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Lawless March 11, 2010

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I’ve only recently been back to reading any graphic novels and “Lawless” has been one of the best I’ve read so far. My approach has been just to go to my local shop (Heroes World in Markham! Say hello to Andre and Jon if you plan on stopping by) and asking for any recommendations. I really liked this book because:

  • It’s got a noire/Dirty Harry/Payback feel to the action. Very intense, short bursts of violence followed with a lot of character.
  • It does not unfold the way I thought it would. Seriously, I’ve seen enough that I’m not surprised very often. The way the book ended I did not expect and was happy that it ended that way. For the main character, Tracy Lawless, a formulaic ending would just seem wrong.
  • No baggage on or off the ride. What I mean is I went in with no real preconceived notion of expectation and left without having to remember the fine details for other books. Sometimes it’s nice to have a self-contained story like that.

While I trust Andre and Jon with their recommendations, I was initially skeptical when I got this book. After reading “Lawless” I know to almost completely trust their judgment. Pick this book up and enjoy the ride.


The Killing Joke March 9, 2010

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This week I have a theme of comic book compilations otherwise known as graphic novels. One of the most discussed graphic novels is “The Killing Joke” because:

  • It reveals the “origin” of the Joker (at least to the extent people accept this version). It’s not just the reveal but how the Joker reacts and flashes back to his origin. It’s almost to the point of making him a sympathetic character. Almost.
  • It’s not actually very violent. Sometimes I think fights are just ways of having pretty panels without having the work of story. Sometimes that’s awesome and what you want, and in other times violence in a measured thoughtful way is better. The Killing Joke definitely has its share of violence but it is in service to the character and the story.
  • Ambiguity, the idea that the Joker brings up that he and the Batman are really just 2 lunatics but one likes to think he’s rational is not a terribly new idea. However, the book does have a highly debatable ending. Much like the ending of the Sopranos, it’s up to you to decide how this went. Sometimes this is frustrating but I think the ambiguity fits.

In some ways I think the Joker you saw in “The Dark Knight” is inspired by the Joker in “The Killing Joke”. As great as Heath Ledger’s performance is in the Dark Knight, I feel like I understand the Joker character even better after reading The Killing Joke. Definitely give this book a read, it’s short but sweet.

What the Dog Saw January 26, 2010

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I have read all of Malcolm Gladwell’s books: The Tipping Point; Blink; and Outliers. What the Dog Saw is different from those books because it is a collection of his previously published articles with a loose association to each other. To be fair I haven’t finished What the Dog Saw so I can’t say my score is based on a complete reading of his book. I have gotten about 300 pages out of 400 pages. If somehow the last 100 pages turns my opinion around I’ll edit and update this post. Otherwise, I think the following reasons for why What the Dog Saw is an F- stands:

  • Outdated. The problem with topical writing is that it does not normally stand very well against time. Some of these articles stretch into the 90’s. The value of the article at the time was that the context was current, accessible and understandable. The longer the time between reading and the occurrence of the events discussed, the more difficult it is to establish a meaningful connection. There is minimal attempt to reconnect the reader to the timeframe and because of that, the impact of the writing is (in some cases) significantly lost.
  • Article to article quality is too variable. The structure of the book makes it so you can read each chapter on its own. The problem is that some articles are either boring or badly outdated and there is no reason to continue reading the rest of the article. If I really wanted to, I could have cut maybe half of the articles out and had a much better time reading this book.
  • Does not offer a particular insight. The real draw to Gladwell’s other books is that he makes the leap from observation to conclusion/recommendation. He bothers to tell you about how we deal with risk and the fact that safety in some cases doesn’t actually improve but offers nothing. All you get is a “Published on whatever date” instead of something useful.

Malcolm Gladwell has a writing style that can draw a you in and make you finish his books. I enjoyed Outliers quite a bit and finished it cover-to-cover in a couple of days. I read Blink and Tipping Point as well and the combined time it took was about 2 weeks. I have had What the Dog Saw for 6 weeks and I’m only at page 300 out of 400. If you read his other books, and saw What the Dog Saw on the shelf just know that this book does not offer anywhere near the same quality of experience as his other books and maybe your money is better spent on some classics that do stand the test of time.

1984 (Book) July 30, 2009

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imagesfplus1984 book cover

I’ve always heard people talk about how great 1984 was and I never really understood why. I mean, I understood they really believed it was good, but I suppose it was never properly articulated to me why I should read or care about 1984. Having recently finished 1984 I can say these are the reasons why I enjoyed it  so much:

  • Its fast paced. So the timeline of the story does occur over a while, but the plot does not seem to linger too long (ahem Lord of the Rings).
  • The visuals. So maybe visuals is not the right word, imagery is probably accurate. There are many stark icons in 1984 that I almost dread watching the movie because I don’t want to see another persons version of any icon (the poster, the viewscreens, the giant pyramids full of inner party people, etc.)
  • It parodies groups I do not like. What I’ve taken away from all of the descriptions of the book is that it has parodies of certain groups’ beliefs. Specifically, conspiracy theorists and hippies. What I mean is, George Orwell’s description for a huge government conspiracy in 1984 to change information or make stuff up is so ridiculous that it is a parody. Also,  the ideas that capitalism is evil and  how the government was able to form the way it did on the basis of pretty much hippie talk is also a parody. In case you didn’t know, I’m not a fan of either conspiracy people or hippies.

Much is made of the ending to 1984 with good reason. Unfortunately, I don’t believe I should recommend you read a whole book on the basis of its ending. Rather, the road to the ending in 1984 (i.e. the book) is by itself worth your time. Some people read this book in connection with high school, if you did not, try to make this a book you actually read instead of one you always meant to read.

Banana Boys February 26, 2009

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Terry WooBanana Boys

This book was more than half amazing because it had many moments and character attitudes that I could relate to. Even though its been a while since I’ve read it, I still remember the book fondly for the following reasons:

  • Very closely matched my own life! Like the characters, I am a CBC and went to Waterloo etc. If you want an idea of my experience in university, this book will give it to you.
  • I understood the implicit motivations behind some of the characters decisions even though it was not necessarily spelled out to the reader.  Admitted I did project myself onto the characters a bit.
  • The Venn Diagram showing the intersection of racial group hook ups, while not factually true, is definitely in the spirit of many CBC boy’s thinking. Although it does not hold for my own brother! He broke out of the Venn Diagram and everyone who has seen the diagram, and is CBC, has been suitably impressed with him.

I don’t think I could say any one of the characters was very close to who I am, but I definitely recognized their position on a ton of stuff. If you’re a CBC this is pretty much a must read, if you’re not, read it anyway.


To buy: http://www.amazon.ca/s/ref=nb_ss_gw?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Banana+Boys&x=0&y=0

To read but not buy: http://catalogue.torontopubliclibrary.ca/uhtbin/cgisirsi/Xt3xnf2Ook/TPL/244110390/8/821167/Banana+boys+=+Heung+jiu+jei+%5E2F

It’s website: http://www.bananaboys.com/

Shampoo Planet February 17, 2009

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Shampoo PlanetfplusShampoo Planet

I liked this book, but for some reason I put it down for months and did not touch it even though I was about 50 pages from the end. I just finished it last night and I still remembered the story and the characters. That alone is enough to justify and F+, but here are some additional reasons:

  • The ending is unexpected and great.
  • The main character is not fully likable but I saw and understood his point of view.
  • No real dead zones of filler.

Anyways, its a book that’s not hard to read and is thoroughly enjoyable, you can borrow my copy because I’m pretty sure I’ll remember the story without having to reread the book.

Outliers February 5, 2009

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OutliersfplusOutliers: The Story of Success

This book was pretty enjoyable, it gets an F+ because:

  • Easy to read, I never felt swamped with jargon.
  • Combined ideas I had learned previously into a cohesive presentation (generally cohesive).
  • Other people are interested and that means you can find someone to discuss the book.

This book is not expensive, and you can finish it with more than enough time if you check it out at the library. Gladwell also represents Elmira of the K-W area so that gives him extra bonus points (so does his hair).

Watchmen (book) January 23, 2009

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Ultimately, this book was overhyped, its ok but I could have spent my time doing something way more enjoyable than reading this. Here’s why:

  • Art was not very interesting, I think the heavy amount of text tried to compensate for the uninteresting art direction.
  • Story drags on and on… I can appreciate some insight to these characters, but my god after awhile I just could not care any less.
  • Conclusion and motivation made no damned sense. For the smartest man in the world, his whole plan was pretty poor.

I guess, I read this because the movie was coming and the good word of mouth. The time for this book has passed.

Btw, Rorschach rules.


Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchmen

Watchmen Official Movie: http://watchmenmovie.warnerbros.com/