Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book List 2012: Part 13

* = reread
GN = Graphic Novel or Comic Anthology
CB = Children's Book

I Suck at Girls
by. Justin Halper

The man behind Sh*t My Dad Says recounts the humorous history of his relationships with women over the years.

You've heard about Sh*t My Dad Says, right? It's that popular twitter account wherein Justin Halper quotes all the hilarious things his dad says. It was such a big thing that they even made a terrible TV show out of it starring William Shatner?

Anyways, when I heard that he had a non-Sh*t My Dad Says book out, I was curious to see if he had any talent, or if his only talent was quoting his father. And as it turns out he does have some talent.

Although if I'm going to be honest then I have to admit that the best parts of this book are by far the parts about his father. But I quite enjoyed the other parts as well. He's brutally honest about his forays with women even when that means telling terribly embarrassing stories about himself.

Sadly, if I'm still being honest here, I have to admit that I found his terribly embarrassing stories with women to be all too relatable...

...although his story ends with him being married...

...well played, Mr. Halper. Well played.

Every day for the next two weeks, my dad went to work at six in the morning so he could leave early, come home, and give me a driving lesson before sunset. He began each lesson by announcing a theme for the day. Among them were “A car is a murder weapon,” “Announce your presence with fucking authority,” and my personal favorite: “Your mother is bleeding to death.”

He said this late one afternoon as I pulled the truck out of the driveway. “If the shit goes down and you need to be across town in ten minutes without breaking the law, can...you...do it?” he added, lifting his eyebrows.

“I would just call 911 if that happened.”

“Right. That's a fair point. But just bear with me, okay?”

“Okay, but that's not the kind of driving I'm going to have to do for the test.”

“No. But I'm not teaching you to pass the test. I'm teaching you how to drive. Driving is not always a stroll through the woods with your pants down. Now, I want you get from here to Clairemont in less than ten minutes. No illegal shit.”

“Clairemont's ten miles away. I don't--”

“Clock starts in three, two, one!” he yelled, looking at his watch.

“Dad. This is not a helpful driving lesson.”

“Nine fifty-nine, nine fifty-eight, nine-fifty seven, CLOCK IS RUNNING GO GO GO GO GO GO GO GO!”
pg- 57-58

Comedy of Doom
by. Joseph Scrimshaw

A collection of comedy writing relating to the wide world of geekdom.

To me, the word “geek” is sort of like Luke Skywalker going into the dark cave on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back. The only things it means are the things you bring with you.
pg 6

Right off the bat if you're on Twitter you should be following Joseph Scrimshaw. He is one of my absolute favorite tweeters. Seriously, do yourself a favor and follow him.

I first learned about him when I saw his play Sexy Librarian: File Under Rock Musical and I've been keeping tabs on him since. So when I learned of his Kickstarter to get a book made I was all over that.

And the book did not disappoint. So if you love geeky things like Dr. Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, D&D, and the like, then I strongly recommend you check this book out. I mean just look at some of the chapter's titles: “Emotional Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse,” “Sense and Seven Minutes in Heaven,” “Super Mario Subtext,” “Literature with Emoticons,” “Dystopian Kegger,” and “You Are An Awful Human Being!”

If you read those and find yourself intrigued than this is definitely the book for you.

I would like to introduce you to my favorite television show exactly as it was introduced to me. Imagine one day, your older brother tells you this guy at school says there’s an awesome science fiction show that plays every Friday and Saturday night on the Sesame Street channel.

You had no idea the Sesame Street channel even broadcast after 10 a.m., but you and your brother stay up late and tune in. Like literally tune in. You have to turn a PHYSICAL dial and adjust AN ANTENNA. Like you’re a steampunk or something.

Suddenly the opening credits come on. You are flying down a tunnel. It’s disturbingly similar to the video you saw in health class of a camera traveling through a urethra. The music is creepy, cool, and funny all at the same time, like if Al Yankovic wrote the music for your funeral. Then you watch as monsters come on the screen. Monsters outfitted with guns, toilet plungers, and bumps that look like the robot version of an STD outbreak. They match wits with a charming man whose nose is so large he would not be allowed on American television unless he was playing a serial killer or perhaps a defense attorney. You watch again on Saturday night and see an entirely different charming man with an entirely different giant nose.

And you wonder: What the hell is this?
pg 11-12

The Rise and Fall of the Bible:
The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book
by. Timothy Beal

A look the history of the bible and of people's perception of the bible.

Many will be surprised to realize that there never has been a time when we could really talk about the Bible in the singular. There is no such thing as the Bible in that sense, and there never has been. The Bible has always been a legion, a multiplicity of forms and contents, with no original to be found. In the early Judaism and Christianity, there were many different scrolls and codices, variously collected and shared in many different versions, with no standard edition. Even in the early centuries of the print era, after Gutenberg, we find a burgeoning Bible-publishing industry with literally thousands of different editions and versions. The difference between Bible publishing then and now is a matter of degree more than kind.
pg 22

I think a lot of people assume I'm an Atheist for some reason, but I'm not. So to set the record straight I would label myself as a Christian Humanist. I'm not sure if that's a real designation, but it feels right. I believe Jesus was divine, not in the sense that he was the son of God, but in the sense that his actions and his ideals represent one of the purest distillations of what makes humanity divine. Likewise I don't believe the bible is a literal rulebook from the mouth of God, but instead just a book of ideas and metaphors that can be used to make sense of the world.

I came across this book at work while sorting the New Book shelf at the library. And it caught my eye. “The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book”. Since I've always thought it bizarre that anyone could think of the bible as the word of God, when it was edited and compiled by a bunch of biased people, I decided I should put my knowledge where my mouth is and see what the actual history of the book was.

In short, the book really is quite fascinating. It isn't a very long book and wasn't as thorough as I would have hoped, but it is fascinating. It talks not only about the history of the book, but also the history of the perceptions of it. And there are all sorts of fascinating ideas in here. Regardless of your religion the bible has had and continues to have a huge impact on the world and I would definitely recommend you give the book a gander if only to gain an idea about its history and the history of people's perceptions of it.

While I would've liked a large academic book on the subject, I've gotta admit that the lighter engaging style of this book is perfect for an introduction to the subject. It's short and interesting and I would recommend you give it a look.

Likewise when John of Patmos, in an ancient attempt at divine copyright protection written at the end of the book of Revelation (aka the Apocalypse of John), promises plagues of apocalyptic proportions for anyone who dares change a thing in “this book”:

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book [biblion]: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person's share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18—19)

This passage is often used to argue that the Bible claims its own authority, that its perfect inerrancy is built in, and that messing with even one jot or tittle of it is grounds for damnation. But just because this writing, originally a scroll (biblion, like the scroll of Isaiah that Jesus read), eventually ended up as the last book of the New Testament and thus the Christian Bible doesn't mean that its warning here refers to the whole Bible. This scroll (a more accurate and less misleading translation) circulated independently for hundreds of years before it was bound together in a big book along with what eventually became the Christian canon of Scripture. Indeed, its inclusion in the canon was a matter of dispute among many Christian leaders well into the fourth century. And its author could never have even imagined such a thing as the Bible. Not even in his wildest dreams. And some of his dreams were wild indeed, including one in which an angel hands him a little scroll, not to read but to eat. No, this earning refers not to the Bible but to this particular text.
pg 107

by. Todd Bass

A collection of poems.

A Waltz for the Lovelorn

Like foot-worn wooden floors
that ache in common places,
the hearts of the lovelorn groan

as, through their paces, again
and again their roomers pass.
Isn't there a music—strings—

in the way an old floor sings?
And oh, but to leave our porches
and step into the grass! to bear

on our shoulders no more
than moonlight, and to settle,
suspended awhile!—to smile

at the weightlessness of things—
as children do,
               on swings—
pg 106

Do I really need to say anything about a book of poems? Poetry is a lot more about personal taste than prose. But personally, I loved this one. Personally I'd strongly recommend you go out and read it post-haste. Personally, I'll tell you that it single-handedly made me feel better when I was having a terrible day. But hey, that's just me.

Although you should know that his poems about love are some of the sweetest things ever. So take from that what you will. Here's another example of his poetry for you.

My Love for You Is So Embarrassingly

grand...would you mind terribly, my groundling,
if I compared it to the Hindenburg (I mean,
before it burned)—that vulnerable, elephantine

dream of transport, a fabric Titanic on an ocean
of air? There: with binoculars, dear, you can
just make me out, in a gondola window, wildly

flapping both arms as the ship's shadow
moves like a vagrant country across the
country where you live in relative safety. I pull

that oblong shadow along behind me wherever
I go. It is so big, and goes so slowly, it alters
ground temperature noticeably, makes

housewives part kitchen curtains, wrings
whimpers from German shepherds. Aren't I
ridiculous? Isn't it anachronistic, this

dirigible devotion, this Zeppelin affection, a moon
that touches, with a kiss of wheels, the ground
you take for granted beneath your heels?— 
pg 60

The Long Earth
by. Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

What would happen if there was an endless frontier? Infinite resources and space? Well the world starts finding out when it discovers a new technology called The Stepper that allows them to step into a seemingly endless chain of worlds. An infinity of Earths. And yet Joshua doesn't need the technology, because he is a natural stepper. But in this brave new world of endless land, this makes him a little too well known and certain powerful players want to use his abilities for their own ends.

Terry Pratchett may be my favorite author, but I was a little leery about this one, because of his last team-up: the Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman team-up of Good Omens. So, as you can imagine, I went into this one with reserved expectations. And now I have to feel bad about that because this book was pretty amazing.

What really took me by surprise was the fact that the book really doesn't focus on the main storyline at all. The true nature of the book is to explore the idea of the Long Earth and that wonderful Science Fiction question of "What if?" If anything the Long Earth is the main character and Joshua is merely a tool used to help us explore that character. While Joshua is prominent within the story, many parts of the book aren't about him at all, and instead choose to show us some new aspect of this fascinating world.

At first I wasn't entirely sure how to respond to this decision and was confused why the book didn't simply follow Joshua exclusively. But as the book went on I found myself loving this approach, because it allows the book to address all the fascinating ideas and question that arise out of this world. What if humanity had all the land it could ever want? What would life be like on the frontiers of these new worlds, how would they be policed, what would the journeys across thousands of worlds be like, how do the worlds differ? What kind of creatures exist on these worlds? How would humanity handle the differences between Natural Steppers, Assisted Steppers, and Non-Steppers?

And really that's what makes the book so fascinating. I've really got to give it to these authors because the way they structured their story is really satisfying and it really invests you into this fascinating idea. I've also gotta say that this partnership really works well. I think the elements of Stephen Baxter were able to give the story that anchor into reality and hard science, while the elements of Terry Pratchett give a sense of fun and wonder. And they really compliment each other wonderfully.

The biggest gripe I can come up with is that there better be a sequel in the works, because this one ends on a cliffhanger and it would be terribly cruel to end things that way.

Earths, untold Earths. More Earths than could be counted, some said. And all you had to do was walk sideways into them one after the next, an unending chain.

This was a source of immense irritation for experts such as Professor Wotan Ulm of Oxford University. “All these parallel Earths,” he told BBC, “are identical on all but the detailed level. Oh, save that they are empty. Well, actually they are full, mainly of forests and swamps. Big, dark, silent forests, deep clinging, lethal swamps. But empty of people. The Earth is crowded, but the Long Earth is empty. This is tough luck on Adolf Hitler, who hasn't been allowed to win his war anywhere.”

It is hard for scientists even to talk about the Long Earth without babbling about m-brane manifolds and quantum multiverses. Look: perhaps the universe bifurcates every time a leaf falls, a billion new branches every instant. That's what quantum physics seems to tell us. Oh, it is not a question of a billion realities to be experience, the quantum states superimpose, like harmonics on a single violin string. But perhaps there are times—when you can get a separate experimental reality,a braid of quantum threads. And perhaps these braids are then drawn together through some high dimension by similarity, and a chain of worlds, self-organizes. Or something! Maybe it is all a dream, a collective imagining of mankind.

pg 7

145.* [CB]
The Dangerous Alphabet
by. Neil Gaiman
illustrated by. Chris Crimly

An Alphabet Book about two children and their pet gazelle who journey into a world of dangerous pirates and monsters.

I bought this book at a Borders because it was going out of business and it was really cheap. But it was a pretty fun find. I always love when kids' book get a little dark. The rhymes are clever and the art is really interesting and it's a kids' alphabet book so really you can't ask for much more than that.

G is for Good, as in hero, and Morning;

H is for “Help me!"—a cry and a warning;

I am the author who scratches theses rhymes;

J is the joke monsters make of their crimes.

146. [CB]
Action Alphabet
by. Marty Neumeier & Byron Glaser

A typographical alphabet book.

As you may know, I'm interested in typography. I'm not in deep enough to be able to tell you what some specific font is, but deep enough to be annoyed at bad ones. Anyways, I stumbled across a kids' book that was said to feature the alphabet using interesting typography. Needless to say, I was intrigued.

This was a mistake. This book is terrible...and that's saying something because it's an alphabet book so there's really not all that much of it. The crux of it is they have their letter, then they have a word that starts with that letter, and they'll use that letter in such a way to have acting out that word. Like I think for N the word was Net and then they showed a net made out of a bunch of N's. Unfortunately (luckily) I can't really remember most of them, because the majority of them were powerfully stupid.

The worst part is that this could have been really cool! For each letter you could show off an element of typography that starts with that letter. Or you could feature a font that starts with that letter, maybe with an interesting and fitting background? Like C could be Courier and the picture for that page would be a typewriter with the word Courier typed out on the page. I dunno, there's a million fun things you could do with this, but instead they made this and heaven help them.

In short, to read this book would be a...

Mm: Mistake

A Swift Pure Cry
by. Siobhan Dowd

A teenage girl in Ireland finds herself pregnant and with no one to turn to.

You may recall that I had some very nice things to say about the book A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness [BL 2012 #107]. You may also recall that the idea for A Monster Calls was Siobhan Dowd's, but that she died before she got a chance to write it. Since I had gone and read something else by Patrick Ness I figured I should read something by Siobhan Dowd as well.

I'm not quite sure how I feel about this book. On one hand I thought the revelation at the end was entirely predictable and the main character wasn't very relatable. But on the other hand there were a ton of bizarre things that happen that kept me wondering where on Earth the story was going. And in the end I found myself curious enough to keep on reading. The best way I can put it is that the story isn't that great, but it's told very well. And for a short book like this one, that can be fine.

The place brought to mind a sinking ship. Wood creaked on the floor, across the pews, up in the gallery. Around the walls, a fierce March wind chased itself.

The congregation launched into the Our Father as if every last soul was going down. Heaven. Bread. Trespass. Temptation. The words whisked past Shell's ears like rabbits vanishing into their holes. She tried wriggling her nose to make it slimmer. Evil. Mrs McGrath's hat lurched in front of her, its feather looking drunk: three-to-one odds it would fall off. Declan Ronan, today's altar boy, was examining the tabernacle, licking his lips with half-shut eyes. Whatever he was thinking, it wasn't holy.
pg 3

The Future of Us
by. Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

It's 1996 and two friends find themselves able to log onto a strange website called Facebook. What's really weird is that people are on there with their names and faces...except 20 years older. Now these friends have a way of peering into the future, but it seems the future has ways of drastically changing how they see the present.

Okay, I had to read this one based on the premise alone, because that sounds so many kinds of ridiculous. But, yeah, it really isn't very good. I mean it's terribly predictable and cliched.

So instead I will complain about this book's incessant need to describe a million and one things that you don't need to know. I think they felt that you might forget that this was the 90s, so they insist on pointing out a ton of 90s things. She grabs her Discman, they're watching Seinfeld, oh now someone's listening to Nirvana. In any normal book you'd probably make a vague reference to what's on the radio or TV, but not here! And if that wasn't enough the authors have a ton of additional details beyond references. Take this for example, I grab another slice of pizza and transfer it onto my plate. Why wouldn't you just write: I grab another slice of pizza? Why does the plate matter? Hell, why not take it even further? I grab another slice of pizza with my right hand and transfer it onto my plate then promptly bring the plate nearer to my mouth so as to prevent any accidental spills on my clothes. The reader can fill in the basic details, folks! You don't need to hold our hand through everything. Jimminy Christmas, I think people know how people eat pizza.

To be fair I should mention that I'm extremely biased against this book. I'm biased because this book had the gall to write this:

“His eyes notice something behind me, and then he tosses up his hands in exasperation. "I told the interns not to leave empty carts near the copy machine. People set their books there and don't return them to the shelves.”
pg 124


WHAT THE F*CK!? Have you ever been in a library before? Librarians do not, I repeat, DO NOT want people to reshelve the books themselves. You will see signs all over libraries begging people not to try to reshelve the books themselves. In fact most libraries put empty carts near the copy machines explicitly because they want people to set their books there and not try to return them to the shelves. Why? #1 Because most people don't know the organizational systems well enough and put things back wrong, and #2 Because it gives the library an idea of what books people are looking at in the library.



So...anyways. This book is kind of dumb.

We're eating on TV trays while watching Seinfeld. They record it on the VCR every Thursday and then watch it on Sunday night. I grab another slice of pizza and transfer it onto my plate.

149. [GN]
Animal Man, vol 1:
The Hunt
by. Jeff Lemire
pencils by. Travel Foreman

Buddy Baker, a former superhero, has the ability to borrow the abilities of the animals. His daughter Maxine has started to show similar abilities, but her powers are exponentially beyond anything he's capable of. Now a wicked primeval force has taken notice. It's out to capture and corrupt her to gain her power and Buddy is the only one who can protect his daughter long enough for her to learn to control her powers...or can he?

This is the first trade paperback from the new Animal Man series. It's part of DC's New 52.

(For those of you who don't follow comic news, DC Comics revamped a bunch of their series in an attempt to give new readers a place to start without needing to know years and years of back story.)

I had heard a lot of talk about this one. Plus it's written by Jeff Lemire and as you know I've been all over his work recently (Tales from the Farm [BL2012 #89], Sweet Tooth [BL2012 #91], The Nobody [BL2012 #129]. So I figured I'd give it a try it out and DAMN.

It was definitely not what I was expecting. Jeff Lemire has managed to make one of the world's dumbest super heroes fascinating. It's a fantasy story with an epic scope. And what's more it's dark. It is so insanely dark! You've got a little girl reanimating people's decomposing dead pets and turning people's arms into chicken legs. You've got hippos giving birth to hideous flesh monsters. Buddy Baker's over there bleeding from his eyes. I mean DAMN! It's like The Thing crossed with The Fly up in here. Travel Foreman does a killer job on the imagery. Top notch stuff.

I've got a copy of this book ordered at my local comic book shop, because I've gotta own this thing. I mean dark fantasy crossed with super heroes? You know I'm all for that.

“Come on, daddy, it's time to go!”

“Maxine!? Go? Go where?”

“You'll see. But we gotta hurry, before they follow us again.”

“Who? Who's following us, Maxine?”

“The bad things that dress as men. The hunters.”

“Wait up, sweetie. We need to slow down...figure this out.”

“No time for that, daddy. You need to shut off your brain. Be an animal like me and Mr. Woofers. It's the only way to survive out here.”

“Oh, God! Maxine, wait, don't go in there...

...that's blood!”

“Well, of course it is, silly. Where else would we hide? Don't worry, we just need to follow the tree and we'll be okay. Look.”

“Huh!? What's happened to me?”

“It's them. Too late. We're all going to die now.

“But--what...what are they?



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