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carter beats the devil. [books.]

I’ve been utterly spoiled by great books lately.

The trick was, late last year and early this year I took the time I always waste on the interweb and put it to better use by surfing around, finding as many “Best Books of the Decade” lists as I could get my greedy little hands on.

My desire was to find great fiction. I scoured the lists; anything that looked remotely interesting got added to my own meta-list. Books that kept showing up on list after list got added whether they looked interesting to me or not. It’s called expanding your horizons people, try it some time.

The next step was waiting until we made a lovely little trip down to Portland, where I could visit Powell’s.

Have you heard of Powell’s?

If not, here is the gist.

It is the world’s largest new and used book store. It is called Powell’s City of Books, and that isn’t even hyperbole. I’m pretty sure they have a mayor, and not a Foursquare Mayor, like a real elected official.

You know that part in the Bible when it says Eden was hidden and blocked by a flaming sword so no one could get there? Bullshit. God just moved Eden to Oregon and renamed it Powell’s City of Books. However, that is for another post.

So, anyway, I’ve been reaping the benefits of the project described above all year. First was Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which I wrote about here. Then there was The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, The Road, and The Book Thief, which were all awesome. I will write about them soon.

Most recently I finished Carter Beats the Devil.

“‘You know what the hardest thing is?’ Phoebe said, as the first pair of fireworks went up. ‘The hardest thing is to know everything you know so far and still have faith.'”

It was pretty wonderful. It’s about a magician, Carter the Great, from San Francisco during the American Prohibition era. Carter beat the Devil is the name of one of his magic tricks (they’re called illusions Michael!).

Anyway, in the story, President Harding attends one of Carter’s shows, then mysteriously dies the next day. That is when our adventure begins.

The story jumps back to Carter’s beginnings as a magician, and offer really satisfying characters and three great acts, each of which stands alone pretty well.

All of the characters in the book were real people. Carter the Great, President Harding, inventor and television pioneer Philo Farnsworth, BMW engineering genius Max Friz, etc. etc. etc. Glen David Gold then takes said real life characters, uses real life events as touchstones, then makes up everything that happens in the middle, always muddying the lines between fiction and reality.

“Faith was a choice. So, it followed, was wonder.”

For me, the book helped me remember that without wonder, curiosity, and community, we die. The story was also a really great playground for thoughts about chaos and order, meaning and meaninglessness, loneliness, love and grief, and most of all the fact that when you figure out where the world is carefully put together, it is the cracks and spaces where mystery and magic live, where God lives.

“even he had to admit that God’s plan was infinitely odd — the most mysterious element of them all, joy, could enter this life profanely.”

Great read! I add my endorsement to those that led me to read it to begin with.



Umm, there is a new Assassin’s Creed game coming out this year. Only one year after the last game.

If you’ve played AC2, you know that is very good news.

Release date right now is set at Nov. 16.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood looks like it will bring back the things that made the last game great, while offering a good amount of fun new stuff.

2010 is shaping up as a pretty good year all around.


western audacity.

Well, another day, another movie is hitting the next level. We’ve done horror movies. We’ve done time-travel. The plan was that all of these type things would be 10-14 days long.

Not so any longer.

The Western film extravaganza is going to be a full month long.

30 Days. 30 Westerns.

During that time, I will also be watching the complete series of Deadwood. And, if Gamefly cooperates, I may be playing through Red Dead Redemption as well.

Right now, the plan is to post a short post for each day, rather than waiting until the end and posting a huge long post that no one will actually read. Any ideas on a better format?

I’m looking forward to this, while also worrying a bit that I will hate Westerns by the end.

I’m going for it, because I think there is something beautiful about endeavors which are at once audacious and pointless.

For those in the Seattle area, company is always appreciated for any and all of these films.

June 1st, Western month begins!


My Journey into Nerdom

So after having read Scott’s post about Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men we had a bit of a conversation about how awesome it was that his post generated so many hits. In the midst of this dialogue, I realized something. I am not a nerd, or at least, I am trying really hard pretending I am not. My only Joss Whedon experience was and still is the brilliant “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”. I haven’t seen any part of any episode of “Buffy”. I was never a “Trekky”. I never went apeshit for Star Wars. I was briefly into comics in middle school, but not much came out of that. I have no credentials.

With that said, I feel the next several weeks and months will be interesting for me. It is probably fair to ask why it has taken me so long to try to get into things like “Lost” (I’ve only seen the pilot), Harry Potter (haven’t read a page, haven’t seen a frame), saw Watchmen but only read about 20 pages of the graphic novel. I’m been partially baptized in nerd culture, but my full indoctrination has still yet to happen, and not because I haven’t been surrounded by it, or people who are passionate about it. I think it is because I am set in my ways on many things. I find things I do like, and watch or experience them over and over again. With this being true, new things that come along by recommendation or, my own discovery take some extra effort that I am reluctant to put forth. With friends like Scott and Wes, who are both part of this “nerd” subculture and partners and founders in this blogging adventure, I am now ensconced in this culture and (not that I had an excuse before) I now have no excuse whatsoever to avoid these things any longer. And anyway, as Scott mentioned, I may not be as far removed from the subculture as I think. There lies in me a love for these things which is dormant. Will jumping in awake the sleeping monster?

What are some things that I should make sure I don’t miss out on as I seek to be ravaged by nerdom. Who should be my first? Who should I let pop my cherry?

I can tell you which way I’m leaning …



scott pilgrim. [graphic content.]

If you know me at all, you are probably aware that I love the English language enough that I never, ever use instant message speak. No ‘ty,’ ‘rotf,’ or ‘ttyl.’ You’ll never get even the occasional ‘lol’ or ‘brb.’ That is why what is about to happen is a big deal. And it is all because of Scott Pilgrim.

The in-game nerdspeak, the ‘pwned’ sort, just comes bubbling up at the sheer awesomeness Bryan Lee O’Malley has unleashed on the world.

Let’s pretend you can ask me what I’ve thought of the Scott Pilgrim series so far.

“Hey, Scott. How’s Scott Pilgrim so far?”

[*Head glowing from awesomeness*] OMGWTFBBQLASERS!!!

Scott Pilgrim is amazing! No, seriously. Listen. Well, read. IT. IS. AMAZING.


The word ‘original’ has been around for a long time. As have the words ‘awesome, ‘hilarious,’ and ‘magicawonderfulnerdtastic.’ Okay, so I made the last word up, but if it was a word, it would apply to what I am saying. We have been using those words all this time without realizing that they were invented just so that someday there would be the proper adjectives to describe the Scott Pilgrim books.

They are so fucking good. My whole life has simply been biding time, waiting until the day when I finally read about the adventures of Mr. Pilgrim.

I know what you are thinking. “Hey Scott, c’mon. You use hyperbole all the time. They can’t really be that good.”

To that I can only respond with: Shut the hell up, dude. If you ever open your stupid, blasphemous face and talk about Scott Pilgrim that way again, I will come to your house and crack an egg of knowledge all over you.

Seriously. It’s like O’Malley took all the awesome, lame, wonderful parts of the average nerd’s brain, influenced by the fact that we are the first generation to grow up completely immersed in video games, and he created a world out of it. A world where things actually happen the way I pretend they happen in my mind.

If you ever wanted to Level Up for doing the right thing, or have a weapon that offers +2 against Vegans, or get EXP points for going to work, then this is the series of indie comics for you.

These books are absurd in the best way possible, surreal and delightful. There isn’t really a way to describe how different they are from any other graphic novel or comic book I’ve ever read. Sooo good.

I already couldn’t wait for the movie to come out this August. Now I think I might have to get a doctor to place me in a controlled coma to get me from now to Inception, and then from that until Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

I’m already mentally preparing for a trip to Toronto to make a (please forgive the pun) pilgrimage.

That glowing review, and so far I’ve only even read Vol. 1-4. I had no freaking idea that Volume 6: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour wasn’t out  as a graphic novel yet. It doesn’t come out until JULY?!?!?!?!? Terrible. My heart aches for it. What was that I was saying about a coma? I need to check with my local hospital about that.


janelle monáe, will you marry me?

There are always those bands and artists you hear about constantly, but never get around to checking out. There is only so much time, and if you love music there is far too much to experience and far too little time in the day.

That’s why it has taken me so long to finally listen to Janelle Monáe. She’s been on the cover of Paste, she’s been raved about by just about everyone, and normally something along the lines of “Future of Soul” or “Future of Hip Hop” is attached to her name.

Usually, when people are praised as ‘the future of music,’ it doesn’t work out. That’s because bands described that way are normally good, and the stuff that sets the trends is normally garbage. Listen to radio rock from the late 90’s, then listen to radio rock from right now. That’s right, sounds pretty much like the same thing.

However, as the music industry continues to decentralize, then perhaps someone like Janelle Monáe can be the future. If that’s true, the future is bright.

She is amazing. I waited far too long listen to her, but after discussing her the other day with Brian, I got her first CD as soon as my eMusic downloads renewed.

I’m pretty sure I’m in love with her.

Folks, you should be listening to this.


"Sometimes the Spanish teenagers frighten me a little bit …"

This is the kind of art I would like to be a part of …

La Blogotheque is a French based music video/blog project of independent film maker Vincent Moon. He records bands on the streets of Paris, in cafes, in moving vehicles, in people’s living rooms. There are similar things out there, but I knew of Mr. Moon’s work first. These performances are called Take Away Shows or Les Concerts à Emporter. It is really awesome. Really awesome guerrilla-style art. The Shins, Andrew Bird, St. Vincent, Beirut, Of Montreal, Sufjan Stevens (covering the Innocence Mission!), Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, Sigur Ros, Phoenix, Essie Jain, Cold War Kids, My Brightest Diamond, Islands, Grizzly Bear, Vampire Weekend, Okkervil River, Menomena, and Jens Lekman are some of the artists featured. Read that list again. Read it again, and get going. Most, if not all of the videos can be found on youtube. Go. Now.

La Blogotheque

La Blogotheque’s Youtube Channel

If you’ve stuck around, shame on you … but here are three of my favorites:

I can’t imagine how cool it would be if I was walking down the street and heard one of my favorite bands playing a song, turning a corner, and seeing one of my favorite bands performing on the street. How awesome would that be?


wolverine: old man logan. [graphic content.]

I love it when people take a well-known, fictional universe, and then imagine a dream or nightmare scenario that turns the whole thing on its head. When this sort of thing is done poorly, it rightfully draws the scorn of those who love said fictional universe. However, when it is done well it can be loads of fun.

This sort of thing happens most often in the wonderful world of comic books. The long-term, serial nature of comics makes them the best medium for asking, “Hey, what do you think would happen if [insert insane hypothetical situation]?” I have my own idea for a just such a situation, a whole story arc that imagines what Bruce Wayne would be like if his parents had lived. What would the ‘world’s greatest detective’ look like without all that misplaced rage, guilt and insane drive to repair what can’t be fixed. Yet, that is for another post.

One of the masters of the sort of imaginings mentioned above is Mr. Mark Millar. He brought us Superman: Red Son, wondering what the Man of Steel, and the world, would be like if Kal-El had landed in the U.S.S.R., instead of the United States. He brought us Civil War, in which the US government passes a law forcing all superheroes to present themselves for registration. Heroes take sides on the pro-reg and anti-reg sides, and all hell breaks loose.

Recently, thanks to the Seattle Public Library, I got my hands on a copy of the fairly recent, Wolverine: Old Man Logan. In this, we move two generations into the future. That is, two generations after the bad guys finally realized there are, like, 20 villains to every one superhero, joined together, and took over the world. We find Logan as a simple farmer and family man in California, or, what used to be California. He does nothing at all to set things right. Why? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out.

I can’t go into much more detail than that without ruining some enjoyable twists and plot developments. Suffice it to say, it’s a really fun read, albeit, a noticeably darker and more violent one than is often the case, provided by one of the best writers working today, tackling one of the best heroes comics has ever had to offer.