Book Review: This may Be Graphic

“When you’re done decomposing. . . I mean decompressing. . .”
“I’m not a zombie!”

Hugo Broyler
A futuristic “car” race pits father making a comeback after a huge accident against his champion daughter. But of course things are never that easy.
This turned out to be a much more difficult read than I expected. The best part is the snark. “It ain’t the (computer) chips you should be checking, it’s the salsa.” Even better: “You should have stayed retired.” “You should have stayed in your mother’s womb.” Saying that to his daughter. . .
The bad: his arrogance, for starters. Talk about an unsympathetic antihero! Even worse, he’s hearing a voice in his head that can take over his body, and that’s not the last science-fiction twist here.
The second half starts off as a world history that explains how the technologies and racing came into being, followed by profiles of the teams. . . then becomes a complete role-playing game! What? I ended up skipping that, having absolutely no interest. It dropped the score a point, but I wasn’t enjoying it much anyway, despite being a racing fan.
2/5

The Damned V. 1
1930s mafia stuff—all black and blue, film noir—except the Don is a cross between a bull and a demon. Other characters are similar, still others are all too human.
After a confusing first scene, things get a little better. The best part is the humor, with lines such as “She found herself a better class of lowlife” and “Ain’t that always the way? Lucky to be alive, better off dead.”
The supposed dream sequence was eerie, but ultimately jut a time suck. Took till the next one for me to figure out what it meant. And damn, the Worm is as ugly as you’d expect. . .
Really, if it wasn’t for the demons and being reborn, this is just a gangster story. . . except for the McGuffin.
3/5

Bad Machinery V.1
It’s the first day of high school—I think—at a preppy private school, apparently in England. A group of kids from all levels of wealth—or non-wealth—get along as they try to thwart a Russian billionaire from evicting an old lady to build a new soccer stadium.
Though all of them look dour, except for the overly excited Linton, at the beginning, the main thing here is the sense of humor by most of them. The whole book is actually made up of pretty hilarious moments, even by the teachers, especially the one talking about losing his hair in warlike terms. I particularly like Lottie’s scientific snark, and the blonde gets some good ones about her dad’s music selections. But my fave line had to be “Today might be the start of a troubled adolescence,” as said by the adolescent herself.
The ending, however, was kinda anticlimactic; might have scored higher had it been better.
Ends with 15 pages of extras, including a glossary of British terms—mostly Cockney—and a history of the soccer team in question.
3.5/5

Pink Panther V.1
Subtitled “The cool cat is back!”
In the first of a number of vignettes, the panther in question—at one point called the “blush-colored buffoon”—is coming home from a grocery run and picks up Thor’s Hammer. . . seriously. But his dream of being a superhero is derailed by not knowing how to operate the damned thing, as well as its angry owner coming back to reclaim it.
There are even shorter funny stories in between, like an ant getting an anteater to do his vacuuming. One chapter even takes a turn toward the Gumby in a library. Never be the clown at a spoiled three-year-old’s party. Learn how to impress Hot Redhead Cavegirl. Flyswatters totally work on vampires.
The last 20 pages or so were one-off jokes and sketchbooks.
If these writers wanted to follow the slightly askew and vaguely juvenile humor of the original, mission accomplished.
3.5/5

Generation Zero Volume 1: We Are the Future
As a lot more comics should do, this starts with a character page, though barely a quote on each. The “big bad” only gets a shadow. Once in the story the characters are introduced at a concert and while playing VR games, which also has some plot drops, including the fact that Mexico City is nothing but a crater due to the military playing with supersoldiers.
The action moves to the planned community of Rook, Michigan, derisively called the Redneck Dubai, which made me laugh more than I should probably admit. Couldn’t help but think that the drawing of the town showed what a dangerous place it was to put an airport, especially with that giant bridge nearby. Anyhoo, the daughter of the local sheriff calls the now-free and freelancing supersoldiers for help when she thinks her boyfriend is killed in this supposedly perfect town.
As with many graphic novels nowadays, the story takes second fiddle to the humor. Some of my fave lines:
“They’re deader than disco.”
“Weaponized geometry!”
“On the one hand, my personal integrity. On the other. . . free beer.”
“Fungible.” “Oooh, good SAT word.”
“I’m Jane Austen’s wet dream.”
About a superhero that can read minds: “The inside of her head is one infinite YouTube comments page.”
At one point they’re suddenly inside an Archie’s comic, though in the end I was fine with that. Felt the same way about the artwork: fine, no big deal. Basically there’s so much funny in here you almost don’t care about the plot; I was simply looking for the next awesome joke.
4/5

;o)

We DO Need Some Stinkin’ Badges!

That’s if you want to get into the cool places. With nothing all the special left on the horizon of December, here’s my top three of the year.
(Notice it does not include the Rio Olympics; even if I remembered what happened to it, it would not have made the cut.)

#3

#3

#2

#2

#1

#1

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Blind

By the Bard of World War 1, Siegfried Sassoon. (Sounds totally German but he was a Brit!)

His headstrong thoughts that once in eager strife
Leapt sure from eye to brain and back to eye,
Weaving unconscious tapestries of life,
Are now thrust inward, dungeoned from the sky.
And he who has watched his world and loved it all,
Starless and old and blind, a sight for pity,
With feeble steps and fingers on the wall,
Gropes with his staff along the rumbling city.

;o)

Book Reviews: Hookers, Dogs, and Lawyers

“Don’t tell anyone, under penalty of noogie. . .”

Serena’s Plight
. . . turns out not to be a plight at all.
A recent high-school graduate—barely—is offered a business deal by an ex-boyfriend who got into an Ivy League university: she becomes a paid companion—as opposed to out and out whore—he’ll be her pimp, and they’ll both make a lot of money.
This was much better, much more than I anticipated; so much more than just the sex. Love the main character and her sense of humor. I was surprised by her insights, of which there were a lot, as this was first person. Obviously I’ve never wondered what a young call girl thinks of, but the author made me like the character, care about her.
It’s also great how she cares about her boys, helps them with their social anxieties and disorders, especially Bartholomew and James. She’s almost like a therapist with benefits. More than anything else, she’s a good person. Her biggest problem is a couple of her would-be johns are mean to her; she got spoiled by the first couple of nice boys.
It’s not often a book leaves me pleasantly surprised. I look forward to the next.
There’s one booboo: near the beginning Sam says he received a scholarship to be on the wrestling team at Cornell, but Ivy League schools do not award athletic scholarships. But that’s the only nitpick. It doesn’t end in a cliffhanger, but there’s definitely a “to be continued.”
4/5

Fifty Nifty Facts about Dogs
Like the one about cats, this is basically a printed version of a slideshow you click on from Facebook. Dogs stick their heads out cars for the odors? For me that was the most interesting one, along with noseprints for dogs=fingerprints for humans
A few were fun, most were general knowledge. No big.
3/5

Doubt
A newly minted lawyer who used to be a hacker gets an impossible first case: “prove something no one has ever proved before—that GMOs have the capacity to kill people.” Facing an opponent that will kill to win, she has to find a murdered scientist’s paper and then a witness while facing threats from within as well as without.
The great lead character is the best part of a book that could have been serious and dour, but thankfully is peppered with humor. My favorite line was the little kid who admits, “I haven’t pooped since Denver.” Most of this takes place in Los Angeles—the Huntington and UCLA are mentioned—with trips to Vegas, Northern California, and the east coast, though there isn’t much time for sightseeing when you’re being hunted by assassins.
Perhaps one too many twists at the end, but overall just the right amount of suspense without becoming overwhelming.
4/5

Moral Defense
The second in the new series by Marcia Clark, featuring an amazing lead character: a bend-the-rules defense attorney who’s always taking on more than she can chew.
The main case involves a family being murdered, with only one survivor, who is now her client, partly because it’s so high-profile but mostly because it’s personal for her. Another job has to do with a loose end I remember from the first book, so glad to see it picked up here. There’s a couple of other threads as well, so it helps that she has two able and funny assistants. More importantly, a lot of writers would have made the cases tie together at the end, which I always find too much of a coincidence to buy, but thankfully that doesn’t happen here.
What often makes a good book despite other problems—which is not the case here, just an example—is the lead character. It takes skills for a defense attorney to be on the run from gangbangers, drug dealers, and crooked cops all at once, and none of them had anything to do with the primary case. When she stops at In-n-Out I love her even more.
So this was great, but maybe a little less great than the first. This one was a little too convoluted, especially at the end, but still well worthwhile.
4/5

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Clerks Pretend to be Shepherds

Peire Cardinal was an actual troubadour, who lived in the 13th century and really did go all around Europe giving concerts. Wonder how much of a cut Ticketmaster demanded. . .

The clerks pretend to be shepherds, and under
A show of sanctity are
Ravening cutthroats.
When I see one shimmy
Into a cassock
I think of Alengri the wolf,
Who thought to break into
The sheep-cote but was
Afraid on account of the mastiffs. . .
But then he had an idea.
He pulled a sheepskin over his head
And ate as much as he liked.

Kings, emperors, dukes, counts, and knights
Used to rule the world.
Now the priests have the power, got
By robbery, treachery, sermons,
Force and hypocrisy.

;o)

Lindsey Stirling LIVE!

Wow.
No way to put into words how amazing and majestic the Lindsey Stirling concert was, even a week later. Magical might touch on it just for starters, and I’m not referring to her being sawed in half and suddenly appearing in an empty box, though she did that too.
So, we’ll see if my vaunted memory is up to the task of going song by song. . . probably not, considering the Meet and Greet is all a giant blur. And with the events of that week, it was a most welcome escape from reality, even for only a few hours.
And if you wonder why there’s no photos or videos here, you can pick any of these three reasons (though you should probably lean toward the last): A. I simply wanted to enjoy every moment. B. My phone’s camera is crappy. C. We were told before the show started, to the point of signing a release form—and it was pretty obvious during—that the concert was being filmed for DVD release.

Meet and Greet
Due to my back going out that morning, as it usually does once or twice a year—I really shoulda stayed in bed, but couldn’t miss this—I sat down at one of the few tables while everyone else lined up, so I would be last, which was fine with me. Kit didn’t look tired as he took the book I’d brought to be autographed as well as my cane, and thankfully Lindsey still looked fresh as an electric daisy violin as she asked me my name and gave me an unsolicited hug; the only reason I know this is because Other Lindsey took a photo of it, I swear I don’t remember. I asked if we could get into a tango pose, but never got to do it fully—check photo header of this blog—before she signed the book and a poster. She asked me if I was a dancer, no doubt due to the tango pose, which was really the last thing I wanted to talk to her about. Frankly, the whole thing seems like a blur now; I’m surprised I remember that much.

Soundcheck: Mirror Haus
After a lot of questions answered yet leaving many not—due to time constraints—this song is played in a Spaghetti western version, as she calls it, the main difference being Kit playing an acoustic guitar rather than keys.

Opening Act: The Federal Empire
Two guitars and a keyboard make up this band. These guys are much better live than when I checked out their music on the internet. Just sayin’.

1 The Phoenix
I was already spoilered to the big reveal, so I don’t mind telling you I knew that wasn’t Lindsey playing at the beginning of the song, at the top of the six-foot-tall center-stage pedestal that looks freakin’ dangerous. Instead she would come out of the back of the auditorium; the only question was on which side would she mount the stage. . . and even that wasn’t as much of a mystery, since I’d seen a roadie place some portable steps pretty much in front of me. So yes, I was looking around waiting to see her pop by while everyone else’s eyes were fastened on the stage. Saw some security people first, and then the spotlight hit her, maybe twenty feet away from me; not all the close considering she’d given me a hug a couple of hours earlier, but much cooler as this time she was playing the violin. A little later she actually apologized to the women she’d scared while coming toward the stage.
Once on stage all the dancers joined her with violins in front of the bottom screens, creating silhouettes as if to continue disguising which one was the star, but since she’s always in the middle it wasn’t that hard to figure out. But the most fun was watching Drew crashing the cymbals like they’d vastly insulted him, as well as her enjoyment of pizzicato. . .

2 Electric Daisy Violin
One of the few of my old faves that she did, though this one’s all about the music; she uses the same choreography she did in the music video, which is pretty rudimentary. I just love how joyful this song is, and her beatific smile playing it.

3 Prism
With the release of the music video for this song, cleverly named “The Violindseys,” just a week or so before, there were no surprises in the choreography, and in fact the video ran behind them as they danced/played; it even started with her booty shake. And this is when I first noticed Savannah was my fave dancer, as I ended up watching her as much as Lindsey. Somehow the music seemed to flow more smoothly than the studio version, and even though I liked this one before, it feels even catchier now.

4 Shatter Me
The first costume change—or maybe she just threw the pink tutu on over the shorts and suspenders ensemble—leads into Lindsey singing for only the second time, doing a soft harmonizing version of the chorus before it breaks into its usual hard rockness. The 3-D gearworks on the screens. . . obviously they fit the song, but felt they went on too long. The landscapes didn’t help either; it wasn’t till the globe shattered that it really worked. Really nothing here that makes it better than the previous version.

5 Lost Girls
Though it’s billed as a sequel to “Shatter Me,” what happens to the ballerina after she escapes the snow globe, it doesn’t really come through here. Instead we get one of the dancers—Malece, in this case—being bullied by the others as she tries to join their choreo. There’s a lot of floating lights as the innovative front screen is used for the first time. If I’m remembering correctly, a dark figure—played by Ashley—gives her super dance powers or something, and then she’s accepted. . . but then I really wasn’t there for the story, so whatever. As with everything, it’s really the music that matters.

6 Elements
Lindsey has a lot of fun in this one, with giant bubbles coming down on the front screen; she either jumps into them or kicks them out of existence. Lots of interpretive dance to fire and rain. I’ve only seen this on video before, but it looks like it’s the same as before.

Interlude Video: Everything Goes Wrong
In the great tradition of her “Diva” and “Wet” videos, here’s another brief comedy where Erich the stage manager lets her know that among other mishaps, Luna peed in the shoes she’s presently wearing. When Kit drops pickle juice on her tutu it’s the last straw, and even when she thinks she has everything back in control she has to steal a little girl’s tiny violin in order to make it to the next song.

7 Tiny Violin Medley
“Gimme an A,” she asks Kit, who dutifully plays it on his toy piano as they sit cross-legged at the front of the stage. It takes a while for the tiny violin we saw in the video to be tuned to the point where she can play the first song she’d ever learned, the same song everyone learns no matter the instrument; even I’ve played it on the harp at a festival. Kit joins her on “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” while Drew does the Rock Out finger gesture. From there they go into a medley of vaguely familiar songs that are either from video games or movies, all done for the cute, and it works.

8 Something Wild
Like the first few times I heard “Shatter Me” without the lyrics, this takes a bit of getting used to without Andrew McMahon telling you to follow your heart. It’s also different with Kit playing acoustic guitar rather than keys, making it sound completely folksy. By now I’m thoroughly used to Drew’s cajon, though. Lindsey actually does more dancing here than on the video.

9 Gavi’s Song
After a touching ramble for those who don’t know about Gavi, she launches into a lovely rendition of this amazing dirge. The abstract visuals help a little, but it’s the music that matters here. #WeAreGavi

10 Those Days
The second part of the Gavi tribute features clips of them together, and completely overwhelm this simple but catchy tune. All good, though. My fave piece is included, where Gavi holds out the side of his hand and Lindsey uses a finger to bow across it, a violinist’s version of a fist bump that leaves her laughing. Another highlight comes from a documentary where she’s overwhelmed by the pressure and Gavi comforts her. Then the dancers join her in flowing white dresses in a more classical dance than the modern versions done so far. These two pieces were so lovely, a welcome break from the big show.

11 Crystallize
Like “Tom Sawyer” at a Rush concert, Lindsey always plays her breakthrough hit, with the ice castle on the screens. Can’t say for sure if it’s the same choreography, but likely. Sadly she didn’t do her signature limbo-winning backbend, where her ponytail touches the floor; maybe it’s gotten old for her.

12 Hold My Heart
For most of the audience I would bet this was the highlight, regardless of what their favorite song is. It starts with the dancers, in beautiful costumes, putting on a small vaudeville/Keystone cops skit while Lindsey does a costume change. Never figured out which song that was playing on the old-timey piano, but after having some fun with magic wands—Malece goes crazy and then gets the only non-floating stick—they go into the audience for a can-can, bringing up a guy to dance with them. When he sits down Addie offers him flowers, which she of course pulls away at the last moment. After doing that twice, she’s the one who’s surprised when on the third try it’s Savannah who steals the fake bouquet and runs back on stage. This is the most playful they get, so I enjoyed the hell out of it.
Okay, by now Lindsey’s ready in her circus ringmaster outfit, though the tails are much longer than her shorts. . . probably for a reason, as we’ll find out soon. While we’re gawking at the surprise appearance of ZZ Ward to sing the song live, Lindsey and her dancers are preparing for the first trick, which has the petite and bendy violinist being cut in half. Good thing they matched shoes, because it was really convincing, at least to someone who doesn’t know how the trick is done. Even better, a few minutes later, rather than disappearing, Lindsey appears in a previously empty-except-for-violin box, which is a tougher trick to do; she makes it look easy, and the music never falters.

The Luna Show
Luna Latte sits and stays like a champ, but truly shines when she walks and spins. According to Lindsey, the best she’s done all tour; she’s having a proud momma moment. Extra bacon for the puppy on me!
(Okay, if you’ve read this far and don’t know Luna is Lindsey’s dog. . .)

13 The Arena
My favorite song from the new album is next, with full-blown Teddy Roosevelt quote to kick things off. The front screen is again employed, with a lot of images formed from what looks like sand, as Lindsey plays on the pedestal; I don’t know if that’s a callback to the video or if she knows arena is Spanish for sand. At one point she kicks out and the sand-man giving her lip dissolves. Large words appear, much like in Transcendence in a previous concert. It closes with the final, most important part of the quote, and Lindsey runs off for another costume change as Kit plays us out on a soft almost-romantic keyboard version of the theme.

14 Mirage
Lindsey appears on the pedestal in semi-sari, joined by the dancers wearing more Arabian Nights garb for definitely Indian-inspired dancing. Mandala-themed images play on the screens; even without the music, there’s no doubt what inspired this song. A contraption known as an invisible chair is now on the pedestal to make Lindsey look like she’s floating; the falling skirt hides it well. The dancers bring out giant red feathers to envelop the star at the end.

15 Stars Align
After a short “You guys have been amazing!” she runs to the top of the pedestal with the customary starry scenes behind her as she plays her usual closer, not forgetting the Britney Spears-like dancing interludes. Malece does her weird flips that always look like she got it wrong and fell on her ass, followed by the fun footwork that makes this song so good despite how silly the music video was.

Encore: Roundtable Rival/Don’t Let This Feeling Fade medley
Some people still don’t know you don’t leave the concert after the “last” song. When the lights come back up Kit is making an electric guitar scream before starting the familiar riff, quickly joined by Lindsey to jam on the pedestal for a few seconds, leading into what has to be her most recognizable song. A leap from four stairs up signals the start of the Wild West danceoff, with scenes from Westerns playing behind them.
As the music turns to the next piece—I hate that song—the dancers go behind quickly brought-out screens to take off their western duds, leaving them clad in neon sports bras. Lindsey’s clothes also show off plenty of neon as the dreaded rap goes over and over. It gets a little surreal as the dancers do some tap steps around Lindsey’s playing, until she comes down to join them with one more snippet of the Roundtable Rival chorus.

The feeling might not fade, but the music does. After dancer intros the entire crew comes out to bow, including a Drew split and a crewmember backflip. Drew tosses a drumstick to Kit so they can each throw one into the audience, and we’re done. . .
From what I’d seen online, I’d been afraid the visuals would be too much, the music too loud, the lights too bright; too impersonal. That we wouldn’t get the same girl-next-door best-friend Lindsey that we all know and love. Thankfully it wasn’t like that at all, once again proving that a live show is way better than a video.
Doesn’t mean I’m not going to buy the DVD when it comes out. . .
;o)

Book Reviews: It’s All Graphic

The times when I have been most happy are when I’m in a new place, find a spot to stand, and simply look around, no doubt smiling goofily.

Ghoul Scouts: Night of the Unliving Undead
As the title implies, scouts are attacked by zombies. Five survive, armed with baseball bats, frying pans, slingshots, and a potato gun. A little hilarity and a lot of fright ensues.
When it comes down to it, it’s a funny bit of fluff without anything meaningful to it, so as far as entertaining pre-teens or so, it works, even though the ending was too a bit of a cop-out. I just want to know how these zombies found the intelligence and patience to climb into a suit of armor and then wait to spring the ambush!
After the first few chapters there’s some sketches, and there’s a “making of” little documentary toward the end.
3.5/5

Lords of the Jungle
Sheena and Tarzan, despite the different time periods, team up to fight environmental abuse. Sheena magically travels from the Amazon to Africa, where there’s a similar problem with exploitation, but must take a ship to London like a mortal when she’d trying to get Tarzan involved. She even joins the circus.
There’s a few major problems with this treatment of the legends. For one thing, it looks completely ridiculous to have Sheena talking out loud while she’s fighting. But the biggest complaint I have with this. . . I get that a woman wrote this and doesn’t want this to be a focus, but the fact no man, particularly the bad guys, even mentions the fact she’s a gorgeous blonde scantily clad in a few scraps of leopard skin is unbelievable, and so unrealistic it’s a huge distraction. And by the way, she’s actually more attractive in shorts and shirt. More than anything, though, there’s far too much talk. Not that there isn’t action, but the exposition is shoved down the reader’s throat.
I did like the twist that had them traveling to yet another time frame. “The future is. . . not very clean.” But the sad fact is this could have and should have been better.
2.5/5

Miraculous: Origins
Apparently based on an animated TV show I’ve never heard of, the story follows some ancient powerful jewelry—which look like they could be bought at a thrift store—that hold the key to world domination, or something like that. One of them is captured by an evil villain, and he forces it to help him find the others.
Rather than conventional artwork this is more the 3D digital type, with the characters placed on realistic-looking backgrounds. Sometimes it works; the girl, for example, looks cute despite the purple hair. When she does a faceplant it looks realistic and completely hilarious. She’s gotta be the superhero that giggles the most. Oddly enough, she reminds me of Lindsey Sterling’s avatar in the “We Are Giants” video, and the guy has the same pose as the blonde kid at one point. You’d need to watch it to know what I’m talking about, but it’s either an eerie coincidence or a homage.
Some parts of the story are not very original, like having a blonde alpha bitch at school, and a redheaded teacher named Miss Bustier. In the outdoor scenes there’s so many background items and events that tell you this is Europe, more specifically France, especially the car designs.
Most of the jokes are silly, but once in a while a real gem comes out. But c’mon, guns that go “Pew!” are not going to work on a stone monster. (And that reminds me of another moment from the aforementioned video, with the flying tomato. . .)
3.5/5

Zoe Dare vs The Disasteroid
This semi sci-fi story features a stuntwoman rounded up by the government to halt an asteroid from crashing and destroying the planet, though of course they’re wrong about what it really is.
After a brief teaser on how she’s trying to save the world, it’s back in time to her on her motorcycle, doing a big-time aerial trick in Vegas. This is done so the reader will know her sister is her ground control, and Dad did stunts too. Eventually the story goes back to where it was at the beginning, with her flying off world with her most hated enemy to stop the “Disasteroid,” the naming of which is the funniest part of the story.
There’s one robot who only speaks in social media, saying things like, “LOL, hashtag irony,” “Hashtag WordsHurt,” and “Hashtag ImOverIt.” The bad guy is basically an alien version of The Joker.
But my problem with this is Zoe, the protagonist, who simply did too many stupid things for her to be likeable. Can’t help but think if the genius sister had been in charge this would have been more fun, and over a lot quicker. Another problem is that no matter the most gruesome of injuries, everyone survives again and again!
At the end of first issue there’s character sketches, both literal and literary, which were pretty helpful.
2/5

;o)