Friday, July 27, 2012

Conan: The Tower of the Elephant

This book sees Conan's naivety come to light. He's interacting with "civilized man" and quickly learning their customs and ways of everyday life. It's all new to him and he makes some missteps along the way. He can't interact with these city-dwellers in the same way he interacted with his own townspeople. It doesn't take long to realize that civilization is sketchy as fuck.

There's a decent amount of Howard's social commentary on Barbarism vs. Civilization in this book. I really enjoy the way each story has its own personality and own point of view. Howard didn't just change the monster and change the wench and call it a new story, he changed perspective, too. And that's important for sustaining interest.

The Tower of the Elephant is a particularly good story. Lots of magic and fantasy. It's also depressing from an animal rights perspective, but retribution is delivered to those who deserve it, so it all works out in the end.

Lots of good lookin' ladies in this book. Conan's never short of a fine pair of breasts when he needs them. And of course, more gratuitous decapitation (which seems to be Conan's preferred method of dispatching his foes).

Another great book in a long line of great books about Conan the Cimmerian.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Conan: The God in the Bowl

Another stellar read in the Conan mythos.

The God in the Bowl was written with a different pace and a different perspective than most other Conan adventures. It's a bit slower and at times it unfolds like a murder mystery (because at the heart of it, it is). It's interesting to read and see how Conan reacts. Ultimately, that chapter ends with decapitations and blades of fury, just like it should. Justice is duly served. It's just more suspenseful than your average Nemedian yarn.

The story continues, Conan is introduced to a hot chick with swords, and he faces his most powerful and worthy adversary yet. Shit goes down and people die. It's a pretty freakin epic story.

Again, brilliant art and writing. Can't wait for the next one...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Conan: The Frost-Giant's Daughter

Like I said, I'm reading them all in chronological order. Conan's youth is interesting, but you really want to get into the meat-and-potatoes of what it is to be Conan the Cimmerian. And the Frost-Giant's Daughter takes you one step closer.

I think this one picks up with Conan around 18 years old and follows him on his journey away from his home and off into unseen territory. Conan is spurred on by his grandfather's stories and he wants to see the world. Bang chicks in far off lands. Decapitate scumbags in the North and eviscerate scumbags in the South. Steal money in the East. And do some more banging and decapitating in the West. It's a barbarian's life for me.

The art is amazing and the stories are just so freaking compelling. I can't wait to read the other books.

Another bonus to this series is the foreword and afterwords included in each trade paperback. You get some great knowledge about Robert E. Howard, as well as the creation of the comics in hand. It's a great package.

"You cannot escape me!" he roared. "Lead me into a trap and I'll pile the heads of your kinsmen at your feet! Hide from me and I'll tear apart the mountains to find you! I'll follow you to hell!"

Conan: Born on the Battlefield

I bought all the Dark Horse Conan books in the Nemedian Chronicles series. They're all sitting there, lined up on my shelf awaiting to be read.

I had read most of them already, but I picked up the few books I was missing and I wanted to go through the series chronologically. I kicked it off with Book 0, which charts Conan's birth through maybe his sixteenth snowfall (yuck yuck yuck). Conan's life reads like a Bolt Thrower album. It's fucking awesome.

I liked Born on the Battlefield more on the second reading. It gave me an appreciation for where Conan came from and what shaped him into the king he later became. The early years are probably the most "emotional," if that word is ever relevant to Conan. He feels pain from time to time, especially if a buxom harlot he was banging gets killed or something. But this pre-dates that sort of action. This is a young lad trying to navigate adolescence...all the while being CONAN THE CIMMERIAN. It's a gift and a bit of a curse, some may say.

I love this book and it gets you psyched for what's next to come. The art is top class. The story is well-written and enveloping. Dark Horse did good.

King of Devil's Island

The heat wave has finally driven me inside. I was bored the other day when I came across this film. I'd never heard of it before and thought it might be like a "Sleepers" or "Lord of the Flies". And it is.

This movie is very bleak. It takes place on an island at a juvenile detention camp during a Norwegian winter...not a lot of color to be found. Stellan Skarsgard is the only actor I recognized and he gave his usual performance, which was good but not much of a stretch for him. The main characters are a couple of younger actors that really gave great performances.

I'm not saying I relate to these types of juvenile delinquents...but I use to be friends with kids like these. Movies like these always remind me of my buddies at the Eastpointe Apartments near my home as a kid. They were always in and out of "Juve" for petty crimes like shoplifting or for more serious violent crimes.
So even though we're meant to root for these criminals for rebelling against abuse...I'm doing it because they remind me of my friends that protected me from a bully once and that gave me a stolen Playboy.

The movie starts off a little slow but it really comes together in the end. So this isn't necessarily a "must see" but if you're looking for a good historical movie about rebellion against injustice...check it out.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Death Proof

I've probably reviewed this before on here. I can't go too long without popping it in ye olde blu-ray player.

I was at work with my favorite wallpapers on my monitors; Death Proof and Planet Terror. It just looked so fun. I had to watch it again.

I really enjoy the fact that it's a different experience every time you watch it. You kinda know what to expect so you start tuning into different things and picking up different details. Re-watching Planet Terror can't be too far off in my future.

Seeing it opening day as a double-feature in NYC is a movie-going experience I won't soon forget. Such a perfect setting for two amazing films.

I don't really feel like reviewing Death Proof. What's the point, Hammer_of_Doom? If you haven't seen it you shouldn't be reading this blog. (whoops, there goes our only reader. whatever.)

The first crash scene is one of the greatest death scenes in cinema history. The tire on the face?! The amputated leg? Priceless. All hail Tarantino.

Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach To Web Usability

With the growing HMI (human-machine interface) design I'm doing, I've been meaning to read more books on usability, interactivity and psychology. So after a little research I picked up Steve Krug's, "Don't Make Me Think." Sounds perfect.

I enjoyed Steve's tone of voice. Very personable. Witty. Down to earth. And just like the premise of the book, he's very straight-to-the-point. This really helps because web usability is certainly a topic that could get real dry, real fast. Krug keeps it fresh throughout.

Thankfully, the design of the book matched the content in terms of ease-of-use. The designer tried to employ Steve's principles of web design to the book and did so wonderfully. It's a great example of how to lay out a book of this nature.

The overall content is all very relevant and relatable, even if the specific website examples are dated. When he's talking about particular situations you can immediately relate or empathize because it's more than likely something you've encountered in your career. Many times you probably wish you had this book to pull out at that very moment to use as canon fodder. "No, the website doesn't need more pizzaz and blinking things to make it pop."

Krug mainly covers usability principles and theories, specific implementation of ideas, usability testing, and accessibility. Some of it was old news, but it's still good to read and re-read things like that. Drill it into your head. But a lot of it, especially the chapters on usability testing, were particularly elucidating for me.

If you work on any sort of HMI design, this is a valuable book to read. Phones, web, tablets, head-units, machines, anything with an interface. Watches, DVD players. Whatever. You'll get some benefit from this book and enjoy reading it to boot.

Classic Albums: Ace of Spades

I think this might be the best Classic Albums feature yet.

Philthy Phil and Fast Eddie are funny blokes. When they team up with Lemmy it makes for quite the comedy trio. This doc isn't all that enlightening when it comes to how they recorded the album etc, it's just more about being entertained by these crazy characters.

They tell stories, smoke an obscene amount of cigarettes, and talk about making the record. What's not to like?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dirty Deeds: My Life Inside/Outside of AC/DC

Who the hell's ever heard of Mark Evans?

Turns out he was the original (or close enough) bassist for AC/DC and one hell of a writer to boot.

I picked this up a few days ago to read and I didn't realize at the time that it was a Bazillion Points publication. So I got extra excited to check it out, as Ian Christie has a flawless record. The attention to detail he puts into his books is second to none. Always great printing and finishing techniques.

Dirty Deeds is an exceptionally well-written rock bio. I'd put it just behind I Am Ozzy and SLASH. Evans is clearly a well-read individual, which definitely shines through in his writing. The book is effortless. It's down-to-earth and follows a wonderful pace. Even though he was "coached" by someone on his writing, I'd like to think that what you're reading is ultimately all down to Evans's hard work.

I'm glad Hammer of Doom previously reviewed it as well as let me borrow it, cuz it was a fun read. The content is as you'd expect. The in's and out's of being in a rock band and all the shenanigans that goes alone with it. Writing, recording, touring, drugs, alcohol, and threesomes.

Having said that, there isn't a whole lot of drug talk. Evens doesn't deny it, but he doesn't play it up like Ozzy or SLASH, for instance. It takes a back seat to relentless gigging and the pursuit of stardom.

I agree with Hammer of Doom that it does make you want to open up some other doors to find out what the Youngs are really like. Call me a retard, but I didn't even know that Malcolm was the driving force behind the band. I always figured Angus called the shots. I'd definitely be into reading a Young bio down the road.

Anyway, reading this books gives you even more respect for AC/DC, if you didn't have enough already. These dudes worked HARD to get where they are. And they still put on a freakin awesome show. Angus is unreal!

Read this book.