Friday, November 27, 2009

The Friday after Thanksgiving Report

I survived Thanksgiving. Made two trips to Canton and back. Ate entirely too much. Spent the evening playing Lord of the Rings Online and reading. Today I'm chilling out. Just watched 'Scent of a Woman' which is one of my all time favorite movies and my official Thanksgiving weekend film since it takes place over a Thanksgiving weekend. I don't watch it every year, but I try and save it for Thanksgiving. I have ordered a pizza and they told me it would be 60 to 90 minutes for delivery, so I guess the combination of more people off work today and holiday traffic is holding them up. (Usually 15 to 30 min) I'm okay with that. I always order early so I imagine the wait will just get longer.
Not sure what I'll do for the rest of the day. Probably read some more and play LotRO some more. Might write a bit. We'll see. Hope everyone's holiday weekend is going well.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

G.I. Joe

I love comic books so if I call a film a "comic book" movie, it's in no way to be taken as a slight. G.I. Joe is a comic book movie. Fast paced, colorful, and action packed, with hastily sketched characterizations and a plot laced with enough coincidences to boggle Edgar Rice Burroughs' suspension of disbelief. I quite enjoyed it.
I was too old to play with the 3 and 3/4" action figures when they originally came out. My G.I.Joe was 11 inches tall and a real soldier, so I have no nostalgia for the characters in the movie. Still I watched the cartoon occasionally and I read some of the Marvel comic books.
Most of the familiar faces are there. Hawk, Duke, and Scarlet. The rival ninjas, Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. Cobra Commander and Destro. I found actress Sienna Miller to be a bit slight of frame as the leather clad Baroness, looking rather like a cheerleader someone had taken to a leather shop, but she did her best to slink her way through the early part of the movie.
As I said, there's plenty of action. Everything from car chases to gunfights to martial arts duels. There's also plenty of special effects, some of which are very good and others which look like an episode of Thunderbirds. Overall though it's a great popcorn movie.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Stuff, and Lots of It

Big night at the comic book store last night. Got a collection of Alex Raymond's Rip Kirby comic strip, the strip he quit Flash Gordon to create. Got a new DC Showcase volume, DC Comics Presents, which features team ups between Superman and other DC heroes like Flash, The Phantom Stranger, Mr. Miracle, and so on. Got a new issue of the Doc Savage reprints series, featuring a Doc novel I haven't ever read. Got the fourth volume of Dark Horse's Jesse Marsh Tarzan series. That's probably the last one of those I'll get as one of the DVD Roms I picked up recently was the complete Tarzan comics. As I noted, I'm perfectly happy to read them on the PC, so I don't really need the hardbacks.
Plus two books I'd ordered from Amazon came in yesterday. both collections of Harold Lamb's adventure fiction, edited by my pal, Howard Andrew Jones. All and all, quite a bit of new reading material.
The weird dreams continued last night, but no real nightmares. Oddly enough, right before waking this morning, I was dreaming about an adventure with some Viking raiders which morphed into a documentary about Vikings that I was narrating for PBS. Must have been the Mexican food...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Darkly Dreaming

I'm in another one of those periods of extremely vivid dreams. most of them nightmares. For the last couple of weeks, my sleeping time has been filled with every sort of monster and menace my subconscious can come up with and that's saying something. I've had two very intense werewolf related dreams, and last night I was battling a particularly vicious necromancer in a dream involving reanimated corpses and a cavern full of death traps and venomous, tennis ball size spiders. At least the arachnids were smaller than the last ones I dreamed about, which were as large as German Shepherds. However in this dream there were thousands of them. Thing is, I'm not really afraid of spiders, so I don't know why they show up in my dreams so much. Possibly because they figure in so many sword and sorcery stories.
I've blogged before about how I've always had a lot of nightmares, and for the most part they don't bother me much. The majority of the time, my dream self successfully fights whatever creatures come after me, so I don't get too excited when some monstrosity shows up. Now and again though, I have a dream that really disturbs me. None of those last night, though. Just a lot of blood and gore and fighting. Par for the course.
On the plus side, I've also experienced an upswing in Lucid Dreaming, those dreams where I'm aware that I'm asleep and dreaming. Those are a lot of fun in that I usually can control them to a certain degree. Years ago, I used to keep a dream journal, which is supposed to help with dream recall, but I got tired of writing them all down though and gave it up. Might try that again at some point. I've gotten a couple of decent short stories that way. Maybe I'll start another blog.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pike Rules

This Just in. January 12th 2010 is the release date for the "The First Rule", the new Joe Pike novel by Robert Crais. If you remember how much I liked Crais's last Pike book, The Watchman, then you know I'm eagerly awaiting this one. Pike's after some seriously bad guys but they're about to learn how the world works when they break the first rule. What's the first rule?

Don't make Joe Pike mad.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Blasts From the Past

Recently I've been buying DVD ROMs containing mass quantities of old Golden Age comic books. I picked up a set last week of Fawcett Comics featuring the original Captain Marvel (Shazam) and the Marvel family. I've always had a soft spot for the Big Red Cheese (As Cap was often called by his arch enemy Dr. Sivana) and most of the stories have yet to be reprinted in books, so the DVD ROMs were an inexpensive way to get a lot of fun old comics. While the character of Captain Marvel is trademarked by DC Comics, the old stories themselves are in public domain, or so the seller tells me.
It's interesting in that while I don't have much use for E-Book Readers or reading text online, I don't mind reading comic books on my PC, probably because comics are a visual medium. As long as the scans are good, reading them on the monitor is fine by me. Cliff and I were talking about this the other day and we think that this is probably where comics will be going in the future. Loathe though I am to admit it, I think the days of the paper comic book may be numbered, but that's a topic for another time.
Another thing Cliff and I were talking about was that with the scans you get the entire comic book, not just the story, so you get to see the letters and the text features and the ads. I've been having a lot of fun with all the old advertisements for Wild Root Hair Cream, (featuring Sam Spade) RC Cola, Tootsie Roll, and such, all of which are done in comic strip form. The art on these ads is often better than the art in the comic book stories themselves.
Anyway, I've got a whole bunch of stories about Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr, and Mary Marvel (Now there' s a name for you.) plus many lesser known Fawcett heroes such as Bulletman, Ibis the Invincible, Mr. Scarlet, and many many more. Fun stuff.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Demon Journey

Sometimes you get a lucky break. I had been looking for a good copy of The Mighty Barbarians, a 1969 anthology of Sword & Sorcery stories, companion to a second anthology I already owned, The Mighty Swordsmen. Both books were edited by Hans Stefan Santesson and both had nifty covers by Jim Steranko. Anyway, someone on Ebay was offering both books along with three other paperbacks for four bucks. I bid, no one else did, and so I got the book I wanted for a song and it was indeed a fine copy and the copy of The Mighty Swordsmen was better than the one I had. Win, win. But wait, it gets better!
One of the other paperbacks was another collection of Sword & Sorcery stories called Swords Against Tomorrow. I'd heard of this one, but never come across a copy. I had already read most of the stories in the anthology but I was still pleased to get a copy, and as it turned out, one of the stories that I hadn't read was one of the best S&S yarns I've read in some time.
Poul Anderson's Demon Journey is an action packed, rollicking good adventure. It was written early in Anderson's long career, originally appearing in a 1951 issue of the pulp magazine Planet Stories under the title, Witch of the Demon Seas. The protagonist is a pirate named Corun, who is captured by his enemies and sentenced to death near the beginning of the story. Shorzan, a sorcerer in the employ of the enemy king offers Corun a chance at freedom if the pirate will lead him to the home of the non human Xanthi in the Demon Seas, a place that few humans have visited and fewer have returned from. Corun agrees, partly because he has been bewitched by Shorzan's slinky granddaughter, Chryseis, the titular witch of the original tale.
Corun and the sorcerers ship out with a crew of blue skinned mercenaries. Along the way they will face sorcery and sea monsters before finally reaching the home of the Xanthi, a race of amphibious creatures sort of like Lovecraft's Deep Ones. Here, loyalties will shift and plots will twist and much blood will be shed in harrowing battles. This is one the most pulpish efforts I've ever read by Anderson. It has almost a Robert E. Howard feel to it.
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you've seen me review other works by Poul Anderson, mostly his Viking related stories, but also his Conan pastiche, Conan the Rebel, and his vastly influential fantasy novel, The Broken Sword. The scary thing is, as much fantasy as Anderson wrote, he wrote even more science fiction, including some of my favorite time travel stories. I find Anderson's work to be generally enjoyable but occasionally uneven. I guess when someone writes as much as Anderson did, he's eventually going to turn out a clunker or two. Demon Journey is far from clunky though and I'm really glad I happened across it. Just a nice bit of luck.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Weekend Reading

Wednesday night I finally got the long delayed fourth volume of Night Shade Books' Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith. I've been reading some selections from that over the weekend, luxuriating in Smith's elaborate prose and dreamy worldscapes. Great stuff, plus the notes in the back of the book about the writing and the publication histories of the various stories are priceless. One volume left to go in the series. Aside from that I also read one of Gardner Fox's sword & sorcery novels, Kothar and the Wizard Slayer. Much as I admire Fox's comic book work, I find the prose in these novels to be a little stilted, but I think that's a product of the time (late 1960s-early 1970s) when they were published and the market for which they were intended. As Conan pastiches they're worse than some, but better than most. They just don't provide the things that modern readers expect. For instance, characterizations are very very flat. Still, entertaining and a good way to pass a couple of hours.
Did a re-read of Robert Jordan's novella New Spring, from the now decade old collection Legends. Though I've never been able to make it through the first volume in the late author's fantasy series The Wheel of Time, I always liked this short novel set in the WoT universe. It's a quick read at just 149 pages. Jordan later expanded it into a bigger book ,which I also read, but I prefer the shorter version. Forced to write tight, Jordan produced the epic fantasy equivalent of one of his earlier Conan pastiches, with a rousing sword fight and a nail-biting climax. Oh, and speaking of Jordan and Conan, I noticed that Tor has reissued two of the Jordan Conans, Conan the Defender and Conan the Destroyer, as new paperbacks. I can only assume this is because of the recent release of Jordan's newest WoT novel, which was completed from Jordan's partial manuscripts and notes by writer Brandon Sanderson and edited by Jordan's wife.
While I was reading New Spring I noticed that there are several of the other novellas in the collection that I had never gotten around to. May have to rectify that soon. That happens sometimes. I buy an anthology for one or two authors and don't get around to the other stories until years later. Sometimes I find some nice surprises.
I also read a novella by Poul Anderson, but that one gets a post of its own, probably tomorrow.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Jared's wife, Jenny makes the world's best Banana Bread. I'm just saying.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Post 125

Today is the third anniversary of this Blog. It also, coincidentally, marks the halfway point in last years number of posts. 2008 saw 250 posts, down from 368 in 2007. Still have two months to go in 2009, so I imagine I'll get well past the mid point, but there's little doubt I'll have fewer post this year than last. Looking back over 2009 I see that most of my posts were about books or movies and very few about my life in general. That probably explains the gap in posts from 2007 to now. I no longer feel the need to blog about my trips to the grocery store. Singular Points has become more of a web-zine and less of a journal. That's fine. My original purpose in starting the blog was to review books. Obviously I'm still doing that. I've also written more fiction this year than the preceding two, which is also probably another reason I haven't been here as much. Anyway, I'm still enjoying the blog so I'm not going away any time soon.