Friday, November 21, 2014
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Monday, November 03, 2014
THESEUS AND THE MINOTAUR is a graphic novel adaptation of the myth and legends of the Greek hero, Theseus. The book tells the story of both Theseus and the Minotaur, beginning with their somewhat unusual births until their fateful meeting in the Labyrinth of Crete. The book also tells about Theseus' journey home after meeting the Minotaur. The end of the book contains a visual reference guide that provides more information about key characters in the story. In addition, there is an illustrated index at the very end of the book that provides more information about almost all of the characters discussed in the book. Lastly, there phonetic pronunciations for most of the names and places in notes at the bottom of each page. These notes provide readers a valuable service so they can correctly pronounce names and places. THESEUS AND THE MINOTAUR has a suggested reading level for children ages 8 and older. I enjoyed the book's illustrations. Overall, THESEUS AND THE MINOTAUR is a faithful graphic adaptation of the stories of Theseus that works well for introducing middle-aged children (around 4th grade) to Greek mythology.
Saturday, November 01, 2014
"Benny and Penny" Toon Books are great early graphic novels for children because the characters in the story react like real children react when placed in similar situations. Young children (PreK age) can really relate to these characters. The text is written in a very simple style that make it easy for beginning readers to follow along and the illustrations actually tell a story themselves.
Those who are already familiar with Benny and Penny will be eager to follow their latest adventures in BENNY AND PENNY IN LOST AND FOUND! , but the book is also a good choice for any beginning reader or a young child who is just becoming interested in comic books and graphic novels.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
LEGO NINJAGO: MASTERS OF SPINJITZU #11: COMET CRISIS tells the story of what happened during the time Jay, Cole, Zane & Kai were abandoned on a comet before they were able to make it make to Ninjago. The quartet believes they are alone on the giant space rock, but it soon becomes clear they are not. Appearances are deceiving and distrust grows among the group as they fight a foe they have never encountered before. I enjoyed LEGO NINJAGO: MASTERS OF SPINJITZU #11: COMET CRISIS. It was nice reading a story where the quartet was taken away from all that is familiar and fighting a completely new foe. For those who are fans of the tv show, this book makes a good companion piece.
Back in the day (the 1970s), there were these huge jumbo editions of comics that used to be issued that sometimes featured crossovers with various comic icons (Superman vs. Spider-Man for instance). The GIANT-SIZE KUNG FU BIBLE STORIES references those older jumbo comics, but does so all in parody. The book features several different and completely unrelated stories and none of them have anything to do with Kung Fu or the Bible.
"Secret Crisis on Ultimate Earth" – there's a cataclysmic event and all the different universes of superheroes are fighting against each other on one plane. How will it end? There are a lot of inside comic references in this story.
"Empowered: Feel the Uberburn" – a female superhero is helping train another female superhero.
"Astronomus" – a giant monster appears to destroy Astronomus' comrades and he goes on a rampage, but things aren't exactly what they appear to be.
"Snowman Slaughter" - a boy is convinced the rich kid in his class destroyed his snowman, but it turns out that's not the case at all.
"Jack Champion" – Jack and his two friends drop off some groceries at Jack's uncle's place. However, they end up discovering something unbelievable.
"Opus: Destroyer of Worlds" – after bedding a female super warrior, Opus destroys her planet.
"Frankenstein of Mars" – Frankenstein is on Mars, enough said.
In addition to the stories, there are a set of black and white pin-up pictures by Arthur Adams.
Of the stories, my favorites were "Secret Crisis on Ultimate Earth", "Snowman Slaughter", and "Jack Champion." "Secret Crisis" is a great parody piece and the other two are great introductory stories that I would love to read more of.
GIANT-SIZE KUNG FU BIBLE STORIES isn't for everyone. However, it is a nice comical collection for anyone who enjoys reading comic books.
Thursday, October 02, 2014
It’s been five years now since my Dad died. There are no words to describe the sudden and unexpected loss of a parent that you love. There has been nothing else in my life that I can compare to it. It’s been five years and time does heal wounds. However, some wounds leave scars that become a part of you for the rest of your life.
We’ve carried on in his absence the last five years and although he is no longer here, he is far from forgotten. It is often in the smallest moments of daily living that thoughts and memories of him flood my mind: the snippet of a song on the radio, the way someone I’m talking to says a particular phrase, a picture that provides a visual reminder to a moment past, a television show or movie where two characters share a relationship similar to ours, etc.
I’ve missed my Dad a lot this past year, probably more so than any other time outside of that first year without him. I’m not really sure why it is. For most intents and purposes, this year has been a relatively good year for me. Perhaps it’s because I miss sharing the good times with him. There have been so many bad times the past few years. I had a happy childhood growing up, but it wasn’t exactly easy and completely carefree. I grew up poor (hell, I’m still poor), but my Dad did all kinds of things to make life better for us; he showed us that even if you’re poor and struggling, you can still really live and not just exist and enjoy the simpler things that life offers.
Lately, I’ve been thinking back to a conversation I had with my Dad. At the time, I was getting ready to return to college full time to earn a teaching certificate. It was a choice I had struggled with for two years, but it was something that I felt I was supposed to do. I remember talking with Dad and asking him if he was disappointed. Until I started thinking about teaching, there had only been one thing in my life that I really wanted to do as a profession: acting. I never directly asked my Dad what he thought about that, but he came to almost every single show I was in and he did little things on the side to encourage my dream. He told me since I was in the fifth grade and started doing bigger parts for church and school that if I became an actor, the only thing he wanted from me when I was rich and famous was a house with an indoor swimming pool (actually, he wanted a swimming pool that was half inside/half outside, but he later told me an indoor pool would be ok).
Anyway, I remember asking him if he was disappointed in me. I thought that my change in plans and decision not to move out to California like I was originally supposed to do was something he was disappointed with. He looked at me and said, “What would I be disappointed about? If that’s what you want to do, then do it. Just do something you’ll be happy with. Don’t end up like me.” My Dad worked in a factory basically doing the same job for over 40 years. I don’t know exactly what all his struggles were, but I do know that my Dad took a lot of verbal abuse from people that he had no business taking. One of his close co-workers told me shortly after his funeral that, “I don’t know how your Dad did it. He took so much crap from some of those guys.” I knew it then, but I know it now in a greater way that Dad did it for us. His job was just a job, but what he really lived for was his family.
I learned so much from my father and not all of it necessarily good. For instance, I tend to be a quiet and reserved individual and don’t usually talk much until I get to know someone or feel comfortable. Although I’m not as bad about it, I picked that up from him. I talk much more than he ever did, but I still have some strong introverted tendencies. On the other hand, my Dad was a very generous individual. We never did have much money and he wasn’t one for words, but he was always buying little gifts to give to people or would write a small note to someone to encourage them.
The last five years I have lived without having my Dad around. There are times that I miss him so much. There are times I wish he was just around so I could stop by and share the rare happy news. There are times that I desperately wish he was around so I could ask his advice about a problem I am struggling with. Usually the advice he gave was sound, but sometimes it was horrible advice. Good or bad I wish he was still here so I could ask him. But he’s not. I’ve had to do without for the past five years and I’ll have to continue doing without until I die. As Andy says in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, I need to, “Get busy living or get busy dying.....there ain't nothing inbetween.”
Thursday, September 25, 2014
If I was teaching Macbeth today, I would have made this analogy, too. I used everything from REVENGE OF THE SITH to THE TWILIGHT ZONE to THE SIMPSONS to Abbott & Costello's famous "Who's On First?" routine in my English classes.
"Funky Winkerbean" Sunday, September 21, 2014
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
In the book series “A Song of Fire and Ice” and the tv show Game of Thrones, House Stark’s motto is “Winter Is Coming.” The saying is both literal and figurative and reminds the Stark family, their friends, and those under their protection to be prepared for the difficult things to come. House Stark protects the North and they are the guardians against the evil that lies beyond the great wall at the northern boundary of the kingdom. House Stark stands in the gap against what lies beyond the wall and the horrors it can bring.
Overall, this year has been a good year for me. Sure, I’ve had my share of daily struggles, but, so far, 2014 has been relatively free of any major trials, tribulations, and problems. I’m so thankful and grateful for that because for such a long, long period of time it seemed like the difficult times would never end. It’s been almost five years since my Dad suddenly died and although that wound has healed, that emotional scar runs deep within my soul and sometimes I miss him so much that I can’t help but cry. I lost my job less than six months after my Dad died and spent the next fourteen months after that being virtually unemployed. I’ve been working at my current job for almost three years now, but the memories and feelings from those fourteen months when I couldn’t find consistent work still reside in the back corners of my mind. After such a long time of turmoil, things seem to finally be going okay. Not great or fantastic, but okay. Yet, I hear the motto of House Stark, “Winter Is Coming” and it keeps me from any sort of complacency.
I used to enjoy the season of Winter. I actually do enjoy playing in the snow. I like snowball fights and building forts in the snow and ice skating. I love a white Christmas and the stars are never as bright during the year as they are in Winter. I also love coming into a warm home after being outside in the cold and sitting down with a cup of hot cider. And although it’s been far too long and only happened a few times, I enjoyed sitting on the couch, watching tv, and snuggling with a female friend (it was never more than good friends, but those are all stories for another time). I’m not sure when it was, but over time I’ve grown to enjoy Winter less and less. In fact, during the months of Winter, I can oft be quoted as saying, “Winter is the discontent of my soul.” Driving has a lot to do with it. I hate driving in Winter and because of where I live I have to do a lot of it. I don’t really get to play in the snow anymore and haven’t been sledding since I was in college. My dad died in the Fall, but Winter augments the hole he left (particularly that first Winter). I might be wrong, but I really think if I had someone to spend time with in the Winter, I would enjoy it more. But, I don’t and as it stands currently, Winter is the discontent of my soul. I used to enjoy Fall and once upon a time it used to be my favorite season. However, now I find it difficult to even enjoy Fall because it’s the precursor to Winter. Fall reminds me Winter Is Coming and I don’t like to think about that.
But right now, at this moment, things in life seem to be going okay, but I can’t but help think that Winter Is Coming. I don’t like thinking that. I really don’t. I hate that the thought even tickles the recesses of my thoughts. I want to soak up every last once of summer sunshine there is. I attempt to delay the inevitable as long as possible and try to wear shorts until at least October. When Fall finally arrives, I want to enjoy it. I want to go on hayrides and enjoy bonfires. I want to enjoy things for what they are. I want to enjoy the moments as they arrive and are given. But, I can’t quite seem to shake the tendencies of my namesake (I was named after the apostle Thomas, famous for initially doubting the resurrection of Jesus without physical proof) and the internal drumbeat keeps repeating, “Winter is coming,” over and over like a melancholic mantra.
Yet, despite this, that mantra isn’t as strong as it once was. I see and feel signs of real change around me. These are not the physical signs of the change of seasons. Instead, they are signs that my spirit is changing, or perhaps has already changed, into something better than it was. Hope resides eternal and that, mixed in with the slow march of time, has made all the difference.
Winter is coming, but Hope is eternal.