, Chasing Liberty, Out of Time
Jul 23, 2004   San Diego ComicCon 2004, the family summer vacation, Bruce Campbell, Opus, Nanny Ogg`s Cookbook, Angels & Demons, Folk of the fringe, Bourne Supremacy, i robot, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Cody Banks 2, Hellboy
Jul 19, 2004   *** PNY Rebate fun, IE Patch, Linux and socialism, liberal scum, Opus, BIM, timeline, master and commander, tad hamilton, stuck on you,cold mountain, 50 first dates, the terminal, spiderman 2, king arthur, a hat full of sky, the thousand orcs, meditations on middle earth
Jun 20, 2004   Memorial day pictures, Duplex, Mark Oakley/Heroes, Wild Animal Park Dinosaurs, B-52s concertman, Say After Tomorrow, Big Fish, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Eragon, A Hat Full of Sky, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
May 08, 2004   Pat Tillman, LOTR Toys, 13 Going on 30, Mean Girls, Tolkien Miscellany, Last Juror, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Pork Tornado
Apr 06, 2004   Roswell season 1 DVD and a some other mindless drivel
Feb 19, 2004   Highlander site contest results, new downloads, princess gallery updates, lord of the rings toys, harry potter, underworld. lost in translation, the hunted, a tolkien miscellany...
Feb 09, 2004   Murder at 1600, Radio, Cheaper by the Dozen, King Arthur, Spiderman 2, Van Helsing, Harry Potter, Tolkien Miscellany, Mark Oakley, massive snow in Idaho...
Jan 28, 2004   Swat, Uptown Girls, Somethings Gotta Give, Along Came Polly, Seabiscuit, Ashley Judd Marathon, Van Helsing, Harry Potter, Science Fiction Bok Club, Nanny Ogg`s Cookbook, RA Salvatore, Mythology (Alex Ross), Fastner & Larson, Best page in the universe, etc, etc...
Jan 07, 2004   Clint`s rules, X-Men 2, Holes, Pirates, Two Towers, Freaky Friday (Haley Hudson), new drawings, Thieves` World, Playskool Star Wars, new Interest section
Jan 02, 2004   nothing all that interesting...
Dec 21, 2003   Nemo, Highlander page, Christmas vacation 2003, star wars kid
Dec 12, 2003   E.T. (Erika Eleniak), new drawings, Opus, Santa Claus 2 (Elizabeth Mitchell), Legolas toy/pics, How to Deal (Mandy Moore), Myth update, Last Samurai
Nov 27, 2003   Another Fine Myth, Elf
Nov 22, 2003   Dude, Where`s Bill & Ted
Nov 18, 2003   Not much to say
Nov 15, 2003   Disneyland, Astronaut`s Wife, Dumer and Dumber-er, Monstrous Regiment
Nov 10, 2003   Terry Pratchett, Matrix Revolutions
110103   School of Rock, Terry Pratchett signing, Darth Vader MBNA bust, San Diego fires
Aug 17, 2003   Johnny English, San Diego Comic-Con
Jun 17, 2003   Assorted ramblings
May 28, 2003   Not much to say
May 24, 2003   Almost nothing of note
May 17, 2003   Matrix Reloaded, Pirates
Mar 23, 2003   The Police, Pirates, Lord of the Rings grievances part II
Mar 16, 2003   Lord of the Rings grievances part 1
Super auld stuff   A big list of old submissions with boat loads of broken links

Surprise, surprise...I'm gonna talk about some books and - an actual surprise - a musical.

I've had most of this post locked and loaded for a couple of weeks, but I just handn't pulled the trigger on it because I wanted to add one more book. That, and Dan hasn't responded. Or Steve (though Steve seems to have long ago lost interest in my blathering).

Beauty and the Beast Musical at the Lyceum theater

I picked up some tickets to a stage version of Beauty and the Beast showing at the Lyceum theater in Horton Plaza for the family a couple of weeks ago. I'd never been to this venue and was pleasantly surprised by how convenient parking and affordable - $8 with validation - parking was and how easy it was to get to the theater. The theater itself was smallish, but still held a few hundred people. We had great seats on the second level near the center.

I freely admit that I didn't get these tickets for myself and wasn't really looking forward to the experience. But after Emeli gushed for days after seeing La La Land, I kept my eyes open for an opportunity to get some tickets for a real musical. We almost had a chance to see a musical in Seattle on our vacation, but couldn't find a hotel room anywhere near the venue, so that fell through.

The cast listing in the program for the musical was interesting - at least to someone who hasn't been to an actual theater production. There were three or more people credited for each part, which we later realized was because the casting was dependent on the performance date, and each cast member had a short bio, which was fun to read.

  • The actress we thought would be the most interesting to see as Belle (from our perusal of the program), Sierra Poppleton, was cast as Belle for our show, so that was fun. She's a blonde in real life, but rocked that brunette wig pretty convincingly (at least from the distance we saw everything).
  • Gaston, played by Evan White, was also well-cast. He had the guns for Gaston and played his oafish, narcissism to perfection. He would have been an equally good Beast.
  • The actor who played Lumiere, Gabe Rasmussen, was great. He played the part with an exaggerated flourish and a consistently bad French accent (which just upped the fun). I was really surprised to see Gabe's cast photo because he didn't look at all like the person up on the stage - unlike the actors playing Gaston or Belle. I guess that's a sign that he's an exceptional actor.
  • Belle's dad was actually played by Belle's real-life dad - in a very Doc Brown-esque performance.
  • The only role we really felt was miscast was the Beast. His voice was too soft, too quiet and just not especially beastly. And he wasn't a very large guy, so he didn't really fit the role stature-wise either.

Everyone in the cast had strong singing voices, too - even the Beast, despite not having a beastly, deep, growling voice.

We, the audience, were asked very nicely to turn our phones off during the show, so I complied. Thus you get photos from before the show, during intermission, and after the show. And even those are flash-less, because I'm not a narcissistic jerk who doesn't care about blinding everyone around me.

Here are a couple of videos (not recorded by me or even from the performance I attended) of Sierra Poppleton as Belle. I guess the wig does look a little faker from the front row.




Earthweeds, Sons of Neptune Book 1 by Rod Little

Another author, Rod Little, reached out to me because of my - obviously - interesting and insightful book review skills and asked me to read and share a few thoughts about Earthweeds. So I read it, though it took a while to get started. I needed to finish a couple of other books that I'd already started or planned to read before Rod approached me.

As is indisputably clear to anyone who has kept up with the recent rants I've written here, I love a good post-apocalyptic (or even ongoing-apocalyptic) thriller. I even enjoy not-as-good apocalyptic disaster stories. Earthweeds falls somewhere between these on my scale.

Here's a spoiler/preview created by the author, if you like that sort of thing. I didn't watch it before reading the book and was happily surprised as events unfolded.

My first impressions of Earthweeds were that it bore a very strong similarity to The Walking Dead. For those of you who aren't ardent fans of the AMC series, the first Walking Dead episode has Rick Grimes, the show's primary protagonist and a Georgia cop, waking up in a decrepit hospital after being shot by a criminal. As he wanders the unexpectedly abandoned hospital, he finds himself in a world of ruin and danger. Similarly, the teenage protagonists of Earthweeds are out in the woods, having been camping and hunting for an extended time, as the Earthweeds apocalypse arrives. On their way back to civilization, the streets are empty of people (live or dead) and derelict cars litter the roadways (very Walking Deadesque).

But after these early similarities, the action of Earthweeds takes a decidedly different turn. Zombies are replaced by giant man-eating lizards (crocodile/alligator-sized), who - through some mysterious process that's never really explored in the book - are victims of this story's apocalypse. We know little more than the lizards are created in basements/cellars after people are mysteriously encased in cocoons for about a week. And we know that isolation somehow protected the non-transformed people in the story from exposure - or at least that's what I gathered from the back-stories of the major players in the book. As the story progresses, we learn more about why things have happened, but the mechanics of how the transition occurs and why it happens to some and not others remains a little vague.

A couple of the characters in the story have special abilities that are very reminiscent of a comic book superhero or, to bring a non-comic book source into play, characters from the George RR Martin edited series Wild Cards. Since this book appears to be set (more or less) in the real world and not in a super-hero fantasy world, I was hoping for an explanation for the characters' super-powers. Ultimately, all but one of the super-powered character's abilities are explained, so I'm still wondering about the source of the abilities of one character. Maybe book two will reveal the source.

Here's a taste of some of the super power action -

At that moment he looked up from his fishing spot in the middle of the stream, and was face to face with a large mountain lion, a cougar. It drank from the stream, then lifted its head, looked straight at Bohai. The boy did not move.

He wasn't afraid of this cat. Bohai always had a good rapport with animals, and he swore he could actually understand them, communicate with him. It was hard to prove this to others, but he knew it to be true.

and

By now over a hundred lizards teemed into the streets from side alleys, burrows, and open garages. One scrambled out from underneath a rusted car. Ken was surrounded, and the first lizard dropped his shoe and bit down on his ankle. He fumbled for the gun at his belt.

This all happened within seconds. The group watched helplessly, as their friend was dragged down.

"Go!" Ken yelled, then turned and fired a gun at the lizard on his foot.

The others fired their weapons into the melee. Bullets and arrows took down lizard after lizard, but more kept coming. It was a swarm of black death. The boys backed into the van, and Jason revved the engine.

"What do I do?" he yelled. He didn't know if he should hit the escape pedal, or back up to try to get Ken. But backing up meant backing into hundreds of angry jaws.

Desperate, Sam shot an electric bolt into the crowd of reptiles. It sent a couple rolling, but couldn't stop them all; it barely made a dent in their ranks. He tried, but couldn't put a force-field around Ken. There wasn't much Sam could do at this distance; he wasn't used to using his powers this way.

and

"You're one of us, Sammy. You're different, but the same. Maybe a little bit special. And definitely a little weird."

"Thanks. You're just as weird, you just haven't found your chi yet."

The older brother laughed. "Yeah, maybe. Time will tell. Someday I'll wake up with psychic powers, like an X-Man."

This was the first Rod Little book I've read, so I have a few comments about his writing style -

Rod is fond of foreshadowing events in the book. And he does it a lot. A little too frequently, in my opinion. I'm fine with subtle foreshadowing, but I'm not a fan of constant references of things to come later.

Maybe I'm just being overly-critical. Here are a few examples, so judge for yourself.

Without speaking, Shane shot Sam a look that asked if he was okay. He was always able to understand his little brother, and always able to look out for him. Tonight would stretch the limits of that ability.

or

The five of them rode silently out of town: Sam and Shane, Jason, Tina and Ken. They had less life experience between them than a single adult, but they were full of survival instinct and the will to try. Sam and his brother had hunting skills, at least, and that was going to prove helpful in the coming days.

or

When dawn filtered into day, the war began. [except it didn't. Not for a few pages and well into the morning, anyway]

or

"You know chickens are birds," Camila reminded them. "So there should still be some around, since the birds were not affected by the mutation."

"True that," Sam said. "We could use them for fresh eggs. If we can find any hens."

"I'm on it," Jason said. He pushed his long hair back. "We can check out some farms later on in the week." They wouldn't get the chance, but it was a nice idea.

The narration style throughout the book felt a little weird at times. The narrator explained things that the characters should have been completely unaware of. Yet the narrator's voice wasn't presented as an independent party telling the story, it was just kind of jammed into the text as if the characters were aware of things.

Again, it's very possible I'm reading more into it than I should. Here are a few examples, so - again - judge for yourself.

The hotel was large and impressive, like a castle from Europe, a defense of eighteenth century kings. It would make a good fortress, but a fantasy castle was its artificial theme, not its true calling. Tourism was its true purpose, which meant they could expect to find some items of comfort inside.

or

A woman was already pouring them each a glass. She looked more like a doctor than a housewife. It turned out she was in fact Walter's wife, and a professor of physics.
[except...nobody ever told them this, so they wouldn't have known]

or

"This sucks," Jason said. "You're supposed to be enlightened. I can see you're not just some gang of thugs here. So you should help us."
[nobody ever gave these people the label of "enlightened" - as I recall, they were described as dangerous]

or

"Oh I thought you'd try to run," he said. "What an incredibly stupid thing to do."

He raised his shotgun, and fired.

Sam flew backward and felt his shoulders hit the ground hard. An unnatural warmth flooded his chest, and he thought: Oh, hell! That's a first.
[ I think this bothered me because of the lack of detail...which did come later in the narrative. But I was very confused until then]

or

Mark was Lucy's son. He was not afraid to carry a gun or shoot. As a matter of fact, he didn't seem afraid of anything at all. Sam admired the kid. In any disaster, most people wallow in pity and fear, while a rare few rise and stand up. This kid was one of the rare few.
[I'm not sure if this was more foreshadowing or just narration.]

The book ends on a cliff-hanger, though not one that I really cared about. I was much more interested in how the survivors managed to survive and what was coming next for them in this new, mostly-uninhabited, world full of mutated animals. But, sadly, that seemed to be a secondary focus of the story. Also, in addition to the giant lizards terrorizing the book's survivors, there were two other mutated animal classes and one of those never really received any action in the story, other than being mentioned as the third group of mutations. So I don't know if their involvement is being saved for book 2 or if they were too uninteresting to get more story time. Maybe there's a Tolkien-inspired battle of five armies story coming in book 2.

As for my overall impression, I liked the Walking Dead vibe I was picking up early on and had high hopes. I went in with zero expectations because, as with most eBooks, I didn't really know anything about the book before I started reading it and it didn't have a cover to inspect beforehand for clues. Yeah, I know there's a cover inside the eBook, but I don't give eBook "covers" the same scrutiny I do a physical book's cover before or as I'm reading it. I thought the book started strong and ended less-strong. As I mentioned above, there were aspects of the author's writing style that I didn't love, but I think I would have been more willing to overlook those shortcomings had the story focused more on the survivors' efforts to survive and not the little green men...oops, I've said too much.



Aftermath: Empire's End

I hadn't planned to buy or read this book after my disappointment with the writing in Aftermath book 1. But I guess I'm just a completist (plus, I had a coupon that made it almost free), so I picked it up. I even optimistically read it ahead of a bunch of books on my reading shelf that were much more deserving of my time. What I didn't realize is that this is actually the third book in the Aftermath series...so, now I'm going to have to find the second book. Ugh.

I wish I could say that moving this book to the front of the reading queue proved my instincts to be infallible, but...even though it was a little more evenly edited than the first book and had some good points, it was still disappointing as far as Star Wars novels go.

The good: there's a lot of pre-Episode 7 interaction with the familiar characters from the original Star Wars films. Mainly Mon Mothma, Leia, and Han Solo. Chewbacca gets a few scenes and Luke is mentioned, but neither really take part in the book's main story line. Maybe Luke and Chewie got more action in book two - which would make sense because there are a lot of references to events that seemed to be less detailed than they should have been. The majority of the story is focused on the activities of the non-canon characters who only exist in these books (introduced in the earlier books). Oh, and Leia's pregnancy gets a lot of discussion (Ben Solo is even named - the future Kylo Ren). Admiral Thrawn gets a brief mention, giving me hope that the awesome Timothy Zahn books might finally be getting pulled into the Star Wars film universe. I can think of scenarios where Mara Jade could even make an appearance (especially with Luke lurking in the background). Thrawn, the new Timothy Zahn Star Wars book is also sitting on my to-read shelf. I have really high hopes for that one.

Primary amongst my complaints is the author's writing style. Though less blatant in this book than it was in the first, his style just doesn't seem to be appropriate to the Star Wars universe. And...he exhibits some tendencies that aren't really appropriate to anything. My primary complaint, the use of "even still" frequently throughout the text. It's so annoying. When you add in the mandatory Disney inclusion of homosexual characters, I feel a great disturbance in the force. I'm not saying there couldn't be homos in the Star Wars universe - but do we have to spend so much time on their romantic lives? I don't dig it.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the book to illustrate my disdain:

The man smiles, a grim, red smile. "I told you all of life was suffering. And for you, the suffering is just...beginning. You are hunted, Galli. All your plans will...unravel..." He slumps backward, the blade freed with a faint sucking sound as he falls away, dead.

It is done.

Rax feels a great weight lifted from him. A hand on his shoulder eases him back. Tashu says quietly in his ear: "A necessary sacrifice. The dark side is stronger. Our mission here is blessed, now."

Yes, it is. The true mission, at least. He nods and goes along with what Tashu says - though the man has knowledge greater than most, even still, he is a madman. An ardent believer in the black-edged side of the Force, and Rax cares nothing for such mysticism. But if it appeases Tashu, then the illusion that he, too, is a believer may commence.

"Senators are notoriously unreliable, too, and yet they form the bedrock of our democratic system. I will do better."

And yet how can she? She's losing. Day by day, her numbers wane, perhaps understandably. Liberation Day came and, with it, the attack on Chandrila. When the dust settled and the corpses were counted, she came out of surgery to find many friends and colleagues dead. And soon after began the accusations: She was too soft, militarily, and couldn't protect Chandrila when it needed to be defended. (Never mind the fact that the type of attack orchestrated against them was so far beyond comprehension and so subversive that ten navies couldn't have stopped it.) All that was made worse by the fact that she invited Grand Admiral Sloane planetside for the day's events. Which to many meant she was culpable in what happened.

Even still, the true shape of that plot against them is hard to see in full. Was Sloane a part of it, or just a pawn? Was Sloane really once the Operator? Did she betray them, or was she herself betrayed? Where did Tashu go? Where did Sloane go? Endless questions. Few answers.

It hardly matters, now.

Sadly, I'll probably read the second book in the series I skipped...and then complain about that one, too.



If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, Bruce Cambell

I read Bruce Campbell's second book, Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way around 12 years ago. It was the first of Bruce's books I remember coming across (in the signed books section of the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, of all places), so I wasn't really aware of If Chins Could Kill when I picked up Make Love the.... After reading the entertaining, but not-really-autobiographical stories in Make Love the..., I wasn't dying to read another Bruce Campbell book, but I've been a Bruce fan since Army of Darkness, so it has been on my reading-radar for many years. I finally picked up a copy from Amazon and read it after letting it marinate on the reading-shelf for a few months.

Unlike Make Love the..., If Chins Could Kill is a real autobiography. As far as I could tell, there's little non-factual material anywhere in the narration (although the introduction of the book might be fictional - I can't tell). A lot of the book is great stories of pre-famous Bruce's youth in the backwoods of Michigan, battling with two older brothers.

Here's a great excerpt - detailing one of many instances of brotherly-rivalry (complete with young Bruce's plan diagram).

Because these "raids" happened so often, we each devised ways to protect our "secret stuff." Mike hid things in every possible nook and cranny - I know, because I went through them all. Don often moved his precious things around, or hid them in "secret books." with a sharp razor blade, usually from Dad's shaver, he hollowed out numerous hardcover masterpieces from the living room. It wasn't hard to spot which ones were bogus - War and Peace isn't usually paired with The Cat in the Hat on a ten-year-old's shelf.

Because invading each other's room was such a big deal, I had to do it as often as possible. One day, a plan to bother Don worked flawlessly. I raced into his room, made all kinds of noise and stole a white gym sock. Don was close on my heels as I ran away down the hall and ducked into the bathroom. As he entered the doorway, he saw me flush what he thought was his sock down the toilet.

"What did you do that for?! I'll kill you!"

In reality, I had ditched Don's real sock as I entered the bathroom and flushed a strip of white toilet paper (preplaced) into the septic tank. In the end, our fines evened out, because Don promptly gave me a thrashing - roughly equal to my 30 cents worth of transgressions. I wouldn't have been surprised if Don invented a fine for pretending to flush socks down the toilet.

Even the bathroom wasn't a reliable sanctuary. There was a lock on the door, sure, but it could easily be opened with a credit card. To combat this, a drawer by the door could be pulled out to block the way. This worked until Mike drilled a hole through the wall of our linen closet and rigged a coat hanger to the drawer itself.

I mocked Don through the door one day, protected by the door lock, only to look down and see the drawer magically slide back in all by itself.

"You were saying?" Don said, as he pushed the door open and began beating the grunt out of me.

There are also a good many tales of the lovable misfits he became AV-budies with (the Raimi brothers being the most well-known) as his interests really honed in on the film industry. There are also a few personal details about his marriages (two, as of the publication of this book) and his kids, which was really interesting.

The euphoric feeling that comes with true independence also has a price. All those months of making magic in Michigan were having another effect on the California home front - a cold wind of alienation was blowing. Fueled by other follies over the years, Lunatics wound up being the straw that broke my wife's back.

My daughter Rebecca flew out to Michigan so she could drive back across the country with me. We had a great time taking pictures and writing a book about the experience, but when we got home, Halloween day, something was different about the place. Margarita, a woman who helped around the house, was there, but Cris wasn't.

I took Rebecca and my young son Andy trick-or-treating - his dinosaur costume was a big hit with the neighbors. When we got home, Cris was still nowhere to be seen. I put the kids to bed and killed time by unpacking and watching television for a couple hours, but with each passing minute, my sense of dread intensified. It wasn't women's intuition, but I knew something was up - Cris was never one to stay out late. About 11:00 that night, she came home, but there were no hugs and kisses. Instead, Cris stayed on the other side of dark kitchen.

"Hey, how you doing? Great to see you..."

"I've been thinking a lot about things and I'm not sure we want you back."

"Excuse me?"

Cris wasn't mean, but there was a resolve in her that I had only seen one other time, when she was giving birth to Rebecca, and I knew she wasn't bluffing.

"Is this open for discussion?"

Of course there are also a lot of details about the movies and TV projects Bruce had been involved in (as of the book's publication). And there are some great stories about actors Bruce has worked with. The last few chapters are all Hercules and Xena, so that tells you approximately when the book was published.

Bruce includes excerpts from interviews with his friends throughout the book that are pretty entertaining. Here's one with Sam Raimi.

Another effect called for a "blood flood." To get the visual of liquid traveling horizontally at great speeds, trick photography was required. To do this, we built a portion of the set sideways. The camera was also tilted, thereby resulting in a "normal"-looking perspective. To understand this, tilt your head to the left. Now imagine that the room around you was tilted the same degree. Blood could then be poured from a rig in the ceiling and it would look horizontal.

This meant, however, that to assume a standing position, I would actually have to lie sideways, supported by a board. Above me, a fifty-five gallon drum of fake blood was mounted - with a bathtub-sized plug. The idea was to pull the plug and I'd get hit full force.

Sam: Okay, now Bruce, if something goes wrong and you're drowning, wave your arms.

Bruce: But that's what I'm supposed to be doing anyway - how will you know the difference?

Sam looked at me blankly, then turned to the mechanical effects guy.

Sam: How long will the blood last?

Effects Guy: Long enough to empty fifty-five gallons.

Sam: Huh...good point...okay, let's shoot it!

I lived to tell the tale, but every time I blew my nose for the next two weeks, the snot was bright red.

There are also a plethora of messages from fans and photos of the events/people/objects Bruce talks about in the narrative of his life. Here are a few of them:

If you're interested in working in the entertainment industry (movies or TV), this book should be a must-read for you. Bruce is very candid about the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on - the difficulty in getting financing for projects, the family strain of spending so much time away from home for filming, the monumental work behind publicity tours, the risks of not finding work for lengthy periods of time...an actor's life isn't all glamor and glitz. Bruce does acknowledge that he's often amazed that he's being paid, and generally paid well, to play pretend for a living, though.

Well, that's probably more than enough for now. I'm sure even the most resolute have lost interest by now. But have no fear, I have tons of books that I've read in the past few months and other super-exciting stuff yet to be mentioned...







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