Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year in Books

This year, according to what I've recorded on Goodreads at least, I've read 54 books. I was going for an even 60 but those pesky deadlines kept getting in the way. My plan for this post was to pick out my five favorites, but it's way too difficult. There are a lot of good books in the world, and not nearly enough time.

I will say that if you are a person and you like reading, definitely check out Nick Hornby's collections of "Stuff I've Been Reading." MORE BATHS, LESS TALKING is the 4th one, but they are all wonderful. On the other end of the spectrum, THE CROWNING had some really scary, poetic moments in it for those who like their horror dark, Lovecraftian, and kind of romantic. Speaking of Lovecraftian, I.N.J. Culbard's graphic adaptations of Lovecraft's work are terrific. AT THE MOUNTAINS of MADNESS is my favorite Lovecraft story and Culbard really did it right. If you've ever met me you know that I don't say that lightly. WILLY was an unexpected surprise that I wouldn't have found if it wasn't for Goodreads. Spooky, dark, and almost a love story, it is well worth the price of admission. And of course, RASL and THE CREEP are two more that shouldn't be passed up if you like romance mixed with your tragedy. If you want to read some interesting physics, on the other hand, THE PARTICLE AT THE END OF THE UNIVERSE by Sean Carroll is a good place to start. I loved it almost as much as his former book FROM ETERNITY TO HERE.

Moving on through the year, DARWIN'S LOST WORLD was a fascinating look at the roots of the Cambrian Explosion. What the heck is up with those weird, ancient fossils that look like pizzas, anyway? I still don't know, but at least now I have some idea. HORSESHOE CRABS AND VELVET WORMS attacked much the same problem from a different perspective: looking at existing examples of ancient lifeforms to decode what may have gone before. It's fascinating, as all of Richard Fortey's books are, and a real romp as well. Paleontology not your thing? David Byrne does the same sort of thing with music in HOW MUSIC WORKS.
As the year drew to a close, I spent some time among London's dead while plowing through NECROPOLIS, which is absolutely fascinating if you've ever visited that city, and a good companion to THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY. And finally reading CORPSE ON THE IMJIN!, Fantagraphic's collection of Harvey Kurtzman's war comics, was eye-opening. I'm rounding out the year by reading REBECCA, something that I've somehow never gotten around to before now. I have to say, it's not quite what I was expecting. 

Next year? Hard to say, except that my TBR pile weighs more than I do  I really wish there was a national holiday where it was expected that you did nothing all day but catch up on pleasure reading. Maybe then I'd be able to get through 60 books!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Five Films Worth Seeing - 2013 Edition

The new year is almost here and that means it's the season of lists. I can't possibly make a definitive top ten since I haven't seen nearly enough of this year's films (I'm going to watch 12 YEARS A SLAVE soon, I swear!) But I am at least qualified to offer up five movies that I really enjoyed during 2013.

And so, in no particular order, here are my five favorite films from the last 12 months...


Oh man, I want to see more science fiction like this! Yes, it's a fake documentary and we've all seen a lot of those at this point, but that didn't keep me from loving it. The characters seem like real people who are brave, loyal, sometimes frightened, sometimes lonely and bored, but above all absolutely committed to what they're doing. And what they're doing is science!

Sent to Jupiter's moon Europa to look for life under the ice, the multinational crew risks everything to send back a report of what they've found and expand the frontiers of human knowledge. I dare anyone with even a drop of biophilia (hopefully that's everyone) to watch this movie and not be enthralled.


Hmm, there seems to be a preponderance of "people adrift" films this year. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS is another example, and a good one, but not as good as this. Robert Redford gives an amazing performance in a film that has almost no dialogue but plenty of action and pathos. May play as extra scary if you're terrified of big waves, as I am. Extra points to screenwriter (and director) J.C. Chandor  too, for pulling off such a daring script.


What an incredibly odd movie. Set just 30 years ago but during an era that seems increasingly ancient when viewed through the lens of modern technology, this story feels less like a film and more like some little con that you may have once attended. There are great character moments, rampant social anxiety and awkward interactions, and even some bizarre speculative fiction dealing with artificial intelligence thrown in. And all those cats! What was that all about? I could make a guess, but I was too busy wondering if Michael Papageorge would end finding a place to spend the night. In short, don't try to figure out what this film is about. Just watch it and worry about that later.


Another film about artificial intelligence? Goodness, this year is full of themes! I really didn't expect to like this one. Yeah, yeah, a guy is disconnected from his fellow humans and falls for the disembodied voice of his computer. Yawn. But... It wasn't like that at all. I mean, yes, that was basically the plot, but the story didn't ever go where I expected it to go. It was actually romantic, and sad, and funny. Not to mention the fact that it had great art direction. Now that's a version of Los Angeles that maybe I'd like to live in, despite the high-waisted pants that seem to be all the rage in the near-future. Also, I really hope we all get to have tiny wallet-sized computers some day that don't even pretend to be phones. Isn't it time for that revolution?


Hands down, my favorite of the year. I was a total sucker for PRIMER, Shane Carruth's previous twisty, engrossing film. This one though, this is something else. Sad, beautiful, and almost hopeful, it's like nothing else I've seen. I won't even try to describe the plot, which involves some sort of parasitic, will-sapping organism, a desperate romance, and a lot of pigs. It's dreamy, creepy, lovely, and made me cry. Just take my word for it, see it if you haven't.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Preserve the Tapir Preservation Fund!

Tapir lovers unite! People who know me know that there is one animal that I admire above all others: the tapir. There are four (wait! Not four, possibly five! A new one has just been discovered... Hopefully!) species of tapir and every single one of them is endangered.

For years now I've made jewelry for the Tapir Preservation Fund (you can find that here) and run a little etsy shop (The Frog Bag) that gives 20% of everything that sells to the Tapir Preservation Fund. Why? Because they fund quality, science-based conservation work. So much of their money is funneled to tapir work "on the ground" that very little is ever used for basics like updating their website. It's to the point that the old one really isn't very functional any more, so they're running an Indigogo campaign to bring it up to speed. It's a fantastic resource, full of tapir facts and conservation information, it just needs a bit of an overhaul. The campaign funding goal is grand, but at base only about $4000 is needed to make a huge difference. But with less than 53 hours left they are less than half way to that benchmark! So, if you have $5 burning a hole in your pocket, consider giving the tapirs a boost? They'd really appreciate it!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Things to Comment On, Things to Vote On

The year is almost over and you know what that means: "best of" lists! And this year Gabriel's comic KINSKI is up for Best New Series over at Broken Frontier. There's still time to vote until December 24th, so may I humbly suggest that you VOTE KINSKI?

Meanwhile, I'm having a giveaway on my new Facebook "fan page." I feel odd calling it that, but it is handy for putting all my writing news in one place.

Give it a "like" if you feel so inclined, but even if you don't, you can still comment here to win a copy of our first STAR WARS: LEGACY trade and an awesome Darth Vader dog toy. I'll use a random number generator to choose a winner on Dec 24th. Good luck and happy holidays!

Friday, December 13, 2013


In case you missed it, KINSKI, Gabriel's offbeat comic about a man and a dog, was featured on The A.V. Club's list of the 10 Best Graphic Novels and Art Comics of 2013! You can see the entire list here.

If you haven't read it yet, you can find the first three issues here. There are still three issues to go, so you can also use that link to subscribe, or, if you have a dog-loving friend with noir sensibilities, there's even a button for giving the digital issues as gifts for just $0.99 each. Comixology, making your holiday shopping easy!

There are more great comics out there now than ever before, so I'm really proud (but not surprised) that KINSKI made the cut for the A.V. Club. It's a fantastic book, so do yourself a favor and read it today!
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