Soaking in Game of Thrones

I’ve spent since Thanksgiving reading A Song of Ice and Fire. I finished Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows and now I’m a third of the way through A Dance with Dragons. Three books in 4 or 5 months is pretty good for me in recent years. However when you consider this is 3,000 pages which is 6-10 of the kind of books I normally read, it’s phenomenal.

I’ve now also seen S1E1 of the TV show. I bought the first two seasons on DVD/BluRay during a Gold Box special recently. Having immersed myself in this world in multiple media, I thought it would be a great time to start listening to the Beyond the Wall podcast as I watch the episodes. Basically, I get to relive 2011 with everyone else. When I went to try it, the first few episodes are no longer there on the site. The posts exists but the media files give a 404 error. Do they exist somewhere that I can get them? These are the dangers of living your media life half a decade off of everyone else.

What Say You, Fast and Furious?

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I really enjoy the What Say You podcast with Brian Quinn and Sal Vulcano. I went about things bass-ackwards, first listening to and enjoying their podcast enough that I decided to try an episode of the Impractical Jokers TV show. I’d expect most people went the other way around. I was already a listener of Tell Em Steve Dave, so I had years of BQ podcast listening under my belt. Still, it seems like a weird path.

Here’s how much I enjoy their show. On their episode 48, I listened to two hours of them discussing the first Fast and the Furious movie. I’ve never seen it. I’ve never seen any Fast and the Furious movie. I laughed and enjoyed it and basically had a great time. These guys are seriously funny and I just enjoy being able to listen to them chat. For being guys with their own television show, their podcast is straight out of the mold of the indie shows that I listen to. They have way more in common with Dawn and Drew or Derek Coward than any celebrity podcasters. I love that, I love their podcast, I love their TV show. For me to say that about a program on a reality show network is not a casual thing. They make me laugh, every single time.

Rock and Roll Geek Scoring System

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By and large, I really like Michael Butler’s Rock and Roll Geek album scoring system. He gives each song a 0, 1/2 or 1 and then adds it up and it almost always comes up with something sensible. However…

I am listening to this episode where he is scoring both the new Scorpions album “Return to Forever” and Black Star Riders album “Killer Instinct”. I haven’t gotten to the end yet but in the middle he has the Scorpions ahead by 1/2 point. To my ears, they are nowhere close. The Black Star Riders is a way better album. I cannot see ever actually listening to this Scorpions for anything other than ironic cheeziness. It’s too bad to be enjoyable and not bad enough to be fun. Butler is giving it good scores on a song by song basis but it is mostly sucking the life out of me. Conversely, when he switches over to a Black Star Riders song I pick back up and reengage. I would put this album on for enjoyment.

It’s worth a listen to see what you think but I wouldn’t score them anywhere close.

James Mason Shark

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Dear Octonauts, I noticed what you did in the “Artifical Reef” episode, giving the sharks all James Mason voices. Thanks for keeping it interesting for the parents, and the older ones at that.

SciFi Tavern in Charlotte

Here is a Kickstarter I can get behind, even though I am not a direct beneficiary of it. A guy is trying to raise money to start a science fiction and fantasy bookstore tavern in Charlotte NC. Even as Borderlands in San Francisco is planning to shut down, that some crazy bastard is willing to tilt at this windmill all over makes me happy.

I would like the idea of this place getting off the ground. I try to get to Charlotte for Heroescon as often as I can so if it does open, I will need to put this on the agenda. Fellow members of the SF tribe, do what you can. Especially as I have so many friends located around the south, please support this if you have the means and at least spread this if you don’t. Let’s see it happen!

Ebook Errors?

People who know about the inside working of big publishing, I need your help.

I have been hearing people talk about ebook editions that appear to have OCR type errors in them. This sounded suspicious to me, in that “publishing can’t possibly be doing what I think they are doing” type way. I have now some examples in captivity. I own all of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books in hardcover but I am reading them on my Kindle. Who wants a 10 pound book smashing their face at bedtime? I noticed these errors in the passages of the kingsmoot, where Balon Greyjoy is referred to many times. There is a stretch of two paragraphs with half of them “Balon” and the other half “Baton.” If the image is too small to read, follow to the blog post and click it and you’ll see a pretty large version of it. I highlighted the passage on the Kindle just to make it extra obvious.

The question is this: do the big publishers prepare their texts for commercial ebooks by scanning and OCRing typeset versions of the text? In other words, is there no way for them to capture the final edited version in a soft copy that could then end up in the ebook version? I’m withholding judgement until I understand this better but it seems remarkably backwards to me. If the electronic copy can introduce additional errors from the paper versions, something in the workflow seems amiss to me.

Octonauts FTW

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Punkin has really taken to The Octonauts cartoon. These things come and go in waves (no pun intended) but this one seems to be sticking. We had Octonauts stuff at her birthday party and she spent her birthday money mostly on various Gup vehicles.

What I really like about the show is that every single episode is doing stealth teaching. There is always at least one animal fact or aquatic bit in each cartoon. The other day she used the words “kelp” and “krill.” When I asked her, she was able to correctly define what each was. I would put this as the best cartoon she watches for that reason. Add on that I enjoy it as an homage to all forms of stiff-upper-lip British military fiction (for me, that includes Pertwee era Dr. Who). This show is educational to kids, enjoyable by parents. That’s a win on multiple fronts for me. Now we need to hunt up some of the original books that the show was based on.

From Coffee and Cider

From the Coffee and Cider podcast episode entitled “Criterion Velocity“:

Rich Stevens: “I feel that my role in our community as a moderately tall white male is to find the creeps and make them creeped out. If I know you are a creep and you are a dude and there are women in this general area, I’m going to make you feel really uncomfortable. Not because the women necessarily need it, but because it is the one thing I can do.”

Pretending To Be An Artist

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A few weeks ago, we made the last minute decision to make Punkin a birthday card with some of her current favorite characters. I’m not an artist, but I know enough about comic books to understand the process and try to emulate it.

I tried to go through the standard cycle as a layman understands it. First I did a quick thumbnail on printer paper to make sure I understood the basic composition of the thing, and more importantly how I understood the sizes of the figures relative to each other.

After that, I took a folded piece of card stock and pencilled in the figures. When I felt good about that, I inked them. After that, I erased a little of my lines and passed it off to the colorist and letterer (which was mommy.) The final product looked pretty decent, if we do say so ourselves. It was a lot of work and made for a later night than anticipated but it was probably easier than trying find a card with the right set of characters. Considering the front is a Paw Patrol character and the inside is a mix of Octonauts and Mickey Mouse, that was probably impossible.

Superbowl Commercials

I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. Somewhere after child bedtime I realized the game was on but I didn’t care enough to even turn it on. I didn’t look at social media at all last night, opting to go to bed at the first moment possible.

Today I see many people predictably talking about the commercials, their favorites, the best. This always mystifies me. Sure, some are more clever and enjoyable than others but so what? Focusing on the best commercial is like focusing on the gentlest ass-kicking. It’s still a beating, it’s still a commercial.

The Adventure of English

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I am a listener of the In Our Time podcast from BBC Radio 4. It makes me feel marginally smarter and more informed on historical events that Americans seldom know. I really enjoy the host Melvyn Bragg. Through January 26th, his book The Adventure of English is on sale on the Kindle store for $1.99. I enjoy a good etymological yarn as well as the next guy if the next guy is a really boring egghead like me.

If you are a fan of Melvyn Bragg and his work, why not get this while it is cheap? I did.

Bag of Holding

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I in no way need another bag. I have multiple backpacks provided by employers on top of the various ones purchased myself. In addition I have multiple bags that come from conferences. I have so many that I have taken to setting different ones up for different contexts. I have the backpack I take for work and work travel; I have the backpack for personal travel; I have the backpack for taking the child out to events; I have the messenger bag I like to take when I am riding my bike.

That said, despite my complete lack of need for such a thing, I find this Think Geek bag purpose built for taking to SF and comic conventions to be crazy sweet. The whole reason why I mix and match my bags is that none of them are perfect. Some have the water bottle mesh side pockets, some have the laptop compartments and the inner pocket with lots of pen and pencil slots. I love the idea of taking the needs of a specific event and crafting a bag to address it. I have probably taken all of my backpacks to some convention or another and none are perfect. And it is only $30 so not even expensive.

But I don’t need it. Really I don’t. Really. I don’t. Need it.

Storm of Swords and Beyond

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I finished reading A Storm of Swords last night. I was a little surprised that I read this nearly 1200 page book in six weeks (the long holiday break helped a lot.) It took me longer than that to read Tasteful Nudes, which was a fraction of the length. It went to the top of my pile mainly to mitigate spoilers from the TV show that are seeping into ubiquity in pop culture. The fact that I was surprised at major plot twists is evidence of success in that plan.

My original plan was to read something a little lighter (and shorter) before getting to A Feast For Crows. However, fumbling with my Kindle I accidentally ordered it 20 seconds after finishing A Storm of Swords and the momentum of the last few chapters has me dying to find out what happens next. So I think I’ll jump back into another few months with George R.R. Martin.

Old School

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Here is one of the things about being a packrat who never throws things away. When you lose a lot of weight, you can fit in your old clothes because unlike normal people you never got rid of the things that didn’t fit. That means in some cases you may have some really old concert shirts that are still hanging around.

What I am wearing here is not some ironic hipster artifact. I bought this at a concert at the Omni in Atlanta in what must have been spring of 1988. “Wild Wild West” was still a big hit at the time of the show, so it couldn’t have been much after that. This was right around the height of my attending rap shows. I saw Public Enemy multiple times, Run DMC, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Eric B and Rakim, Stetsasonic, Doug E. Fresh, Whodini, BDP. My one big regret is never seeing the Fat Boys. To this day, every time I am in Myrtle Beach and see a restaurant sign that says “All You Can Eat”, I hear the song in my head and picture the video.

My rap going fell off a lot into the 90s. Basically, I was anti-correlated with white people interest in hip-hop. As that grew, I faded. I am proud of going to all of these shows (all of them at the Omni) with 10,000 or more people and being one of 100 white guys in the crowd. One of the upsides of attending T.W. Josey High School in Augusta GA for one year is that it let me be comfortable with being the only white person in a crowded room. It can be pretty fun. A large part of why I knew anything about the rap of that time is that the black kids at school treated me and my brother as projects and brought us up to speed. That was an era when disagreements were solved by the guys going into a break dance off. It was hilarious and much more entertaining than fist fights.

Although in the late 80s I was also attending punk and metal shows at the Metroplex a few blocks away, you can make a case that I have as much street cred for early hip-hop. If anyone questions that, I will note that I saw Krush Groove in the theater with my brother. It was packed and we were the only two white kids in the place. That predated by years the first time I attended a punk show. When I did start going, I might have worn this shirt to see The Jody Foster Army or The Circle Jerks and I probably wore an Anthrax shirt to this show. That’s how I rolled.

Two Projects to Support

Here are a few interesting projects in the fundosphere (emphasis on “fun”.) I talked about the first on the podcast I released today and played a song by the band, but Cats Laughing – a Minneapolis based SF/fantasy supergroup – has a Kickstarter to fund their reunion show at Minicon 50. I have long loved this band and am excited to see this happen. The project is already funded and is now reaching for the stretch goals. Adam Stemple, Emma Bull, Steven Brust and Lojo Russo. There is a lot of good music and fiction produced by this crowd, and you can be part of this. This Kickstarter closes January 18th.

The currently running Humble Bundle for books is a set of digital graphic novels from Image Comics. This is truly a treasure trove. The highest level is $18, and if you pay that it will unlock the East of West special, the first 18 issues of Saga and the first 48 of The Walking Dead. That is a complete steal. Even just Saga by itself is a good deal. Considering you get hundreds of other issues in addition is phenomenal.

This includes the first collection of one of my current favorite series, Velvet. Also, Sex Criminals, Satellite Sam, The Manhattan Projects, The Fuse. These are all things I buy in paper at full price, I don’t think you can go wrong here.

In fact, here are series in the bundles that I have reviewed for Pull Box Picks:

Of every Humble Bundle I’ve ever seen, this might be the best value. I can attest to about half of the issues contained in here that they are well worth reading. If you support it, there is no reason to not go straight to $18. Unless, like me, you already own everything in that tier. The Humble Bundle closes January 20th.

I highly recommend both of these projects. Go, money! Fly and be free!

New Podcast: Alphabeatical

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I am a fan of the Ink Panthers podcast. I love the cartoonist hosts Mike Dawson, Alex Robinson and frequent guest-host Tony Consiglio. The show is on my list of ones that always made me happy to hear an epsiode. In February 2014 they sort-of closed up shop on the podcast, ceasing weekly production. However, I stayed subscribed and was pleased to find they still publish an episode every now and then.

I just got to the “Winter Special” from November, and in it they mention Alex’s other podcasts. He has long been a co-host of The Star Wars Minute, a killer concept where in each episode they discuss in depth 60 seconds of a Star Wars movie. The newer one is what I subscribed to, called Alphabeatical.

Alphabeatical is another OCD type completist podcast. In it, they discuss every Beatles song in alphabetical order, “from 12 to Y” as they say in the show. The shows are generally around 10 minutes an episode and come out two or three times a week. With the episodes relatively short, I just downloaded them all and am listening to a few every day before I get into my regular episodes. Eventually it will just shuffle into my standard chronological queue.

I am usually hard on multi-person podcasts, and even though they have four hosts I don’t mind the interactions. It is not a constant race to the next in-joke, and I like the differences in insight amongst the guys. Even more interesting is that there can be wildly varying opinions about the songs. Some of the guys didn’t like “A Day in the Life” so it is not as if they are hewing to common wisdom. It is waning for me as I age, but at one point I was enough of a nut to own the book of the Abbey Road studio logs which they refer to repeatedly in the podcast.

If you like Alex Robinson’s graphic novels and/or are a serious Beatles fan, try this show. You might like it.

Eddie Pepitone FTW

I watch @Midnight sometimes. I tend to only watch the episodes that include a comedian or personality that I care about. If none of the three panelists appeal to me, I just delete it from the DVR unwatched. Thus, my knowledge is not encyclopedic. I can however say without a doubt that Eddie Pepitone’s reply to the Tinder message: “F one, marry one, kill one. Me, Hitler, and me again. Go.” is the single funniest moment I have ever witnessed on the show. (It starts at 2:22 for the impatient.) I can make myself start laughing at will just by thinking about it, months after I first watched it.

Eddie Pepitone really is a funny funny guy. I had never heard of him until he started appearing on Marc Maron’s live WTF episodes. Now I subscribe to his Pep Talks with the Bitter Buddha podcast and enjoy it greatly. He is a ball of anger and funny, and I love to hear it explode.

The Things I Know

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There is so much pop culture knowledge from the last 5-15 years that just eludes me now. I have officially hit that age where I respond to most issues of recent pop culture with the middle-aged guy “Whaaa?”

One exception is that I am – if not against my will without really trying – learning a lot about which resident of Pixie Hollow is which, what color uniform each member of the Paw Patrol wears, which Octonaut is which, Doc McStuffins and Sofia the First and Chuggington. The list goes on. And on.

A second exception occurred today in the gym. Although I have never in my life watched an episode of General Hospital, I glanced up at one of the televisions and thought “Is that Wally Kurth in bed with Nancy Lee Grahn? When did that sort of thing start happening?”

I know the dumbest shit.

PS – I got a weird and inexplicable thrill from adding the WordPress tag for “wally kurth” to this post. Is there a lot of kurth in the metadata of the blogosphere?