Friday, February 25, 2005

Off to see the Witch

Going off to see Wicked tonight with Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff. Her parents gave us the tickets as a Christmas gift. We both read the book and really enjoyed it quite a bit. However, I think I liked it a bit more than her, but I also wasn't as frightened of the flying monkeys in the film as was Mrs. Blog o' Stuff. Not that the flying monkeys really factor into the story of Wicked, I just wanted to type flying monkeys.

Today also marks the 4.5 year mark of our marriage and is also our Godson’s second birthday. He is quite possibly, the most charismatic 2-year old I have ever known.

Last night, like every Thursday night between October and May was my bowling league night. I had a pretty good night, but unfortunately, we didn’t win any games. The first game is a snapshot of how this season has been going - I’m the “lead off” bowler, the first on the team to bowl, and I bowled a 204 – well above my average, and a clean game to boot (I threw a strike or spare every frame). However, the “lead off” guy on the other team threw a perfect game, a 300. Shit like this has been happening to our team the whole season.

I finished Young Miles by Lois McMaster Bujold yesterday. This is an omnibus of two novels (The Warrior’s Apprentice and The Vor Game) and one novella (The Mountains of Mourning). I’d been mildly hesitant to try the Vorkosigan novels for a couple of reasons. I have never been too thrilled with Baen’s mainly Military SF list, the cover art was less than appealing, and the books seemed almost too much like romance. Boy was I wrong. Thanks to the good folks in the forums I moderate, and some fellow bloggers, I purchased Young Miles (Yes, I know this is not the first, chronologically, but the store didn’t have Cordelia’s Honor at the time). Miles is very short of stature and brittle of bone, something that sets him up as a target for scorn, hatred and prejudice. He is also the son of one of the most powerful men in the galaxy. Bujold puts Miles in some tough situations, and through his great intellect, ability to think on his feet and sheer will power, he gets through things better than he had any right to get through them. He is a bit arrogant, but just through the three stories in Young Miles, he has grown as a character, and grown on me. Suffice it to say, I am hooked on following Miles adventures.

As always, Lost was great on Wednesday. These characters are full of surprises and even the ones aren’t particularly likeable (Jin, Sawyer) are intriguing. It looks like next week is finally going to show Hurley’s back-story, who did pop up in Jin & Sun’s back-story.

I'll be hitting the comic shop tomorrow to pick-up the haul from the last two weeks:

Ex Machina #8
Green Lantern: Rebirth #4
GrimJack: Killer Instinct #2
Conan #13
Batman #637
Flash #219
Wonder Woman #213
Fantastic Four #523 **
Seven Soldiers #0

** Sadly this is the final issue of the Waid/Ringo era. After reading JMS's Amazing Spider-man on and off for the past couple of years, I am a little cautious about what he's plonning on doing to the FF. Though Mike McKone on pencils should be good.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Splitting books

One of the links on my sidebar is to Rick Kleffel’s Agony Column. I click over there almost every day, since Rick has an entry almost every day. He's is a pretty reliable source for good FSF to read. Rick has a pretty good handle for the pulse of not just the FSF genre, but a good handle for book publishing in general. He highlights books that have gained rightful attention and will often highlight some lesser-known books and writers. Today, he’s got an excellent column on the recent trend publishers are taking of splitting books in two. I won’t go into too much detail, since he encapsulates my thoughts pretty well, and a lot of what members of the SFFWorld forums I moderate have said. But his main gist is this: the trend these publishers are running with has people paying $50 for a single novel rather than $25.

Much related to Rick’s write-up is a recent entry from Charles Stross’ blog (found via Tobias Buckell). I read Stross’ novel Singularity Sky when it first came out in hardcover, and while I thought it was a solid story, I was a bit overwhelmed by the hard science in it. I know, I know, it’s Science Fiction, but I don’t always go for the harder SF. Anyway, Signularity Sky was an impressive novel but I haven’t felt overly compelled to reading the follow-up, Iron Sunrise, though Stross is an author I would definitely try again. I think I will hurry things and try him again, since the conclusion to the first part in Stross’s newest Fantasy saga, The Merchant Princes will see publication of The Hidden Family in a couple of months. Actually, The Hidden Family is the second half of the first novel in what may be a longer series, the first book, The Family Trade, published late last year. Sound confusing? It is, just a little. Stross wrote a 700+ page book titled the The Merchant Princes, which Tor decided to split into two volumes** : The Family Trade and The Hidden Family. From what I’ve gathered in reading reviews on these books, and indeed from Stross himself, the books are similar to Zelazny’s Amber saga. Of course Stross’s reputation in the FSF field isn’t what it is just because his current writings are similar to Zelazny’s, many agree he’s got the chops to back it up. So like I did for Wolfe’s The Wizard Knight , I will wait for booth “parts/books” of the single novels to publish before buying and reading them. The premise sounded interesting enough, but like I said, reading Stross’ blog entry from Feb 21 really convinced me to read the books.

**as they did for Wolfe's The Wizard Knight and Jacqueline Carey's The Sundering (Banewreaker & Godslayer) two other single novel broken into two novels, because Tor isn’t making enough money on Goodkind and Jordan. That's sarcasm, by the way.

Stross' entry is also giving me a better focus for my own writing, because after all, you’ve got to have goals, right? I know writing is, for a vast majority, not the most lucrative income. Sure some writers consistently sell, and eventually sell on name alone. But for the rest of the writers, many need to have another means of income. So why do I continue to write? I feel it’s a responsibility I have to myself. I feel guilty or like I cheated myself when I break my writing regimen. I enjoy writing and creating people and worlds, sure maybe it’s a god-complex, but it is a lot o fun. Do I have dreams of one day seeing books with my name (or pseudonym) on shelves? I think anybody who has ever considered writing would be lying if they didn’t have such dreams. But while that may be a pipe dream, it isn’t the reason I continue to write. It’s something I feel that I need to do. I only wish I could devote more time of the day to it. Writing is something that comes easier the more often you do it and the longer you do it, or so writers say. There’s some truth to that, of course. So I write when I get the chance and "inch towards daylight."

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Beer, writers, comics

It’s been a while since I did a beer of the week and a writer of the week. Perhaps they will now be on monthly basis. My beer of the week is a new one from Sam Adams, or at least one that’s new to me: Samuel Adams Black Lager. A pretty smooth beer with a pleasant after-taste, not the best one from Samuel Adams, but one I’d definitely partake in again. Though I really wish they would bring back their Honey Porter, loved that beer.

Writer of the month is Gene Wolfe, one of the finest living writers. Period. I finished The Wizard Knight about two weeks ago, and like all of his work that I’ve read, it continues to float in my senses and in my head. One of his greatest strengths is that his writing gets better with multiple readings, and he packs so much into what he writers, that multiple readings are a necessary joy. His Book of the New Sun is one of the acknowledged masterpieces of the SF genre, often mentioned in the same breath as Tolkien’s work, Herbert’s work, Heinlein’s work, and Vance’s work.

Sad sad news as the NHL season is cancelled. Let’s hope, as some are speculating, that when things are settled, their hopes of changing some of the rules, and what not will draw more fans. Probably the best would be the shoot-out to break ties – a no-brainer for SportsCenter highlights.

The Nebula awards have been announced:

· Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
· Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Cory Doctorow
· The Knight, Gene Wolfe
· Omega, Jack McDevitt
· Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold
· Perfect Circle, Sean Stewart

The only one I’ve read is The Knight, so I’d like to see that win. I have read and enjoyed a good handful of books by McDevitt (Moonfall, The Engines of God, Ancient Shores, and Infinity Beach), Sean Stewart’s wonderful Galveston and right now I’m reading Bujold’s Young Miles and enjoying that quite a bit.

DC Comics recently told us what they are publishing in May, and there are some interesting things. The bad news is that Fallen Angel #20 is the final issue of the series. Aside from my normal haul, I'll give Action Comics shot to see how Byrne & Simone work together, JSA since it’s touting the return of Captain Marvel and Morrison’s Seven Soldiers . I’m a sucker for big crossovers so I’ll at least try The Rann/Thanagar War & Villains United. I’m probably most looking forward to Green Lantern #1 since Pacheco’s art is amazing and I like what Johns is doing in Green Lantern: Rebirth. I may try out Desolation Jones, too. No new collections from Vertigo in May to look forward to.

And lastly, as one who blogs about comics, I’m sort of obliged to post The 100 things I love about comics:

  1. 80-page and 100-page Giants
  2. Alan Davis
  3. Alan Moore
  4. Alan Scott
  5. All the Marvel comics my friend John lent me
  6. back issue bins
  7. Batman
  8. Bizarro - not just the character, but the idea of Bizarro things in life
  9. Bizarro Justice League
  10. Booster Gold - not just the character but all 25 issues
  11. Calvin & Hobbes
  12. Captain America by Waid/Garney
  13. Captain Marvel's rogue's gallery - Mr. Mind, Black Adam, etc
  14. Comic Book catch-phrases "Great Hera!" "Merciful Rao!" "I SAY THEE NAY" "HOLY MOLEY!" "AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!" "HULK SMASH!"
  15. Comic book conventions
  16. Comic book "science and logic"
  17. Crisis on Infinte Earths
  18. Darkseid
  19. DC Comics Presents
  20. Definitive Runs
  21. Discovering new titles and hunting down the back issues
  22. Dr. Doom
  23. Dressing up like Superman, Spider-man and Captain America for Halloween
  24. Earth-2, Earth-S, Earth-X, Pre-Crisis DC
  25. Elseworlds - before it was over-used
  26. Evil Dopplegangers
  27. For the Man Who Has Everything by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
  28. Galactus
  29. George Perez
  30. Gil Kane - one of the first artists whose style I instantly recognized
  31. Gorillas, especially talking telepathic gorillas
  32. Grant Morrison
  33. Great creative teams with Synchronicity in storytelling - Waid/Wieringo, Morrison/Quietly, Kirby/Lee, Claremont/Byrne, O'Neill/Adams
  34. Green Lantern
  35. Green Lantern/Green Arrow by O'neill and Adams
  36. GrimJack
  37., and the rest of the comics blogo-verse
  38. "Imaginary Stories"
  39. In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight, let those who worship EVIL's might...beware my power..GREEN LANTERN'S LIGHT
  40. Jack Kirby
  41. Jack Kirby's DC Super Powers miniseries
  42. JLA/Avengers
  43. John Byrne's work in the 80s
  44. Julius Schwartz
  45. Keeping Ma & Pa Kent alive
  46. King Kirby
  47. Kingdom Come
  48. Krypto
  49. Kurt Busiek
  50. Letter columns
  51. Mark Waid's run on The Flash
  52. Martha Washington Goes to War by Miller/Gibbons
  53. Marvel's 25th anniversary covers
  54. Marvel v. DC - not so much the limited series but the years of fans bickering that inspired it
  55. Marvels by Busiek & Ross
  56. Morrison's JLA
  57. Nazis - the ultimate comic book villians
  58. Neal Adams' Batman
  59. Neil Gaiman
  60. Neil Gaiman's Sandman
  61. Nightcrawler Limited series from the '80s
  62. Parallel Universes
  63. Peter David's The Incredible Hulk
  64. Preacher
  65. Rogues Galleries
  66. Secret Wars
  67. Spider-man
  68. Spider-man and his Amazing Friends
  69. Stan the Man
  70. Superfriends
  71. Superhero Records
  72. Superman/Captain Marvel battles
  73. Superman/Flash Races
  74. Superman: Secret Identity
  75. The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay
  76. The Amalgam Age of Comics
  77. The Big Red Cheese - the original Captain Marvel SHAZAM!
  78. The Crime Syndicate of Amerika of Earth-2 and Earth-3
  79. The Crow
  80. The Dark Knight Returns
  81. The Fantastic Four
  82. The Far Side
  83. The Flash - all incarnations and the handling of the legacy of the character
  84. The Tribute to the death of Barry Allen in Quasar
  85. The Golden Age by Robinson & Smith
  86. The Killing Joke
  87. The old comics and electronics shop I visited in my youth to get $.25 & $.50 back issues
  88. The Rainbow Bridge to Asgard
  89. The Rogues
  90. Trade Paperbacks
  91. Treasury Editions from the '70s
  92. Underoos - lets face they wouldn't be around without comics & superheroes - and who DIDN'T own a pair?
  93. Walt Simonson's Thor
  94. Watchmen
  95. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?
  96. Wonder Woman
  97. X-Men annual #11
  98. Y: The Last Man
  99. You will believe a man can fly - The first Superman movie
  100. 12.95 Marvel Masterworks at Barnes & Noble

Monday, February 14, 2005


Another meme from Scott, these damn things can be addictive.

You scored as Wrath.















Seven deadly sins
created with

Picked up the GrimJack trade over the weekend, recently published by IDW. People who’s opinion on comics I generally trust have mentioned this book as being great and groundbreaking. I was a wee lad when GrimJack made his first appearances, so I can’t clearly recall the book or the relevance at the time, but for a comic not published by Marvel or DC to run 80+ issues in the 80s is a pretty big deal, from any standpoint. At the time I was pretty much reading Flash, DC Presents, Superman and probably GI Joe. I can see now how, judging from those issues contained in The Legend of GrimJack: Volume 1 stand apart from what I was reading. No superheroes in tights; however, John Gaunt (aka GrimJack) does sport a pretty cool cloak/cape. This is a great concoction of Heroic Fantasy, potboiler and Science Fantasy. Just from the first pages, there are references I know that wouldn’t have clicked in my pre-pubescent 11 year world, like Melnibone and some of the other worlds mentioned, that have much more resonance now. Ostrander, in his intro, paints a really cool picture of the genesis of GrimJack, and as I was reading just that part of the book, I grew more excited about what’s down the pipe in the next GrimJack volumes, since Ostrander listed a bunch of authors, like the good ‘ol Texan Robert E. Howard, who’s work I hold in high esteem.

This was also the first purchase of any IDW comic I’ve made, though that changed as soon as I purchased GrimJack: Killer Instinct #1. The inking and coloring process has improved over the years between GrimJack’s first appearance in the new book, but the storytelling simpatico of Ostrander and Truman is still on great display.

One of the folks who got me thinking more about GrimJack is SuperCoolWriterGuy Matt Stover as a discussion on GrimJack has been going on over at [dead cities]. Anybody who reads this blog and has enjoyed Stover’s work should check out GrimJack and conversely, if you enjoy GrimJack RUN and buy Stover’s powerful novel Heroes Die, I reviewed the sequel, Blade of Tyshalle, for SFFWorld a couple of years ago and plan on re-reading it soon.

And oh yeah, Happy Hallmark day, rather Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Wicked Fortitude

You scored as Fortitude. Fortitude- with you is the strength of mind and body.















The Seven Heavenly Virtues
created with

From pal Scott

I started Wicked by Gregory Maguire the other day, I'm about 100 pages in, and I really like it. I haven’t read any of the Oz books, but the Movie is one of my all-time favorite films. I remember watching it every year around Easter-time, and being captivated everytime and even to this day. It is really interesting seeing how Maguire is constructing the world of Oz and comparing that against what the film shows. I’ll be seeing Wicked the Musical in a couple of weeks with Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff.

Here's a good site/FAQ for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

A link and a meme

Found this link of 100 BMFs from Progressive Ruin.

The following questions found on Nate's blog:

1. First name?

2. Were you named after anyone?
My father, though my mother claims to have liked the name before my dad came along. Middle name after my godfather and my dad’s favorite uncle. Two different people, one name.

3. Do you wish on stars?

4. When did you last cry?
Probably when I was drunk.

5. Do you like your handwriting?

6. What's your favorite lunch meat?
Ham, of course.

7. What is your birth date?
November 7th.

8. What is your most embarrassing CD?
Probably half of the ones I now “own” since being married and “inheriting” my wife’s collection. You name it – Poison, REO Speedwagon, No Doubt, ABBA, Ace of Base.

9. If you were another person, would YOU be friends with you?
Sure, and me as the other person would make fun of me-me.

10. Are you a daredevil?
No my name isn’t Matt Murdock, but sometimes I do crazy-silly things.

12. Do looks matter?

13. How do you release anger?
Going to the gym, cursing, writing, hitting things and listening to Godsmack.

14. Where is your second home?
Yankee Stadium, I turn into a 9-year old every time I walk out and see the field, despite the fact I’ve been there dozens and dozens of times.

15. Do you trust others easily?
Too much when I shouldn’t and not enough when I should.

16. What was your favorite toy as a child?
A few – Mat the Bat and Spiddy the Spider I think they were both won on the Boardwalk at the Jersey Shore. Real inventive names, I know. I also had a really cool Superman doll.

17. Which class in high school do you think was totally stupid?
Calculus and when we learned square dancing in gym class.

18. Do you have a journal?
This is probably the closest thing.

19. Do you use sarcasm a lot?
No, not me.

20. What are your nicknames?
Rob. Bob. Robbie. Rob-Bob. Mark. Mark Larrold. Hess. Dinosaur. Rutgers-boy. Hubba-Bubba. Ba-Ba-Booey. The Honky-Tonky-man.

21. Would you bungee jump?
I have and I’d do it again.

22. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?

23. Do you think that you are strong?

24. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Only one? Edy’s Light French Silk.

25. Shoe size?

26. Red or pink?

27. What is your least favorite thing about yourself?
My procrastination.

28. Who do you miss most?
My first dog, and my friend Jay.

29. Do you want everyone to whom you send this to send it back?
Didn’t receive it, cribbed it from Pal Nate.

30. What color pants and shoes are you wearing?
Light Khaki pants, brown shoes.

31. What are you listening to right now?
When I originally typed this thing Howard Stern. Now that I'm posting it Kill 'em All by Metallica.

32. Last thing you ate?
Reese’s Puffs cereal.

33. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?

34. What is the weather like right now?
Grey, after all, I do live in New Jersey.

35. Last person you talked to on the phone?
When I originally typed this thing - My Wife. Now that I'm posting it - A co-worker/supervisor.

36. The first thing you notice about the opposite sex?
Probably overall appearance, how she’s put together.

37. Do you like the person who sent this to you?
Sure, Nate seems like a pretty good guy.

38. What is your ethnicity?
American – German, Polish, Slavish and my grandfather on my dad’s side always claimed to have some Native American Indian blood. So I’m you’re average garden-variety American mutt.
39. Favorite drink?

40. Favorite sport?

41. Hair color?

42. Eye color?

43. Do you wear contacts?

44. Are you single?

45. Favorite food?

46. Last movie you watched?
At home - Remember the Titans. A far superior football movie to Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday , Denzel is a more convincng coach than Pacino, who seemed a caricature of himself in Any Given Sunday. In theaters, probably Saw.

47. Favorite day of the year?
Christmas, for the giving.

48. Scary movies or happy endings?
Scary movies.

49. Summer or winter?

50. Hugs or kisses?

51. Do you have any favorite rants and, if so, what are they?
When I was into watching wrestling, I enjoyed reading Scott Keith’s rants about how crappy wrestling was. I do enough ranting of my own.

52. What is your favorite dessert?
Apple Pie.

53. Who is most likely to respond?
Banzai cat may copy this to his blog.

54. Who is most likely not to respond?
Don’t really care.

55. What books are you reading?
Wicked, Gregory Maguire
Sandman Volume X: The Wake, Neil Gaiman, Charles Vess et al.

56. What's on your mouse pad?
At work – the corporate logo.
At home – dogs.

57. What did you watch last on TV?
CSI, Numbers (taped from Friday) and Family Guy

58. Favorite smells?
My wife, beer, steak, onions sautéing in butter.

59. Favorite sounds?
My wife’s laughter, the sounds of dogs in the house, the sound of steak grilling, the crack of the bat at a ball park, all the sounds associated with a hockey game.

60. Rolling Stones or Beatles?
Do I have to choose? There are a lot more I'd pick before those two.

61. What's the farthest you've been from home?

62. Do you have a special talent?
Ask my wife. Or making people laugh, lightening the mood.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Shinedown The Wizard

Mrs. Blog O’ Stuff picked up Shinedown’s debut CD for us the other day, Leave a Whisper. I’d been hearing Shinedown on the local rock station WDHA for over a year now and was really impressed with what I heard: the powerful ballad showcasing lead singer Brent Smith’s stunning voice: .45, both the original and the acoustic, the faster Fly from the Inside and their acoustic cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man. This is an extremely impressive debut album, Smith’s vocals are an amazing compliment to guitarist Jasin Todd, bassist Brent Smith and Barry Kirch’s singular musical sound. I’d probably classify the group as hard rock and call them simply great. Leave a Whisper is a polished, great sounding album, not by just debut standards, but by hard rock standards overall. I am looking forward to more of their albums and hope to see them in concert, though now I am kicking myself for not going to see them at the Starland Ballroom over the holidays in 2004. Methinks they’d be a great opening act for Godsmack if and when Godsmack tours later this year.

Also finished up The Wizard by Gene Wolfe over the weekend. Even though this was really the second part of a novel, it started off a bit more weakly than The Knight. I think that is because Wolfe switched from Able’s first person narrative to Able referring the story of his companions after they separated. Once Able came onto the stage, though, the book returned to the level of excellence Wolfe accomplished with The Knight. This isn’t to say that the early portion of The Wizard was bad, just that by comparison, not as strong as the other portions of the story. And let's face it, those who have read Wolfe will agree that reading Wolfe when he is a notch below his strongest efforts is far superior to 99% of most writers at their absolute best.

The last 100 or so pages of the novel were absolutely wonderful. Packed with emotion, thought, choices and introspection, I think it will be difficult for anything I read for the remainder of this year to move me emotionally and entertain me as much as did Wolfe’s Wizard Knight. I don’t know if Mr. Wolfe plans on penning more stories of Sir Able or any of the characters from this rich novel, but the door is open. While any of Gene Wolfe’s work is worthy of excitement, more tales of these characters would be most welcome.

Mrs. Blog o' Stuff and I went to the Rutgers vs. Georgetown Basketball game on Saturday and both teams didn’t look good. Rutgers was sloppy at the end of the first half arrived, but did make a nice little comeback towards the end of the game, which was too late. Rutgers basketball does look to be getting a better profile now that Gary Waters is doing such a fine job. It would be real nice to see them in the NIT again this year, though I highly doubt they will be invited.

Good Superbowl last night, I was really hoping the Eagles would pull it off, and at the end of the game, they came pretty close, too.

A new Batman Begins trailer was shown during the game and the Web site for the movie has been pretty substantially updated. Interviews, Wallpapers & other downloads, (one of which is now on my computer). Have I geeked-out enough for this film on my blog yet? I think I'm looking forward to this even more than Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith even though super-cool writer Matthew Woodring Stover has written the Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith novelization. Though I think am more looking forward to the novlization than the movie, I think.

Lastly, less than two weeks until Pitchers and Catchers!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Author! Author!

Cool things continue to happen in the SFFWorld forums. Last month K.J. Bishop joined in our monthly Fantasy Book Club discussion about her debut novel, The Etched City. This month, Jeff VanDerMeer is participating in our discussion of his novel, Veniss Underground. Karen Traviss also said she would stop by the discussion about her book City of Pearl in the Science Fiction forum. Of those books, the only one I haven't read was Mr. VanDerMeer's, but I really need to rectify that, ASAP. I read his first book The City of Saints and Madmen, and thought it one of the most imaginative, surreal and wonderful books of that year.

Watching Celebrity Poker right now on Bravo and goddamn is Chris Kattan one annoying little bastard. He sucked on SNL and he almost sucked the life out of the show tonight. Mary McCormack, on the other hand, wow is she flaunting what she has.