Black Friday

As seemingly everyone in America knows, today is “Black Friday”. Or as I prefer to call it: “The Friday after Thanksgiving where normally sane people act like lunatics and buy crap they don’t need and can’t afford” Day. Granted it’s a very small sample size, but judging from what friends have said over the years very few of the things purchased on Black Friday are intended for Christmas presents, and are instead things these people are looking for themselves. That’s fine, I guess, but nearly everyone I know that’s buying stuff is saying they’ll be using a credit card. So how much money are they really saving when they figure in the interest on their purchase? I’m thinking not much.

As I have for most of the Black Fridays in my lifetime, I’m not planning on buying anything. In fact, odds are I won’t even be venturing out until the evening when I’ll be heading out to a hockey game. Years ago my wife and I used to go out on Black Friday and bring a friend of ours that works in retail a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee about lunch time. At the time he ran the electronics section for Caldor (a long out of business department store chain) at the Auburn Mall, and we would love to go in to see if he was still sane or not. Somehow he never seemed to lose him mind on Black Friday, unlike many of the people shopping.

There’s a meme going around the internet about Black Friday that’s both funny and true which says: “Black Friday: Because only in America people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what we already have.”.

So enjoy yourself shoppers, I’ll be sitting here all day reading.

My top 5 favorite comedy movies: #5 Young Frankenstein

In a new feature here on “Random thoughts of 210Darryl” on Wednesdays I’m going to stray away from my normal posts about books and for the next few weeks I’m going to talk about my favorite movies in a few different genres. Making these lists took more work that I thought they would because limiting it to five in each category took some doing. I figured 10 was too many, so down to five I cut my lists. We’ll start unveiling my top five favorite comedy movies, and at #5 we have Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein.

Brooks released two movies in 1974, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein (not a bad year, eh?). As a kid Blazing Saddles was definitely my favorite of the two mostly because of the campfire scene with all the cowboys eating beans and farting. Not exactly intellectual humor, but to a young boy you couldn’t do anything funnier. As I’ve gotten older it’s been Young Frankenstein that’s become my favorite of the two. It’s one of the few films that I’ve seen multiple times where still laugh out loud at many of the scenes.

It’s not just a movie filled with one-liners. Granted it has a ton of them, but how Brooks puts everything together, including making it in black and white, just makes for a great film. Just sitting here writing this I can hear Peter Boyle, as “the Monster”, singing “Puttin’ on the Ritz” in my mind and I’m chuckling. The “Abby Normal” brain scene with Marty Feldman and Gene Wilder is classic comedy. The running gag of every time Frau Blucher’s (played by Cloris Leachman) name getting mentioned causing the horses to whinny is incredibly funny. It’s hard to keep a running gag funny throughout a film, but this one works.

In one of the many things the actors ad-libbed was Igor’s hump moving from side to side, and no one noticed for days. It wasn’t until the actors saw it that it was even mentioned and written into the script. Feldman’s line “What hump?” was also ad-libbed. Gene Hackman has a small uncredited part in the movie where he plays a blind man, and just after his famous scene with the monster he ad-libbed the line “I was gonna make espresso”. The crew was laughing so hard Brooks had to cut the scene short so as not hear them laughing.

In several point in the film you can see Wilder trying not to laugh. It’s actually hard for me to think of a part of Young Frankenstein where I don’t want to laugh, and that’s why it makes my top five.

Directed by Mel Brooks
Produced by Michael Gruskoff
Written by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks
Starring Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars, and Madeline Kahn
Music by John Morris
Cinematography by Gerald Hirschfeld
Edited by John C. Howard
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date December 15, 1974
Running time 105 minutes
Budget $2.78 million
Box office $86,273,333

Random Review: The Victim by W.E.B. Griffin

This review contains mild spoilers.

Book Name: The Victim
Author: W.E.B. Griffin
Series: Book #3 in the ongoing “Badge of Honor” series
Publisher(s): Jove
Format(s): Hardcover(reprint)/Mass market paperback/audiobook/eBook
Genre(s): Thriller
Release Date: February 1, 1991

Rating: 8/10

You can read my review of the second book in the series, Special Operations, right here. That will eventually lead back to the first book in the series, Men In Blue.

Despite The Victim being the third book in the series this is really where “Badge of Honor” picks up steam. There are two murders, one an obvious mob hit and the other a cop, and Griffin hops between the two seemingly unrelated crimes with ease. Add to the mix that a friend of “Golden Boy” Matt Payne, Penny Detwieler, is wounded in the mob hit and you have three different storylines running throughout the book. The Detwieler storyline continues on after The Victim ends, but the mob hit of “Tony the Zee” has a likely real world ending that doesn’t work well in murder mysteries. But as I’ve said in my previous two reviews, “Badge of Honor” isn’t about the mysteries it’s about the relationships between the characters in the story.

The Victim is a throwback novel as it’s set in the 1970s, so no cell phones, no DNA, and crime scene forensics is really in its infancy. Being from a time where all these things are usable by police it’s fun to see how the police had to cope with the lack of things we take for granted now. Several times in the series we read of a police official “checking in” with headquarters to tell them where they are and to see if they have any messages. Griffin liberally uses the phrase “put the arm out” when saying that someone is looking for another officer. It’s maddening in a way because all you can think of is “if only they could…”.

Like the previous two books I liked this one a whole lot, but that comes with the caveat that I read all these books in order without the gap that would have taken place had I read them on their releases. The good news is you can do that too, and as so the three books have read like a long single book. That continued into book four, The Witness, and I’ll have more on that later.

Week in review, week ending 11/23/14

For those that are new to my “Week in Review” postings, the following is a list of the blog posts I made over the last week, a few of the posts from people I follow that I thought were pretty good, and then lastly other posts I’ve stumbled into that folks might like to take a look at. Presuming I did it right all links will open new windows/tabs. In case you missed it, here’s last week’s post.

From me this week there was…
On Monday I asked How do you pick the next book you’re going to read?, Thursday I answered some “Reader problem” questions, and on Friday I gave some advice on How to start blogging (no, seriously).

From the folks I follow…
Drunken Dragon Reviews has a review of The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, a book that currently sits on my to-read list.
The Credible Hulk continues his “Creator Profile” posts with his look at Geoff Johns – DC’s Fixer. Good stuff, as usual.
Meghen Ann on on how she treats her books. I did a similar theme a short while ago.
Interestingliterature has a cool post called Five Fascinating Facts about Harry Potter. A slightly less than fascinating fact about Harry Potter: I’ve not read one word of any of the books.

Some stuff I stumbled into…
Nerdy Pajamas just missed inclusion in last week’s review posting by mere minutes, but she makes it in first this week with The myth of the comfortable reading position. I think she needs a new chair.
Kitty Lusby has a look at Daedalus Books – there’s a reason they’re a legend. A really cool look at a discount book distributor. Great pics too.
Nightwolf’s Corner has an interesting posting called Video Games: The Future of Book Publishing?. It made me think, which is the whole idea of writing, right?

Links do not indicate an endorsement of the ideas presented, only that I thought the posting was worth taking a look at.

How to start blogging (no, seriously)

This post is inspired by something written on “Writing about books” called Sunday Salon: What I wish I’d known when I started blogging. Originally it was featured on my “Week in Review” posting but the post kept jumping to the front of my mind so I chose to not include it and to present it here with some thoughts of my own. The posting is a great list of what to expect (and, maybe more importantly, what not to expect) when blogging. It links to a great post about being burned out on blogging, so make sure you’ve got a few minutes to read both and then come back here are read what I have to say.

When boredom strikes me, or lately when the urge to scream loudly at idiots starts to overwhelm me, I like to browse through some of the “tag” searches on WordPress to see what’s new. Obviously “books” if the big one I look at, but every so often I search out another tag just to see what comes up. In doing so, I run across a lot of new blogs, and nearly every new blogger makes the exact same mistake: in their first post they say what they are going to do instead of actually doing it.

Instead of telling me you’re going to review books, go ahead and review one. If you say you’re going to talk about movies, or music, or knitting, talk about those things. Give potential readers a taste of what you’ll be doing. It takes very little effort for a reader to click the “follow” button, but as the blogger it’s your job to get them to do that or they may not ever see your blog again. And don’t think your post needs to be hundreds of words long either (a trap I still fall into even after years of blogging). If it takes 200 words to say what you want to, use 200. The key, in both word count and posts, is quality over quantity.

If you feel the need to make a “I’m going to…” type post save it for your about page. Seriously, make sure you have something there even if it’s just erasing the default page and adding a couple of lines, because that’s where people will go early on to see what you’re about.

As I noted above, I search “tags”, so tagging your posts correctly will make your blog available to be seen by more people. Now be careful and don’t flood your posts with tags, and make sure your tags match your post. Both can cause people to skip by your blog when they see it in a search. You want to make your postings easy to find and relevant to what people are looking for in your tags.

The best advice I can give anyone thinking about starting a blog is perhaps the most important thing about anything: have fun doing it. If you’re not having fun, readers will know it. Once it because a chore to write it becomes a chore to read. And in the end, that’s not worth it for anyone.

Reader problems book tag list

Never one to not steal borrow a good idea I stumbled into this list from Bookarahma a few days ago and because I have nothing else close to finished I thought I’d just quickly answer these for something to post Wednesday. Two hours later and “quickly” isn’t the word I should have used. So that’s why you’re seeing this on Thursday.

1. You have 20,000 books on your TBR. How in the world do you decide what to read next?
This one was the easiest to answer because I just blogged about it Monday. Even before I had a ton to chose from I usually already had an idea what would be the next few to be read. It boils down to I just sort of go by what I’ve finished lately. Other than intentionally running through a series I try to switch off genres after a couple of the same.

2. You’re halfway through a book and you’re just not loving it. Do you quit or are you committed?
I blogged about that just recently too. I really have to hate a book or become so thoroughly disinterested in a book that I have to stop. It rarely happens. My OCD compels me to finish books I start, to the point where I’ve literally forced myself to sit in a chair and finish the book just so I could move on to another.

3. The end of the year is coming and you’re so close, but so far away on your Goodreads reading challenge. Do you try to catch up and how?
I don’t use the Goodreads challenge, but on a similar note I try to read one more page than the year before. Right now I’m about 7,500 pages short of last year so making the number (33,482) seems unlikely. There are a couple larger books coming on in the next few weeks I’m looking to read (and will do so as soon as I can) but there’s virtually no way I’ll make my goal this year. And, I’m Ok with it. Some of the time I spent reading last year I’m using to blog now so it’s not like it’s just wasted time.

4. The covers of a series you love do. not. match. How do you cope?
I’m OK with it. I don’t save many books, and those that I do are hardcovers that are (for the most part) first printings so they seldom match. I have seen people looking in used bookstores for specific printings of older books so they’ll match the ones they already have. I wouldn’t bother doing that, but I certainly understand the folks that need/want to have series that match cover-wise.

5. Every one and their mother loves a book you really don’t like. Who do you bond with over shared feelings?
Well, anyone that will listen (or read). I’ve disliked lots of popular books and never had an issue finding someone to talk to about it. Most people get the idea that not everyone has the same opinion on stuff, so it’s usually easy to have someone listen to your take on a book. It also helps to know why you didn’t like something as that usually makes it easier to understand why others likes it so much.

6. You’re reading a book and you are about to start crying in public. How do you deal?
I’ve never had that problem, nor can I recall a situation where it was even close to being an issue. It’s likely because the genres I read generally don’t have that sort of emotional impact on people.

7. A sequel of a book you loved just came out, but you’ve forgotten a lot from the prior novel. Will you re-read the book?
There’s almost no chance I’ll reread the previous book. Some authors do a great job recapping what came before, so if the book is from one of them I won’t do anything. If I’m not expecting any sort of review of previous events I usually check out reviews of the previous book(s) marked with “spoilers”. That way I can more easily recall what happened before and be ready for the new book.

8. You do not want anyone. ANYONE. borrowing your books. How do you politely tell people nope when they ask?
I don’t lend out the few books I have saved, and won’t lend out a book I’m intending to save. I just tell folks that want to borrow them that I don’t lend books out that I’m saving. Because most of my reader friends know I’m more than willing to give away the vast majority of books I’ve read when I’ve finished them saying “no” to lending one out has never been an issue.

9. Reading ADD. You’ve picked up and put down 5 books in the last month. How do you get over your reading slump?
Luckily my OCD prevents me from reading more than a couple books at a time, so I don’t have to worry about that ADD-type problem. My slumps tend to be with a single book just not doing it for me and my reluctance to put it away causes me to read much slower, which brings us back to the answer for question #2.

10. There are so many new books coming out that you’re dying to read! How many do you actually buy?
All of them. It might take a few weeks but eventually I’d get every book I was looking for. That’s one of the reasons my to-read shelf is four bookcases. I buy everything I’m waiting for, and on top of that lots of stuff from new authors I run into. I am addicted to buying books. When you consider all the things one could be addicted to buying books is essentially harmless.

11. After you’ve bought the new books you can’t wait to get to, how long do they sit on your shelf before you get to them?
Some books sit on my shelf a very long time. Knowing my buying and reading habits there’s no way I’ll read everything I’m buying. But if I’m truly waiting on a book to come out it’s generally read pretty quickly, most often within a month or so.

How do you pick the next book you’re going to read?

I get asked that question a lot, especially from friends that have wandered into my office and see the bookshelves full of stuff I haven’t read yet. Right now my “to-read” list is about 200 books long (I don’t count it that often and don’t remember the exact number it was when last I did), which is a lot when you consider only books I own are on that list. But picking what I’m going to read next isn’t as hard as one might think.

Right now, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m working my way though W.E.B. Griffin’s “Badge of Honor” series. As I’m reading them one after another picking what I’m going to read next is easy: the next one in the series. Like last summer when I ran though Michael Connelly’s books this summer was supposed to be all Griffin, but his stuff reads a lot slower than Connelly’s so it’s taken longer. “Badge of Honor” is the third series of Griffin’s I’ve read this year, and after I finish it (two more books to go!) I’ll just have his “Men At War” series about the OSS left.

After I finished his “Brotherhood of War” series I took a short break and read a few other things, two books I’d been waiting for that were in the military/thriller genre and then I went to Karen Miller’s “Godspeakers” trilogy for a change of pace. Picking the Miller series was easy, I said to myself “pick a fantasy trilogy”, and when I looked up there was “Godspeakers” right in front of me at eye level.

Then it was back to Griffin again for his “The Corps” series about the US Marine Corps, and when that was over I once again took a break for a book I was waiting for and continued on to Stephen Lawhead’s “King Raven Trilogy” while I waited for another book to come out. I picked the Lawhead books because I noticed they were separated into different bookcases. My OCD needed to keep them together, and the easiest way was to read them next. After I got bored with the fantasy stuff I saw I had a book misfiled (Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith) so instead of moving a ton of stuff to put it in the right place I read it next.

Which brings us to where I am now, nearing the end of the “Badge of Honor” series. Now as to what I’m going to read next I’ve already decided it will be The Gods of Guilt by Connelly. Assuming nothing comes out that I’m looking for before I finish the Connelly book it’s a good guess I’ll be switching back to sic-fi/fantasy for a bit. As some point before the end of the year I’ll start “Men At War”.

I know I’ll likely never read every book I’ve bought, mostly because I buy a lot of stuff from new authors just to support their hard work. Obviously most people don’t have as many at their finger tips to chose from as I do, so I’m curious as to how other decide what to read next. Do you just wander into a bookstore and pick up what catches your eye? Do you just fill up your e-reader and pick like I do? Or do you buy a large amount of books and work your way through them before buying more? I’d love to read your answers…