Wednesday, July 25, 2018

[Book] Skyward (Omnibus) by Jeremy and Kelly Dale

Before I start this:

I met Jeremy Dale with Kelly by his side on several occasions at various comic book conventions.  I am always on the lookout for a well written all-ages comic book story, and I found Jeremy and Skyward when there were only two issues, self-published and in black and white.  Later, I saw him at a different convention and got issue 3, and he said that issue 4 should be out by NYCC.

When I saw him at NYCC and asked him about issue 4, he said quietly that it was delayed because he was in talks about a publishing deal.  He was quiet, but clearly really, really excited.  The next thing I knew, I was seeing Action Labs re-publishing issue 1, but this time in glorious color AND at my local comic book shop!  I purchased and followed the rest of the issues through 9.

Then, Jeremy Dale passed away on 4 November 2014.  After a handful of years passed, his widow, Kelly Dale, picked up Jeremy's notes, wrote out the story and started a Kickstarter campaign to get a final issue of Skyward published along with an Omnibus collection of the whole story.

I backed this, and now I've finally re-read the whole Omnibus including the new and final issue 10.  Anyway, it's all very sad, and emotional for me to see this finally happen, and maybe this isn't as much a book review as a note about a really, really good all-ages adventure story that maybe should have gone on 20 or 200 more issues.

Skyward follows a boy named Quinn and his dog, Jack.  Early on, a mysterious group comes along, [selecting the stripe will spoil most of issue 1] burns down his house, kills his parents and starts chasing Quinn.  His father had told Quinn to get to the city of Three Rivers.  Everything after that is Quinn's adventure with Jack, unsure of where he is going, and trying to evade the group that is hunting him.

This is a little scary of a beginning for very young readers but the drawn violence is limited.  I will note that there is one place in issue 10 where there is a literal puddle of blood under a someone making gurgling noises... which may push this out of all-ages for some parents.

Here's the thing, the story is very well written, and the ending (issue 10) - while a little rushed is very well done with a much needed nod to Jeremy Dale at the end.  If this is a book or digital that you can get hold of, I do recommend it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

[Book] Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

Book cover
Fourteen year-old Doreen Green is back in this second adventure of Squirrel Girl.  Her parents are a little more used to the idea that she has super abilities, but are still nervous parents.  Her Best Human Friend Forever (BHFF), Ana Sofia, is also a friend of Thor, and Agents of SHIELD show up. Her Best Squirrel Friend Forever (BSFF), Tippy Toe, also joins in to help her solve the big mystery.  So, Marvel's comic universe is in full swing in this delightful return to young Squirrel Girl adventures.

For those who don't already know: Squirrel Girl has a tail like a Squirrel (but human sized) that she stuffs into her pants to pass as "normal", she can talk to squirrels, and she has the proportional strength of a squirrel.  Squirrel Girl, while super strong, always tries to use her wit and intelligence before resorting to an actual fight.

Doreen Green is just trying to navigate middle school as a normal kid while her super-hero persona, Squirrel Girl is so-popular the other students have set up a fan club that goes out on patrols to try to see Squirrel Girl in action.  Everyone is excited about a new mall opening near town, but before the mall opens, Squirrel Girl needs to deal with LASER LADY.

Bonus: There's a sub-plot here that feels like a nod to Jason Reynolds' book Miles Morales: Spider-Man, while taking the story in a very different direction.  This may not have been on purpose, but I like to think that it was.

In case it isn't clear, I highly recommend this book.  I also suggest picking up the first book, but there's no references to the first book that are not explained in this second book.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

[Book] The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Book cover (paperback)
This is the 1989 book that later became a movie (which I never saw).  This won the Booker Prize.  We follow a quintessential British Butler named Stevens sometime after World War 2 on a journey to look up an ex-employee.  The journey itself is beautifully and descriptively written.

While the main thread is the journey, the bulk of the story is Stevens' recollection of his past.  From stories about his father, to many descriptive stories about how professional he is, to his many interactions with both employees of the house, Darlington Hall, and the owners of his house, especially the first one, Lord Darlington.

At its core, this is a sweet story that - having read it four months ago - still sticks with me, and I still think of it occasionally.  In some ways, I feel this was a life story of someone who has seen a lot, but not seen anything extraordinary.  However, in other ways it is much more expansive than that, in that it deeply explores how being too close to something can keep you from seeing what it really is.

I do recommend this book if you are the kind of person who doesn't mind being haunted by a good story.  When I first read the book, it seemed like nothing happened, but it kept coming back to me and I realize now that nothing happened in between the three or four stories that were beautifully told throughout the narrative.  If you demand some action, though, this book isn't for you.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

[Food] Homage to Pizza Gone By

Not too far from where I live is a "turn key fully equipped restaurant" for lease.  The restaurant that was there until a few weeks ago was called Pizzaniste.

Pizzaniste had really good pizza.  Gourmet, all fresh ingredients, coal fired, whole-wheat crust as an option; even gluten free as an option.  Partly because they also made custom fresh salads, there were some unexpected ingredients: Real anchovies, fresh basil, artichokes, black beans, corn, cilantro, carrots, chickpeas, eggplant, hard-boiled egg, zucchini and two types of olives to choose from (along with all the other things you might expect every pizza place to have).  The place also had the look of a high-end juice-bar.  Tile and wood, clean glass in front of the food prep area.  Ingredients in refrigerated buckets easily seen and identifiable by the consumer.

Pizzaniste was also surprisingly inexpensive (which may be part of their demise).  They made these 12" personal pizzas, and their specialty vegetarian, "Veg Out" was $11.95.  Less than $1 per inch.  They had this huge bowl of Minestrone soup that they sold for $4.95.  This place was excellent, and I would have paid half-again the price for anything I ordered there it was that good.

However, it wasn't greasy New York street-style pizza.  The first thing I learned about this neighborhood is that the best rated pizza place around here is a place that absolutely specializes in street-pizza.  At Louie & Ernie's Pizza, orange grease runs freely from a bent slice (no pepperoni required), just like they make it for the two buck slices in "the city".  Street-pizza has its place, but I'm not in my 20s anymore, so I have to come at that sparingly.  This neighborhood loves Louie & Ernie.

In their last week, one of their employees pulled me aside and said that I was the only customer who noticed that they were about to close.  The signs were piling up fast.  Early in the year, there were several weeks where several fountain drink flavors ran out.  That was isolated, and eventually fixed, but ... a bad sign.  About a month before they closed, their customer WiFi stopped working, then their branded cups ran out, replaced by cheap purple-green blotch design cups.  I mentioned my suspicion to that employee, and he put on his best face, "they are on order".  When their web-site went offline with no sign of returning, I was deeply concerned.  The last time I went in, and they were out of Parmesan cheese I moaned at everyone, "Oh... it's really over."  That's when he took me aside to tell me that they would be closing as soon as Thursday or Friday.  They were already gone on Thursday evening.

My wife and I miss you, Pizzaniste.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

[Book] eyE Marty by Marty Feldman

Book cover
Marty Feldman is probably most famous for playing Igor in the 1974 Mel Brooks movie, Young Frankenstein.  He died in 1982, and his autobiography sat in the attic of his widow's home until her death in 2010 when it was discovered by Mark Flanagan.  Flanagan had it transcribed, exactly as it was found, including photo inserts and published without further editing.

This book is in desperate need of editing.  I fully understand why it was published the way it was, but it was one of the hardest books to read that I've ever sat down for.  Here's the thing, I love the comedies he's written for, and I love the comedies he's acted in, but I cannot recommend this book.  Maybe, though, this is exactly what you want to read.

eyE Marty is very much like sitting down in front of someone you don't know very well, and having him simply tell you his entire life story.  It is conversational in tone, which also means that the timeline slips back and forth with little notes like, "before I get to that, I have to go back a few years to mention..."  At which point, conversationally, I wanted to say, "Wait, what year?"  But nobody can answer my inquiry.  It's also not always clear when the back-story is finished and we've come back into the "current" timeline.

The greatest value of this book, is the foreword by Eric Idle.  The foreword is enlightening in its explanation of the things that happened after Marty finished this book.  It was finished just before he left for Mexico to film what would become his last movie, Yellowbeard.  Also, the foreword was well edited.

Well, at very least, here is a nod to all the book editors out there.  You folks rock!  Thanks for keeping the narrative flowing.