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Word of the day: Sunk

Long Story Short: Owen hurt the feelings of an ineffable monster in another dimension.

As a general principle the second novel is more important than the first. Anyone can write an interesting book, given enough effort and time. The amount of people who a second interesting book is much smaller. (Of course Larry is far beyond this at this point.) If The Empire Strikes Back had been a flop we would not have Star Wars as a thing these days. Vendetta succeeds at this. Many of the writing bad habits that bothered me from the first book have been ironed out. (Although, Larry still used “Stated” for about a third of dialogue tags. Just one of my pet peeves.) The gun lingo has been dialed down but is still ever present. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, every writer loves their own expertise a little more than their readers. I do remember a time or two where I felt I was missing something by not know what the gun a particular character pulled out looked like.
Pacing is less breakneck than the first book. It was nice to have time to puzzle out the mystery before revelation.
Vendetta isn’t shy about hitting the emotion button.

Last Word: Smile.

Word of the day: Shoot.

Long Story Short: A guy who likes to shoot gets to shoot monsters.

One of the all time great opening lines. The language is rough, this was Larry’s first published book. I recommend people start with either Hard Magic or Son of the Black Sword if you want to see what Larry Correia is all about. But really, you read Correia for the action. Some of the best action scenes I’ve read. This is really heavy in gun terminology I hear that he backs off on that in the later books as he is aiming for a wider audience. (Scatter damage is better against

I read this in the Monster Hunters Omnibus so I didn’t know when the end was coming. As things were ratcheting up near the end I kept finding myself going, “Okay, this is it he can’t get bigger than this.” and kept being wrong. I’m not sure if I can recommend this because the book is heavy, it makes it harder to smuggle into work.

There is a slight language advisory, Larry swears like a dairy farmer, but there isn’t too much in this book. (Although it was more than his other worlds.)

Last Word: Pitt.

True Talents

True Talents by David Lubar

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Long story short: The consequences of having psychic powers starts to hit the group.

This is a different animal from Hidden Talents. We get the POV of various characters and the stakes are much higher. It is less focused because of this but Lubar manages to tie all the threads together. My favorite part of this book is that the boys have ambition, well most of them. They are working toward a goal, they have a plan.

The great thing about the Talents series (of which I hope we get another book so we can figure out what this “pattern” stuff is all about) is how lowkey it is about the powers. They aren’t flying around saving the world. They are just kids trying to figure crap out.

Major Bowdler is an interesting character, he’s motivated by pride but thinks he is teaching people lessons. From all I’ve read of Lubar his major project is exploration of pride. (Even the gameboy Frogger Adventures he wrote for.)

Trigun #1

Long story short: On a inhospitable planet colonized by humans, the force of nature known as Vash The Stampede tries to save everyone who is trying to kill him, while being pursued by two intrepid insurance adjusters.

I luckily found this and volume 2 at a thrift store. There was also a whole shelf of Narutos, but Naruto is kinda the point of no return. (Don’t worry I looked away for a second and the Narutos had disappeared, they are off running at a tilt somewhere.) I’m not sure if I would have picked it up had I not already seen the animation. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s going on, if the pacing were pulled back a little I think it would have worked better.

One interesting thing here is that they reveal the nature of Vash and the Plants much earlier than in the show. This is a good thing I think. My position is that if you have a cool idea it’s always better to give your readers that cool idea as soon as possible. Nothing is more annoying than a story chanting, “I’ve got a secret.”

Anyway, depending on your tolerance of manga this is a great one.

The 2017 Vernon Awards

Well it’s award season. Everyone is quibbling about snubs and erroneous nominations. People are predicting winners and exhibiting their knowledge of the state of the arts. Frankly it is fun, but it can be nerve wrecking if you take it too seriously. There are even people arguing about which award is best. Is it the Oscars or the Golden Globes? Is it the Hugo or the Dragon? TO quote Linkin Park, “In the end it doesn’t even matter.” The true answer is that there is only one award that matters, the ‘what you personally like award’. That’s too long to put on a trophy (they charge by the letter.) so I shortened it to the Vernon Awards. Eligibility depends not on publication date but on when Vernon personally experienced the art. Categories will vary depending on mood and what I remember. (Also whether or not I do this next year depends on if I remember it exists.)

So here I present the 2017 Vernon Awards (which I won’t print trophies for unless the creator begs me.)

Best Book: Unforgettable by Eric James Stone

No one remembers this dude so he decided to be a super cool spy. If you can’t handle quantum mechanics = magic this one might not be for you. I think most people can accept the big lie for the sake of entertainment. Unforgettable does great work avoiding the little lies so it works.

Best Movie: The Little Prince

This movie is filled with so many things that make me happy. It is my soul made art. It is a Netflix exclusive in the U.S.

Best Youtube Video: Here Comes a Thought

I found myself ending every youtube session with this one. It is one of the few moments of peace to be found in this world. (I don’t really know much about the cartoon it came from.)

Best Lego Set: Super Heroes Super Hero Airport Battle 76051

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You can’t beat Gi-Ant man. (Even if he does have a hard time not bending over. I need to figure out how to add some friction to his hip joints.)

Best MegaBloks set: TMNT Krang’s Rampage

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Not only is this based on my childhood cartoon, but the turtles have metal shells and Krang is just perfect. (Young me likes this very much.)

Best Album: Strings of Determination

This is music from a game I haven’t played but the music is perfect for productivity.

Best TV series: Phineas and Ferb.

This show ended in 2015, but they didn’t post on Netflix til 2016 so it counts. P&F is the ultimate anthem for going out and doing things. Top notch writing and solid animation, plus beautiful music.

Best Skylander: Jingle Bells Chompy Mage.

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Gotta love Chompy Mage, he cares only for the smallest and most defenseless of creatures. (Who are absolutely deadly in large numbers.) He has been one of the most entertaining boss battles in previous Skylanders games. Now he is Santa Claus.

Best Grumpy Cat Picture:

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I’d say presented without comment, but this is a comment so . . .

Best Pokemon: Alolan Muk.

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I named him Disco Stu. He is the anchor of my team in Sun.

Best Video Game: Splatoon

This is the only competetive online game I have ever been good enough at for it to be fun. (Unless there is a snow day for most of the US. Then I can’t even get off the spawn point without getting splatted.)

Best Worst Youtube Video: https://youtu.be/ayq41-UJ7Cg

I mean just look at this net!

Best Webcomic: Kiwi Blitz

This was a tough category and I think I graded the heavy hitters too harshly. But Blitz is a plucky comic that has kept going through all sorts of adversity. By that I mean the creator Mary Cagle has kept going on it even though she has had all sorts of other things going on. Most comics like this end as the creators find the need to do other things. Blitz is a labor of love and it shows.

Best Me: Vernon.

If there was another person eligible in this category I’d like to meet them.

Well 2016 sure was something. Personally it has been pretty good. Being out of school has allowed me to think my own thoughts. Having a vacation from work has allowed me to examine my goals and priorities. I’ve been writing far more often. My midsingles ward feels like home and people know I exist.
The prevailing meme these last few months has been 2016 worst year. Yeah, there was a lot of awfulness.

Infighting among our super heroes.
We have lost so many real life legends.
I have lost friends and family.
Our two party system asked us to choose between the worst candidates.
Wars and terrorism burned daily across the planet.

The world have never been safe. 2016 was no different. People will do what we’ve always done, roll with the punches and pick up the pieces. The British “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters have been made fun of so much, but it is a much better policy than “Panic and Fall Apart.”

Heroes are redeemed, that’s how stories work.
There will always be room for new legends, we need to work to be them.
Making new friends doesn’t dishonor the old ones. Loving the family we still have doesn’t desert those not with us.
As always we need to oppose or support our elected officials at every turn. We still have a constitution.
I don’t know how to salve the world’s suffering.

The world is turning still, the sun still burns. We are moving forward whether it seems that way or not. We can make our worlds better. Complaining doesn’t save the world. Facebook isn’t a clear picture of it. You will find what you are looking for. If you look for the negative, it is there. The positive is also there. As for resolutions:

 

bentwook

So that’s a relief. My resolution was broken minutes into 2017. Actually I usually try to write 100 goals. They have to be crossoffable and are often books I want to read or artistic endeavors I want to work on. I usually don’t reach 100 and forget about it but still it is good to plan. Right now I’m sitting at 47. This year I’m going to keep those in the back of my notebook that I carry with me everywhere. If I fill that notebook then I’ll transfer the goals to the new notebook.
Another technique I have picked up is a weekly goal journal. You list three goals. The goals have to be measurable. Measurable is like: get to sleep by ten, write three blog posts, don’t eat ramen for every meal. Unmeasurable is like: be happy, exercise more(unless you track your exercise), be less vague. Every morning you look in the journal to remind yourself of your goals. Then every night you review your goals and write out how you did. The important thing with this goal journal is it not be an overlord. If you didn’t work on a particular goal that day just write that, no biggie.
Renewal is important. It prevents late fees and gives more breathing room. The important thing to remember is that if the rules you impose on yourself are hurting you you can break them.

One thing I find frustrating is adults who feel the need to apologize for their reading habits, whatever those habits are. Nearly everyone does it. “I don’t read as much as I should.” “I don’t read very fast.” “I don’t read anything important.” “I read too much.” My question is: who set these rules? Is there some reading authority out there telling people that reading is a competition? One must read the right books at the right speed in the proper amount. Is there an award for the person who most meets these guidelines? Are the judges secret so one might be talking to a judge at any time? Must we be ready at all times to give the proper answer or face serious consequences?

I think the way we teach reading is making us all so neurotic about it that we can’t focus on the actual reading. Once upon a time when I was going to be a teacher (which I bailed out of when I saw into the yawning chasm of how much more college it would cost me) I learned something important. Books are chosen by teachers or school boards (or the government . . .) not because they are by some metric the great works™ of literature but because they make it easy to teach things from. You can teach symbolism using The Great Gatsby because Fitzgerald thought glowing billboards are subtle. The Scarlet Letter teaches “those nasty teenagers to quit treating each other so poorly.” When you look at “the cannon” you start to realize that most of them contemporary with each other were buddies. Strange that the great works of a given era all come from the same circle of friends, huh. The reality is that what stories survive through the generations are the ones people love. I don’t use “people” in the general sense here. I mean specific real people who held on to the books they loved and shared them (often by educatorial fiat) with other people. Now I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. If you can dodge a wrench you can dodge a ball, as Rip Torn famously said in a movie I can’t recommend. If you can figure out Shakespeare you can figure out Javascript.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that english teachers aren’t the owners of your reading soul. They aren’t the arbiters of your worthyness once you leave class. All they can do is make a mark in a card that you will eventually throw away. You don’t have to answer to them if some random person wants to talk books with you. Generally speaking, most people don’t have time to judge your lives. We’re all too selfish to think of the whole ramifications of someone else only reading two books a month. (Or year, or decade.) When people want to talk books, despite their own insecurities about it, they actually want to talk books. Lets work on not waste those moments on the confessional box.
I want to make a living at writing so I look at the market with all kinds of trepidation. We are competing with videogames, tv/movies, youtube, friendship simulators, arguing with strangers, etc . . . some of which are designed specifically to be addictive. There is no real cure for the Skinner box. Reading books is such a rare thing now. (Although people read much more now than they ever did, the trouble is they are reading regurgitated clickbait.) It’s tough enough out there for a book nerd that we shouldn’t be holding each other or ourselves to these ridiculous guidelines (yes, you must imagine me doing a Captain Barbossa eyeroll here.) Read what you want, at the pace you want, for whatever reason you want, and never apologize for it. (Except for [insert controversial book here], you must totally apologize for that one.)