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Although this blog is long dead and re-starting somewhere else might be a better description, I thought I’d post a link here to my new blogs on tumblr for anyone who is subscribed and might be still interested in reading stuff I have to post.

Bench Notes – Pictures, sketches and notes about my building process as a luthier. This coming semester will be devoted mostly to me building a cello, although I might post pictures of the rebuilding of a Gibson J-200 that is currently in pieces.

Jake and Bake  – A personal blog that lacks organized thought and a general direction.  It’s more of a collage of thoughts and desires than it is a log of anything in particular. But it’s there.

Hope to see you there

Nerdcore and Frozen Pizza

Doctored Frozen Pizza

Image by sweet mustache via Flickr

Sitting here in my apartment listening to rap songs about video-games and web-comics while eating frozen pizza that I’ve drenched in yet more cheese I am a little apprehensive at the start of school again next week.

I get so used to my free time that the mere suggestion that some of it might be infringed upon makes me quiver in fear. Take Sundays for example. Sometime towards the end of 2010 I decided that that they should be devoted to the consuption of junk food. Now I’m not saying I’m going to have to give up bacon and O.J. for breakfast, nor am I agreeing to put pants on before 10am, but responsibilities are creeping into my coveted day of sloth and gluttony. I went grocery shopping for half the week, planned my meals out and am now defrosting chicken while simultaneously cooking enough rice to get me through. It kinda makes shoving pizza and bacon in my face seem like work.

At least I have nerdcore… I just heard Spose say he’s “cornier than ethanol” . I know your lives are probably feeling kindof meaningless and empty right about now. so here you go friends.

I have a half written review of another book I read recently. I’ve been putting off finishing it because I can’t seem to come up with the words to bring it out of the realm of three paragraphs of “this book is good and you should read it”. Hopefully I’ll post that soon. Also I do plan to post a lot about the work I’m doing in school this semester… so get ready for a lot of pictures of wood.

Last thing, I’ve been going pretty strong on my fitness blog, I have some posts about the weightlifting workouts I’m doing, so if your into that… check it out. I’m proof that you can be interested in that and still eat junk-food sometimes (like right now).

It Came From Del Rio – Stephen Graham Jones | Book Review

A very unique novel by local Colorado author Stephen Graham Jones, It Came From Del Rio is a postmortem account of what the main character, Dodd Raines, intends to be his last job. A criminal  forced to flee to Mexico with his daughter after a failed bank heist, he now earns his living transporting contraband across the border. When he gets a call and discovers his employers know too much about his daughter, he plans to finish this one last job.

Divided into two parts, the novel is narrated by both Dodd himself and his daughter Laurie. Jones is very careful in how much he reveals and when he does. It sets the reader on equal footing with the narrator, giving them an odd sense that they are sharing something together. This is where the strength lies in this book, not in the actions and events of this already doomed smuggling job, but in the substance of the characters themselves and the setting of the story. For me, that’s where the book comes alive.

In turn the most brilliant move the author made occurs just two pages in, when the narrator informs the reader that he will die before the end of the novel. It removes the possibility for some cliché moral or lesson. No room for Dodd to struggle against the odds, defeat the bad guys and turn a new leaf on his life. What this novel has to offer is blood and sweat and sand in your teeth. Maybe it’s just my love for a good horror tale, but there is something unique at work when a book can keep it’s audience captivated while the main character is trudging through the desert, struggling to bring himself to what the reader knows is a grim fate.

Stars 4/5 | 9/10

Get in on the conversation! (comment your answers –  some ideas below)

  • Read any good horror stories lately?
    • What made you enjoy them?
  • Do you enjoy stories that reveal the ending at the beginning and work backwards?
    • Why or why not?

Beyond the Review:

I may have tricked myself into resolving nothing in particular

Chinese New Year

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I know what you’re all thinking… it’s a new year and the lazy blogger that hasn’t written a word since September is crawling back… making new empty promises… well…

My wife Audrey seems much more enthralled with the idea of new years resolutions than I am. She’s been asking me what I plan on doing to turn my life around  for the past few days now, and my response seems to be something along the lines of “I’m already doing it” and “I don’t think I should start anything new. I must be susceptible to the mere suggestion of new beginnings though, because here I am… missing the blogging and book reviewing I did last year and thinking that maybe I need to schedule it along with several other things into what is soon to be an already full workload of school and employment.

I do loath explaining my plans though, I think mainly because I spend more time doing so than following through with them, so you’ll all just have to take my word that I want to go in a direction with the blog that includes me writing in it.

Enough with the lead-in already!

I just finished reading It Came from Del Rio by Stephen Graham Jones about a day ago. A friend loaned me a copy, he’s a big fan of the local writing scene, and Jones is an author out of Denver. I’ll put a review up of the book sometime this week, but I’ll go ahead and say that it was a worthwhile read. Oh… it’s kinda an odd combination of horror novel, dry wit and border town grit.

I’ve been really getting into Platoon of Power Squadron on youtube (POPS for those of you in the in crowd). The final video for episode 4 just came out today in fact! For people who have not heard of this series, it’s about four roommates that all have super powers but are not the grand super heroes one would expect them to be. It’s hilarious and fairly exciting, and has a fun group of youtube actors in it. Episode 1 is a little slow to start so here’s a trailer for episode 2:

Check out their youtube channel to see all the episodes!

I had a blog idea a while back to help me get motivated to live a bit of a healthier lifestyle. As one might have guessed I stopped writing in the blog around the same time I started it. Surprisingly though, I’ve managed to keep up with the lifestyle choices… so I’ll admit, I’m trying to resurrect that blog as well (and re-vamp it a bit). Check it out if your interested.

The Passage – Justin Cronin | Book Review

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A haunting tale of our immediate future, The Passage details a viral epidemic spreading through North America, changing people into gruesome vampiric creatures. Starting at the beginnings of a government experiment on death-row prisoners, doomed to turn catastrophic; the novel stretches far into the future where few uninfected people are left to survive in the empty reaches of a post-apocalyptic continent.

The first thing that came to mind when reading this novel was how much it reminded me of The Stand by Stephen King. Besides the obvious similarities the books have in simply being epic post apocalyptic stories, there is something much deeper that these books share. Both authors build elaborate back-stories for their characters, explore every nuance of their motivations and then seem to set them free to choose their own fates. Cronin and King can be ruthless, killing off major characters in the turn of a sentence. What is surprising to me is that I hated The Stand, and I loved this book and for the life of me I can’t decide what the distinction is.

Toward the end of the novel Cronin becomes more cautious in his otherwise brutal hand of fate. There is a proposition of two books to follow this one, so there was a point where he needed to set the stage for the next one. It does slow down the pace of an otherwise velocious read, but it makes the inevitable two year cliffhanger bearable.

It is true that Cronin is riding on the tidal wave of vampire fiction of the last few years, but there is something much more powerful that he conjurers with his tale to keep people reading through nearly 800 pages. His story grabs you not because it is fantastic, or horrific but because it speaks to our own everyday experience with life. There are vampires but Cronin uses them to focus on humanity. The lives of the survivors are in fact just as tragic as those of the turned and the dead.  Take this passage:

“sometimes it was one way, easy, and sometimes it was the other, not easy; the things of your life roared down to you and it was all you could do to grab hold and and hang on.  Your old life ended and the train took you away to another, and the next thing you knew you were standing in the dust with helicopters and soldiers all around, and all you had to remember folks by was the picture you found in the pocket of your coat”

This speaks to us, not because some horrible event has torn us from the people we love and care about, but because our own lives have. Cronin reminds us of how short our lives are and how little sense they can make.  Beyond vampires and apocalypse or anything so dramatic, there is something universal in his characters’ loss of purpose in life. It is the hyperbole of the disaster Cronin has created that lets us explore our own sense of loss and defeat in our lives without feeling ashamed of being overly dramatic or sentimental.

Stars 4/5 | 9/10

Get in on the conversation! (comment your answers –  some ideas below)

  • Are you tired of vampire stories?
    • If so, what new subject would you like to see?
    • If not, what’s your favorite written work on vampires?
  • What’s your favorite Apocalyptic or Post-Apocalyptic work of fiction?
    • Why do you think you liked it?
  • Are you dyeing to read the sequel to anything? Do Tell!

Beyond the Review:

Official Site | Open Library | GetGlue | GoodReads | Library Thing | Shelfari

Eyeballs 101

It’s that time again, the beginning of a new school year. I’m taking a variety of classes, but so far the only one that has started is one on animation design. We are building characters from the ground up and hopefully learning methods to draw them in the style of our choosing (or creation). This weeks homework was to draw eyes. Both realistic and cartoonish. There wasn’t really any expectation of making up eyes out of our heads, rather we were instructed to go out and find cartoons and comics and use them as references to draw from.

The weird peanut shapes at the top left hand corner is a warm up exercise that the teacher also suggested. I’m not sure of its merits yet, but considering he can draw circles around me, I thought I would take the guys word for it.

I picked some fairly random stuff out from the library.  The top three eyes with the double highlights are from Rama ½. I am drawn to the manga and anime style of drawing a lot.  That brought me to the second set of three, the very angular eyes from Dragon Ball Z.  It’s funny Toriyama sees very intentional with his sharp edges in his characters. For those unfamiliar with Dragon Ball Z, it’s a very action based manga (and anime) centered around fighting. All the male characters have sharp edges throughout, and the tougher they are the more straight lines he uses. The main character, Goku is practically a giant polyhedron. Takahashi, the artist for Rama ½, uses much more curved lines though.  The last two eyes are from DC comics Finial Crisis. They draw something slightly more realistic, although I should point out that both of these are closeup shots and they pull some of the detail off in their full body poses. These were probably the most difficult for me to do, but some of that is because these are most assuredly done on a computer.

All I can say is Rama ½ characters must spend their entire lives gazing into lit candles, Dragon Ball Z guys could cut you with not only their biceps but their eyebrows too. And although finial crisis art might look impressive it has something to do with the fact that there are 12 people drawing it on a mac pro with Photoshop (OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration… and I can’t do what they do)

Reading The OED – Ammon Shea | Book Review

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For such an arduous endeavor as reading the entire Oxford English Dictionary, Ammon Shea’s account of the experience in his Book Reading the OED is impressive in its brevity and its ability to fascinate.

To Quote Ammon Shea:

“To simply describe the OED as “large” is akin to saying that the bubonic plague was “unpleasant”. It has 21,730 pages. Fifty-nine million words, give or take a few thousand. The most recent print edition, published in 1989, runs to twenty volumes and weights exactly 137.72 pounds.”

The work is organized into chapters corresponding to each letter of the alphabet. Within each chapter is a narrative of She’s own account of reading the dictionary and a list of words with their definitions. Shea also includes commentary on each word, ranging from how the word originated, to self effacing comments about his project using the word in question. The words included are funny, thought provoking and simply interesting in their mere quality of being.

As the year of reading progresses Shea suffers more and more, from headaches, deteriorating vision and a burgeoning addiction to coffee. Surprisingly all these ill-effects of reading the OED fail to surpass the romantic charm of his undertaking. Shea is in love with words, in fact he is in love with the mere idea of their existence.

I imagine that Ammon’s own experience of reading the dictionary was very similar to my experience of reading this memoir, minus the tedium and crushing headaches of course. The structure of the book, following the alphabet creates a sense of tension, excitement and anticipation that the end is coming. In the end I wanted to be there, in the lonesome library basement that Shea spent most of his year, flipping through pages to find treasure troves of words that I never knew existed.

Open Library | GetGlue | GoodReads | Library Thing | Shelfari


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