Category Archives: 2016 reads

Star Trek Revisited and Reinterpreted

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Star Trek: The New Adventures – Volume 2

The first volume of this graphic novel series didn’t sit right with me. I was pretty harsh in my review of it. In fact, I recommended skipping the title altogether. It was advice that even I didn’t take. I saw the second volume at the library and decided to give it a try. I am glad that I did.

Spoiler Free Review

The first story in the collection revolves around a minor character from the first rebooted movie, Hendorff. It sounds like a weird start to the collection, but it works. I like how much he takes pride in wearing the red shirt uniform for the Enterprise. A lot of us in the fandom know what that might mean, but to see it taken so seriously in this story and have it not be a joke is a really nice touch.

One-off Stories

We also get a one-off story from Scott’s associate, Keenser. We see the challenges he has serving on the starship due to his diminished stature. It’s the only time in the Star Trek universe that I am aware of where this issue has been tackled.

Scotty, Bones, and Uhura each get their own one-issue story in this collection, but for some reason Sulu and Chekov have to share one.

Mirror Universe

We get a Mirror Mirror story in this volume that isn’t simply a retelling of the original television series episode. In this one, Kirk is the bad guy and Spock is the reasonable one. We even get old Spock in the story, which was pretty cool.

Pon Farr Troubles

I also really like the reinterpretation of the classic episode “Amok Time.” This is the one where Spock goes through a mating cycle that requires him to return to Vulcan. Of course, in the first movie, his home planet had been destroyed, making this impossible. The Enterprise diverts to New Vulcan only to find that the Pon Farr ritual is not effective for many of the Vulcans. It seems that the ritual was tied to the solar system and planet of the original Vulcan. It looks as though Spock might be lost to insanity, along with many others.

The Verdict

I can’t believe how effective this second volume of the comic series was. It seems that writers and artists have grown into knowing exactly what this universe is about. They are respecting the source material while bringing something new to it. It feels like Star Trek and I will be happy to read more.

My List of 2016 Reads  – nearly done now

The King of Rock-Bottom

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Ten Ways to Not Commit Suicide by Darryl McDaniels (DMC)

I am a huge Run-DMC fan. They are my all-time favourite group. So when I saw this book at the public library, I knew I had to pick it up.

I had heard DMC talking about this book on the radio, and to tell you the truth, I wasn’t that interested in reading it. Maybe it was the awkward title. Maybe it was the fact that Run-DMC disbanded when Jam Master Jay died over 10 years ago and I haven’t paid much attention to the solo carreers of Run or DMC since then.

When I saw that this book was available for me to read for free, I knew I had to check it out. I found out a few things I didn’t know about Run-DMC. I thought they were cool with each other and made music together in a creative partnership. DMC doesn’t paint that picture in this memoir. He writes of his unhappiness with the group often. He also has nothing positive to say about Run. He doesn’t blame Run for anything and he doesn’t air any of his dirty laundry. This isn’t a tell-all book. It isn’t a self-help book either. It’s simply a memoir from an artist who almost fell victim to the music industry.

DMC writes how he drank to relieve the anxiety he felt when performing live. It quickly became a problem for him as he slid down to alcoholism. It’s almost hard to believe that any one person could drink as much as he did. And it almost killed him.

He tells us of his childhood passions and how they took a backseat to his rapping career. He is working hard to fulfill some of the dreams he put on hold when he became the King of Rock.

I am glad to see that DMC made it through the dark times and that he is still here in this world. Run-DMC are an historic group that deserve all the praise and recognition that they get. I wish things could have ended better for them. I wish Jay hadn’t died. I wish that they had released the 20th Anniversary album and launched the tour that was speculated just before Jam Master Jay’s untimely passing.

We won’t likely see a Run-DMC reunion, but we can continue to play their music and sing their praises. And we can read this book.

My List of 2016 Reads – just about complete now

Failure Breeds? Doesn’t it?

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Life Lessons from a Total Failure by M.J. Dougherty

M.J. Dougherty has certainly had his share of ups and downs. He’s not afraid to open up and tell us about them in his new memoir, Life Lessons from a Total Failure.

I can relate to feeling like a failure. I think we all can. We might not have had experiences similar to Dougherty but we can still learn from him nonetheless. Each chapter starts with subtitles such as “It’s OK to keep things simple” , “Embrace change” , and “It can happen to anyone.”

Dougherty doesn’t hit us over the head with lessons. Instead, he simply tells his story and hopes that we get the message through the shared experience. In the final pages of the book, he sums everything up with “M.J.’s Top Ten Lessons from a Total Failure.” Each lesson is one paragraph long and gets straight to the point.

I like to write spoiler-free reviews, so if you don’t want to read this book without knowing any particulars stop reading now.

Spoiler Alert

It feels strange giving a spoiler alert for a memoir, but here we are.

I wanted to talk about my surprise of people’s expectations and how they can they can do a lot of harm. This happened to Dougherty shortly after he decided to get married. People had known that he was gay prior to this, but after his wedding, the public began to perceive his bar as being a “gay bar” even though it wasn’t. Ultimately, people stopped going there because of this perception and the business failed. I almost couldn’t believe that something like that could actually happen. Perception is powerful.

It’s interesting to see how some opportunities just presented themselves to the author as well. He was in the right place at the right time and was able to capitalize on them. Perhaps he needed to experience those failures and go through some low periods in life to ultimately find himself. Maybe we all do.

My List of 2016 Reads – just about done my reading log for the year.

Truth Found in an Ancient Manuscript

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Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho

Words have power. They have the power to inspire, to educate, to entertain, and they even have a calming quality that can make a anxious time more bearable.

Perhaps that is why a group of people gathered around an elder back in the year 1099 as their city was being invaded and attacked. Fortunately for us, someone wrote down his words and they happened to survive all this time.

Here is some knowledge from the Manuscript Found in Accra.

Focus on Your Goal

“He focuses not just on the goal to be reached, but on everything happening around him. He often has to stop because his strength fails him. At such moments, Love appears and says: “You think you’re heading toward a specific point, but the whole justification for the goal’s existence lies in your love for it. Rest a little, but as soon as you can, get up and carry on. Because ever since your goal found out that you were traveling toward it, it has been running to meet you.”

Pour in the Love

“This second type of work we call the Offering. For example, two people might be cooking the same meal and using exactly the same ingredients, but one is pouring Love into what he does and the other is merely trying to fill his belly. The result will be completely different, even though Love is not something that can be seen or weighed. The person making the Offering is always rewarded. The more he shares out his affection, the more his affection grows.”

Be Yourself

“Don’t try to be useful. Try to be yourself; that is enough, and that makes all the difference. Walk neither faster nor slower than your own soul, because it is your soul that will teach you the usefulness of each step you take.”

Simplicity is Beautiful

“And what is simplicity? It is the coming together of the true values of life. Snow is pretty because it has only one color. The sea is pretty because it appears to be a flat plane. The desert is beautiful because it seems to consist only of sand and rocks. However, when we look more closely at each of these things, we discover how profound and complete they are, and recognize their qualities. The simplest things in life are the most extraordinary. Let them reveal themselves.”

True Fiction

This book is a work of fiction but it reads like a self-help book or even a religious text. It get into some topics that Holy books usually don’t, but the openness and honesty of the elder’s words ring just as true.

Recommended

I have enjoyed every Paulo Coelho book that I have ever read and highly recommend The Alchemist by him as well.

Keep Reading

My List of 2016 Reads – my annual reading is almost complete for this year

Little Women – The Next Generation

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The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly

Little Women was written by Louisa May Alcott and released in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. The story is a classic in every aspect. It has been reprinted countless times, translated into different languages, been made into more than one feature film, and is still widely read close to 150 years later.

I had no idea this sequel book existed until I saw it on the library shelf and immediately picked it up. I was intrigued.

The story revolves around the descendants of the original March sisters that we all got to know and love in the original book. We even get to hear from them again in this new story that is set in the present day.

Unfortunately, the March name didn’t survive as all of the remaining sisters got married and took on their husbands names. But some of letters that Jo wrote to Amy, Meg, and Beth did.

Reading those letters was like being transported back in time. I could hear Jo’s voice through them. It was like she had actually wrote them and I forgot that she was a fictional character.

The letters were the best part of this book. The modern day group of sisters didn’t capture my heart as quickly as the original March sisters did. I found this story to be a bit dry as well. However, it did seem to fit well in tone with the original novel.

If you love the March sisters, you will probably love this one as well. If you decide to check it out, I also highly recommend this young adult reworking on the story featuring a young lady who just happens to be named March.

Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

I asolutely loved this story and it is on my “to read again soon” list.

My List of 2016 Reads – my annual reading log with links to each title

Planet of the Apes (Book vs Movie)

My father really enjoyed the Planet of the Apes movies. I vividly recall watching them together on television when I was growing up. I’m not sure I completely understood what they were about, but I remember enjoying them nonetheless.

rise-of-the-apes

When the film series was rebooted in 2011, I was pleasantly surprised by how the filmmakers respected what I thought was the source material. There were all sorts of Easter Eggs and ties to the original 1968 theatrical film.

I brought the DVD over to my dad’s place and we watched it together again, all those years later. Unfortunately, he passed away and I can’t talk to him about my discovery of the novel that sparked the whole Apes phenomenon.

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Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle

Published in French in 1963 under the title of La Planète des Singes, the original novel is quite a bit different than the 1968 film adaptation. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As I read the book, I looked forward to rewatching the original movie so I could compare and contrast the two.

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Planet of the Apes (1968 film)

I hate that this poster shows the finale of the movie. I admit that it is an iconic image but it is also a spoiler and it bugs me that the film is still advertised like this. This shot was even on the DVD menu when I watched the film again last week. Even more pointed is that this scene doesn’t exist in the novel.

The astronauts in the film actually do visit an alien world. The monkeys speak a different language and it is up to the main character to find a way to communicate with them and show his intelligence. The human characters on this planet also don’t wear any clothes. They are completely naked. I can see how both of these points needed to be changed for the movie. It only makes sense.

It made sense for the monkeys to speak English, for the main character to be called Taylor as opposed to Ulysse. But the film version did need to find a way that Taylor couldn’t just talk right away. He had to be caged up like an animal and suffer through that. In the film, he is shot in the throat and it takes him some time to recover his voice.

The novel explores the notion that primates are good at imitating and that something must have happened for them to be able to imitate man so well. Both the film and novel explore the idea that apes derived from man. But the novel is able to explore this notion in much more detail.

The film and the novel both explore an archaeological dig that uncovers human artifacts that don’t make sense in a Simian society. In the movie, the native human characters are completely mute, but in the novel, they make animal utterances and noises. Not sure why they didn’t in the film version.

In the novel, the main character is a little more likable. He is not a know-it-all as portrayed by Charlton Heston in the film. Nova is also described as the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. That didn’t seem to translate so well to film.

Another theme in the novel is the one of rebuilding a human society. Ulysse feels like it is his mission to do so. He actually has a child with Nova. The authorities see this child as a threat though and a few monkey friends help him return to his spaceship. The three of them finally make it back to Earth, but due to the realities of space travel over long distances, they arrive thousands of years later . . . only to find that the same pattern of evolution has happened. It’s a scene that resonates just as well as the Statue of Liberty scene in the movie.

If you like the movies, I recommend giving the book a try. That is if I haven’t given away too many spoilers for you.

My List of 2016 Reads – my annual reading log with links to each title

Always Reading Comics

I love reading comics. I pretty much always have a graphic novel on the go. Here are the latest ones that I have read.

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Powerless

I was pleasantly surprised by this story set in an alternate universe where there are no super-heroes. Peter Parker was still bitten by a spider but instead of becoming Spider-Man, he gets a limp arm instead. Matt Murdoch is still a blind lawyer, but doesn’t have his heightened senses. Wolverine doesn’t have retractable claws but he does have knives that are quite similar and he has been trained to kill.

These three characters are tied together by a therapist who has glimpses of their more colourful lives in an alternate reality. He feels as if he knows them somehow and he does his best to help them.

It’s an interesting read and well worth your time.

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Wolverine: Season One

This graphic novel is part of a series that focuses on the early days of the super-heroes we all know and love. It’s an origin story that sees Wolverine going head-to-head with The Hulk, Wendigo, and The Weapon X program. That’s exactly what I wanted to see and I liked the new take on familiar territory.

Old Man Logan

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Wolverine is an old man. He has a family now and has given up being a super-hero. The world is a dark place and he is doing his best to survive in it. So, when he suddenly finds himself back in the past, he believes he was brought there for a reason, to get the world back on track and avert the post-apocalyptic world that will surely come to bear if he doesn’t act.

To the outside world and the current superheroes though, he seems like a fanatic who is just on a killing spree. And it seems like he might not come from the same timeline as all of them either. This is part of an on-going series and it is interesting to see an older-adult charcater in mainstream comics.

My List of 2016 Reads  – a detailed reading log with links to every title

Hawkeye’s Adventures Continue

Hawkeye Vol 1 - My Life as a Weapon

Hawkeye: Volume 1 – My Life as a Weapon

When I first heard of this title, I really had no interest in reading it. After all, he is probably the least exciting member of The Avengers. But the praise for the book has been strong, so when I saw it on the shelves of the public library, I had to pick it up.

I must say that I really enjoyed this one a lot. The humour in it is priceless. It’s along the lines of what was done in The Avenger films as well. I knew I had to read the entire series.

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Hawkeye: Volume 2 – Little Hits

I love how this volume starts much like the last one. Hawkeye is in an impossible situation and wondering how he gets in these predicaments. There are some stand-alone stories in this collection including a great one about his dog. T

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Hawkeye: Volume 3 – L.A. Woman

This volume focuses on Kate Bishop, the other Hawkeye. She breaks it off with Clint and heads to L.A. where she quickly finds herself in the kind of predicaments he usually finds himself in.

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Hawkeye Volume 4: Rio Bravo

Clint’s brother enters the picture and they fight like brothers do, or maybe worse. This volume concludes the epic first run of the series. I was sad to see it end. It was a great story from a great creative team. I highly recommend it.

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Hawkeye: Volume 5 – All New Hawkeye

This graphic novel takes Hawkeye in a different direction than the last series. It is a new creative team collecting All New Hawkeye 1- 5. It has flashback scenes that show Hawkeye as a kid and how his brother used to take care of him.

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Hawkeye: Volume 6 – Hawkeyes

The flash forward scenes in this one quite comical. And like Old Man Logan, it’s nice to see older adults in comic book adventures. That’s not something that is seen very often. I should know, I just did a report on it for school. I think I will post my slides here later. Stay tuned!

My List of 2016 Reads – 56 titles and counting

The Ultimate Guide to Book Publishers by Jeff Herman

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Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents: Who they are, What they want, and How to win them over

Jeff Herman knows the publishing world and is dedicated to share that knowledge with fellow writers. He tells the story of how he got into the business and provides advice for writers on how they can crack into a world that can seem impenetrable.

Herman has been producing this book for over twenty-five years. He writes, “Much has changed and much has remained the same since my journey in publishing began in the 1980s.” That is why he continually updates and improves this reference book every year.

There are 600 pages of up-to-date information, contacts, interviews, and advice that are invaluable for any writer wishing to get their work published. Besides providing the names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails for publishers, editors, and agents, Herman provides insider tips so we can make the most of our inquiries, query letters, and pitches.

This is one of my favourite guidebooks for writers. It is well written, excellently organized, and offers advice that any aspiring writer can follow. I recommend picking it up and following through to make your publishing dreams come true.

I need to do just that. It’s well past time that I take some of the advice offered in this book and work on getting my fiction published. That is something I have been procrastinating on for way too long.

My List of 2016 Reads – my annual reading log with links to each title

Alex and Ada (A different take on AI)

Alex-Ada

Alex + Ada is a brilliant comic book series that has been collected in three graphic novels. It is set in a future that feels not too far off from our own.

Alex-Ada2In this future, there are androids that look completely human. They are required to have a marking on their arms to identifies them as being artificial. They are very expensive so only a few well-off people own one.

One such owner is Alex’s grandmother. She uses it for companionship after the loss of her husband, Alex’s grandfather. So when he goes through an emotional break-up and is feeling very alone, she decides to give him on of these androids as a gift.

Spoiler Alert

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Alex is conflicted. He doesn’t really want an android. He doesn’t like the idea of using one as a sexual partner (as is the norm in this society).  But he opens up the box and is introduced to a blank slate. He was disappointed that she had no name and couldn’t make decisions for herself.  He wanted something more.

Alex soon learns that all the androids are capable of becoming self-aware. It is illegal to crack the programming as the government has strict rules and regulations preventing machines from gaining sentience. But he does it anyway.

I loved the story, the art, the pacing, and the characters. I also like how it relates to the technology we use today. Many of our devices have locks that limit our use.

This story felt strangely familiar. I bet this is a future that could very well happen. And it wasn’t scary at all. It’s a nice take on AI (artifical intelligence) and a great read!

My List of 2016 Reads (I need to update this list with many more titles I have recently read so stay tuned)

DJs Run It and Run With It

Playing With Something that Runs

Playing With Something That Runs by Mark J. Butler

This book focuses on DJ and laptop performers in the EDM (electronic dance music) realm. I thought it was worth exploring even though that isn’t really my genre of music. I was sure there would be tie-ins to hip-hop and what I do as a DJ. I was right.

Recorded Music is Its Own Thing

Hip-hop music spread and became popular due to recordings (singles and albums.) They sounded different from the live performances too. The author talks about this in relation to rock music.

“rock spread and became popular through recordings . . . [and] is essentially dependent on recording technology for its inception and dissemination . . . rock embraces a host of performance styles, but most have some basis in African American popular music, are rooted in song, and paradigmatically exist as recorded music.”

Hip-hop started with deejays taking breaks from existing sound recordings and extending them. When hip-hop started to get recorded, it wasn’t simply a live performance being recorded. It became its own thing.

“recordings have conventionally been understood as ‘snapshots of live performances’ [but] records were conceived of as goals rather than by-products of artistic endeavors.”

The Third Record

When a deejay mixes two records together, he is essentially creating a third record. When two songs match up perfectly in time, they create new song or sound that had never been heard before. The deejay essentially creates a new song that has been labelled “the third record.”

Butler explains it this way, “this combination of texts produced something that did not exist in material form.”

Borders Dissolve and Songs Become Fluid

The deejay present songs in a way to make the set something exciting and new. The mix is what is important, not just the individual songs. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

“The works contained in the recordings that constitute a DJ set are rarely presented in their entirety; instead, they are truncated, altered, and combined with other works. The borders and seams of the original work dissolve; it no longer functions as a unitary, bounded entity. The stability, fixity, or permanence that is classically associated with the work slips away, and any authorial value that might have been accrued with the work is seriously weakened. At the same time, aspects of the original work’s essence remain, and its former identity is not irrelevant. These ontic elements, however, become part of new, larger entities – the third record, and ultimately the set.”

The Power of Recognition

When deejays play a snippet of something that the audience can recognize, it energizes the crowd and makes the set memorable.

The sample, which presents a brief chunk of material – often recognizable – from a preexisting recording .. . is “performance quotation” because of the highly specific way in which they point back to the unique ‘aura’ of the original recording.”

Time Constraints 

“Perhaps the most obvious and global constraint of improvised musical creativity is the requirement that it proceed inexorably forward through time. . .  Steve Lacy, quoted by Borgo, highlights this limitation: ‘In fifteen seconds, the difference between composition and improvisation is that in composition you have all the time you want to decide what to say in fifteen seconds, while in improvisation, you have fifteen seconds.”

Timing is essential for deejays. We have to take the record as it spins and mold it or form it so that it meshes with the song before it and the song that comes next. This is a constraint that helps foster creativity in the DJ set. I love how improvisational all of this is. But improvisation takes practice and experience. It’s a challenge that I enjoy trying to overcome every time I get behind the turntables.

More to Come

I enjoyed reading this book and learned a thing or two about my craft. I have more notes too that I’d love to share. Stay tuned for a follow-up post soon!

 

Conscious Men – Why We All Need to Wake Up!

Conscious Men

Conscious Men by John Gray and Arjuna Ardagh

It’s nice to see a book like this. I think far too often in the world, men go around blind to what it means to be a man. We don’t think about the gender roles we play in our daily lives. We are not conscious of things that we can do to improve and make changes.

“We feel that there are a number of simple things that a man can recognize about himself that radically increases his sense of wellbeing as well as his positive impact on those around him”

What a great mission for a book. Here is some of the advice they offer . . .

“… stress is a byproduct of doing things that are not right for you.”

They authors suggest that when you live your life according to a mission or sense of purpose, you can feel comfortable and strong with yourself and stress won’t be as much of an issue.

The title of this book helps us to think about some of the drives that motivate and cause us to act in ways we don’t think about. Becoming conscious of these thoughts and drives, help us to overcome then and live a more purposeful life.

I identify with this quote . . .

“… couples  fall in love but lose their passion quickly because they don’t create enough distance between themselves to maintain attraction. A conscious man is able to recognize that he has a need for intimacy, but he also has a need for solitude and silence.”

It all comes down to balance,  in my humble opinion. That is one of the reasons I go for trail runs. I need that solitude, isolation, and alone time. It benefits everyone.

Here is a key point; what works for you might not work for someone else. We can’t assume that  it every will. If we do, we will get frustrated and not truly understand the other person.

The authors tend to make some blanket statements in this book. Here is an example . . .

“Men take things more literally than women do and are not always so intuitive about anticipating another’s needs.”

I’m not sure this is always the case, but it does stimulate thinking. And that is the point of the book. To get us thinking about being a man, to recognize the masculine and feminine way of dealing with things, and to understand that we have access to both.

Here is another key point,

“In order for a man to feel motivated and to achieve and accomplish his soul’s mission,l he needs to be able to make promises that he can keep . . . 

Following feelings is fine, but you also need the part of you which can be analytical that can ask, ‘Why am I doing this? What are the things I want to accomplish and achieve in the long term. This means choosing long-term satisfaction over short-term pleasure.”

Here are some closing thoughts . . .

“… conscious masculinity is all about epigenetics: allowing conscious choices and understanding to override automation and instinct.”

and . . .

“A conscious man is aware of the pressures imposed upon him . . . he is aware of his reaction and rebellion against those pressures, and so he wakes up to doing the right thing, no matter what.”

Words to live by, that is for sure!

My List of 2016 Reads – a detailed, personal reading log with links to every title I have read over the course of the year.

From the Graphic Novel Aisle

I love scouring the graphic novel section at the public library. It often leads me to titles and issues I never knew existed. And I get to read to great comics for free. What is better than that?

Here are the latest graphic novels that I have read.

Ant Man - Second Chance Man

Ant-Man – Second Chance Man

I didn’t know a lot about this character prior to seeing the movie last year. The film was incredible and I really enjoyed it. This comic pretty  much picks up right from there. If you saw the movie and liked it, I would recommend checking this one out.

Star Wars - Skywalker Strikes

Star Wars – Skywalker Strikes

This is my Star Wars. The comics are getting the characters, the universe, and the story right. Not like the latest film version, which was horrible, in my humble opinion.

I am enjoying how the writers of the on-going Star Wars series have filled in the gaps between the original film trilogy. This is the second title I have read in this series and I look forward to reading more.

Daniel Clowes - Mister Wonderful

Mr. Wonderful – A Love Story

I picked this up from the shelf and the story captured me right from the first page.

An older man is waiting in a coffee shop for his blind date. She’s late and his mind wanders. You can see his thought process throughout the story and how, at times, it takes him away from what is actually happening in front of him.

My girlfriend was with me when I picked this one up from the library. She read it before I did and also got into the quirky storytelling. When she got to the end though, she exclaimed something along the lines of “What? It ends there?” I guess she wanted more. I actually think it ended poetically.

Let me know what you think if you have read any of these titles.

Happy Reading!

My List of 2016 Reads – a detailed, personal reading log with links to every title I have read over the course of the year.

March – An Illustrated History

March Book 1

March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

This is the first part of a trilogy of books that tell the real-life story of John Lewis and his fight to end segregation in the United States.

The book opens a peaceful demonstration that is only met with violence. The civil rights activists are subjected to tear gas, batons, and arrests. And with the very real threat of violence always present, these brave souls never gave up.

They continued to fight unjust rules and customs by simply asking to be served in restaurants and conducting non-violent sit ins. If they got arrested, the refused to pay any fines and completed the jail time.

The violent time of the past is contrasted with the induction of America’s first Black President. Lewis tells his story on this day and it is illustrated beautiful and well-paced.

March Book 2

March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

This book continues the real life account of the Civil Rights Movement and how peaceful protests were met with extreme violence. It covers the years 1961 to 1963. You can see how the buses were targeted right on the cover art. The story opens with a particularly brutal church bombing as well.

It’s hard to believe that racism was so rampant back then and that people targeted regular people who only wanted to be seen, heard, and valued.

This is an important story and part of our history. I am glad that it has been told with such care and accuracy.

Book Three will be released this fall

My 2016  Reading Log – every single title I read over the course of the year will be compiled here. I have lots of books to catch up on and write about still. Stay tuned!

The Inner Game of Work

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The Inner Game of Work by W. Timothy Gallwey

I started a research project to see how we could let students choose what they want to learn in school and it led me to some very interesting books, articles, and videos. I will be sharing some of that with you over the course of this year as I continue this exploration.

As some of you may know, I quit teaching last year. There is an educator in me that just won’t quit, however. And so when I read this passage, I immediately identified with it.

A New Approach

“My first career was as an educator, a profession still notorious for being slow to embrace real change. Ironically, education is supposed to be about learning, and thus about change. It should provide insight and wisdom about change as well as set a good example. Yet it was not until I left the corridors of institutionalized education that I began to discover a profoundly different approach to learning and change.”

The distance away from teaching, as well as my continued research into finding a better way to teach and for schools to operate, has given me a new perspective. I am convinced that I am a much better teacher now because of that.

I love how Gallwey address my thesis topic in this passage too.

“I had to learn to give choices back to the student. Why? Because the learning takes place within the student. The student makes the choices that ultimately control whether learning takes place or doesn’t. In the end, I realized that the student was responsible for the learning choices and I was responsible for the quality of the learning environment.”

I think if students had more choice in school, there wouldn’t ne this lack of engagement and motivation that I see time and time again. School could actually be a fun place for kids to come and learn. There need to be some major changes in the public education system and the way we teach. We need to embrace change, as Gallwey contests.

Let Our Students Make Mistakes!

We also need to let our students flounder, to make some mistakes, and to discover things on their own. Here is why . . .

“Probably our parents, eager to be “good parents,” solved some of the problems that should have been left to us to solve so that we could gain skill and confidence. We come to expect this kind of help from the coach or parent. We may get an answer, but we don’t develop the skill or self-confidence to cope with similar problems in the future. In turn, we tend to validate ourselves as parents and coaches by solving the problems of our children or clients.”

We Can’t Solve Our Students’ Problems!

“Once you realize it’s not the job of the coach to solve the problem . . . for the most part the job of the coach is to listen well, but there’s more to it. Effective coaching . . . holds a mirror up for [students], so they can see their own thinking process. As a coach, I am not listening for the content of what is being said as much as I am listening to the way they are thinking, including how their attention is focused and how they define the key elements of the situation.”

Teachers as Coaches

Teachers should aim to be more like the coaches Gallwey describes in this book. In fact, if you substitute the word teacher in every place he uses the word coach in this book, the message becomes all the more clear on what we should be doing in schools to truly help and reach all of our students.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – inspiration and ideas for classroom teachers (an on-going series)

My List of 2016 Reads – an on-going reading log with detailed posts about each title

Scott Pilgrim’s London, ON. Connection

Scott Pilgrim Vol 1

Scott Pilgrim Vol 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley

I saw the film, Scott Pilgrim vs The World a few years back and I was impressed with the quirky writing, hilarious scenes, and original story. I knew that it was based on a book but I knew nothing about the print version of it whatsoever.

I saw this book in the library last week and decided to pick it up. After reading it, I must say that the movie stays true to the source material. I haven’t read the entire story though, it continues on in a few separate graphic novels, but so far everything that has happened on the page, pretty much happened in the film too.

Reading the afterward was especially enlightening. I knew the story was uniquely Canadian but I didn’t know of the London, Ontario connection.

Scott Pilgrim Afterward

My radio show, Word is Bond, is on the very same station the author mentions in the afterward. I’ve been to concerts at Call the Office, a local venue. And I have shopped at Sunrise Records in Westmount Mall.

It was cool to see that Bryan Lee O’Malley was inspired to write this story from his time spent in London, Ontario.

This story was told so well on the screen that I can honestly say that the film version is better than the book. It’s hard to say that about any movie. In fact, I have only had one other film, in my opinion, that surpasses the book. Ironically, it was a comic as well. I am talking about V for Vendetta. 

The afterward is fairly long. It includes character sketches and information about how each character came to be. It shows how the author used real locations and photos to draw the scenes. It even includes the original pitch he made to get the series green lit. It is a nice window into the entire creative process.

I think you should check out both the film and print versions and get to know Scott Pilgrim. You won’t be disappointed.

My List of 2016 Reads – a detailed and continually updated reading log

Darth Vader lives on . . . In Comics

Darth Vader Vol 1

Darth Vader: Vol. 1 – Vader

This story takes place right after Star Wars IV: A New Hope and is the start of Darth Vader’s own on-going series.

Darth Vader has been demoted in the wake of the Death Star fiasco. He was the one who ultimately got blamed for the rebellion being able to take it out. The Emperor expects him to atone for this mistake.

Darth Vader isn’t one to simply take this all lying down. however. He starts to build his own army of battle droids. The Emperor gets wind of his plan and sets him up to battle against another hopeful apprentice. Vader must prove his worth to the Empire, but it all leaves a bit of a sour taste in his mouth.

Darth Vader Volume 2

Darth Vader: Vol. 2 – Shadows and Secrets

Darth Vader turned to archaeologist and droid expert, Dr. Aphra to help him build his droid army. She proved her allegiance to him and even though he is a little reluctant, Vader accepts her help and they become a team, of sorts.

Film Version Please

This was a really great story. I would love to see a film trilogy made that focuses solely on Darth Vader. It would be great to see things from his point of view and in all of his fearsome glory.

Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin

Darth Vader and the Ninth Assassin

Darth Vader had a few mini-series before getting his own title. This one focuses on a father who wants to avenge his son’s death at the hands of Vader. He enlists some very bad men to get the task done. But eight others have failed before. Will this ninth assassin be any different?

Darth VAder and the Lost Command

Darth Vader and the Lost Command

Darth Vader is haunted by his past. We are treated to some of the moments that the prequel trilogy didn’t touch on. We see some sweet scenes between Anakin and Padme that really make this graphic novel stand out.

Darth Vader and Cry of Shadows

Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows 

I’m not sure why this one was billed as a Darth Vader title. The story focuses on a clone trooper who is abandoned during a battle. He seeks to gain the acceptance of Darth Vader and works hard to prove to him that he is the ultimate warrior. It was a very good read, however.

My List of 2016 Reads – a detailed reading log for my entire year

Thor – Who’s Worthy?

Thor - Goddness of Thunder

Thor – Goddess of Thunder

What a brilliant concept for a story about Thor.

The title has always been built around the theme “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”

Unfortunately, Thor is no longer worthy to wield the hammer and as such Mjölnir is stuck without an owner. Every one tries to lift it and fails. Even Thor himself.

But some mysterious woman is able to pick up the hammer and wield it’s power. She becomes the new Thor.

Spoilers Below – I won’t reveal who the new Thor is though. I’d hate to do that to you.

Thor - Who Holds the Hammer

Thor – Who Holds the Hammer

The new Thor is trying to figure out how to be a hero like the previous Thor. She has a few hilarious run-ins, but is clearly capable of coming into her own and being the all-powerful super-hero we would expect Thor to be.

Meanwhile, Thor has come up with a list of people who could possibly have succeeded him in becoming Thor. He tracks each and every one down, hoping to find a way that he can regain his power and title.

When he finally does meet up with the mysterious Goddess of Thunder, he realizes that he still isn’t worthy to wield the hammer. He endorses her as the new Thor and we finally get to see who she is.

My List of 2016 Reads – a detailed personal reading log. Please share and comment if you have read any of these titles too.

The Kick-Ass Writer

Kick-Ass Writer

The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience by Chuck Wendig

This is a book for writers who don’t have time to read a book for writers.

You can dive in and out of the book with ease. If you want to learn something about the fundamentals, the craft of writing, or about presenting your final work, just go to that section and find some tips and advice.

Wendig admits thagt his book is “just a bucket of ideas that are at least half-nonsense. A bucket of ideas that serve as tools. And not every tool is meant for every job. And not every craftsman finds the value in every tool.”

Basically, take what you can from this and apply it how you see fit. Ignore the parts that don’t fit with your methodology. And get writing.

Here are the notes I took when reading it . . .

From 25 Ways to Plot, Plan, and Prep Your Story

Write three paragraphs, each detailing the rough three acts found in every story: the inciting incident and outcome of the beginning (Act I), the escalation and conflict in the middle (Act II), the climatic culmination of events and the ease-down denouement (Act III)

I don’t normally plan or outline my stories, but I like to go back and make sure these things are apparent.

From 25 Things You Should Know About Dialogue

You can use dialogue to set the pace of your story or scene.

If you want your story to read faster, you use dialogue to move it along. . . dialogue reads easy . . . a reader gets to it, they zip forth fast, fancy and free. Want to slow things down? Pull away from dialogue. Speed things up? More dialogue.

From 25 Things You Should Know About Editing, Revising, and Rewriting

Wendig advises that you don’t start your rewrite or edit without a plan.

How do you know what to fix if you haven’t identified what’s broken?

He also suggests only fixing one thing at a time. Go through your work in progress and do a dialogue pass. Then go back and look at your use of description. Then take a pass for plot, sentence variety, and anything else you need to look at.

Tracking revisions is also important.

Keep a record of them all. . .  Any time you make a revision change, mark the revision and save a new file. I don’t care if you have 152 files by the end of it. You’ll be happy if you need to go back. 

And last but not least in this list, you should read your work aloud

When you read your work aloud, you’ll be amazed at the things you catch, the things that sound off, that don’t make sense, that are awkward or wishy-washy or inconsistent.

From 25 Things You Should Know About Getting Published

Even if you want to go the traditional route, Wendig suggests self-publishing one thing that might not be the best fit for conventional publishers.

Walk both paths to gain the advantages of each. 

Know your story very well so you can explain it in a variety of ways.

Learn how to sum up your work in a single sentence, a single paragraph, and three paragraphs. 

The publishing industry cares about genre, so figure out what you story is so it doesn’t get mislabeled or misrepresented.

From 25 Things You Should Know About Self-Publishing

Find ways to experiment with format such as “transmedia initiatives, app-novels, stories told across social media,” etc.

Do not me constrained by the formats that exist. Story does not begin and end with a physical book. It doesn’t stop at e-books either.

That was me

I bet if you read this book, you will take away different things from it. So, if you do read it, please write about your experience with it, and link to it in the comment section.

Happy Writing!

My Detailed Reading Log for 2016

The Death of Wolverine

Wolverine Three Months to Die Book 1

Wolverine – Three Months to Die: Book 1

Wolverine has lost his ability to heal. He goes on like nothing has changed, but he knows that everything has.

He confided to Ms. Marvel that it was the only power really worth anything.

Healing Factor

Wolverine needs his healing ability. Every time he uses his claws they pierce his skin and when then retract, they could potentially expose him to infection. I love how this comic series addresses how much of an issue that is for him right now. It’s scary.

Wolverine Three Months to Die Book 2

Wolverine – Three Months to Die: Book 2

Wolverine confronts Death himself in this story. Death seems to help him get over his fear of continuing to be a hero despite losing his super-powers.

When things look bleak, Wolverine calls for a little bit of back up. Nick Fury shows up with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and The Avengers to help save the day. He says, “You know what your best super-power is, old man? That you’ve got so many friends.”

Wolverine Friends

Unfortunately, in the end, Wolverine is going to die alone.

Death of Wolverine

Death of Wolverine

This is Wolverine’s final battle. Even without his healing ability, he continues to fight like he is immortal. He puts everything on the line to protect the lives of others and to stop a terrible evil from being unleashed.

This four issue mini-series was a fitting end for our Favourite Canadian Super-Hero.

My List of 2016 Reads – my annual reading log with links to each title and book review