Monday, December 24, 2007

Person of the Year

As you've no doubt heard by know Vlad Putin has been made Time magazine's Person of the Year.
Time have a track record for choosing interesting people for this award including Hitler and Stalin. But I can understand this two choices, in 1938 when Hitler won the award he was rebuilding Germany quite successfully, and in 1939 and 1942 'Uncle Joe' was creating a workers paradise and winning the second world war. But Putin ... hmmm ... apart from rigging an election or two does he really deserve to be man of the year.

Let's look at the reasons given by Time in there editorial " With an iron will - and at significant cost to the principles that free nations prize - Putin has brought Russia back as a world power. It was his year." I don't agree with this statement, yes Putin has brought a measure of stability to the Federation but is Russia a world power again? I was thinking that runner up Al Gore has had more influence than Putin. Time make no distinction for positive or negative influence in there choice and in the end it means nothing other than a talking point, and an excuse to sell magazines.

If you're interested in seeing past winners visit the following and take in the eclectic list that is Time's Person of the Year at;

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Game of Thrones

A Song of Fire and Ice is one of my favourite fantasy series and I am eagerly waiting for the next instalment. But until that arrives I can happily play the amazing board game based on these books.
A Game of Thrones is the first game in the series and allows players to take on the role of the major houses and try and win the throne through wheeling and dealing, backstabbing, invasion and other fun things. The game really captures the feel of the book as players wheel and deal there way to victory.

Grab a copy or find someone who owns one, like me, and prepare to conquer the kingdom.

Friday, December 14, 2007

There goes the galaxy

Troy Denning has written the latest installment in the Star Wars extended universe called Inferno. It is now 30 years after The Return of the Jedi and the universe is still a dangerous place with the Sith threatening to return to power. Overall I enjoyed this book, Denning knows the characters, and writes them well.

So what actually happens in this novel. Jacen Solo has taken the name of Darth Cadeaus and is in control of the Galactic Alliance, while an opposition has formed against him. Jacen believes he is the only one who can save the universe from terrorism and will do anything to ensure this, even ambushing his own parents and turning against the Jedi.

Luke is still recovering from the death of his wife Mara Jade, killed by Jacen though Luke does not know this. He has to decide whether he will support the Galactic Alliance which seems to be turning bad, or become a rebel again and do what he thinks is right.

So Star Wars history is repeating itself. Still I enjoyed this book and where the universe is going.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Here's one for the geeks in your life. Julian Dibble has written a book called Play money : or, How I quit my day job and made millions trading virtual loot about his experience playing MMORPG's and the real world economies that develop around them. Especially the trading of virtual items for real money on eBay.
Dibble is an interesting writer who charts his progress from a noob, and his first experience of being pwned.

A fun read, the book also goes into quite interesting discussions about economies and the massive amounts of money spent buying rare items, as well as the philosophical discussion amongst players about whether it is the right thing to do.

Grab a copy and may the geek be with you.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Modern Fairytale

Linda Medley has created a marvelous fairytale called Castle Waiting. The story isn't about the battle of good and evil, or rescuing the fair princess, instead it is about community, and the support of friends.
Castle Waiting is full of amazing, and breathtaking, black and white illustrations that bring the story to life. Anyone reading this tale will want to stop and spend some time just looking at the illustrations, to take in all the detail and artistry.

Do yourself a favour and grab a copy, it's great for curling up with and losing yourself for a few hours.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Go Suns!

Jack McCallum spent a year with the Phoenix Suns and wrote about it in his outstanding book :07 Seconds or Less. My Season on the Bench with the Runnin' and Gunnin' Phoenix Suns. This wonderful book shows what it is like to play professional basketball in the NBA. Players and coaches all appear in this book and it is a great way to see what happens behind the scenes, and the work that the average fan doesn't see. The fact that coaches spend up to 18 hours a day in each others company talking basketball for seven months of the year, the trainer whose job it is to make sure players equipment, bags and the such get from city to city, and the great job of making sure players don't get into trouble on days off.
You also see the pain, and pressure players are put under when they play for a championship contender.

Overall a great read, it's taken me about a day to finish it. One for basketball fans, and sports fans. By the way the title refers to how long the Suns are expected to pass the ball around in offence before taking a shot.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Assassin's Creed by Ubisoft Montreal is an amazing game that takes predominately takes place in the Holy Lands in the year 1191 during the Third Crusade.
The character you play Altair (الطائر, Arabic, "The Flying One"), a member of the Hashshashin cult, is tasked with killing nine prominent people who are propagating the crusade.

The story takes place in Acre, Jerusalem, Damascus and Masyaf. Each city is accurately depicted and true to the period the game is set in. Also all the people that Altair assassinates are historical figures who either died or disappeared in 1191, though not necessarily through assassination.

The game itself is outstanding, and the producers should be highly praised for the inventiveness shown in this game. The way Altair interacts with the environment and the slowly unfolding conspiracy all point to the amount of work the programmers have put into this product. I cannot recommend this highly enough.

And if you are looking for more information on the Hashshashin cult try reading The Assassins. A radical sect in Islam by Bernard Lewis.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Now that the dust has settled and a new government has been swept into power its time to think about the process we just went through. Politics in Australia has degenerated, like in many other countries, to a battle for the middle ground. Safe politics were you don't have to stand for anything, therefore your platform is an amorphous blob as well as a 'small target'.
I demand more from the people I want running my country, I want them to stand for something, I want them to make a difference. Instead my cynicism is in full blown attack mode as another centre party takes the stage. This election campaign has been BEIGE and I'm sick of beige politics.
It's clear in my mind that right and left have no meaning in discussions of political ideology anymore. I find the terms limiting and blinkered, and lead to 'turf' wars that avoid solutions and focus on terminology. We should be encouraging our politicians to try and be forces for change, and innovation, not sound bites that have to stay 'on message'.
There are some obvious problems facing Australia's future, and they don't have anything to do with interest rates, unemployment, and the economy. Indigenous Australians and the environment are two challenges for the future. Our new PM has promised to apologise to Aborigines and sign Kyoto. I hope his plans go deeper than that, both these issues are complex and need leadership to start the process for improving the situation, and for too long they have been ignored by major politicians and deserve more than symbolic actions to set them right.
As you have probably guessed I haven't voted for a major party since I voted for Paul Keating. (He was never beige).
So, keep watching your elected reps. closely and make sure they are striving to make this country better.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Saga of Seven Suns

Kevin J Anderson writes science fiction. He writes different types of science fiction. He is at his best when he is writing space opera though, and the Saga of Seven Suns is just that.
Starting in book one called, Hidden Empire, the series is at least six books long now with no signs of finishing yet.

If you like large series with lots of characters, political intrigue, dangerous actions and general skulduggery, then this is what you are after. Anderson likes to work on a large stage, and the Saga of the Seven Suns is a LARGE stage. Be prepared to remember lots of character names, and places.

Overall though I do like these books and can say fans of science fiction should enjoy them as well.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Desert War

Reading Robin Neilland's Eighth Army has given me a greater appreciation of what my grandfather did in the Second World War.
My grandfather lowered his age and joined up and was sent to training in Palestine, before fighting against the Vichy French in Syria, and the Germans in North Africa. My grandfather was a stretcher bearer, and the Australian forces he served with were part of the Eighth Army.

Neilland's book follows the Eighth Army from its beginnings in North Africa until the end of the war in Italy, and focuses on the battles it fought in, and the units that made it up.

One of the great things about the Eighth Army was its multicultural nature, units from Australia, England, Scotland, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Poland, France and Italy all fought in it at one time or another.

This has been a great read, that has plenty of interviews with soldiers involved with the Eighth Army which helps to bring out the character of this important moment in World War Two history.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Death

I recently re-read The Death of Superman and it reminded me of what a big deal it was. Sure superheros had died before, but here was the first, and greatest, dead.
The story itself is not to bad, Superman sacrifices himself to protect Metropolis from Doomsday, after the JLA are swept aside by this new foe.

News services around the world reported about the death of Superman, and no comic event since has generated this amount of interest. One of the most recognisable icons in the world was dead.

Of course he came back, three days later in fact, highlighting the similarities with the Christ story.

Have a look and see that heroes can die.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Playing Video games

OK, I'll admit it, I like to play video/console games. For some reason mainstream society cannot seem to admit that this is an acceptable pastime and yet and some point nearly all of us have played one.
And the industry has come a long way since Pong, Space Invaders and Frogger. More and more designers are trying to push the boundaries of how computer games work, trying to increase the immersiveness, and trying to tell interesting stories.
One major hurdle to this is the lack of a proper rating system for games in this country. The government repeatedly refuses to bring in a system similar to movies that would include an R rating, rather than banning games it considers to be too violent etc. Statistics show that the average age of gamers is 25-35 and getting older, yet these adults cannot chose for themselves whether they would like to play certain games. Who said censorship was dead?
But, I can hear you saying, violent video games lead to violent children! This old canard has been brought out many times, yet there is no concrete evidence to support it. But you will continue to hear it. Using myself as an example I've killed millions of people/aliens/robots and God knows what else and feel no urges to go on a killing spree. In fact I think I'm calmer because of this. I've also driven thousands of cars at high speeds, and through pedestrians (in Carmageddon), and have yet to incur a speeding ticket, or be involved in an accident.
I consider myself a fairly average member of society, and I can tell the difference between reality and fiction, just like the millions of other people who play video games.
Now I'll get off my high horse and tell you about some great blogging that's being done about games. One of the best, and one I'll add to my blog roll, is by N'Gai Croal and called Level Up.
Croal is a great writer whose passion for his chosen topic is evident in every post, and it is a great way to find out what is happening in the world of video games.
So approach gamers, and video games with an open mind and you may just be surprised.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Go Forth ...

This series of weekly picks were found reading One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night by Christopher Brookmyre, while listerning to The Who Live at Leeds.
They then read New York. Life in the Big City by Will Eisner.


Ever wondered what it feels like to be a professional sports star in America? Then check out Gilbert Arenas' blog called Agent Zero (after the number he wears).
Arenas is a superstar in the basketball world and a genuine character, he calls out 'Hibatchi' when he shoots 3 pointers.

He has a great sense of humour, and is one of the few players to wear low cut sneakers.

Anyway check out his blog and enjoy the fun, and madness.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Moore and the Swamp

I have been recently reading Alan Moore's run on The Saga of the Swamp Thing, and marveling at his writing. Moore has always been an impressive writer, but there are times when he constructs a phrase that stops you cold, and you have to read it again.
For example in this run Moore describes the Flash like this, "a man who moves so fast that his life is an endless gallery of statues." One sentence and Moore has cut to the heart of the character.
The Swamp Thing is another tragic character who is at first searching for his humanity, but later learns to accept what he has become, an earth elemental tasked with protecting the Parliament of Trees. (The group consciousness of all plants on Earth.)
Moore's writing is great and i found myself wanting to read just one more page before putting it down. Moore will also make you think, as this series is a long discussion about what makes a person human, and what makes a person a hero.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

English History

Warren Ellis has written an account of the battle of Crecy, which has great black and white art from Raulo Caceres and is called Crecy.
The narrator is one of the nameless archers who make up the English army, and by the end of this graphic novel you will know a lot about archery. The battle itself is famous for really beginning the decline of the knight as a weapon of war.

12,000 English faced 86,000 French knights and mercenaries. By the end of the battle somewhere between 40 and 400 English soldiers had been killed, while the French lost 30,000 troops. This figure included eleven princes, 1,200 knights, King Philip's brother Charles, and King John of Bohemia.

The English longbow had triumphed and would pave the way for other missile weapons which still dominate battlefields today.

The story itself is well told and only takes up around 44 pages, and the narrator is an interesting fellow who is almost outside time as he looks to the future, and the past.

If you wanted to be critical you could say that it is an English writer looking back to a time when England actually mattered in the world, but I wont. Overall a great read.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Go Forth ...

This series of weekly picks are brought to you by Gomez's Liquid Skin.

BOOK: Neal Asher - Polity Agent

GRAPHIC NOVEL: Alan Moore - The Saga of the Swamp Thing

Friday, October 26, 2007

Libraries 2.0

I haven't written a blog about my Web 2.0 training lately as I have found that it feels pointless to write about whether I've done something or not.
Forced blogging defeats the purpose of blogs in the first place. If I like an idea I will add it to my blog, but spruik it to others ... not likely.
Blogs are for whimsy, and whatever takes your fancy, and they won't appeal to everyone. And people should not be forced to write things if they don't want to. I like blogging, but am more interested in writing about books, pop culture, computer games and hobbies than feeling like I must produce a piece of writing letting everyone know that I've visited technorati. (I have and have added a widget to my blog.)
So the course goes on, and I'll continue to visit sites and play around, just don't be surprised if I refuse to diligently write posts about it. Watch my blog though as it will change.
Meanwhile I have a pile of things that need to be read and there's always a new game I could play.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Great Nicki

On Tuesday night my library hosted an event with graphic novelist Nicki Greenberg, as she took us through her amazing adaption of The Great Gatsby.
Nicki is an amazingly talented artist whose enthusiasm for her chosen medium is infectious. She gave us a director's commentary on the process of creating such an amazing piece of work, and also discussed layout and the design process.

Overall the night was highly informative, and interesting.
Feel free to visit Nicki's blog which I will put in my blog roll.
(And yes that's me in the picture being a complete fanboy as Nicki signs my copy of The Great Gatsby.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Neal Asher

Neal Asher is a great science-fiction writer. Pick up any of his books and you will be in for an amazing read, with politics, action, well written plots and interesting characters. (Even if some of them are A.I.s) Start with Gridlinked and then work your way through the others and I guarantee you will be hooked.
Asher also has very firm political views, and he doesn't suffer fools gladly. Read his blog, a link can be found in my blog roll, and be prepared to be forced to think about things. Asher is not a fan of what he sees as environmental idiots pushing global warming disaster scenarios. Now I'm not saying I totally agree with him, but it is good to see someone who is willing to ask questions and poke holes in arguments rather than blindly jumping on bandwagons. (Al Gore and the British Government are two common targets for Asher's anger.)
Have a read of Asher's blog or just read his novels, but I'm warning you he'll make you think.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Go Forth ...

Another look at me weekly picks;

CD: Gold - Ryan Adams

BOOK: The Dragonbone Chair - Tad Williams


Friday, October 19, 2007

Justice like lightning

I'm never quite sure what Warren Ellis thinks about superhero comics, but when he writes one it is always something special. At the moment he is writing Thunderbolts for Marvel and it is mind blowing. After the Civil War event the Thunderbolts are now a team of villains hired by the American government to do their dirty work. Made up of the likes of Venom, Bullseye, Penance, Moonstone and led by Norman Osborne, anyone who knows Marvel history will know that this is not the most mentally balanced group running around.
Ellis though is turning in amazing scripts that highlight the obvious unbalanced nature of this group. The group is also supported by a massive advertising campaign led by the government to gain support for the group, though Bullseye's membership is a secret as he is a convicted mass murderer. Venom and Bullseye have used their Thunderbolts membership as a blank cheque to create as much mayhem as possible. Venom ate the arm of Silver Spider, and Bullseye stabbed Jack Flagg in the spine making him a quadriplegic. And then there's Penance, once known as Speedball, who kicked off the whole civil War thing with his attempt to capture Nitro which led to the deaths of thousands.

So fertile ground for the warped intelligence of Ellis, and matched by beautiful artwork by Mike Deodato Jr. This series is a great read, as it explores the dark side of superheroes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Go Forth ...

Here are my weekly picks.
CD: Unplugged Live in New York - Nirvana

BOOK: Legend - David Gemmell

GRAPHIC NOVEL: Making Comics - Scott McCloud

Friday, October 12, 2007

Comics, comics and more comics

Douglas Wolk obviously loves comics. He writes about them for various publications in the United States and has recently released a book called Reading Comics. How graphic novels work and what they mean. I have only just finished this book and have rushed to post this review. That's an example of how much I loved this book.
Wolk discusses some critical theory about how comics work, how they are read, different techniques, and then reviews some of his favourite comics. He makes no bones about the fact that this is a personal study, and the choices reflect what he looks for in comics.

I wouldn't agree with every choice, or statement Wolk makes but his passion makes this a fun read.

I too share his passion and it is good to see that others feel the same way about comics that I do.

Malta. May 1565

Tim Willocks's brilliant novel The Religion is set in the above time period. The armies of the Emperor of the Ottoman's are sailing towards Malta to destroy the fortress of the Knights of Saint John the Baptist also known as the 'Religion'.
The central character is Matthias Tannhauser a mercenary with a noble streak to go with his violent nature, and lust after the good things in life. Tannhauser finds himself going to Malta to help a French countess find her illegitimate son, who is helping to defend Malta.

Willocks is a great writer and his eye for detail, and conversation make this an engaging read on many levels. This is the first of a planned trilogy and I look forward to reading about the further adventures of Tannhauser, and his friends and enemies. A great novel to immerse yourself in.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Morningstar

Lucifer by Mike Carey is a great series of graphic novels that follows its title character after his appearances in the Sandman comics.
Lucifer, after 10 billion years in charge of Hell, is fed up and resigns his post to live in Perth WA. He starts running a bar in LA and plays piano in it and wants to live a quite life amongst the mortals of the world.

This is where Lucifer picks up. Heaven of course wants something done and they hire Lucifer the most powerful angel to do their dirty work.

The series ran for 75 issues and has been collected into 11 volumes. Carey is an intelligent writer who depicts Lucifer as being likable but also utterly ruthless and powerful. Nothing gets in the way of his grand schemes. Lucifer even finds a tear in the fabric of reality and creates his own universe just like his father Yahweh did.

The series has a lot of dialogue and discussion and can be a very cerebral event at times but is a great example of what the medium can aspire to. Intelligent writing and great art in a total package.

I loved this series and have no problems recommending it to others. Simply awesome, especially if you're not afraid of philosophical discussions on religion and knowledge.

Monday, October 8, 2007


I stumbled upon a great book about English Football on the weekend and decided that any fans out there should get their hands on this book and have a look. It's called When Saturday Comes. The half decent football book and is produced by the people who write WSC an English football magazine designed for intelligent readers, and has featured articles from writers like Nick Hornby.
The book itself is fun, and doesn't take itself too seriously, yet still manages to make insightful comments on the various topics it covers.

Set out like an encyclopedia it delves into the world of football and associated topics.

One for the fans, but a fun read all the same.

Go Forth ...

Once again I give you my weekly picks.
BOOK: The Reality Disfunction - Peter F. Hamilton

GRAPHIC NOVEL: Sandman - Neil Gaiman

CD: Fashion Nugget - Cake

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Beijing Boredom

Today I'll talk about a book I did not enjoy reading at all, The Beijing Conspiracy by Adrian d'Hage. Where to begin ... it's about 300 pages too long, and frankly the storyline tries to be up to the minute but fails to inject any urgency into the plot. If you're a fan of this type of thing you might give it a try if you're desperate but really I suggest you avoid it and try something better.
Unfortunately the cover tells you everything you need to know about this book, biological threat, overblown prose and loner hero.
Avoid like the biological weapons that threaten the world in this narrative.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Library Thing-a-ma-bob

I've been maintaining a LibraryThing bookshelf for a while now after being unleashed on it earlier this year. But I've also stopped regularly updating books I've read as well.
It looks good sitting at the bottom of my blog, but the reality of working on desk means I do not use it much, instead I have gone lo-tech and replaced it with a good old-fashioned reading diary.
The reading diary is more portable and easier to access if I want to check books I've read, and what score out of five I gave them.
This doesn't mean I hate LibraryThing, I just think it is suited to being a part of my blog rather than a tool I would use every day. Patrons might like to browse through it for curiosity, but I'll stick to my reading diary as a reference tool.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Go Forth ...

More weekly picks.
Frank Miller - The Dark Knight Returns

Hunter S Thompson - Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72

Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks

Friday, September 28, 2007

RSS feeds

In this busy world were people want everything now RSS feeds sound like a godsend, but you would be wrong.
One of the joys of the web is browsing the blogs, and other sites just smelling the roses. I think we should be slowing our experience of the web down, not trying to speed it up in some attempt to see everything as quickly as possible. It's a big world/web out there and we are never going to see all of it, so instead enjoy the bits you can see, and take your time enjoying them.
Lets take the rush out of life, and stop to smell the roses.

Literary Insults

It's no-holds-barred bare knuckle action in the literary world;
  • I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me - Charles Darwin
  • Edgar Allan Poe's prose is unreadable - like Jane Austen's. No, there is a difference. I could read his prose on a salary, but not Jane's - Mark Twain
  • Ulysses is the work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples - Virginia Woolf
  • Henry James has a mind so fine that no idea could violate it - T S Elliot
  • Free verse is like free love; it is a contradiction in terms - G K Chesterton
  • It was a bad play saved by a bad performance - George S Kaufman
  • Gertrude Stein was a past master in making nothing happen very slowly - Clifton Fadiman
  • Truman Capote has made lying an art. A minor art - Gore Vidal
  • J D Salinger is the greatest mind ever to stay in prep school - Norman Mailer
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn is a bad novelist and a fool. The combination usually makes for great popularity in the US - Gore Vidal
  • The g is silent - the only thing about her that is - Julia Burchill on Camille Paglia

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Go forth

I've decided to start a new segment where I give you my weekly pick of book, graphic novel and CD.
These are all things I think everyone should have either read or listened to.
Frank Herbert - Dune
Alan Moore - Watchmen
Neil Young - Live at Massey Hall 1971

Monday, September 24, 2007

Books, Books and more Books

Books I have enjoyed recently:

  • Neal Asher - Hilldiggers
  • Mike Davis - Buda's Wagon. A Brief History of the Car Bomb
  • Ian C Esslemont - Night of Knives
  • Christopher Fowler - The Water Room
  • William Langewiesche - The Atomic Bazaar
  • Christopher Moore - The Stupidest Angel
  • Mark Millar - The Ultimates 2. Grand Theft America
  • Charles Stross - The Atrocity Archives

Books I have not enjoyed at all:

  • Mike Carey - Ultimate Fantastic Four vol. 7
  • Mark Edmunson - Why Read?
  • Michael Grose - XYZ. The New Rules of Generational Warfare
  • Myriam Miedzian - Boys Will Be Boys

Any Given Sunday or Saturday or Friday ...

I follow lots of different sports, and at the moment three of my favourite have either begun or are beginning. American Football has begun so I'm following that closely, go the Vikings.
The Ice Hockey season is about to begin so go the Penguins, and the NBA is about to start so go the Suns.

What does this mean for my reading?

Well it means I read a lot of magazines which follow these sports, whether they are reviewing the upcoming season, or following it once it starts.

So lots of stats, player news and rumours of trades.

It makes a pleasant change from my usual reading.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Web 2.0 and Flikr

OK here's my Librarian Trading Card.
As you can see I too know how to have fun with Flikr.
Just make sure you keep quiet when this librarian asks you to.
And apologies before hand to the cleaners, unfortunately Wolverine's solutions are usually of a permanent nature.
Ouch, that hurt...don't point them at me!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Death of the Gods

Ragnarok is a Korean manwha series that has been released by Tokyopop. The English version is adapted rather that translated directly. I'm not sure why this decision was taken, but I would have felt better if there was a direct translation rather than an adaption.
The story deals with Ragnarok, the death of the Norse Gods, and how the Gods try and stop it from happening.

Anyway, I must say I was disappointed with this series. The art work is good, but the manga style does not suit a story about ancient Norse gods. We know how the Vikings looked, and their Gods would have resembled them surely, so the Manga style is jarring, a Norse hero carrying a samurai sword?

Can't say it grabbed me and I love stories about Vikings.

Bringing back the child in me

I found myself flicking through some books that I really enjoyed as a kid, and these were the Fighting Fantasy series of books. I used to own nearly the whole set and then gave them away at some point, but I saw some sitting on the shelf at work and decided to give them another go.
I was impressed by how much fun they still were, plus they brought up fun memories of reading them as a kid.
Now I'm not saying the plots are terribly complex, but the idea that the reader could choose how they wanted to approach the story is an interesting one, and trying to bring that to a solo adventure is also an interesting one.
So I'll continue to relive a part of my childhood and enjoy the other books in the series.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Web Two Point Doh!

Welcome to this post about Web 2.0. Regular readers of this blog will just have to bear with me and all will be made clear. (I hope)
As the library undertakes a self-learning course designed to teach librarians about the wonders of the Web, and its amazing ability to engage I will be called upon to comment on my blog about my experiences. So ...
OK we're only up to week three but I'm sure something will come to me. Maybe if I sit and stare at the computer I'll be inspired. This is starting to feel like an episode of Californication without the sex, smoking, and bestselling author bit. But the writer's block I can relate to.
Hmmmmmm. Stay tuned and I'll think of something...I promise...really I will...don't go it'll get better...come back!
Hello....Hello, anyone there.
Damn it is this thing on?...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Which Book am I?

You're Prufrock and Other Observations!

by T.S. Eliot

Though you are very short and often overshadowed, your voice is poetic
and lyrical. Dark and brooding, you see the world as a hopeless effort of people trying
to impress other people. Though you make reference to almost everything, you've really
heard enough about Michelangelo. You measure out your life with coffee spoons.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Pirates of the Caribbean

1715 - 1725 was the period that pirates in the Caribbean had their greatest success. A number of pirate captains including Blackbeard, Black Sam Bellamy and Charles Vane joined forces to raid shipping on the high seas.
The republic they started was an amazing beast where there were no servants, everyone was equal no matter what their skin colour and leaders were chosen by a vote. Compared to the societies these pirates had escaped from this must have seemed like paradise.

Colin Woodard has written an interesting and informative account of this period called The Republic of Pirates. Woodard has done a fantastic amount of research and it shows in the authority he brings to his subject.

Anyone interested in pirates or this period of history will enjoy this book.

We come from the land of the ice and snow...

From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.
The hammer of the gods
Will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying:
Valhalla, I am coming!

OK enough Led Zeppelin. What I really wanted to talk about was the return of Thor to the Marvel Universe. One of my favourite characters is back, after a false appearance in the Civil War saga. Thor is also gunning for Iron Man and Mr Fantastic (like the Hulk), for cloning him without his knowledge. The clone was ripped apart by a distraught Hercules, and put into hiding by Mr Fantastic.

Thor's return though heralds more than a can of whoop-ass for Iron Man, it brings back the mythical element that was missing after the destruction of Asgard in the Marvel universe. And the fan boy in my rejoices that a favourite is back. so look to the skies as the god of thunder makes his presence felt in more ways than one.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense is a series of graphic novels by Mike Mignola that have spun off from Hellboy. The BPRD is where Hellboy works and this new series highlights the work of Hellboys colleagues. As I said in my post about Hellboy, Mignola is an inventive writer and this is shown to great effect in this series.
If your looking for something that draws on mythology, horror stories and things that go bump in the night then this is something you should look out for.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Watch more TV, play more computer games

Steven Johnson is a passionate defender of pop culture and his book Everything Bad is Good for You shows this. In this interesting volume Johnson shows how computer games and drama on television help people to build skills necessary for living in the world.
Problem solving, completing set tasks, following complex story lines are skills that can be learnt from pop culture. Johnson argues that popular culture has, on average, grown more complex and intellectually challenging over the past thirty years and this has led to smarter individuals. At no point does Johnson claim that pop culture is better than traditional culture, just that pop culture should not be viewed as rubbish.

This book is very readable and I must say I enjoy the examples Johnson uses to illustrate his points. Well worth reading.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Dragons and their care

I always wanted to own my own dragon and now I've found the book that can help me achieve this aim. How to Raise and Keep a Dragon by Joseph Nigg tells you everything you ever needed to know about this pastime, from feeding, upkeep, housing to grooming and showing your new pet. The book is full of information about different types of Dragon breeds and contains lots of beautiful colour illustrations.
Grab a copy and get involved in this exciting hobby and you to can own your own dragon.


Batman: Hush saw two giants of the comic industry coming together to create a truely memorable Batman story. Writer Jeph Loeb and artist Jim Lee have created a masterpiece that was released in 2003 and went for twelve issues.
Batman finds himself being targeted by an unknown foe who has studied his movements and tactics and is using this knowledge to foil him. Not only that but other adversaries of Batman are being given this knowledge and are attacking Batman. Bats is also distracted by the fact that he and Catwomen have begun a relationship. Soon Batman realises that he is being set up but he doesn't know by who, and this leads to a violent showdown that leaves Batman searching for answers. To say more would be to give the game away.

Loeb is a great writer and his version of Batman hits all the right notes, menacing, intelligent, and tormented by inner demons. Lee needs no introduction, one of the greats since he broke onto the scene in the early nineties, anything drawn by this man is going to be good. With Chris Claremont he still holds the record for the best selling comic book of all time X-Men #1 which sold 8 million copies. (Yes I own a copy as well) Lee is famous for not meeting deadlines, his current project with Frank Miller called All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder has had a gap of a year between issues.

Do yourself a favour and get a hold of Batman: Hush and enjoy this well told tale, I know I did.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert is a re-imagining of classic 1960s marvel characters as if they existed in the year 1602. Caught up in the intrigue of the times Gaiman does a good job of placing the characters in context and making them fit.
The story went for eight issues and led to various spin-offs which explored other areas of the world of 1602 that includes Marvel's superheroes.

I don't think this is Gaiman's best work, Sandman will always hold that place for me, but Marvel 1602 is interesting, though a little too talky at times. Gaiman likes long scripts and this is reflected in this piece. Kubert like his brother Adam (and father Joe) is an amazing artist and has been drawing Marvel heroes for a long time so the art work is outstanding. (Both Kubert brothers now work for DC)

A fun read but you need to know the Marvel Universe to get the most out of it.


The bombing campaign the Allies undertook during the Second World War has been coming under scrutiny lately. A recent example of this was Keith Lowe's book Inferno. The Devastation of Hamburg 1943, which tells the tragic story of what happened when this port became a target for American and British bombers.
In the summer of 1943 the allies raided this city for ten days and dropped 9,000 tons of bombs on it, causing fires that burnt for a month and could be seen 200 miles away.

This book is full of first hand accounts from both sides and deals with the tragedy in an even handed way. Lowe is willing to let the facts speak for themselves and they are so bad that they do not need unnecessary commentary.

Read this book and be reminded that the Axis side wasn't the only one to commit atrocities.

Monday, September 3, 2007


World War One has a certain senselessness that World War Two lacks. Defeating Hitler and fascism is noteworthy, but massacres in trenches about not very much are difficult to explain. It would be hard to describe to an alien visitor why it was important to fight in the Great War, but people did and some of the bloodiest battles were fought for the smallest gains.
One such battle was the Battle of the Somme, when the British and French Armies attacked the Germans. The battle opened on the 1st of July 1916 and ended in October of the same year. On the first day 20,000 British soldiers and 60% of the officers that led them were killed with 40,000 injured. It is still the single bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. A statement issued by the British Army at the end of the day stated that "the first day of the offensive is very satisfactory." This battle also saw the first usage of tanks in modern warfare, they didn't really change anything. By the end of the battle the Allies had advanced 12 kilometres at huge cost. There were 420,000 British casualties and 200,000 French. The Germans lost around half a million men, which the allied High Command claimed was the point of the offensive, to destroy German manpower.

I mention this because Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun created one of the greatest series of stories dealing with this period. Called Charley's War the comic strip was published between 1979 and 1985 it dealt with life in the trenches in amazing detail. Mills was also quite clear when writing this series to show his very strong anti-war stance, sure people do heroic things but all the characters are quite ordinary and suffer various problems of their own. Colquhoun was an amazing artist and the black and white art he produced for this strip was simply amazing.

Read this amazing series and discover what life in the trenches meant for millions of soldiers who fought a largely senseless war they thought was going to end all wars. As Wilfred Owen once stated "The old lie: Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori." (It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country.)

Science Fiction Samba

Brasyl by Ian MacDonald lives up to the quote on the front by fellow writer Richard Morgan. Morgan says "F**king brilliant. I'm as jealous as all hell - it's a beauty.' I couldn't agree more. OK I'm not jealous but this book is great.
MacDonald weaves the story around three strands set in 2006, 2032 and 1732 in Brazil, and Brazil is the main character. This tightly plotted story takes the reader on a ride through the backstreets of this magnificent country as we follow the protagonists around. MacDonald has an ear for dialogue which translates well onto the page.

Be warned though there is a lot going on within the pages of this book, but once you start the momentum will speed you along.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Clan Loyalties

Here is a look at which Legend of the Five Rings clan I belong to.

What Clan are you?

Book Lists

Here are some books I've enjoyed recently and some I didn't.
  • Chester Brown - Louis Riel
  • Andrew Cockburn - Rumsfeld. An American Disaster
  • Robert A Doughty - Pyrrhic Victory. French Strategy and Operations in the Great War
  • Warren Ellis - Desolation Jones: Made in England
  • Stan Lee - The Essential Captain America vol. 2
  • Tim Moore - Nul Points
  • Greg Pak - Hulk: Planet Hulk


  • Mario Acevedo - X-Rated Blood Suckers
  • Mark Edundson - Why Read?
  • Sam Harris - The End of Faith
  • Russell Kirkpatrick - Across the Face of the World
  • Ron Suskind - The One Percent Doctrine

The Other Side

Civil War: Iron Man is an attempt to show this conflict in the Marvel Universe from the less popular side. Many readers would have found themselves agreeing with Captain America as he argued for individual freedom. But Iron Man was just as passionate in his belief that super powered beings registered with the government and trained properly would benefit everyone.
The first part of this graphic novel has a debate between Captain America and Iron Man and is probably the best discussion of both sides of this argument, you can feel the passion both sides are dealing with.

Unfortunately the rest of the stories don't hold up to this high standard with not much actually happening apart from lots of talking, a complaint of the Civil War series as a whole.

If you are interested in this 'event' then keep an eye out for it but it's not really worth owning.


Adrian Goldsworthy's biography of Caesar called Caesar. Life of a Colossus is a wonderful read. Yes it is long but Caesar had such a full life that it needs a big book to cover it all. What makes this one so good is that it is a very easy read, this does not mean it isn't scholarly, it just means that Goldsworthy has a very readable writing style.
This biography is detailed and isn't afraid to enter into scholarly debates about aspects of Caesar's life that aren't clear. An enjoyable read that is well worth giving a go.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Interactive Storytelling

I am currently enjoying a wonderful storytelling experience that is a great example of how current-generation computer and console games are stretching themselves.
Programmers are using the technology available to them to stretch the limits and involve the player in new and more wonderful adventures.

The game I am currently playing is Bioshock and it is a revolution in involving the player in a story they have control over. The game is set in 1960 and the plane you were traveling in has crashed somewhere in the Atlantic ocean. You escape the wreckage and enter the underwater city of Rapture.

Rapture was built in 1946 by industrialist Andrew Ryan who wanted artists and scientists to live in a city without government controls, were they would be free to create bigger and better things. But when the player arrives it is clear that something has gone drastically wrong and society in Rapture has collapsed on New Years Eve 1959.

The game is atmospheric with the city of Rapture created in a wonderful Art Deco style and the steady collapse of its society shown in the way the city is starting to crumble and fall into disrepair.

I have not finished the game yet but look forward to many hours of enjoyment in this wonderfully created world.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Book to Avoid

James Phelan's latest thriller Patriot Act is bad. The writing is cliched and the dialogue is wooden. There is not much to recommend it at all. According to reviews I have read it is better than his first book Fox Hunt, which must be really terrible.
Phelan is studying for a Master's in writing at Monash and is a very bad advertisement for this course. Authors will argue that you cannot teach writing but this is an argument for another day.

Anyway avoid this book, and his next one which is coming out next year. You would be better off reading a Matthew Reilly book, they are just as mindless but Reilly can write.

Hulk Smash!

The Hulk is back and he wants answers.

A group of powerful heroes (the Illuminati) decided that for the good of Earth the Hulk should be sent to a far away planet were he would be unable to hurt people. Unfortunately the ship travels through a wormhole and the Hulk finds himself on Sakaar. Here the Hulk is venerable to weapons and is made a slave, and then a gladiator. He eventually leads a revolution and is made Emperor of Sakaar, marries and is the happiest he has ever been.

Of course this cannot last as the ship he travelled in was designed to explode so the Hulk could not get back to earth. The wormhole damaged this bomb and the shuttle now explodes killing the Hulk's wife and his unborn child and millions of his followers. The Hulk now wants revenge.

Gathering together his closet companions and getting a ship they travel back to earth.

The angrier the Hulk gets the stronger he gets and he has never been this angry before.

The Hulk is after everyone who decided he should be sent of the planet and starts with Black Bolt who is quickly defeated, and the Hulk moves on to Manhattan demanding that Iron Man meet him. Iron Man is also defeated as is the Fantastic Four and various X-teams. The Hulk is unstoppable and it looks like the last hope of ending his rampage is Dr Strange.

The story is currently being played out in various Marvel comics, and I must say I'm loving it. I am an old fan of the Hulk and am enjoying this return to form for a character who has had lots of ups and downs in his life.

The Hulk is out for revenge and nothing is standing in his way.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dylan Quotations

In honour of Dylan's current Australian tour I'll share some wisdom from the legend himself.

  • I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I'll die like a poet.

  • Woody [Guthrie] is the greatest holiest godliest one in the world.

  • I don't care what people expect of me. Doesn't concern me. I'm doing God's work. That's all I know.

  • Everything is changed now from before.

  • How many singers feel the same way 10 years later? A lot of my songs don't work now.

  • Jesus put his hand on me. It was a physical thing. I felt my whole body tremble.

Love, life and the world

I have been rereading a great series called Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore and enjoying this engrossing story all over again. Beautiful black and white artwork combined with a compelling and funny script let the reader see into the lives of the main characters.
Strangers in Paradise is the story of best friends Francine and Katchoo. Francine is the shy, kind hearted one, while Katchoo was always the wild girl at school who got into trouble but didn't care. (In the picture Francine has dark hair, Katchoo is the blonde.)

Now Francine and Katchoo are sharing a house and we start the story with Francine in love with a guy who treats her like rubbish. Katchoo is in love with Francine and has been since high school, and while Katchoo is at the gallery she meets David who falls in love with her.

The story sounds like an average romantic comedy, but Moore develops it into a moving look at life and love, and this being a comic there is room for adventure and suspense. Especially when Katchoo's shady and violent past starts to catch up with her. This series won many awards and praise but I'll let comic legend Neil Gaiman have the final word, "what most people don't know about love, sex, and relations with other human beings would fill a book. Strangers in Paradise is that book." Couldn't have put it better myself.

Friday, August 17, 2007

52 BC

Having just finished watching the first season of Rome I feel like I have spent time on the streets of this historical city. HBO and the BBC spent $100 million on this series and it shows. Costumes, sets and an outstanding script and acting all come together to show what life was like in the Roman republic.
The first season deals with Caesar and his overthrow of the republic. The show opens with Caesar nearing the end of his Consulship in Gaul while Pompey is having trouble with the Senate and begins to turn on his co-Consul spurred on by Cato. There is lots going on in this series and politics plays a big part in what happens, but the action is humanised by two characters who find themselves at the centre of events. These are Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo both soldiers in Caesar's army.

This show is not for the faint hearted it is rated R and contains lots of swearing, nudity, and violence but it does make you feel you are in Rome. There are lots of little touches that help to make the show believable, for example background actors working at various tasks are actually tradespeople. If there is a butcher in the scene then the person playing them is really a butcher. Little things but they help to make you believe that the characters know what they are doing.

I would suggest that people who have enjoyed other HBO dramas, like The Sopranos or Deadwood will enjoy this, also people who are interested in this period of history will enjoy it, just be aware they do take liberties with historical events to fit the narrative.

Literary Quotations

  • Never open your book with weather - Elmore Leonard
  • Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke - F Scott Fitzgerald
  • Those who write clearly have readers, those who write obscurely have commentators - Albert Camus
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out - George Orwell (who really could have cut two words out of this statement.)
  • If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don't listen to writers talk about writing or themselves - Lillian Hellman
  • This is just the book to give your sister if she's a loud, dirty, boozy girl - Dylan Thomas on At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien
  • Proust changed my life with books one, two and three. I'll read more of Moby Dick, but three Proust books may have to suffice - Jonathan Franzen
  • I don't fire up the prose, I just tell it straight and don't fool around with it - Raymond Carver
  • Just remember how many writers down the ages have written to entertain, and who remembers them now? - Miguel Angel Asturias
  • You have the idea and you put down what you want to say. Then get somebody to add commas, maybe fix the spelling. They have people who do that - Elmore Leonard

Thursday, August 16, 2007

We shall fight in the shade.

I watched 300 last night and must say I was impressed. It is a brilliant adaption of the graphic novel and uses frames from the original to inform its story. It's bloody and violent and very very stylized as we see 300 Spartans take on the might of Persia.
I was interested by the furor surrounding this film as critics talked of how it was not historically accurate. But at no point does Frank Miller who wrote and drew the graphic novel, and the director state that it was accurate. It is a dramatisation, why must it be accurate? Since when did the film have to be historically accurate? It's a great story, well told, that's all.

Enjoy the spectacle, and the choreography of the fight scenes, but don't hold up some historical accuracy mirror, because many films would fail the test. (Some all time classics to.)

Enjoy 300 as a techincle marvel with its various digital effects but don't expect historical accuracy.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Left-Wing Politics

I have just finished What's left? : how Liberals lost their way by Nick Cohen and found it an interesting read. Cohen looks at the state of Left Wing politics around the issue of war in Iraq, especially in the UK. Cohen is a signatory of the Euston Manifesto, a document created last year by those on the Left disillusioned by its drift to support the far Right. It set out the principles which the Left should stand for - democracy, freedom, equality and internationalism, and those which it should condemn - tyranny, terrorism, anti-Americanism, racism, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
Without going into too much detail Cohen's main point is that liberals and people on the left wing in general found themselves willing to support the continued rule of a fascist tyrant (Hussein) rather than his victims. The peace movement became a US hating movement and a propaganda tool for Saddam.

This is not to say that the book is without fault, Cohan turns a blind eye to the quagmire that Iraq has become and fails to see the need for criticism of the current events in Iraq.

But I do applaud the fact that he is willing to nail his colours to the mast. Yes, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was a good thing, and lets face it, it was never going to happen any other way. It is a sad day when the left wing would rather support a tyrant rather than freeing the oppressed.

I have simplified the arguments of this book but I urge people to read it and think about where they stand in the political spectrum.

Return of the 90s hero

When I read comics in the 1990s one of my favourite characters was called Cable. A mutant who returned from the future he had untapped mental powers and loved running around carrying big guns, and his mission was to save the earth from his past, or its future. Well after floating around the Marvel Universe for awhile he has been re imagined in a new and improved way.
Cable has increased his power and is now actively changing the world, in fact he is being treated by some humans as the saviour of mankind. His increased powers are frightening, he is in mental contact with every person on the planet through his telepathy and his telekinesis enables him to build a massive floating island and keep it suspended in space. Followers of Cable have flocked to his floating island and he is being seen as a threat by various world governments, especially when he begins sorting out conflicts like Palestine and Chechnya buy removing the weapons of both sides in massive displays of his power. This all feeds into Cable's larger plan which is to unite humanity, even if it unites against him.

All this leads to the point of this post which is to say that I read Cable & Deadpool: Burnt Offerings by Fabian Nicieza and really enjoyed myself. Cable is now an interesting character who has moved from being one dimensional to being a real threat on a global scale. One for the fans.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Just a quick post about a great new science fiction magazine I have just come across. It is only up to its second issue in Australia but it deals with movies, books, comics, games, tv, and heaps more.

Called DeathRay it is published in the UK and is a must have for science fiction fans.

Get your copy now!!

Young Vanities

How To Lose Friends and Alienate People is a funny and sarcastic look inside the world of magazine publishing in the USA. The author Toby Young finds himself offered a trial with Vanity Fair and this book chronicles his moves down the pecking order and out of work.
Young has a sarcastic pen and is not afraid to use it, but the book is helped by his sense of humour as he talks about the excesses of the lifestyle people on the magazine lived.
Well worth a read I found myself laughing out loud in places and found myself having fun even though the gossipy nature of the book and its subject would not normally interest me.

Well worth checking out.