Reviews: Starbucks Marathon

Sitting here in Starbucks typing this into a text editor since Opera refuses to accept any of the security certificates Starbucks is laying down. Still, I can get through a couple of reviews and post them later. This post in particular has some eclectic material so their should be something for everyone (if not always me).

Bang! Tango
Writer – Joe Kelly, Artist – Adrian Sibar

coverImage recently reissued this apparently classic work from Joe Kelly for wider distribution recently. I’ll start up front by saying that my interest in crime stories has been waning over the years. I really liked gangster movies and shows like The Sopranos more in my teen years, but by the time I was maybe mid-way through college my interest waned (though works like Road to Perdition can still grab me). So, I’m probably not the primary audience for this story.

Vincente Ponticello has built a new life for himself, away from the dark streets of San Francisco. But when Autumn breezes back into his life asking for his help, Vicente must find a way to put his old life finally behind him while preparing for dance competitions with his demanding partner Mel. Autumn’s the woman who ruined his life back in New York, when he found out she wasn’t really a she, at least biologically.

Perhaps the playful cover here makes a little more sense to you now.

This is a “sexy” book, with a lot of betrayals, lust, lies, money, and deviant behavior (not Autumn, but more the predilections of a mob boss who prefers pointed objects instead of his own member). As might be apparent, the story didn’t do a lot for me. It’s violent, and doesn’t really end well for anyone involved. The trajectories of most characters have been determined from the beginning and it can be a little difficult to tell if Kelly is really sympathetic to the trans community or is using it for shock value. The reactions of a prideful man like Vincente ring true, but are they really a perspective I want to read about?

I’d love to see Sibar’s work on a better piece. Each page uses a different color as the main motif, giving it a gray-scale quality while conveying mood. He also does a great job with illustrating the music of each tango, showing the words instead of the notes on the stanza flowing throughout the dancing action.

This is probably a story that will appeal to some of you. It’s well-paced, action packed, and well illustrated. But personally I found it a little too grimy for my taste.

(2 stars | Rounded down from 2.5)

Bad Machinery Volume 3
Writer and Artist – John Allison

coverAnd now for something completely different. John Allison is a master of the web-comic, writing series since 1998, and author of previous series Boom and Scary Go Round. Bad Machinery seems to have kicked it up a notch in terms of the quality of the art and the story-telling. It’s worth noting that there are some jokes that are set up in the beginning of the book that aren’t paid off until almost the end, which is several months in real time.

Though this is Volume 3, it’s pretty accessible to someone who hasn’t read the material before. Allison organizes his run of the comic into cases which run for a few months to nearly a year, then he takes a few months off before the next one. The structure seems to be less about the case, which in this case involves a series of fires set off in old buildings, and whether or not a mysterious and simple man who lives in the woods might be responsible, and more about the lives of three main boys and three main girls in the UK city of Tackleford.

There’s a lot of UK specific phrases and humor here, but there’s a handy guide at the back for anyone who might not pick up everything. I’m a fan of this sort of humor, so this kind of thing just speaks to me. Allison seems to have mastered one of the difficult skills of long-form web-comic story-telling which is to have each page feel like it can be self-contained without always having an obvious punch-line. The book version of this story-line seems to rearrange some of the on-line material, inserting some new pages, so this is probably the best and most definitive way to read the story, though I’ve pulled down the rest of the on-line material (which is about 8 cases now) for my own amusement.

The story is pretty silly and fanciful, but it fits the overall tone of the work. This book is worth it alone for the phrase “swit-swoo” and an embroidery of a tank.

(4 stars | More like 4.5, wish the dimensions of the book fit better on my tablet, but that’s web-comics for you)

Wizzywig

Writer and Artist – Ed Piskor

PrintThough published as a single graphic novel, this story bears some structural relationship to a web-comic. There are longer sequences, but many of the jokes and stories are told in two page comics.

Kevin (a.k.a Boing-Thump) is a burgeoning computer hacker and phone-freak in the early days of computers. He starts from using his perfect pitch to make long-distance calls, to pirating software to floppy disk, to inadvertently unleashing the Boing-Thump virus. The story is told through chapters corresponding roughly to a year of Kevin’s eventual incarceration, and flashbacks to his evolution as a hacker, and the lengths he would go to learn about machines and to evade the law. Most of the present day material is told by his best friend who broadcasts over the air to get Kevin out of prison, or at least for the FBI to come up with the charges to give him a trial.

The era of hacking portrayed here doesn’t really exist anymore. It was a time when anyone who was mechanically inclined, and could string together a few lines of code could get into some surprising places. As evidenced by recent data-hacks, security is something that lags behind a lot in the corporate world, particularly in the 1980s. Boing-Thump serves as an amalgamation of some of the more famous hacks and perceptions of hackers from that period. For us techies it’s great nostalgia, and for others it can even be slightly educational.

There’s some language and crude humor. Piskor’s drawing style renders Kevin as having an almost child-like cartoonish face, but the rest of the world around him is much grimier. Still the humor doesn’t feel artificial in this environment, as anyone who’s been on a few message boards or seen internet comments can attest. And the origin of the moniker “boing-thump” is pretty funny.

This is a long work, and it took me setting it down and coming back to it to get all the way through. I probably liked the early sections best before Kevin delves into helping real criminals, back when it was just about finding out how things worked. But the ending was worth the slog and even gets into a bit of a discussion of WikiLeaks and some of the issues that would lead to Edward Snowden.

Interesting side-note, this is one of the few graphic novels I can check out from my digital library. They may not have any DC or Marvel digitally available, but there are some gems to be found if you look.

(4 stars | At least read maybe the first 80 pages to see if you like it)

Incredible Change-Bots Two Point Something Something
Writer and Artist – Jeffrey Brown

coverThe copy of this from NetGalley was pretty lo-res, so I wasn’t really able to read one of the main story-lines, but this volume seems largely made up of miscellaneous material from a (web-comic?, indie?) parody of Transformers. If I was someone who’d followed the 1980s cartoon series, the jokes might have landed a little better for me. The art is imaginative, I personally like the golf-cart and microwave machines. A lot of what you’re getting here could come out of an artistically inclined sixth-grader who doodles in class, with writing to match. There are some romantic lines explored between a police car and a pick-up truck, mostly for some bad jokes about rust and dating.

Good for maybe a chuckle or two, especially if you like Transformers.

(3 stars | Rounded up from 2.5, wish I could’ve read it better)

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Reviews: Outer Limits Edition

Ghosts, heroes, the end of the world. Comics let us explore all of these ideas with just a few pen-strokes. In today’s post we have a hero born in death, a world on the brink of being engulfed by the sun, and a kid just trying to heal the hole in his heart.

The Bigger Bang

Writer – D. J. Kirkbride, Artist – Vassilis Gogtzilas

TheBiggerBangCosmos is a man feared as “the universe killer”. His birth destroyed Earth and countless other worlds. Though he could not control the circumstances of his birth, Cosmos lives to try to save as many lives as he can, even though everywhere he is feared and has no one to talk to. A fighter commander who is sent to kill him instead is falling in love with him, but can she be trusted? And can they both stop a king intent on destroying everything in his path?

I like the concept, and little details like how small Cosmos’ voice is when he first speaks, a calm voice in a being so powerful. There are some spectacular feats accomplished, including absorbing the energy of a sun going nova and re-directing the energy of a volcano.

Gogtzilas’ style is rough and scratchy. It lends the page a more sketchbook like quality than a finished product. Toothy grins extend long beyond the borders of their faces, and everything is drably colored. Despite the cosmic and other-worldly tale, there seems to be a gray haze over everything. Some of the character designs are quite imaginative, and evoke more of a space fable or pulp adventure than a serious story.

Your typical all powerful being has to have some kind of flaw, or they’re not very interesting (re: Superman). Cosmos’ weakness is guilt, and an inability to connect with people due to the massive scale of his power, and the fear of his reputation. This is explored well at first, in the places he finds solitude and in the worlds he tries to save, but in the end comes down to a fight between one big bad, and the good guy. Redemption through force against an opponent he doesn’t have to hold back against isn’t much of a revelation.

Overall, this isn’t bad, but the art style will probably be a turn off to some of you.

(3 stars | Good as a limited series, and could have gone longer if it took some different directions)

Low – Volume 1

Writer – Rick Remender, Artist – Greg Tocchini

LowThe human race is at an end, the Earth about to be swallowed up by the sun, making the surface a toxic airless wasteland. We have never gone to the stars, our closest step sending a few probes we’ve long forgotten about. All the human race can do is sit at the bottom of the ocean and wait for time to run out. And do a lot of drugs and have a lot of sex while we wait.

A mother loses her husband and her two daughters to pirates, the daughters stolen and the husband slain for a battle suit and a legacy of hatred. Years pass and there is a faint hope that a probe has found a habitable planet, but the probe and its data are trapped on the barren and lifeless surface, and the only help the mother can find to get it, is a son who has succumbed to the same fatalism as the rest of the human race.

Right off the bat, this book is NSFW. There’s swearing of course, including overuse of the c-word (though maybe that’s just a trigger for me). And if you thought Saga could be a little shocking and depraved … well … it is, but this title could give Saga a run for its money with some of its clear parallels to the fall of the Roman Empire and the accompanying orgies

Remender’s good at pulpy action, and like Black Science you can never count on exactly who is going to survive. Tocchini’s visuals can be a treat, vast underwater cities and wildlife. But this is definitely a “mature” title. I think the idea that the human race will remain stuck on Earth even millions or billions of years later seems a bit of a stretch. In addition to overuse of the c-word, Remender likes to work his title into the plot in every chapter, talking about how low people have fallen, or how low a certain action is. It’s a little corny.

The final two issues are quite good and set up the next arc well. While not as good as Black Science, this is still worth a look if you can get past some of the content.

(4 stars | Seriously, read this at home)

Doomboy

Writer and Artist – Tony Sandoval

DoomboyD is a depressed teen coping with the recent death of his girlfriend Annie by playing lonely sessions on the beach, and by beating people up with his guitar. His grief has caused a literal hole in his chest, which he tries to cope with by playing his feelings into the sky, and also on an obscure radio frequency that makes him a local unknown legend, even among the people who hate him.

It’s a tightly focused piece, taking place largely over the course of a summer and the Doomboy sessions. Most characters either have very tiny eyes and big foreheads, or there eyes are completely covered by their hair. The mouths are large when open and small when closed.

I found the asides and remembrances a little distracting, but I loved the sequences that visualized the music as giant squids or clouds climbing across the sky. There are some little details, like the purchasing of a star or Annie drawing eyes on D’s guitar that add to the fantasy and mystery elements, while at the same time staying grounded in understandable pain and loss. The final sequence is a bit confused but overall it’s a nice tale of using musing to cope with grief and connect with people, and how we can be inspired by even the bad things that happen in our lives.

There are some sketches at the back for the original short inspiration for the story which provide some interesting background. Not quite up to the prestige price it is being offered at, but good to pick up or maybe check out from your library.

(3 stars | An imperfect piece, but worth a read)

Wayward Volume 1

Writer – Jim Zub, Artist – Steve Cummings

WaywardA girl, Rori, daughter of a Japanese seamstress and an Irish engineer comes to Japan after a falling out with her father to live with her mother. Her mother’s job keeps her out weird hours, and so Rori is given plenty of time to explore Japan, including some dark corners where she’s attacked by turtle men, and saved by a girl who seems to have some special relationship to cats. Soon she begins to see her own powers to see the strings of the world around her, and other people with power are drawn to her, for good and evil.

As much as this is a fantasy story set in Japan, it also seems very rooted in the real Japan, and not the land of oriental mystery that’s in a lot of these stories. The difficulty of being a girl with red hair in a Japanese school, the urban life of the working class in Japan are just a couple of examples of this authenticity at work.

Zub draws on a lot of legends and creatures known as Yokai, while creating his own legends. At the back he explains all of the various creatures and their origins in Japanese mysticism. There’s a lot of humor and the tone is a little lighter than the rest of the pieces in this post. Cummings art is very grounded in real architecture, while still allowing for the presence of evil creatures and magical girls. Like a lot of first volumes, this will leave you hungry for more, and in some way the story is just getting started, but I trust Zub to take us the rest of the way.

I was looking forward to this for a while and was not disappointed when I found it on NetGalley.

(5 stars | Good balance of fun, action and fantasy)

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Morning Manga Madness

For today’s reviews we’ve got some great indie manga (and a manga inspired web-comic). The material here runs the gamut from manga short stories about the nature of life, to a fantasy involving a girl who fell from the sky (or what’d be like to be the wife of a God). Oh, and talking fishes.

Alive

Writer and Artist – Hajime Taguchi

AliveThe people in Alive often aren’t living, at least not well. From a girl who puts on a pair of glasses that hides everything she hates in the world, only to find that she can’t see anymore, to the woman who feels and is, trapped. The author captures the loneliness of relationships, and sex in particular, quite well, but it’s the fantasy pieces that I think are more worth the effort.

Like a lot of short story collections there are going to be some stories that resonate with you, and others that are mostly forgettable. The two best stories are probably “The Wall” and “The Tower” (Neither of these is the official title, some have them, some don’t but you’ll know the ones I’m talking about).

The first (The Wall) involves a young boy’s quest to climb an insurmountable wall around the world. No one who has ever climbed the wall has come back or lived to tell the tale, including the young boy’s father. This is a simple fable about how the pursuit of a dream can change our perceptions of the world, and how what we think is the end of the journey is often the beginning.

The second notable story is The Tower. A young man who isn’t doing too well at school or at life in general encounters a girl living at the top of their apartment building on a small roof barely the size of my home office. For a few magical days they live above the world in a virtual paradise before the limits of their home finally force them back to Earth. This story might suffer a bit from the fantasy pixie dream girl syndrome, but it’s made up for in its frank depiction of teenage emotions and how sometimes it can seem like such a great fantasy to give up the world.

The art varies. Because of the inconsistent titling and some stories having ambiguous or abrupt endings, it can be a little difficult to tell who is who or if we’ve switched stories. This is more a problem in the early part of the book (once you get used to the author’s beats you can usually pick up the changes). There’s definitely some experimentation with technique ranging from the mundane, an entire story from one perspective at a bar, to more fantastical pieces.

This is not really a very happy book, but there are a few pieces to make you smile, and maybe even a few you can relate to. Fair warning, there is a decent amount of nudity in the middle of this book, and some sexual behaviors you might be uncomfortable with.

(3 Stars | Uneven, but a couple of great stories)

Stones of Power

Writer and Artist – Azumi Isora

StonesOfPowerA young tropical fish expert gets drawn into the mysterious Cafe Renard which sells protective stones that can ward off evil spirits. And they have a couple of fish who have started to talk to him in his dreams. Are they just fish or are they gods who can control the rain and have control over the most powerful of old stones?

This is a pretty straightforward supernatural fantasy story with some amusing elements thrown in when communicating with the fish, and exploring the owner and his sister’s past. As a one off this story leaves a little lacking in terms of development, but as the first volume in what is hopefully a longer series, it is a great kicking off point.

Probably my favorite parts are the analogues between how the man takes care of the fish and their offspring, while at the same time communicating to them in his dreams. And we do have your typical “some things are best left undisturbed” and “you may be a chosen one” kind of tropes here, but that’s kind of to be expected.

The exact nature of the owner and why he’s chosen to ply his trade on a small scale is interesting, and we get a hint of a larger and darker past about which we might learn more in the future.

A good start to a story that could have some legs if the author wants to keep going.

(4 stars | You’ll like this one)

Give to the Heart – Volume 1

Writer and Artist  – Wann

GiveToTheHeartIn a devastated future world there are three demons who live as God among men, controlling the essential elements of life. The most powerful of these is the water king, who can save or drown a nation with little effort. We meet a young woman, Sooyi, who is running from the water king and trying to find a way into the dead city to find an artifact to finally kill the man who destroyed her world, the man who she once loved and who jealously wants to keep her as his wife.

Most of this first volume is focused on the relationship between Sooyi and The Water King. There’s a real thread of dominance here that can go from strong and maybe charming, to downright creepy after a while. While the King restrains himself from just taking Sooyi, it’s clear that he considers it an option. And Sooyi’s ultimate method of escape from the fortress in which he holds her is not without physical or emotional consequences.

Maybe I just take this stuff too seriously. Maybe to someone else this stuff is romantic, but to me he definitely seems like the kind of guy who we’ll be glad if Sooyi ever finds a way to kill him. There’s definitely a focus on effeminate male strength (again possibly a bearded man’s bias). Still a better love story than Twilight, but maybe not by much. Personally I hope Sooyi finds that artifact seeker geeky fellow from the beginning and they have a go at the Dead City. Guess we’ll see in Volume 2.

(3 Stars | A lot of romances are kind of creepy when you think about it)

Makeshift Miracle (Book 2)

Writer – Jim Zub, Artist – Shun Hong Chan

MakeshiftMiracleIf you’re worried about missing out on Book One, or about the slightly steep price-tag for a little over 100 page book, then you’re in luck, since the entire Makeshift Miracle story is available as a webcomic. Actually this version of Makeshift Miracle is a retelling of a web-comic Zub created in the early 2000’s with different artwork.

In the first volume Colby is a teenager who feels disconnected from life and is wandering outside the city when a girl named Iris falls from the sky. They get caught out in a storm, and somehow she is able to teleport them back to his house just by thinking of it. Then there’s a mysterious tree that crops up in the living room, Colby falls into a magical world, and Iris fades away.

In the second half Colby reconnects with Iris in the dream realm, running through the discarded pieces of dreams to try to protect Iris from those who are hunting her down. But the dream world exacts a terrible price on those who ask something of it, and the creatures that serve this world are not all as they appear.

There are so many pages of this that would make great posters for your room, or wallpapers for your computer. The artwork is amazing and evocative. Of particular note are the sky-ships over the desert, the final couple of pages parallels to the first volume, the last page, and the use of grays in lonely moments when color is only around the character. There’s a decent amount of humor, and the ending will definitely surprise you, so I don’t want to give too much away.

The price is a little steep for half the story (I think you could collect the whole run in a single volume for maybe $25 at the most), but having seen the first book out in the wild this is a high quality printing. If you’re not sure, read it online.

(5 stars | Can’t stress enough how great some of these pages are)

~4 down, maybe 20 to go :)

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The Schedule

I’m so sorry for the lack of posts last week. It’s been a hectic time with work picking up and three trips in the last week. I added a new state to my list (Texas) though I can’t say I’m much of a fan of Dallas traffic or the DFW airport. This trip has taught me I need a damn GPS. And before you ask, no, I can’t use my smart-phone because I don’t have one (got asked this at least five times when I said I got lost). Thanks again to the little-red haired girl for her help.

I did see one of the best weddings ever (<5 min). It actually included a reference to The Princess Bride (Mawidge), and to Spaceballs. That’s right, they literally did “the short version”.

Do You?
Yes.
Do You?
Yes.
Fine you're married.

There were also burritos at the reception. Good times.

There will be a new chapter of The Sky Below Thursday April 30th. I’m working diligently on Chapter 7 and hope this will be something you’ll enjoy. The day before we’ll have a little summary of each character’s stories so-far since it’ll have been about a month since Chapter 6. This probably means The Sky Below will bleed into January 2016, but so be it.

What I did manage to do a lot of these last couple of weeks was reading. So as a special “treat”, I’m going to be posting my reviews of everything in my queue of “read not reviewed”. This is probably about 15 books so we’ll see how many we actually get to.

Ben Trube, Writer’s normal schedule will hopefully resume next week. If you guys have any tech questions for Trube on Tech Tuesdays, please contact me using the form or in the comments below.

And if you’re a fan of Buffy, take the time to read Brian’s fan-fic The Witch and the Dragon. Superb.

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USB-C – Sex will never be the same again

It’s an old joke to those of you who are fans of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, but the way USB cables used to work was this:

  1. Try to plug USB cable in
  2. Doesn’t work so flip over
  3. Try to plug it in
  4. Doesn’t work so flip over
  5. Plugs in

For those of you who chose geekier ways of giving the sex talk (if you’re gonna call the connector ends male and female this is bound to happen somewhere), using a USB cable analogy for men and women might lead to some confusion later in life.

But there’s a new USB standard that’s been floating around for a few months, and Mac’s latest laptop is the first to implement it, USB-C.

With USB-C the steps are:

  1. Plug it in

In typical Apple fashion this is the only port on their laptop and will only be compatible with older devices if you use an adapter (try having that talk with your kids).

typeCexample

Image Source: Apple Insider

Probably this will start cropping up as an option on other laptops later this year, but should you worry now about all the old USB drives you have lying around? (Hint: NO).

USB Type-A (the kind you’re probably most familiar with if you’ve ever used a flash drive) has been around for nearly two decades (my first computer that had it was purchased in 2003). This means the vast majority of computers you will ever encounter in the world will still use Type-A for a long time to come, and it will probably take years for Type-C to take over the marketplace to the point where you could reliably use those drives elsewhere. The new MacBook lists for a base price of $1200 so only your hipster friends with money will use these anyway.

You’re better off buying a good USB 3.0/3.1 drive which does have considerably better write speeds than 2.0 (though not the order of magnitude change in practical use that most people claim). 3.0 flash drives are better at running programs than a 2.0 flash drive (closer to what you’d get with a portable hard drive though still slower). And they’re only a couple of bucks more at places like MicroCenter (good USB 3.0 32GB for about $12).

And though I know there are some under the hood changes allowing for some potentially faster protocols in Type-C, for right now you’re really only saving the five seconds you’ve been spending trying to plug in a device the wrong way.

And foreplay’s the best part anyway :)

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The Trailing Edge of Technology

We live in age of fairly continuous advancement in technology. Admittedly a lot of that progress is incremental, processors get a little denser, hard drives get a little bigger, and internet speeds stay roughly the same. But in my roughly 30 years on this earth I’ve seen the transition away from big floppies, to small floppies, to tapes, to CD’s, to DVD’s, to flash drives, to portable hard drives to solid state drives to the cloud.

But the thing is, as advanced as we are, there are a lot of us who still use older technologies in our everyday lives.

I used floppy disks regularly (the 3.5″ variety) until about 2003. I didn’t have a CD burner on my computer until later that year and that was also roughly the same time I saw someone with a flash drive. The year before I even distributed a software project for a country simulation on floppy disk. I used to cary around a little white box that had about 60 disks containing all my programs, games, books, music and files. The disks were even color coded to indicate what was on them. I still had a floppy drive on a computer until last year when I finally sold my old desktop (though I’m still searching for a reliable USB powered one so I can get old games).

Adopting new technology is expensive. My first flash drive was twice the size of the white box in terms of storage capacity, and cost $40 (for 128MB). My first external hard drive was $300 for 320GB (I don’t buy computers now for much more than that price). My first computer was $1300 and my first laptop was $800. My first tablet was $200 (which may have been a little cheap compared to the iPad, but still). CD’s used to cost 15 dollars and DVD movies the same or maybe even five bucks more.

And we don’t throw out technology immediately after we buy it. We try to figure out what’s a good technology to invest in and stick with so we can build our collections. CD’s and DVD’s get a bad rap in this regard. Even though a lot of things have moved to digital or pure streaming services, computers are still very compatible with the optical disk format. It’ll probably be another 5-10 years before getting an optical drive on a standard size laptop will be an add-on not a default. And if we drive cars, those are usually at least five years behind in terms of media adoption. The CD was created in 1982 but my Dad’s 96′ Taurus still had a tape deck. In fact most of my generation’s first high-school cars had a tape deck and had to use that weird tape to CD converter thingy (God knows how it worked) to plug-in a portable CD player.

Even those of us making a decent middle class wage can’t afford to adopt everything, and definitely not in its first year. Sometimes this works to our benefit as it allows us to avoid dead technologies like HD DVD and before that Laser Disk (and probably soon the new Apple watch).

But one of the best illustrations of the trailing edge is the library.

I worked in my local library in 2002-2003, around the time DVD’s were first starting to take over for VHS in the collection. Now at the time DVD’s had been around for about five years (the first one I ever owned might have been in 2000 and it was a gift). A lot of people still had VHS players and extensive VHS collections and didn’t have the money to switch over. The library wants to serve the greatest swath of the public and so it will often keep technolgies long after they are “dead” in the public conciousness, because the reality is many people still use that tech. Today that trailing edge for VHS is thrift stores. The one in Delaware has a whole long wall of VHS tapes to be had for a quarter. For those of us who didn’t want to pay 20-30 bucks for the original versions of the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD, finding them for a quarter is pretty good.

The same can be said of the libraries’ books. Sure a lot of us have tablets, eReaders and smart phones that can all read eBooks. And libraries, including my local branch, are beginning to focus as much on digital lending as phyiscal. But not everyone has the ability to read eBooks. I gained mine maybe in late 2011. eBook sales while rising most years are still a small part of the book market. Books are literally a dead-(tree) technology, but I have a feeling they may have one of the longest trailing edges of anything we’ve ever created.

What old tech have you used recently? Remember having to rewind tapes with a pencil?

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Hodge-Podge

As I write this I’m sitting in the living room with my dog lying against my feet. He doesn’t like thunder very much and sometimes needs a little reassurance that everything is okay. It’s sweet the way he trusts me, and feels better just knowing I’m here, and I feel a little bad that I have to go in an hour. But maybe the storm will die down.

Sometimes there are things I want to write about that aren’t a whole blog post, or if they were it would come across more as a rant. Here’s a smattering:

– I just purchased the recent Dynamite Comics Bundle from Story Bundle and included amongst the titles is Red Sonja: Unchained. For those unfamiliar Red Sonja is a sexy red-headed barbarian fighting in a fantasy world of dangerous monsters and sporting a chain-mail bikini (I reviewed Legends of Red Sonja a while ago which is also included in the bundle). The literal premise of Unchained is that her bikini is damaged by fighting a mystical wolf beast and she has to spend the rest of the story wearing something else, in this case the pelt of the wolf she just killed. Something about that just seems hilarious to me. Don’t judge.

– A little shout-out to my friends down under who may be getting a letter from the studio that produced Dallas Buyers Club. Seems Australian ISPs are going to have to give up the identity of about 5000 of you. The IP addresses were gathered by a data logger working for the studio who joined the torrent sharing of the movie. Piracy is bad and all, but I think it’s ridiculous how much lag time there can be with the release of certain products in different countries (in Australia’s case often many months). I’m always a little annoyed to learn when an American film premieres overseas before it premieres here (and some even get different endings or scenes (i.e. Iron Man 3)). What bothers me simply about this is that there are no clear technological reasons why films can’t just be released at the same time. A lot of theaters in my area now have digital screens where the movie played is essentially a high quality digital file. I know there are some complex economics involved, but that feels mostly like an excuse. People will buy your product if it is reasonably priced, and available in a timely fashion. Otherwise, they’ll find a way to get it anyway.

– I’ve been having a lot of fun transferring some old cassette tapes to digital, a project kicked off by finding a bunch of Brother Cadfael audio books on the cheap from the thrift store. Something about the weight, rattle and whirr of old tapes kicks up some old memories and sent me digging through my closets for more material to transfer. There are a number of Star Trek audio dramas that never made the transition to CD’s which is kind of a shame. The only drawback is that I have to play the whole tape to record it, in real time, but luckily I have a cassette player that fits in my bookbag which I can wire into my laptop and have the old tech sitting next to me while I write code. Best thing I found so far: John  Cleese reading C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Classic and sadly out of print.

– Real training exercise I’ve been assigned at work: A peacock in the land of penguins. Turns out this is a classic business book now in its third edition, following the adventures of Perry the Peacock amidst a sea of birds in tuxes. It’s only a 0.01 on Amazon (with $3.99 shipping) if you want a laugh or to take the course with me. Isn’t corporate life grand?

– In case of any of you have picked up the fractal book but have questions about it, remember you can always contact me at bentrubewriter@gmail.com. I had a great e-mail back and forth recently with someone who picked up the book and needed a little code assistance. Always happy to help someone learn about fractals. Or anything else for that matter.

– I’m thrilled that the next Lego Game will be Jurassic: World, covering the original trilogy and the newest installment. We watched all three movies over the weekend (1st one is still the best by a long shot). But I’ve got to wonder how they’ll adapt this into a kid friendly game. I’ve been playing Telltale’s episodic Jurassic Park recently and you spend a lot of time getting eaten by dinosaurs for making mistakes. One scene in particular involved my character getting crushed between a Triceratops and a T-Rex with a 30 second sequence of my daughter grieving before it told me I died and let me reload. I’m dead already, you don’t have to make me feel bad about it.

That’s all for now. Have a good morning!

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