In other news, I still hate cable news

So, I think in the future, people will wonder where everyone was the day that the Supreme Court ruled all portions of Obamacare were Consitutional.

Me? I was busy eating breakfast and watching things unfold on CNN. After about 14:50 of Wolf Blitzer and company rambling on and on about the same announcement over and over and about 10 seconds of actual news, I remembered just in that moment why I only go to the BBC and Chicago Tribune website for news.

Have a good night!

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The Summer of Sherlock: A Study In Scarlet–Retrospective Review

I know a lot of you probably want me to comment on this, but I’ll get to that when I get to it. For now, SHERLOCK!

A Study In Scarlet is the first of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s four Holmes novels, as well as the first Holmes story, period. Published in 1887, it wasn’t a huge hit, but today is considered a forerunner of the mystery genre.

The plot? After Holmes and Watson meet and move in together, they’re called upon to investigate the mysterious death of the American Enoch Drebber. Found in an abandoned house, his body has no outward traces of murder, so the police are baffled. Shortly after, another bdoy, that of Drebber’s secretary, Joseph Stangerson, is found in a similar matter. The story’s title comes from Holmes telling Watson that “There‚Äôs the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.”

What makes this novel special though is that it’s not all Holmes’ actions seen through Watson’s eyes; the 2nd half is a flashback to the Utah desert 40 years before the story takes place, which fills in the backstory of not only the 2 Americans, but also their murderer.

The real bad guys in this book are, believe it or not, the Mormons. Y’know, that thing the South Park guys made a Broadway musical out of? The religion that both Republican leading man Mitt Romney and professionally insane person Glenn Beck belong to? That thing that is deeply engrained in American culture, yet no one understands how it actually works?

They’re kinda set up as the ultimate evil cabal and, the way Doyle writes the flashback scenes with such intensity, it really does work. It is, in hindsight, a little flimsy, but it still works.

I call this a retrospective because I’ve sort of read this book before. A few years ago, I found an audiobook of it for free online and it was pretty well done. Don’t have it anymore, though. The nice thing is, the version I have also contains The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is not only a later Holmes novel, but also the first Holmes story Doyle wrote in some years before dragging the character out of retirement.

About 4 chapters in and it’s gripping stuff. ‘Till next time!

The Summer of Sherlock!

Y’know, over the past few weeks, I’ve learned to love my day job. The biggest reinforcement of this, however, came on Tuesday night.

After having a work appointment with my neighbors, whose house I had never been in before, I got to talking with them and it turned out that the wife was a Sherlockian not so long ago.

A Sherlockian, if you can’t figure it out, is the term for a fan of Sherlock Holmes. If you don’t know who Sherlock Holmes is, go away, you strange alien lifeform.

Anyway, I’ve become a bit of a recent Sherlockian myself, with a big part of that owing to the BBC’s Sherlock program, which, believe you me, I’ll post about soon.

We talked Holmes for a while, then my neighbor did the most…well…neighborly thing you can imagine. She just up and GAVE me 5 Holmes books! How cool is that?

I’ve been delving into the first one, this Reader’s Digest edition of A Study in Scarlet & The Hound of the Baskervilles, 2 of the 4 original Holmes novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And I got to thinking, “Well, if I’m going to be reading all these books in a row, why don’t I post reviews?” So that’s what I’m doing!

Yup, we have a recurring feature on this here blog. So until then, stay put and enjoy this drawing of Holmes by original story illustrator Sidney Paget:

You (should be) listening to Fanholes!

The realm of podcasting is a strange and wonderful thing. I think of it as talk radio for the Internet.

And you know what the best one is? FANHOLES!!!

The Fanholes Podcast–which can be found on iTunes, Podbean, or their own blog–is what it sounds like: a group of friends yammering away, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively, and always hilariously about geek culture and pop culture.

I’ve written into the show and had my email read on air twice now, and I’ve won, I think, both of the contests they’ve had so far. Last summer, the first one netted me the first 2 Naruto: Uncut boxsets. The second one–which I think I won today–got me a free T-Shirt from the upcoming indie horror film zCon. Pretty cool stuff from a show that’s just shy of 50 episodes.

If you like watching guys like the Nostalgia Critic or the Angry Video Game Nerd, or you just like hearing geeks rage, you’re gonna love this show!

So what are you waiting for? LISTEN ALREADY!

 

CD Review–Iron & Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean

This review is a bit late to the party, considering this album came out about a year ago, but hey, here it goes.

If you don’t know who Sam Beam, aka Iron & Wine, is, you’ve missed out on one of the biggest voices in American music in the past decade.

File:Sambeam-brooklyn-2006.jpg

And one of the most magnificent beards…

Anyway, for most of his career, Beam has made wispy, haunting, rustic folk music best exemplified in this song and this cover of a Postal Service song. I say most, because around 2007, he started doing something different. Not entirely abandoning folk music, but instead fusing it with the best of American rock ala Paul Simon or Neil Young, Beam has sort of staked out his own weird Southwestern mark on the indie music landscape. There were traces of this in 2007’s album The Shephard’s Dog, but on last year’s Kiss Each Other Clean, Beam and his band really carved out their own sweet spot.

File:Kiss Each Other Clean.jpg

This album is also, from a business perspective, a sign of broader outreach and growth. While Iron & Wine’s previous output was released through Sub Pop Records–the big dog of indie music labels–this album was released through Warner Bros. Records, which has always been my favorite of the big labels because of the way they treat their artists. For example, see the way they treated R.E.M.

I’ve listened to this album about 4 times through now, and I love it. Every track on here is unique, yet poppy in the truest sense of the word. Not pop as in “Pandering On Present-day trends” pop music, but that essential, catchy, timeless sheen good pop music has had since the days of Elvis.

Some standout tracks?

Well, “Tree By The River” for starters. One of the first songs Beam actually wrote, this track is pure gold, a breakthrough hit from start to finish. Sorry the below video is some crappy lyrics vid, but best I could find.

Second, “Glad Man Singing.” This track showcases a lot of great spaced-out instrumentation, plus some really wonderful harmonies.

Finally, there’s “Walking Far From Home.” The album’s opener, this is a perfect one, gradually building in instrumentation and depth as Beam narrates some wayfayer’s strange journey.

Overall, this is a great album, perfect for just the kind of muggy, summer weather we’re having now. This album transports my mind to the weird desert landscapes of Arizona and New Mexico, and reminds me just what mysteries still lie in the American Southwest.

Webcomics you should be reading, Part 2

Hey guys, sorry I forgot to post this yesterday, but I’m here now, so here we go.

One of the coolest things about webcomics is that, because the Internet is a big yet small place, like-minded people like webcomics creators can meet and become friends.

Such is the case with the first webcomic creator I’m going to talk about today, Joel Watson of Hijinks Ensue.

Watson is a friend of David Willis, the creator of Shortpacked! and Dumbing of Age, which I talked about the last time I did one of these.

A month ago, I would have been telling you how Watson’s strip, which updates about 3 times a week or so, is a noncanonical strip following the geek culture rantings and ravings of Watson and his friends Josh and Eli. But that’s not really true anymore.

A few weeks ago, Watson began experimenting with ongoing storylines. He’s completed 2 so far, and really, I find it a nice, interesting experiment.

The beginning of the first storyline, where the three men go see The Avengers, is here. If you like what you see, just go to the archive and then click on one of the random tags and surf to your heart’s content. Watson’s humor is not only topical, but it’s also direct and ludicrous. While you don’t have to, I recommend reading the blog posts below the strips. They’re really just as funny as the strips and I usually learn something.

The second webcomic I’m talking about today was actually linked to in one of those said blog posts, Reptilis Rex by William Tallman.

William Tallman is, of course, not the cartoonist’s real name, but that’s the pseudonym the website gives. The strip follows Krel Irontail–former emperor of the Hollow Earth and the species inside it called Reptoids (reptilian humanoids)– and his assistant Snive as they navigate life on the surface, including their low-level retail jobs at Lemmy’s, a spoof of all retail jobs everywhere.

This strip is great: a nice cartoony style blended with memorable characters and crackling dialogue. Tallman updates 4 times a week, Monday-Thursday, and he’s really hit his stride since the strip started. It’s only been around for a few months, so you can read from the beginning and be caught up in a few hours. I’d do it now, so then you can tell all your friends years from now when this strip is as big as Penny Arcade that you knew about it before everyone else in your snootiest, hipster-est voice.

Enjoy and new post tomorrow!

 

On Arrow

Hey everyone, hope your weekend was great. Mine was! Because I sawThe Avengers again! And guess what? It’s still AWESOME!

This time, though, I saw it in normal 2-D. When distanced from the sheer spectacle of IMAX 3-D, you really get more of a chance to judge the film as a film. And it is still a dang good one.

This time around, I made more attention to Hawkeye, and realized that I liked a lot of what Jeremy Renner did. He wouldn’t have been my first choice for the role, but he did a remarkable job.

Speaking of arrows…

Over the weekend, the CW–that sad, sad mutated combo of UPN and the WB that, yes, is still around–released an extended trailer for their new fall show, Arrow, aSmallville-esque take on the prominent DC Comics second-stringer Green Arrow.

Via Moviebob

Now, you’re probably wondering 2 things.

1. Who the heck is Green Arrow?

Short version: Batman, but if he was shipwrecked on an island and dressed like Robin Hood. Long version: this.

2. What do I, your humble guide, think about this?

Well, call me cautiously optimistic. I’ve heard Smallville started out great but just went way downhill as time went on; hopefully, Arrow will avoid this problem. Some of the changes bug me, like how apparently Oliver is from “Darling City” (obvious L.A. is obvious) rather than Star City in Oregon like the comics. And the hood on the costume is just. Plain. SILLY.

I get trying to darken up the character, but the hood just looks so out of place. If you look at what Ollie looks like in the recently rebooted DC Universe of the New 52–no hat, but still mask and arrows–that’d be fine. A hood just looks and feels like someone’s trying too hard.

But really, the core premise does seem intriguing. I wonder if they’ll begin the pilot with Oliver’s shipwreck and time on the island, or if it will just be parsed out flashback style over multiple episodes.

Either way, I’m in, just to see how it goes.