Summer's almost over... dive into a beer and a book

Summer's almost over... dive into a beer and a book

Friday, October 29, 2010

The dead walk


Today's edition of The New York Times includes a terrific, basically rave review of Sunday night's opening installment of the new horror series on AMC, "The Walking Dead". Based on Robert Kirkman's comic book series of the same name, I'm proud to say that I've been drinking Mr. Kirkman's zombie Kool Aid long before its well-deserved television adaptation was even a glint in his eye. Here's what I said on Amazon back in August of 2008 about the trade paperback compilation of the initial issues of "The Walking Dead":

Visceral horror and subtle ongoing character serial combine to make The Walking Dead one of the most engaging comic-book series currently being produced. This initial volume, Days Gone Bye, takes the first six issues of the Image Comics series and edits them together into one seamless (no easy feat when it comes to compilations) 130-plus page epic. Subsequent volumes collect later issues, with new volumes coming out like clockwork once there are six new issues of the monthly comic book to collect.

With its realistic looking characters (no abs-of-steel guys or buxom bimbos here) and gritty day-to-day situations (often horrifying but never over-the-top with silly horror movie situations), The Walking Dead is a comic book that doesn't feel "comic-booky", and would be a good title to recommend to friends who don't normally read comics. If they enjoy horror stories, that is.

Quibbles? Robert Kirkman is telling a great story here, but sometimes the word balloons can be a little dense with verbiage. These characters do go on a bit. But that's really about it.

As this is a comic book, I guess I should touch on the visuals. Tony Moore's art is wonderful: detailed, subtle, yet fast-moving, if that's a way to describe comic book art. What I mean is that the art makes your eye fly from panel to panel, drinking in the action. But his detail and subtlety make the quiet scenes resonate the way they should, too. Though Charlie Adlard's art in future volumes is perfectly fine, and has its own plusses, for my money the series never looked better than in this initial collection.

Give The Walking Dead a try. Its unusual mix of subtle artistry and firing-on-all-cylinders outright horror will grab you and keep you coming back for more.

Okay, back to 2010. "Days Gone Bye" is still readily available in most comic book shops and most Borders and Barnes & Noble locations, as are subsequent compilations of the individual issues of the series. Each compilation costs only 10 bucks or so, unless you go for the also-available larger compilations that collect 20 or 30 issues at a time.

It might be fun to read "Days Gone Bye" before tuning into Sunday night's television premiere. Though you certainly don't need to: All indications are that writer/director Frank Darabont ("The Shawshank Redemption", "The Green Mile") does a great job pulling in both newbies and fans of the comic book just fine.

A Friday grin

Many of the examples of bumper sticker wisdom reproduced here at Kindle Taproom are pulled from around the web and not strictly bumper sticker sayings personally discovered by your genial host. But here's one I saw just now, coming back from lunch:

A man is incomplete before marriage... then he's finished.

I thought that was cute.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Another dose of roadway wisdom

More bumper stickers that tell it like it is:

Hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even if you wish they were.

Women may not hit harder, but they hit lower.

With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine.

More naughty fun


One of the fun things about the Kindle is that all kinds of little treasures from the past regularly become available again to modern audiences. Case in point...

The Stepdaughters, by Rod Waleman (the author's real name, I'm sure), is good fun for fans of 1970's exploitation fare. Businessman Mark has women falling all over him. These include his new wife Valerie, Valerie's teenage daughters, and members of Mark's secretarial pool. Mark even has a handy bedroom behind a sliding wall in his office, during those times when opportunity knocks during work hours (as it does one day when stepdaughter Ethel stops by). Seeing Mark's nice little arrangement at work, I always knew there was a reason our parents wanted us to go to college.

For something that originally appeared as a naughty paperback sold in dubious retail outlets, The Stepdaughters is a fairly polished, highly readable tale... though I wouldn't take any serious lessons from it. Women simply don't fall all over men the way they do in this book (that is, immediately or with minimal prompting). But, heck, you can pretend they do while reading this explicit adult treat. By the way, a couple of eye-opening alternative activities (and you may be surprised who they're between) also pepper the proceedings, but I'll leave them to your own discovery.

While Amazon's $11.18 price for a regular printed copy of The Stepdaughters (involving some kind of no frills yet still pricey print-on-demand method) would have probably kept me from taking the plunge, the extremely inexpensive cost of the Kindle edition, as well as the (let's be honest) anonymous nature of Kindle reading material, encouraged me to give it a shot. Getting half my fun from chuckling at the mostly over-the-top material and half my fun because the book is actually sort of interesting, The Stepdaughters didn't disappoint. If you're in the right mood, it won't disappoint you, either.

Oh, yes... a nice little bonus is the "scholarly" introduction at the outset of the book. It's a real hoot, attempting to convince the reader (and probably the local vice cops) that The Stepdaughters is a thoughtful, serious relationship aid that will help readers navigate the complicated waters of modern romance. Give me a break!

I bought The Stepdaughters a while ago on Kindle for the bargain price of 80 cents. It's now up to an even (and still quite reasonable, in my view) $1.00. Although the original '70s sexy cover art featuring Mark, Valerie and their girls romping around the bedroom seems to have been pulled from the Kindle edition since the time I bought the book, replaced with the generic text-only cover accompanying this post, you shouldn't let that deter you from picking up this undeniably exploitive yet nevertheless compelling little tale if you enjoy this type of material from time to time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

At the movies

For you film fans, here are three big pieces of movie news making their way around the 'net today:

Love it or hate it (myself, I think it's kind of spiffy), James Cameron's Avatar is getting not one but two sequels. Avatar 2 will be coming out in 2014, with the third installment arriving in 2015.

Plans are now underway to release 3D versions of all the Indiana Jones films in theaters in the near future. This follows the already announced plans to re-release all the Star Wars films in 3D on theater screens.

The third Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale Batman movie, out in 2012, now has a title: The Dark Knight Rises. Producers are still being cagey, however, on what villains will be featured in the film.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

On my mind

Here are five things that have been making each day a little brighter lately:

1) Eli Wallach's sensitive yet exciting narration in the new audiobook production of Stephen King's epic-length but fast-moving '90s thriller Insomnia. Check it out at Audible.com.

2) Knowing that Peter Jackson's two-film adaptation of The Hobbit is now finally moving forward.

3) Moving between my five or six favorite channels on my new Sirius/XM satellite radio subscription, which actually makes my afternoon commute home fun.

4) The danger, humor, and mystery in Robert B. Parker's Painted Ladies, which I'm now reading on Kindle.

5) Looking forward to the Halloween night premiere of the new horror series The Walking Dead on AMC. The show may actually be as good as the comic book series on which it's based.

It's the little things that make life worth living, don't you think?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday bumper sticker report

More wisdom spotted on the rear ends of people's automobiles:

I didn't fight my way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian.

A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing.

I didn't say it was your fault. I said I was blaming you.

Hello again

Many apologies to my readers and handful of Kindle subscribers for the silent treatment lately. I was sucker punched by an intense cold or bug or something, and was down for the count for the past few days (okay, enough boxing metaphors). But I'm now back on my feet, albeit creakily, and ready to happily communicate with the outside world again.

Of course, it didn't help that, on top of the lousy cold, I had to watch the Philadelphia Phillies go down in defeat in the National League Division Series this past weekend. But on the upside, I'm really enjoying the late Robert B. Parker's Painted Ladies on Kindle. At least the esteemed Dr. Parker seems to be going out on a high note. More on the book when I finish it.

Stay tuned for more posts as I play catch up on what I've been seeing, reading, doing, etc. For now, be good to one another.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday chuckles

More bumperstickers we've seen in our travels:

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

I enjoy work. I can sit and look at it for hours.

I always take life with a grain of salt... plus a slice of lemon and a shot of tequila.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Meet Leah and Erica


Under Mr. Nolan's Bed is a steamy, engaging little tale of two Catholic school girls (of legal age, though the author doesn't remind us of that fact very often) and their erotic adventures, often with the title character. The book is about 80% erotica- mostly of the taboo, forbidden variety- and 20% "story", the latter actually sort of interesting for this type of genre. Make no mistake, though: in the end, you're getting a sex book here, and an explosively graphic one at that.

Despite its primary mission of delivering frequent sex scenes, I liked the effort the author also put forward to give us some sophistication, variety, and nuance on the story level. For example, Leah starts out as the innocent, babe-in-the-woods friend and Erica the more worldly, experienced one, but soon their roles somewhat reverse: Leah happily learns that she's a quick learner in the world of eros (as well as discovering quite an appetite for the various activities unfolding before her), while Erica displays a vulnerable, insecure side when certain plot developments occur.

Generally, the book was a smooth reading experience on my Kindle, with amateur-hour elements limited to only a few typos and awkward phrases, and an occasional lack of knowledge on the day-to-day details of the Catholic Church (one early scene depicted confessions being conducted during Mass, which doesn't occur). Other than those quibbles, the story is polished and well told. It's also of generous length.

In the end, if you're in the market for this type of material, Under Mr. Nolan's Bed might be a good bet, especially for its fairly inexpensive $3.99 price on Kindle. I wouldn't mind a sequel.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Highway fun

More bumperstickers we recently spotted:

I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not so sure.

When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that firemen usually use water.

I'm so miserable without you, it's like you're still here.

Stylish, functional


As part of its "Vine" program, Amazon recently sent to me a fairly nice protective sleeve, designed for the iPad, for my review and comments. Here's what I had to say about it on Amazon, in a review I just posted there today:

The Acme Made Skinny Sleeve for iPad is a simple, elegant solution for protecting your iPad as you bounce around town with it. Free of all bells and whistles, it's simply a shiny black (mine is black, anyway) padded sleeve that's sealed on three sides and open on one. There's also a little extra padding and stiffness on the inside surface that rests against the iPad's screen, providing extra protection.

Though I tend to prefer sleeves with a zipper, so I can completely enclose my devices for added protection, the iPad sits very snugly inside the Skinny Sleeve, so there's little chance of it ever slipping out (though it may shift a little). Also, the open end of the Skinny Sleeve sits a good inch or so above the edge of the iPad closest to it, so even that edge of your device is decently protected.

The one thing I'm not crazy about is that you have to grip the iPad between thumb and forefinger pretty tightly to pull it out of the sleeve. This probably won't damage the iPad, but after months of repeated removals, can one be sure? Also, for such a basic, simple product, the Skinny Sleeve does seem a little pricey at $25.88. But then again, I think most of the cases and sleeves out there for the Kindle, iPad, and similar devices are pricey for what you get. And, yes, as others have noted, this sleeve picks up fingerprints pretty easily. But, then, so does the iPad itself, so what's one more thing to have to occasionally wipe clean?

In the end, this is just a matter of preference. There are no screaming flaws in this product, only attributes that some will like and some won't. Myself, I'll probably use this from time to time, though I'll likely remain a zippered case kind of guy for the lion's share of my iPad tote-around time.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Kinda funny

A few bumperstickers we recently spotted:

We live in a society where pizza gets to your house faster than the police.

The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

More on the way...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Horrifically fun


Six decent horror tales and one outstanding documentary on the origins of the notorious E.C. comics on which the tales here are based together make the first season of the old HBO series Tales from the Crypt a must buy for horror fans. Myself, I prefer my horror straight up with no chaser, so the humor in the introductions and laced throughout the stories didn't work as well on me as it might for some, but again, that's just me. And even I found a lot of the black humor somewhat amusing.

In any event, though, if you take the plunge and buy this, be sure to watch the documentary on disc two. At almost an hour long, it gives a comprehensive overview on the world of comic books in the 1950s and the eventual rise (and, alas, fall) of E.C.'s horror comics line during that period. For anyone interested in comics history, the documentary alone would be worth the price of this season one set. In a world of 10-minute (if you're lucky) DVD bonus materials, you just don't see special features like this anymore. The most interesting part of the documentary for me was seeing the E.C. artists admit that, yes, perhaps they did go a little too far in their horrific depictions of gore and violence in some of their stories, needlessly bringing on the wrath of Congress.

I actually bought season one of this show in a colorful package that bundled it together with season two, at a really cheap price (I found it in the DVD section of my local Target). Amazon and other online retailers may have a similar offer on the initial seasons, however, so you might want to look around the 'net first if you're interested in getting this.

Anyway, I'm off to check out the quality of the much longer second season of Tales from the Crypt, as I didn't have HBO during the show's initial run way back when. What can I tell you, my parents were sometimes a little too thrifty.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Resourceful

Overheard from a chatty guy while I was out and about: "I was going to ask God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Truths to ponder

We all know Murphy's Law, which states that anything that can go wrong, will. But did you know that the esteemed Mr. Murphy didn't stop there and later identified, for mankind's benefit, a variety of other laws? Here, then, as a public service, are Murphy's Ten Lesser Known Laws:

1. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

2. He who laughs last, thinks slowest.

3. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

4. Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

5. The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% proabability you'll get it wrong.

6. The things that come to those who wait will be the things left by those who got there first.

7. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat all day, drinking beer.

8. Flashlight: A metal tube used to store dead batteries.

9. Shin bone: A device for finding furniture in a dark room.

10. A fine is a tax for doing something wrong. A tax is a fine for doing something right.

And, finally, one bonus law:

11. When you go into court, you are putting yourself in the hands of twelve people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dark doings


Because of its origins as a bedtime story for his little daughter, I put off reading Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon for many years, thinking it would be too childlike and boilerplate storybook-ish for my tastes. But finally getting to it, I learned that I needn't have worried. This tale of an evil magician who engineers a murder and frame-up in order to assure that his own controllable choice for King is placed in line for the throne is gritty, entertaining, and decidedly adult.

I did like the first half of the book more than the second half. The initial chapters feature much texture and subtlety in the depiction of King Roland, his sons Peter and Thomas, and the evil court magician and King's advisor Flagg (perhaps the same Flagg who shows up later in Mr. King's The Stand). I particularly liked the way one short conversation between Peter and his mother about the importance of using a napkin leads Peter to a lifelong obsession with napkins, even using them for a centerpiece escape attempt later in the novel. The book's latter going is still good, but its shift to some less interesting (though still likable) secondary characters and the de-evolution of Flagg from a complex villain to your more basic cackling maniac made me miss the nuance and texture of the earlier parts a little. But only a little if I'm honest.

I actually listened to The Eyes of the Dragon via a terrific new unabridged audio production read by Bronson Pinchot (who makes the most of the story's generous amounts of drama and intrigue), that I downloaded from Audible.com and enjoyed on my MP3 player. But you can also pick the book up on Kindle for $6.99, where I'm sure the story's pleasures will likewise shine through.

Possibly a dry run for his Dark Tower epic, The Eyes of the Dragon is a Stephen King tale of a slightly different flavor and stripe, but one still as reliably involving as his usual fare.

Reporting in

A recent Kindle Taproom poll asked the following: Amazon brags that the Kindle's e-ink technology allows for easy reading even in bright sunlight. How often do you read you Kindle outside?

32 of you responded, and here's the breakdown:

Very often, weather permitting 16

Sometimes 5

Not very often 10

Never. I only read indoors 1

For the record, I was one of the 16 Very often votes. Sitting outside and enjoying the nice weather while enjoying a book on Kindle has been a great joy since the advent of the Kindle in 2007. It appears that a fair amount of you agree.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Good stuff


Superman/Batman: Apocalypse is a bang-up direct-to-DVD animated film (adapted from a multi-part story from the Superman/Batman monthly comic book) that introduces to a modern audience Kara Zor-El, Superman's cousin from Krypton. The film has it all: great action, heartfelt drama, and epic wonderment, that last delivered primarily via the story's setting on the hellish planet Apokolips in the latter going, as the powerful, villainous Darkseid attempts to take control of the young and impressionable Kara and use her for his own purposes.

This is the most assured to date of the regularly appearing DC Comics animated films made for the DVD market, and that's saying something, as all of the films thus far have been very good. I especially liked the generous nature of the movie, as we get to see lots of heroes in action, including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Kara (aka Supergirl), and a variety of Jack Kirby's great "New Gods" characters (Darkseid, Granny Goodness, and many others), with the movie being long enough that everyone has a chance to breathe and do their thing.

About the only negative point I can make about the movie is that for some inexplicable reason it looks like Superman is wearing heavy eye shadow throughout. Oh, well, that's just a quibble.

Extras on the two-disc standard DVD I bought include a decent 17-minute look at the history of Supergirl in the comics, and two episodes from the 1990s Superman animated television series, which feature another take on origin of Kara Zor-El. Oh, yes... you also get a terrific 10-minute short featuring the always entertaining Green Arrow.

If this type of material is anywhere up your alley, you can't go wrong picking up Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, putting your feet up, and enjoying the epic mayhem unfold.

Don't understand it

What's the deal these days with new television shows getting cancelled after barely being given a chance? First, Fox cancelled the new series Lone Star after broadcasting only two episodes. And now it's just been announced that ABC's My Generation has also been given the ax, likewise after only two episodes were shown. Poor ratings were cited in both cases as the reason for the programs' cancellations.

Now, I don't know if either of those shows were any good, but... cancelling them after only two episodes? Isn't there some recognition that all shows aren't instant hits and take time to build an audience? The classic example, of course, is Seinfeld, which barely had fair ratings for its initial episodes, and was well into its run before it became a huge hit.

One, I feel bad for all the creative types who made these shows happen and weren't given a fair chance to let their shows resonate with the public, and two, I think cancelling them so quickly was a bad business decision, as who knows if either or both of these shows might have gotten hot, maybe even really hot, a couple of months down the line.

Just my two cents.

Friday, October 1, 2010

What's selling


Wow, for the first time as far as I'm aware, the top selling item in the Kindle Store isn't a book, and not even a magazine or newspaper, for that matter. It's a game. It looks like Amazon's initiative to develop apps, games and other items for the Kindle is paying off. Here are the top five sellers in the Kindle Store as of this morning:

1. Scrabble, by Electronic Arts Inc. $4.99

2. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson. $9.99

3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson. $6.64

4. Marked, by Elisabeth Naughton. $5.59

5. Freedom: A Novel, by Jonathan Franzen $12.99

I'll have to check out Scrabble. I really enjoy both the Every Word and Shuffled Row word games on the Kindle, so I should probably get this. Do any of you have it yet?