Brandon's Journal

I’ve always loved comic books. Superheroes, Archie, horror, you name it, I probably like it. But I wouldn’t call myself a super fan. In fact, my comic book reading has been quite sporadic over the years. I’ve got through five or six year gaps where I haven’t read anything at all but then at other times I read weekly. The best method for me to consistently read is to catch up about every six months or so, that way I can read through entire story arcs and truly appreciate what is going on.

A couple years ago, I gave up on comic reading. I was frustrated and a little burned out, and I figured it was time for me to drop the hobby. So, I haven’t read much over the past two or three years, but I have found myself really wanting to dive back into them here lately.

Marvel comics haven’t interested in me in quite some time, but I am a big DC fan. I was excited to start up a couple of DC books but then the DC bloodbath occurred. Corporate cost cutting hammered the DC workforce and well… that bothers me. I’m not against downsizing or anything, but I have a feeling AT&T is going to take a similar approach to their DC properties that Disney is doing and just farm them for IPs and discard the comics. I know, I could just forget all of that and enjoy the stories, but I think my frustration with the world as a world prevents me from doing that right now. So, I decided to look elsewhere. I checked out some of the smaller companies and so far, I’ve found some incredible books. I thought I’d talk about a few of them here:

Pulp by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

This may be my favorite graphic novel of all-time. Part pulp, part western, part man trying to find his place in this world… this book had everything that I love in good storytelling. The artwork is gorgeous and I am just stunned by how perfect this book was. I’ll definitely be buying a hardcover in the future to display on my shelf and appreciate for years to come.

Interesting Articles I Found Related to Pulp: (They do contain spoilers so read them at your own risk.)

PULP: WHAT HAPPENS TO COWBOYS WHO OUTLIVE THEIR PRIME?

The pulp Western publishing history underlying Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ ‘PULP’


Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell'Edera

Something is Killing the Children was originally scheduled to be a five-part limited series, but was quickly promoted to an on-going series because sales. The book reminds me of a new, twisted take on Buffy and I mean that in a very good way. So far, I’ve read issues 1-6 and I’ve enjoyed it a lot. There are quite a few questions left that I want to know answers to, however, I’m not sure if this is something I’d read for years to come.


Firefly by George Pak and Dan McDaid

I went into this book a bit apprehensive. I love Firefly but I've never been all that impressed with the various tie-ins. They've been quite hit and miss with me and I attempted to start the novel series recently released but grew frustrated about one-third of the way into the story. I decided to give the comic series a chance to provide me with an adequate story from the Verse and I feel like it delivered. It's not perfect, but its eons better than the novel and I like the story and artwork. The characters are pretty spot-on and I enjoy the pacing. I devoured issues 1-10 in one sitting and it actually kept me up pretty late and almost made me late for work the next day! I'm excited to continue reading this series.

#100DaysToOffload 71/100

After Clarissa describes the experience of visiting Ferguson in prison we finally get our first glimpse of the man. He's rocking a do rag and a gold cap. He talks like a stereotypical rapper (what's up with this book and giving people bad accents?) and he's actually adjusted well to the prison life. He's started up a dating service and bribes guards with his mom's tofu cookies. He also turns off his prison persona once Clarissa explains the problems he's created for his family.

Ferguson proceeds to spend two hours teaching Clarissa about finances and setting her up to write a great article.

Clarissa still can't figure out what angle she wants to write her article on so she takes a stroll through New York City for inspiration. She notices a do it yourself cafe and is inspired by the DIY movement that has sprung up both in person and online with Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Then she runs into her ex boyfriend Norm.

The meat of this read through was the chapter with Ferguson which was annoying to read but did progress the story. I'm not sure how much I like the current Ferguson storyline, but I'm willing to ride this out and see where it goes.

Be sure to check out Michael's thoughts about this book over at Random Thoughts and Ponderings

#BookClub #ThingsICantExplain

Recently, I wrote about my fondness for movie and television novelizations, especially those from the 80's and 90's. While doing a little research for that particular post I ran across a link inside a book that directed me to Retro Reading Time, a website ran by a very nice guy who spends some of his free time converting old novelizations into digital form.

I was flabbergasted by the selection included on Retro Reading Time and immediately started downloading tons of great books. Some of them I'd seen and read before (various Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and others I didn't even know exist (Short Circuit, Adventures in Babysitting). But there was barely a book in the library that I wasn't interesting in reading.

If you are interested in out of print novelizations I highly recommend you check out Retro Reading Time.

#100DaysToOffload 70/100 #SiteSpotlights

Well, Chapter 11 is a very short chapter that establishes Dartmoor as our antagonist. He's the finance editor and doesn't like Clarissa because of her family name. Well... specifically her relation to her brother Ferguson, who finally gets discussed!

Chapter 12 spends time explaining what happened to Ferguson since we last saw him. He continued to be brilliant, got a full scholarship and was recruited by a Wall Street brokerage before he graduated. He was the youngest broker to rock a Bluetooth headset, dated models, and made his family proud. Then he Fergusoned it.

He lost seven million dollars in a day due to insider trading. This loss got him sentence to a rough “don't drop the soap” style maximum security prison because the hedge fund he worked for was a front for the Russian mob. He went to a more secure prison to keep the Russian mobsters out, not necessarily to keep Fergwad in.

This was a very, very interesting twist. Ferguson was the little brother we all loved to hate. He was obnoxious but maximum security prison is not where I thought he'd end up. Of course, I suspect there will be more to the story than was let on, but as the chapter ends Ferguson has spent 18 months behind bars.

I'm intrigued to see where this is going...

Be sure to check out Michael's thoughts about this book over at Random Thoughts and Ponderings

#BookClub #ThingsICantExplain

Well... football is back and I noticed leaves on the ground as I walked into the work this morning. Fall is indeed on it's way.

We are halfway through September and it feels like it should be May. The disruption of 2020 has even thrown my introverted internal clock off. That's not to say I'm not happy to see Fall, it just makes me wonder if this will be considered a lost year.

The sporting events, box office totals, job loss stats and the like will all be branded with an asterisk noting the extraordinary circumstances that occurred. I wonder if I'll mark this year with an asterisk when I look back on my life or if it'll be just another blip like every other year.

I've found the way for me to keep my spirits up is to focus on something each week. Maybe it's watching Martin Scorsese movies or maybe its following NASCAR. Maybe it's binge watching horror movies or reading a book. I just try to find something that I can focus on and near obsess over and it gets me through the workweek which is by far the hardest. My work has become intolerable and I just need something to focus on while I'm there.

Avoiding the news and well... at times, avoiding people have also been key to keeping my sanity. Sometimes you have to weigh the suffering and irritation that can come with interacting with people in comparison to just taking solace in the quiet and as of late, the quiet has been winning out big time. I enjoy nothing more than sitting on the couch and watching a movie far away from the drama outside my door.

#100DaysToOffload 70/100

YES! The return of the charts! Chapters 7-8 didn't have any fun charts or lists and almost immediately we are hit with a breakdown of coffee drinkers! I love it!

And then the book takes a bit of a turn. We get into a humorous but somewhat out of place discussion about the sex life of her friend and model Jody. Her friend has an accent and it's written out in the book and well... I'm not a fan. This was obviously setting up something later in the book, but it was pretty meh.

In Chapter 10, Clarissa is making her way to her interview with MT Wilkinson, a British woman whom she is attempting to get a digital journalist job with. Nunzegeek, where she is applying is a sort of Huffington Post/Daily Beast sort of financial website. Clarissa meets the stuck up financial editor and it seems like her interview is over since she doesn't know much about the federal reserve, but luckily she falls back on common sense and spins a pitch about discussing finances for those who don't have money instead of just for those who do. It was a fun chapter to read and I loved to see Clarissa turn a negative into a positive. Her quirky, positive outlook was always one of the best parts of the TV show and I was glad to see it shine here.

Be sure to check out Michael's thoughts about this book over at Random Thoughts and Ponderings

#BookClub #ThingsICantExplain

When I think back to Clarissa Explains It All The Darling's come to mind. For some reason, I sorta forget about Sam. But once I began this book, Sam came raging back into my mind and he's been there ever since. I guess, deep down, all us Clarissa fans just expected Sam and Clarissa to end up together. When I found out they weren't, something didn't feel right and I'm hoping by the end of this book it will.

This chapter starts off with Clarissa snagging a job interview and her joy gets her thinking about Sam. We learn that same is a Marine biologist who fell in love with surfing. He spends his time traveling the globe and is very much the Gen Xer of the TV show and not the millennial of this book. He doesn't do much with social media and still writes old fashioned letters. He apparently mails letters to Clarissa from whenever he's currently working every once in a while. It sounds like it's been a while since Clarissa has heard from him so she calls and leaves him a voicemail.

One of my concerns about reading this book is that it would be a bit “girly.” Don't get me wrong, I like a good chick flick and even a book, (I recently read and enjoyed Waiting for Tom Hanks) but there are just some topics that don't interest me and when Clarissa started in on her fashion muse in chapter eight my mind started wandering. I'm sure this would have been more interesting to some, but for me, I could have done without it.

*Side Note: I made the mistake of reading a short review of this book on a retro sitcom blog. I should have known better. This particular blogger loves to take 90's sitcoms and review them with and judge them by today's standards. It's easy to pick apart what was essentially throw away TV from thirty years ago when people had different beliefs, but that's an argument for another time.

This reviewer didn't like the book. Her single biggest issue was the lack of continuity with the time jump. If Clarissa aged along with the real world, she would not be just a few years out of college, but instead in her forties. This bothered the reviewer so much they couldn't enjoy the book. I'll admit, it took me by surprise, but I actually like it. I don't think there would be a huge market for a Clarissa book written from her point of view as a mom (although I would read it) and I think the author did a great job by making Clarissa young enough that her personality is that which we remember but in present day so she can drop mentions about Instagram and Facebook. *

Be sure to check out Michael's thoughts about this book over at Random Thoughts and Ponderings

#BookClub #ThingsICantExplain

A couple of months ago, I bought a laserdisc of the movie Stargate. I don't own a laser disc player, but I'm a big Stargate fan and I really loved the artwork on the laser disc so I bought it for display purposes. Years ago, I saw someone with a massive frame of audio albums online and I always thought that would be cool to do with laser discs.

It took me a while to get around to buying a frame for my album, but I found one for $9.99 at Walmart that looks pretty good. My fiancée recommended I pick up a few more so that we can hang them above the TV in our bedroom and that sent me on a wild goose hunt for cool looking laser discs.

I spent some time thinking about what movies I wanted to feature: Do I do my favorite movies? or Do I stick to a single genre? I decided I wanted to keep a theme going, so I decided to look up other sci-fi movies that had nice cover art.

One of the first movies that popped up is an old favorite of mine that I haven't seen in years: The Arrival. This is not to be confused with Arrival from 2015. This film stars Charlie Sheen and was released in 1996 and seemed to air around the clock on HBO.

The film is about an astronomer who discovers evidence of intelligent alien life and ends up in a huge conspiracy. It was familiar territory for all the TV shows and movies that were coming out on the heels of The X-Files, but this one had a little more class to it since it was written and directed by David Twohy, who wrote The Fugitive and Waterworld, and went onto write and direct the Riddick Franchise and A Perfect Getaway.

The Arrival was very much a high end B film that was better than anyone expected. It was the type of movie you'd easily get lost in and I must have seen it a couple dozen times.

The artwork for the laser disc is beautiful and way better than the VHS and DVD releases. I think it'll look great right next to my Stargate laserdisc.

I'm still debating on what other films to display but I'm keeping with the sci-fi/alien theme and leaning towards: Fire in the Sky and an X-Files disc, but I may go with Communion.

#100DaysToOffload 69/100

About ten years ago, I went into one of those bookstores that sells books by the pound. It was located in a sketchy, industrial part of town and was located in a smelly warehouse with shelves made of 2x4s. The racks were full of books from the 70's-90's, with a few newer (and some older) titles sprinkled in. Massive palettes of books were spread everywhere and it was almost impossible to move around let alone actually search for anything. After an hour of browsing, I walked out with nothing, but I left some stuff on the shelves I wish I would have grabbed.

This bookstore (which went out of business within a few months) was loosely organized by genre. There was a teen section, which is not something I'd normally find myself browsing, but when I walked by I saw some titles catch my eyes. Titles that I hadn't seen since the Scholastic Book Fairs of the 90's. Titles like Rosewell High, Clueless, Saved by the Bell, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Titles that were popular when I was a teen.

I absolutely adore movie/tv tie-in novels and this love grew from those book fairs. Between the Newberry Award Winners and Lamborghini Posters, there were all sorts of small books that expanded the universe of some of my favorite shows and franchises. For the most part, these books were written for girls, so I'd glance across this as inconspicuous as possible before picking up something less feminine, but if I had to be honest, I wanted to read about the adventures of Stephanie Tanner outside of the TV canon and I wanted to know what happened in those AC Slater books where he was looking all dreamy.

I got up the nerve to purchase two books based on the Clueless franchise, although both of these books were ordered and not bought in person. A couple times a year, the teacher would pass out an order form that featured various books that you could pay for by check.

I remember thinking this was the one opportunity I had to snag a couple of these books, that I never seemed to find at Barnes and Noble. So, I ordered a couple: Achieving Personal Perfection and * Cher's Guide To... Whatever*

I enjoyed both books and my younger brother was a less bashful and bought several Full House books that I was able to enjoy, but that was it as far as children/teen tie-ins went for me. I was reading the Goldeneye tie-in along with all of the classic James Bond books around this same time, and well... I guess I was ashamed they were so far beneath what I was normally reading. I always read way higher than my grade level and because of the attention I got from that, I tended to shy away from books I knew others would look down on me for reading. A good example was Goosebumps. I devoured those books as my little brother bought them, but I was already reading Stephen King books and well... I enjoyed the Goosebumps more, but I never bought a single Goosebump book of my own.

I always meant to go back and snag some of those novelizations. I've had this crazy dream to read through all of the Sabrina The Teenage Witch tie-ins just because there are so many and because they are mostly small. I'm also very interested in reading a book from Salem's point of view and it seems like there are several of those.

Sadly, these books are all out of print and you can't find them digital. I could buy them on eBay or Etsy but they are definitely not cheap by the pound like they were ten years ago. Also, I guess I still run into the same problem I did as a child. What business does a man in his thirties have reading books written for tweens in the late 90's? I guess, I never did learn that lesson to just do what you enjoy and not over think things.

Sometimes I think about starting a blog and reviewing these books. Who knows, maybe I'll buy a lot on eBay one day and do just that.

#100DaysToOffload 68/100 #Books

This morning felt a little different. It was a darker than normal which is usually the first hint that Fall is around the corner. It feels so weird to say that, since the normal ebb and flow of the year has been disrupted by all that has been going on. I almost feel like we hit pause on the world back in March and nothing has progressed since. Of course, the seasons wait for no one, so Fall is coming and so is Winter which means Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are just around the corner.

I'm not sure why the holidays were on my mind, but I guess I thought about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and whether or not it would happen and if spectators would be allowed. I felt a twinge of sadness at the thought of it not happening, but that empathy was for others, not myself because the parade hasn't really meant all that much to me over the years.

I didn't grow up watching the parade. Sure, I watched parts of it here and there, but it wasn't a tradition for me or my family. As an adult, I've turned it on occasionally, but the stereotypical day of parade, turkey, and football is just not something I'm used to.

Holidays weren't ever a huge deal for my family. My grandmother always went all out, but we didn't establish traditions and when my parents divorced that disturbed things further. I actually began to hate holidays as time went on since most of the time I spent my holidays traveling between parents and grandparents, and it was most exhausting than fun. By the time I moved out on my own, I swore off decorating for holidays and decided to be a Scrooge about everything.

That lasted seven or eight years, before I really started missing the idea of celebrating the holidays. I got back into watching holiday movies and I bought a Christmas tree. I started decorating my apartment and while I didn't go too crazy, I did just enough that I was comfortable and not over encumbered.

Obviously my little attempts at making the holidays my own didn't make up for the lack of traditions or cohesive family, but I started a tradition of my own which was watching holiday episodes of 90's sitcoms. Every Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, I dig into my favorite sitcoms from my youth and spend the holidays with my favorite characters. My goal is to one day design my own holiday DVD sets containing my favorite episodes, but I'm still discovering new ones and I haven't put it in the time to make that happen yet.

Last year, I spent Thanksgiving in Memphis but the five or six years prior to that I spent them with my grandmother. Every Thanksgiving my mom and step-dad would go visit his family, which left my grandmother alone on Thanksgiving. My brother and I would spend our Thanksgiving with her. It was nice because she was one heck of a cook and always put a lot of effort into decorating and making her place feel special for the holidays.

I recall showing up while the parade was still on, catching up with her and my brother before enjoying a nice dinner at her dining room table. She'd pull out the good dishes and cloth napkins and we'd all enjoy whatever feast she put together. She'd have to prepare two dishes, since my brother is vegan, but I fondly remember the last dinner being a huge bone in chicken breast that she panned fried along with some fresh mashed potatoes, rolls, and green beans. After dinner, we enjoyed slices of cheesecake she picked up. It maybe wasn't the most traditional dinner, but it was good.

I think this memory glows so brightly for a couple of reasons:

  1. She passed away last year.
  2. It was similar to some of the best memories of my childhood.

As previously mentioned, my grandmother was the one person who went all out for the holidays. She'd had nice decorations that she brought out and she'd play Christmas music both at home and in her car. She built beautiful holiday displays at work and there was just something warm and comforting about those times with her. I think it was because she didn't just sling cheap decorations everywhere, but she intentionally decorated with some solid pieces that made her apartment feel classy.

I spent a lot of time with my grandmother following my parent's divorce and I credit a lot of my childhood interests to that time. She made sure that the time we spent with her, we spent it as children and not young people being forced to adapt. We enjoyed cartoons, trips to the library, and toys. Everyday she'd make dinner, lay out a huge towel on the coffee table, and we'd eat sitting on the floor while watching Full House and Ducktales. It was a bright spot in my childhood that occurred when everything seemed so dark, and those few Thanksgivings where it was just me, her, and my brother, were sort of a progression of those times. I wish I would have appreciated them a little more while they were occurring.

I will say, that last Thanksgiving together in 2018, I remember sitting on the couch and proclaiming that this is what the holidays should be like. Calm, enjoyable dinner, good conversation in a location that felt special. Then again, I'm sure the nostalgia of being around her decorations played a huge part in all of that. My brother was fiercely defensive of my other family members who weren't in attendance, but for a few minutes I appreciated what I had.

I'm not sure what the holidays will bring this year. My mother was so distraught at my grandmother's death last year, she wanted to do something that wasn't normal and didn't remind her of my grandmother, so we all brought Asian dishes. Now with the state of the world I have no real expectations for this holiday season. I guess, I hope that maybe everyone can find some patience and kindness and we can end this year better than we began it.

I'm gonna enjoy my 90's sitcoms. I found a great Christmas episode of Wings a few months back where Joe gets in a fight at a video store and it'll be a great addition to my normal viewings of Roseanne, Home Improvement, Sabrina, and Just Shoot Me.

#Reflection

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