Friday, September 13, 2019

Mikey Mason's M



Life as a blogger is often good. I get to read what I want and then tell the whole world (because Lord knows all seven billion people on the planet read my blog.😉) about it. Sometimes you get to interact with people whose work you admire when you wouldn't have been able to otherwise. That's awesome.

But sometimes...

Sometimes...

You send a message off to one of your favorite musical artists and offer to review his album on your blog if he will do an interview with you. And because he's an awesome person, he does. And then you realize.

OMFG DUDE! I'VE NEVER REVIEWED AN ALBUM BEFORE! I'M A BOOK AND MOVIE/TV GUY!

 

And maybe you freak out a bit because when you're a story guy, but then you listen to said music artist's podcast and he tells you that it's okay to write like shit and it hits you. "I can live up to THAT standard." I mean, I'm pretty sure he wasn't talking directly to me when he said it, but it still takes some of the pressure off. I'm breathing now and I'm pretty sure I can handle this.

In related news: Welcome to the first ever review of an album here on Jimbo's.  I'll be your only slightly flaky host. Since there is a method to my madness I'll be doing this the same way I review anthology style. This way you can all see the madness in my method.

I'm a cool guy like that.

I think.

Anyway...

I've really enjoyed Mikey Mason's M every time I've listened to it. There is more here than what I've gotten from it, too. I say that because some of these tracks relate to stories that I may not be familiar with. For example, one song is called "Letterkenny." It relates to the show which I haven't watched because *GASP* I don't have Hulu. Oddly enough though, I actually enjoy the song. The music works for me even though I don't geek out over the show. Go figure.

Speaking of which...

"Hat Full of Sky" is based on a book. I'm not even sure what book, but Mikey said it was last post. I enjoy it though. I sometimes think that Mikey writes some of this stuff and doesn't realize that it's actually uplifting. This one makes me smile for some reason. As long as I've got a Hat Full of Sky I can do anything right? And seriously, just the sentence "I'll build my wings on the way down," from his song "Build My Wings" got me through one of the worst days of my life. That sounds weird to me too, but when you're plummeting downward, well, it helps. Oops. "Build My Wings" is on another album. I don't honestly feel bad about mentioning it though. It's a good track.

"Because of You" is a break up song. We've all been there. "I'll make it through just to spite you," (It doesn't count as a spoiler if it's song lyrics, right?) is something I've actually lived. It's really up-tempo and light hearted though. I like this track and this concept. Being a single guy, I probably won't need this one for awhile, but it's good to know it'll be there if and when I do.

"Retrobituaries" is a song about people who post things that make me sad about things that happened years ago. Seriously folks, and I know Mikey agrees with me here, don't do it. And if you're confused as to why you shouldn't, or maybe if you just need a laugh, check this one out.

"Love And..." is a song that I wish I didn't identify quite so closely with. There are definitely times when I've been with a girl and exhibited signs of both love and revulsion. It usually comes right before a break-up. Dammit, Mikey, this one hit me in the feels. Good job. Probably.

"Shiny Math Rocks,"make that click clack sound.

Listen, if you're a table top gamer (or maybe if you just know and love one) and you can't relate to this one I can't help you. Especially if you play tabletop RPGs. Those of us who do all have a love/hate relationship with our dice, but if you ever want to see a tabletop gamer smile, roll your dice. BUT DON'T ROLL THEIRS OR YOU'LL INFECT THEM WITH BAD LUCK. You have been warned.

*SIGH*

Sorry, Riley.

"Letterkenny" is a song about a show I don't know anything about. but hey, if Mikey can talk about his favorite show I can relate. I mean, I may quote Star Trek or Firefly instead of Letterkenny but it's the same thing. And dude, he wants a good glass of beer. Who can't relate to the desire to have a drink?


I am a Dungeon Master, and if there is one song on the entire planet that my players want me to listen to, it's "Loot the Room". Apparently I don't give out enough treasure. My bad. At any rate, this is another one that anyone who has ever played a tabletop or computer/platform RPG or really a lot of first person shooters like Medal of Honor can identify with. We've all gotten the stuff. Sometimes we've done it without setting off the booby trap. Dude. I said sometimes.

So what are we going to do tonight, Brain? "Take Over the Room" is a Pinky and the Brain track. It doesn't get much better than that. We all loved this show back in the day, right? And now we get to love it all over again, only this time with a guitar track. YES!!!!

"Breathe" is a melancholy reminder that sometimes you just have to push through, or in Mikey's words, breathe. I know it's not easy. I tell my kids to push through things all the time and pushing is how I get through life when it gets rough. It's a good message.

"Whisper" is a love song. It's a really good one.

There are "No Happy Endings" because nothing ever ends...

I remember when I first saw the title of this song, before I had listened to it. I thought it was going to be depressing and that kind of sucked because one of the things I like about Mikey's music is that it makes me happy. I'm happy to report that I was wrong. This is absolutely an upbeat song in terms of both tempo and mood. Nothing ever ends...

Except M because this is the last track.

I like this album. I play it a lot. I'm a Lyft driver and I spend an average of like ten to twelve hours every workday in my car. As someone who rarely drinks and doesn't smoke or take anything I can get arrested for possessing, I need another way to relieve stress and get through the day and music is what does that for me. Mikey Mason, whether on M or another album, is a big help with that. I drive for a living. Go listen to a Mikey Mason track called The Button. If you can honestly listen to that track and not know why I love it you don't have a brain.

Seriously.

Anyway, buy the album. Listen to the album. Tell all of your friends about it. And when you get hooked and buy a bunch of his other stuff, don't blame me. It's all Mikey's fault.

Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Guitar Picks

M
Mikey Mason
Self Published, 2019

M is available for purchase at the following link:

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Interview with Comedy Rock Star Mikey Mason

(Picture blatantly stolen from Mikey Mason's Bandcamp page.)

Hi everybody! I'm geeked. No, I didn't just say that I AM a geek (although I am) I said I'm geeked. Why? Because I've got an awesome person to interview for your reading pleasure today.  Seriously, we're going to have a good time.

See, once upon a time I was cruising around Youtube watching some videos and I came across one called Best Game Ever. If you're not familiar, you should be. It's the story of a Dungeons and Dragons group and that one annoying guy that they all hate and screws everything up. Remember that guy? Every tabletop RPG player  has had to deal with some version of the dude at some point. I got a bit kick out of it. Actually, I kind of freaked out and started annoying my co-workers and roommates by playing it too much.

Anyway...

The song was by a guy named Mikey Mason, and eventually, I wandered over to Spotify to see if I could find him. He had a ton of stuff on there and has added more since. We'll get to the whole catalogue soon, but rest assured if you don't already love tracks like Kobolds Ate My Baby, Waiting to Wait in Line, (Love at) Warp Factor 9, and Build My Wings you will soon.

So, welcome to Jimbo's Mikey! Say hi. How are you today?

Tired, but working. Still recovering from DragonCon, actually.

Cool. How was Dragon*Con?

DragonCon was amazing as usual. It’s weird… I’ve been performing there for 5 years, and it’s only in the last two or three that I’ve actually let myself enjoy it a bit. DragonCon (or any convention, really) is different for performers who perform for a living.

At DragonCon, most of the performers you’ll see have a day job somewhere, and they look at DragonCon as a way to build an audience while on a vacation where merchandise sales can defray the costs. Performers have a break-even point, after the travel costs, the hotel costs—which are always at the maximum rate they’re allowed to charge, the costs of food, etc… Once we cross that break even point, we’re actually earning our salary for the week. It’s a bit harried.

Performers don’t get paid time off from work, and many of us can’t afford vacations. Still, I’ve never worked a DragonCon where I didn’t make money. Because of the costs involved, it’s never as much as it seems it should be, but it’s always a good time.

Good! I'm glad to hear it. So, to start things off Mikey, tell us a little about yourself and your music. I'm a huge music fan and a geek too, but what led you to get into making music for geeks? I mean, I love it but there have to be bigger markets out there. Why that one?

I’m a geek, that’s why. I was doing musical stand-up comedy, full-time, touring the US and beyond and writing material that I didn’t really care about or for. I wrote a song in 2011 called She Don’t Like Firefly, and it went viral (viral for back then—nerdist.com, Time Magazine, SyFy, and several other national mentions helped. Once I realized there was an audience for the things I really cared about, I started making a concerted effort to write more material that I truly enjoyed.

That's awesome. So you're obviously a gamer. You've done a ton of songs about games like D+D, Kobolds ate my baby and even one about World of Warcraft (which had me dying laughing) . What are some of your favorite games and can you give us one little known gem that we all need to play?

I love RPGs. Kobolds Ate My Baby is a super-fun, rules-light system that lends itself to having a good time. I mostly play D&D Savage Worlds, but for a lesser known system (it’s not really that lesser known) I’d have to recommend Fiasco, especially if your friends are into theatre and improvisation.

Before we get started on your work, I'd like to ask a question regarding my personal crusade here at Jimbo's: How do you define what is Science Fiction and/or Fantasy? I know that there are people out there who would limit it to just the traditional arenas of writing, television and film, but what about other things like gaming (whether tabletop stuff like Dungeons and Dragons or video games like Halo and World of Warcraft)? What about songs like Not Quite the Chosen One or The Button, both of which are by you. Where do those fall on your list of what is and is not Science Fiction or Fantasy?

The Button is science fiction/fantasy. Not Quite The Chosen One is is pure comedic fantasy. I try not to get hung up on definitions as much, anymore. I gravitate towards things I enjoy or am interested in. So even if someone doesn’t categorize those two songs the same way I do, if they liked music and those genres, they’ll probably enjoy the songs.

You bill yourself as a Comedy Rock Star on your website and your Facebook page, but yet you've done some serious tracks too. I consider Opposite of Cool to be my personal theme song, and it's the kind of thing that anyone who grew up as one of the less popular kids in school can definitely identify with. I had a really neat conversation with my daughter after listening to Celebrate because she's going to be starting her last year of Middle School in a few days and it had me thinking about how her life is going to change and why she's going to want to try to remember some of the stuff I wish I could. Talk about that for a second. How does the guy who wrote She Don't Like Firefly suddenly veer off into some serious content for a second?

Comedy Rock Star was a branding choice from when I was a musical standup comic that just kind of hung around… When I started getting comedy gig and performing out of state, I’d take time off from work when necessary to facilitate it. On the paid time off form, I’d write “going to play comedy rock star” as the reason. I had an incredibly supportive company and they were as flexible as they could be with my schedule.

When I started doing geek rock music, it was all comedic, because that was what I was transitioning from. At the time, I didn’t think folks would want to hear a serious song from me, so I didn’t bother putting them on albums. I simply didn’t consider it. I’d still write them when I felt like it, but performing or relating them didn’t really occur to me.

It wasn’t until my fifth geek rock album, Red Letters, that I put a serious song on an album. My mom had died earlier that year, and the writing/recording of the album was very cathartic for me. It’s an angry album, ostensibly about holidays and special occasions (“red letter” days,) but all the songs are about frustration, loss, cruelty, isolation, self-destructive behavior, or regret. Yet it still manages to be funny. Angry? Yes. Vulgar? In places. But funny. Except for Eulogy, which is a song I wrote in college after a friend died, but which took on whole new realms of meaning when my mom passed.

I played it live whenever I did a show that year. I remember playing it at ConCarolinas, openly weeping in front of a packed ballroom of folks, many of who were weeping with me. It was a song that had meaning to us, like the other, funny songs I try to write, but simply about the human experience. It changed my views of what my fans would deem acceptable on an album.

I know you do a lot of cons. I'm guessing you've got some good celebrity stories. Have you met anyone super-cool? Do you have a story or two you could share with us?

I meet super cool people all the time. Most of them aren’t famous. Famous people can be very cool, too—don’t get me wrong—and I do have some celebrity stories. I played a game with Will Wheaton at GenCon one year. He killed me with ruthless efficiency, and was very kind about the whole thing, treating everybody at the table as a peer. Ernie Hudson was great to talk to, and as generous as he could be with his time. Willem Dafoe is super-intense but very polite and smells great.

Of course, you do more than music. I remember how happy your Friendship is Tragic T-shirt made my now ex-girlfriend when we were still dating. (She's a good person. Long story.) So tell us a little bit about your non-music offerings. Now might be a good time to throw in some links to places where people can buy your stuff too.

I…well… I do stuff. I’ve always considered myself an artistic and creative person. I make art (which is now mostly confined to t-shirts, as I don’t sell prints from a shop anymore, at least for the time being.) You can find my t-shirts at https://comedyrockgeek.threadless.com/

Music you can find on YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, etc… But if you want to buy directly from me, you can go to https://mikeymason.bandcamp.com/ and buy albums or single tracks. There are links from there to buy physical discs, as well.


I know you've got a Patreon as well, Mikey. I'm a happy subscriber. So why don't you tell people where they can find you on Patreon and what the benefits are. You know, like how I can get all of your tracks early.

Thanks! You can find my Patreon account at https://www.patreon.com/MikeyMason . As for benefits, I try not to stratify the people who support me too much. The basic benefit is this: if you support me at $1/month, every time I record a song (and sometimes when I write one and do a scratch demo or whatever) you’ll get a copy of the song. All of them. For $1/month. There are other, more ephemeral benefits to supporting at a higher amount, such as getting handwritten postcards or being credited by name on every track that came out while you supported at a certain level, but I know some fans will try and support beyond their means, and I’m adamant that people take care of themselves and their bills before trying to take care of me or mine.

So, if someone supports what I do and can afford $1/month, that’s awesome and helpful. If they can afford more, just as awesome and appreciated. I just don’t want to “upsell” anyone.

I’d rather have 1000 supporters at $1/month than one supporter at $1000/month. Like Ryunosuke Satoro said, “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean."


I know you do some podcasts too, including In the 'Verse with Mark Gunn. I think I'm forgetting something. Why not drop a link or two to those and tell us a little about what you're working on there?

Currently, the only podcast I’m actively working on is In The Verse: Songcrafting In The Firefly Universe. You can find it here: https://fireflydrinkingsongs.com/intheverse/

In each episode of the podcast, fellow Browncoat musician Marc Gunn and I rewatch an episode of Firefly, discuss it from an artistic/structural perspective, and then each back off into different corners and write a song inspired either by the episode or something in the episode. As you can guess, our songs, like our musical styles, differ greatly. But the music is good, and Firefly-centric. And when we’re done, we’ll have an album or two. (Maybe three?)

My Patreon patrons get copies of all those finished songs as well as many of the demos.


Oh, and of course your social media accounts. Where can fans follow you online so that they can keep up with Mikey Mason? Is there anything special that you share there. Don't forget to drop the links again.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ComedyRockStar/
Instagram: @crsmm
Twitter: @comedyrockgeek
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/squedge
Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/comedyrockgeek
And you can find links to all those things and more at mikeymason.com

And of course, I know I'm not a perfect interviewer. I know that you were just bursting to tell my audience something that I forgot to ask. So here's your chance. What do you wish I had asked you? Don't forget to answer your own question.

What’s your favorite book? Well… I love a lot of books and have written more than a few songs about literary characters: Hat Full Of Sky, Wisdom Of Hounds, Dibbler’s Lament, A Moment’s Courage, Electric Monk, etc… but I’ve only written an entire EP of music about one book: American Gods by Neil Gaiman. You can find it on my Bandcamp site.

And that's it! Thanks for stopping by Mikey! I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me.

Thank you!

Links to a couple of Mikey Mason's albums are listed below (Just in case you didn't use his links and are too lazy to page back up):






Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Russell Newquist's War Demons

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So what would you do if you were a combat veteran who got stuck fighting something you didn't recognize? What if it killed your buddy? What if it followed you home? How badly would that suck? Yeah, I'm not really sure how that would feel either, but if you wanted to ask Sergeant Michael Alexander, main character of Russell Newquist's War Demons I bet he could tell you. I mean, I'm not sure the answer would be all that pleasant, but that's kind of beside the point, right? I mean, not if you were asking for the truth.

I'm going to start this thing at the beginning though: Ward Demons had a prologue that I actually enjoyed and found relevant. There aren't too many books that can say that. Of course, explosions do help here but I still think that this was well written. It's also indicative of a wider world than the one we see throughout the rest of the book and I notice that Russell has a sequel planned (this is, after all,The Prodigal Son, Book One.) This is good. Most of War Demons takes place in a southern college town and it might be fun to see it go worldwide if that's what Mr. Newquist wishes to do. He may or may not. I'm just saying I'd read it if he did.

I really enjoyed Newquist's portrayal of Alexander. The good sergeant is a complicated man. He's been there, done that and gotten the t-shirt. Dude has been places that most people have and done things that most people never will. He's faced things that have others who have similar experiences doubting that they actually happened. He truly is on the outside of just about everything. He also suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but it doesn't rule his life. He's a good guy with some stuff to work through and a good heart. I like this character. I'd have a drink with this dude.

The rest of the heroes are pretty cool as well. I kind of got the feeling that maybe Newquist has seen and/or read some post-apocalyptic fiction featuring some weird weapons, but that's okay. It makes  for some interesting reading and it's not like every random townie is going to have a huge stockpile of firearms and the knowledge to use them effectively while being attacked by a massive wave of enemies.

Of course, there are also the villains. Let's start out with the mooks. There are lots and lots and lots of mooks in War Demons. They fight, they die and then there are more. I'm glad I'm not in charge of Newquist's Magic Mook Generator because if I were, I'd be overworked. The thing is, the use of so many mooks works. Why? Because A.) They present a palpable threat to our heroes and B.) they keep the good guys from getting to where they're going too quickly. War Demons is a book that generates a lot of suspense, and a lot of it comes from the little guys getting in the way.

Oh, and by the way..

If I admitted that part of my love of the mooks comes from a desire to screen shot a few of these pages and email them to the D+D group I DM with a caption like, "I wonder how you guys would handle this. I'll see you Thursday!" then, well...

I mean...

It's true. How could I be a Dungeon Master if I didn't have a bit of a sadistic streak? Honestly? How?

Of course where there are mooks, there needs to be a Big Bad of some type. I'm not going to say who, what or how, but there is definitely someone worth hating here. That's good. I like hating bad guys. It makes it more fun to cheer for the good guys. I have a strong dislike of the big bad in this one for a very particular reason, but I'm not going to say what it was here. If you really want to know, feel free to buy the book (as you should anyway) and find out what it was for yourself. I kind of feel like it should be fairly obvious to anyone who pays attention.

Something Newquist does get into a bit here is religion. I'm okay with that. The religion he's espousing is the one that both of my daughters were baptized into. I find that it works well within the story. I think that it really does add a dimension to what's going on. I just know that there are those of you out there who style yourselves as atheists and would be repelled by the thought of a book that includes religion. That is your right. I think it's a good story, but I'm telling you now so that you can't say I didn't warn you.

Overall though, this isn't a truly religious work and if some of the framework of Catholic belief seeps in, I'm alright with that. If you've read my reviews of Declan Finn's work you shouldn't be surprised about that anyway. As long as it fits the internal logic of the story and moves things along then it belongs there. I once read something similar in a book by Leonard Nimoy and I agree. He was speaking about the use of characters and why he wouldn't do Star Trek: Generations but the gist is the same. If it works, use it. If it doesn't, don't. In this case, it does.

As a complete work, I really enjoyed this book. The characters are believable. The action sequences are fun. If I wanted my shift at work to end earlier so that I could read War Demons, I suppose I'll have to forgive the author. That just means he did his job well. I'm looking forward to the sequel and I'm wondering when I'll see it. That's also a good thing. When the audience wants more, you know they loved what you've already done. We'll see when it hits. I'll make sure you see something here.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Yellow Noses

War Demons
Russel Newquist
Silver Empire, 2019

War Demons is available for purchase at the following link:



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Saturday, August 31, 2019

Faith and Fandom: Finding God In Sci-Fi, Superheroes & Video Games by Rev. Hector E Miray




As both a geek and a Christian, I'm a member of two groups that catch a lot of flack from people on the outside. Mundanes don't get fandom. They mock us. I'm a guy with a book review blog. I work full time. I have my own place. I still get mocked for being unemployed and living in my mom's basement. And, of course, being a Christian means constant belittlement for being a hater of this, that the other thing, not having a sense of humor, thinking sex is evil...

I could go on.

It gets worse if you're both a Christian and a geek. Seriously. There are Christians still stuck in the Satanic Panic of the Eighties who will freak out if you tell them you play D+D. There are geeks who will reject you if they find out you love Jesus. It can be a tough row to hoe to be both a fan and a Christian. As a member of two groups when some members of both reject members of the other, life can be a bit rough sometimes. I finally found something that bridges the two worlds though, and that makes me happy.

At any rate, the point here is that it's always nice to be around someone who gets what you get, who loves what you love and can relate to what you're about. If you've ever been to a con or even to a gaming shop (if you're a gamer, anyway) you know what I mean. If you've ever heard what a bunch of assholes Christians are from someone who thinks that Westboro Baptist Church represents all of us, then walked into a loving and warm church on Sunday, then you know what I mean.

If you've ever loved both Fandom and Jesus and you've read Faith and Fandom: Finding God In Sci-Fi, Superheroes and Video Games then you get the feeling that I'm talking about. It's weird. I've read a lot of books in my time. I've loved most of them. I've shared my thoughts about them with anyone I could get to listed (and, quite possibly, a few that didn't want to). I've never cracked open a book that made me feel this at home before. Seriously, if you're like me and you can open this and not feel something while reading this bad boy you need to get your pulse checked.

The book is a collection of essays comparing various aspects of geek culture with lessons from the Bible. It's a way of thinking about Life, The Universe and Everything that I hadn't previously contemplated. It makes sense though, if you get the references. Don't get me wrong. I'm not necessarily recommending Faith and Fandom to that guy that mocks you for your comics collections. I am, however, recommending it to you if you have a comics collection.

The essays themselves are amazing.

The first one compares the destructive power of the Hulk's rage to the destructive power of sin. I love this one. Sometimes, as Christians, we think we can do something we know is wrong and it won't hurt anything. It's not true. This essay tells us why. As much as I liked this essay though, I'm not sure I would've put it first. If it's someone's first time through a book exploring Christian themes and I was editing it, I probably would have started the book with something a little more positive and welcoming. Just my two cents. Read it though, because you need to.

Chapter Two covers the power of redemption and the fact that we can never totally overcome sin. It also talks of how we don't have to earn God's love. This is a good one.

Chapter Three is the story of Superman and how he came to Earth to save it. That sounds like someone else we know, doesn't it Christians?

Chapter Four is about receiving power. It covers characters like Shazam and Spider Man. It also mentions the power of the Word. I needed this the day I read it. I was having a rough time dealing with some things. I was glad God dropped this in my lap at just the right time.

Chapter Five is about Green Lantern rings and Christian virtues. I loved this one, but I'm a GL fan for life, so that may have actually been a gimme.

Chapter Six is all about Iron Man and the Armor of God. I like this one. We all know that Tony Stark is a LOOOOONG way from being a perfect Christian (or even a Christian at all) but redemption is possible and there are things we can learn here. There is also a definition of what that armor is constituted of.

Chapter Seven: This one is all about the importance of Christian fellowship ala The Justice League and the Avengers. I wish we had more geeks in my small group at church. I think this would be a good essay to discuss one week.

Chapter 8: Great Power, Great Responsibility. Not just Spider-Man but Christians and the power of the Word.

Chapter 9: River Tam, Firefly and the need to tell the truth to everyone. 'Nuff said.

Chapter 10: Shepherd Book and not isolating yourself in a Christian bubble. You can't share the good news with someone who already knows what it is.

Chapter 11: Captain Mal and loss or questioning of faith. We've all had those moments. What can we do about them?

Chapter 12: Doctor Who and the concept of eternity. This was a strange one for me. I can't grasp eternity per se, but I always figured God would clue me in when I needed to know.

Chapter 13: River Song, sacrifices for the Doctor and sacrifices for Christ. Good stuff.

Chapter 14: Battlestar Galactica, being lost and using the Word to find your way.

Chapter 15: Amy, Rory, the Doctor and patience with God and from God. This is an important one for those of us who expect to get what we ask God for immediately.

Chapter 16: Walter White from Breaking Bad and the importance of making the right choices. Also, the harm that comes from making the wrong ones.

Chapter 17: Mario, Link and the need to keep seeking Christ. Good essay. Gimme some feeted pajamas and a bowl of sugary cereal and it would be even better, but maybe I'm showing my age there.

Chapter 18: The NES controller and taking control of your own life. This one is pretty profound.

Chapter 19: Batman: Arkham Asylum and being defined by our enemies. But it's not just that. It's about blessing our enemies, the way scripture tells us to. This is a well thought out essay that didn't go the way I expected it to. Take a bow.

Chapter 20: Halo, the team concept and the importance of loving your friends and helping them out. Powerful stuff.

Chapter 21: Fable III: The importance of making the right choices, even when doing so is hard.

Chapter 22: Grand Theft Auto and the importance of hitting the right goals as Christians. This is a good message. It's something we all need to take to heart. And he's right, it would be right if we got a visible rating at the end of every day.

... and that's all of the chapters. I didn't know how to review this one without giving it the anthology treatment.

A few final thoughts: This is a really good book. It's an easy read and it's not real long, so you can get value from it quickly and then move along. It's also the first in a series of (currently, there may be more coming... maybe) six books. The blurb on Amazon says that the books can be read in any order but I plan on reading them in publication order because Jimbo. I'm guessing they'll all be worth the time.

My one problem with Faith and Fandom Volume One is that it needs some editing. I know that's a common complaint about independently published books. Usually, I don't see the need. Here, I think some help would have been nice. On the other hand, the message is good, the chapters are entertaining and I've already purchased the next one in the series, so I guess it didn't kill the experience for me.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Crosses

Faith and Fandom: Finding God In Sci-Fi, Superheroes & Video Games 
Rev. Hector E Miray
Createspace, 2014

Faith and Fandom: Finding God In Sci-Fi, Superheroes & Video Games is available for purchase at the following link:


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Another Life on Netflix

Radio telescopy detects a signal from many light years away. Something slams into the Earth and sprouts a huge crystal tower looking thing. A ship is prepped to trace back the signal to make contact with the aliens who sent it. Interpersonal conflict begins. It's finally far enough into the first episode that I can crack open my bottle of Coca Cola. Welcome to Another Life, a Netflix exclusive. And no, it doesn't slow down afterwards.

Seriously, this us not the show for people who get anxiety attacks from watching TV shows. There is always something going on and it gets pretty intense at times. In some ways, although Another Life is hard science fiction, it feels more like Science Horror. I know that doesn't make sense, but watch the thing and see if you don't believe me.

Ya know, it's kind of weird. Another Life is certainly not Event Horizon. There is no space fold, no lost ship, no Latin phrasing, no trip to Hell... You get the idea. The thing is, Another Life and Event Horizon share a similar atmosphere. There's always something going on. It's almost always bad. Our heroes are working their tails off to avoid wherever it is, but we're still pretty sure it's going to get worse and not better. There doesn't seem to be a way out but we still want there to be. And things aren't always what they seem.

With the good comes the not so good. Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation (especially the first two seasons) will be all too familiar with the we're-all-going-to-die storylines that a lot of these episodes embody. What the producers of Another Life got right that Gene Roddenberry did not is that there is still a lot of tension between characters. And I'll give Another Life this as well: There is no holodeck. We don't see Moriarty escaping to conquer the Enterprise here. I'll take that.

The star of the show, of course, is Katee Sackhoff. Any actress who can play a part well enough to make me accept a female Starbuck is worth watching. I was not disappointed. As Captain Niko Breckenridge, Sackhoff has a tough task: She has to keep a bunch of twenty-something punk kids on task while things continuously go wrong. It doesn't help that she took over the ship from another captain that those same young adults had served under. You can cut the drama here with the knife.

Of course, a lot of that has to do with the youth of the characters. They get into the same type of drama we all did at that age, only they've got more reason to freak out. Life on the Salvare is constantly in flux and most of what happens is not necessarily good. That's okay though. Safe and sane is boring. I'd rather see them all flipping their lids when something crazy happens. And seriously, life in space can sometimes be crazier than your ex-girlfriend on a full moon. 

Something I really like is that the writers of the show didn't forget about those left behind. Granted, we were going to see some of what was happening on Earth because of the alien artifact there, but tying in spouses and children is a master stroke. It is also sometimes heart-breaking. I think this works particularly well right now, because there is a lot of sympathy for military families. The crew of the Salvare is not military per se, but they are damn sure deployed and in harm's way so the situation is similar.

I also like the fact that the characters are human and act in human ways while suffering the consequences of doing so. There was a moment in the show where I found myself striking my forehead with the heel of my hand like it was 1985 again. I got why the character did the thing and I was pretty sure I knew what came next. I was right, for the most part. Being Another Life it was a bit worse than what I thought it would be. That's okay. I like the realism here. When things make sense it makes me happy, even when what happens makes me sad. That makes sense, right?

I also like the enigmatic nature of the aliens. Nobody knows who they are or what they want. There is no established way to communicate with them at first. I like that. Listen, I'm as big a Star Trek fan as you're ever likely to meet, but not every alien in the galaxy is going to speak English. It just doesn't work that way. And it takes awhile. That makes sense too. It seems likely to a nerd like me that aliens are not likely to think like humans. Their languages are therefore not going to be instantly translated into any human language. I like that. Even with prime numbers and the Fibonacci Sequence, all we're doing is showing that we can do simple math. Two humans who are both educated in math but don't have a language in common can't talk. Why would a human instantly know how to talk to an alien?

It mystifies me that this thing receives so much hate from Rotten Tomatoes. I don't get it. Yes, as I said previously, it has a horror type feel to it, but SO WHAT? It works. This thing is a cross between and alien invasion story and early space exploration crossed with a touch of political intrigue. I don't get the hate. Is it perfect? No. Is anything human made perfect? No. It's good. It's entertaining. It holds the attention. It keeps things moving.

All in all, I'm glad I watched it. I'm looking forward to Season Two. I damn well better get a Season Two. I need a Season Two because reasons, and it's not just because I have a thing for Katee Sackhoff. Well, maybe that's part of it but that's not all of it. Netflix just needs to shut up and show me the series. Seriously.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Alien Whatevers

Another LifeNetflix, 2019

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Stranger Things Season 3

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Okay, guys. I need to get something off of my chest. It's a very minor spoiler about something that is only there to create that Eighties feel, but it makes me a little crazy. It's weird because Season Three was the best season of Stranger Things so far and this is making me this nutty, but there it is: In one of the episodes this season Lucas sings the praises of New Coke from the Eighties. YOU DO NOT SING THE PRAISES OF THAT CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY! IT'S JUST NOT DONE! AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Seriously, I almost lost my lunch when I saw that. It was terrible. Horrible, even.

But despite all of that, Season Three of Stranger Things is the best so far. The kids are growing up a bit and experiencing some of the things that go along with that. That makes sense. Kids do that. I used to be a kid at one point. I'm an adult(ish type person) now. It's good to see. We saw Mike and Eleven get together at the end of Season 2 and now we get to see what comes next. That's awesome, except when it's not. Mike, bro...

Never mind. No spoilers. But um yeah. What happens makes sense and screams young kid with his first girlfriend but, but..

Yeah, I'll shut up.

Oh, and newsflash: Elle is a badass. I know that hasn't exactly been a secret but it's good to see her coming into an understanding of her powers that wasn't really there before. She's gaining confidence. I see shades of a young Luke Skywalker here: She's got tons of power. She wants to know how to use it. She has no real mentor. She has to puzzle it out herself and she's doing an amazing job. I'm proud of this girl.

I have to admit something else here too: As a father of a couple young girls and a dude named Jim, I share Jim's pain in watching his daughter getting her first beau. Seriously. I'm not sure how I'll deal with that when it comes, but it feels real to me. People talk about teen angst in stories and yeah, it's overdone. That doesn't change the fact that adults get a wee bit angsty sometimes themselves. Dude is stuck in a situation that he didn't ask for and he's not sure how to deal with it. Yeah. Sounds like he's a dad to me. I love it.

Of course, Jim is also a bit of a hothead and that comes out in full force as well. Jim does what he needs to do because he needs to do it and doesn't always worry about what the rules are. I like that about him. Of course, American fiction has a tradition of the outlaw lawman and Jim is one of the finest examples of that I've ever seen. He's the bad cop with no good cop. I want to have a drink with this character.

As a matter of fact, the subject of young love is a theme this season and that's good. The kids are at the right age for it. It would seem a bit awkward if it weren't. The fact that the kids don't always know how to relate to having a significant other is also logical. They're kids. They haven't been there before.

Of course, that's always been the strength of Stranger Things. The writers take a totally outlandish concept (IE the creatures of the Upside Down loose in the real world) and set it in a totally believable, realistic setting. Remember mall life from the Eighties? That's in there. Remember when bike riding wasn't a way to stay in shape, but a form of transportation? That's in there. Remember when none of your friends had cell phones and you had to try to catch them at home? Yep, that's in there too. It all fits. It's Eighties nostalgia to be sure, but it's not just that. It's a realistic look at how things used to be.

Of course, Stranger Things has always contained fantastical elements and they're here in bulk. It takes a bit longer for some of them to show up than I initially preferred, but I guess the writers were a bit too busy making an awesome story to throw random shots of monsters into the mix, so they did the right thing. It was really well done too, even if it may have been just the slightest bit gross in places. But then again, evil is supposed to be gross right? And these people eating monsters are most definitely evil. If you've played Dungeons and Dragons, then you automatically get a shiver up your spine when you hear the term "Mind Flayer." You instinctively remember the horror and evil of a Mind Flayer. If you're worldly enough, you recognize Mind Flayers as echoes of Lovecraft's Chthulu. Yeah, the Upside Down monster rise to that level of evil.

And the way all involved rise up to save their town and the world (again) is epic. I've always admired the characters in Stranger Things because they've never backed down. They've never shown cowardice. They've all been very visibly scared, but they continue on anyway. That's what courage is. Richard the Lionhearted said it best: "Only the dead are without fear." These kids are scared. They sacrifice their bodies along the way. No one knows how things will end, but they all have faith that they'll win out in the end if they just keep fighting.

Or course as kids get older, they sometimes drift apart. Sometimes that's because of external forces. Sometimes it's not. Anyone who has ever played a pen and paper role playing game knows the old adage: Never split the party. This is the first season where I remember things being this split up. The kids are doing things separately in some parts. That too is part of growing up. Establishing independence is a big thing. We see that here too. The writers of this season of Stranger Things have not forgotten what it was like to do that.

Oh, and I have a feeling we'll be seeing Season Four. I can't wait.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Demogorgons

Stranger Things, Season 3
Netflix, 2019

Some Stranger Things related items are available at the links below:









Saturday, August 10, 2019

My Dragon Awards Ballot




I did my ballot on my phone. The pics above are actual screen caps. You can agree or disagree with how I voted, but you can't deny the fact that I was transparent with my votes.

So why did I vote how I voted?

I thought you'd never ask!

Best SF Novel: A Star Wheeled Sky by Brad Torgersen Awesome book. I feel bad about not reviewing it,but I only have so much time and I have to sleep sometime.

Best Fantasy Novel: House of Assassins by Larry Correia: One of a very few fantasy novels set outside of a pseudo-European setting and a whole lot of fun. Sorry I didn't review this one as well. I love Larry Correia, but I didn't really think he needed the help.

Best YA SF/F Novel: (or something similar. I cut off the title, but these are all YA books) I hadn't read any of them. I can't vote in a category where I haven't read any of them.

 Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel: Uncompromising Honor by David Weber I'm a little bitter here. Uncompromising Honor was my pick for Best SF novel. It should be in the bigger category. Having said as much, if it's the Best SF novel in my opinion, it's definitely better than any Mil SF titles I've read this year. See my review here.

Best Alternate History Novel: The World Asunder by Kacey Ezell This was my nominee. It's freaking awesome. It features a massively important part of history that is awesome ignored. It's entertaining as hell. It made me spit Mountain Dew all over my phone (I read it on Kindle). BUY THIS BOOK. READ THIS BOOK. VOTE FOR THIS BOOK. Do it all after you read my review though. It's posted here. 

Best Media Tie in Novel: The Replicant War by Chris Kennedy. Awesome book. I didn't realize that this was actually a media tie in, but whatever. It rocks.


Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie: Avengers: Endgame. The feels man, the feels!

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC/Console Game: World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. I haven't been playing since my guild server shifted and I didn't have the money to follow, but this game is awesome, especially once you get past the fact that the pyramid the real players use as their home city (IE the Horde) is a pyramid that's hard to navigate.

Best Horror Novel: Zombie Airman by David Guenther: Lots of cool characters. Lots of good action scenes. I loved this book. See my review here.

Best Comic Book/Graphic Novel: I didn't vote Apparently, I need to get updated on my comics. Nothing I read this year was eligible for comics and the graphic novel I nominated didn't make the ballot. *SIGH* I'll get to work.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series: Good Omens I haven't read the book, but something about an angel and a devil working together to bring about the apocalypse just tickles my fantasy. Crowley is an amazing character and Azriphael is a delightfully naive individual.

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game/Miniatures Game/Cell Phone App: (or something similar. I hacked off a title again.) I didn't vote. I didn't play any of these games.

I don't want to make one of the books that I voted for look bad, but I'll state here for the record that I'm bitter that one of my nominees, which was the best book in its category that I've ever read hands down, didn't make the ballot. If the author is out there reading this: I tried bro. I really did. Maybe next year?

*SIGH*

It happens. I should be used to it by now. I supposed I'll get over myself eventually.

So tell me what you think. What did I get right? What did I get wrong? Why are you throwing tomatoes at me? There is plenty of room for comments below.