Is All About that Bass a net positive message?

This isn’t the first time I mention this song on here. But I’ve been thinking about the lyrics a lot recently as it continues to play on the radio at the gym. A conversation on twitter yesterday with @AprilTara spurred me to put my thoughts on the blog. At first blush, the lyrics seem to be a positive antidote to the rampant Photoshopping and fat-shaming we’ve been railing about in vain for at least two decades:

I see the magazines working that Photoshop
We know that shit ain’t real, come on now, make it stop
If you got beauty beauty just raise ‘em up
Cause every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top


You know I won’t be no stick-figure, silicone Barbie doll
So, if that’s what’s you’re into then go ahead and move along

So we have, what The Industry considers a plus-sized person on TV. She’s famous and in a music video. This continues a trend that started as a mere trickle with female artists like Missy Elliott. It seems to be picking up some steam although there may be a combination of hesitation and a lack of pipeline (people not getting into music in the first place because they don’t see people like them represented). But, yeah, both those lyrics posted above are exactly the type of message I’d like my daughter to hear. I know women who dealt with body issues and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

But then there are the more troubling lyrics:

Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase


Yeah, my momma she told me don’t worry about your size
She says, boys like a little more booty to hold at night

Let’s ignore for a moment the fact that the lyrics are hetero-normative. After all, it’s still the default assumption in America. What troubles me about the lyrics is that they are still basing the woman’s self-worth in the hands of others. It goes from other women to men. That’s not really all that healthy. Your self-worth always needs to come from within or else you’re putting others in charge of whether you feel good or not. I think that’s a state of mind that makes someone more vulnerable to verbal and emotional abuse because if the other doesn’t think you look good, what do you do?

There’s a second troubling aspect and that’s that her self-worth is not just in the hands of others, but rooted in sexuality. This one is harder for me to articulate well because, frankly, I think that most of the time the only reason any of us care about what we look like (outside of work) is to look attractive to others (whether or not we’re looking for a mate, sexual encounter, etc). I guess it’s also a natural consequence of the self-worth being held by others. Why does anyone care what you look like except if they want sex?

Of course there’s also the hetero nature of the song. I think by itself it doesn’t matter – you write what you know. Even if Ms Trainor didn’t write the songs, they should still be consistent with the image she wants to portray. I think it is really only worth being brought up in the context of the other two points. If this is an aspirational song about caring about what you look like being defined by others – “Don’t worry about the Photoshop girls because the boys like big butts.” Then what if you like girls? Do girls like big butts? If they DON’T, then DO you worry about looking like a Photoshop girl?

Why waste time and electrons writing about a stupid pop song? Well, I think a pop song is like a sports star. On their own it’s idiotic to consider them role models to kids. They’re just people who are good at doing things with balls of different sizes (no double entendre). But if a sports star goes out of his way to be a role model – having a kid’s foundation or something – THEN he or she has a responsibility to try and act in a way to be a good role model to children. I think the same goes for this song – the message is an important one that affects lots of girls and women. We’ve been trying to get traction on this issue for years. So if you’re going to wade into this issue, you need to be ready for criticism when you are perceived as falling short.

So, two steps forward and one step back. But also a catchy pop song; an earworm.

On the guest computer I updated to Kubuntu Vivid Alpha so I could check out KDE 5. Looks awesome – lots of polish over KDE 4. Sad that I’ll lose my current settings, but a chance to recreate with a new desktop.

btrfs needs autodefrag set

When I first installed my new hard drive with btrfs I was happy with how fast things were running because the hard drive was a SATA3 and the old one was SATA2. But recently two things were bugging the heck out of me – using either Chrome or Firefox was painfully slow. It wasn’t worth browsing the web on my Linux computer. Also, Amarok was running horribly – taking forever to go from song to song.

When I coincidentally came across the btrfs gotchas page I found out that while fragmentation is not a big deal for most users – if you have databases (like Firefox, Chrome, and Amarok use) you should definitely set it to use the autodefrag attribute in fstab. So I did a manual defrag and then set that attribute in fstab. My computer is nice and fast again.

Review: Mockingjay

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, we have book one: satire of reality TV, book two: propaganda, and now book three: the reality of revolution and civil war. This trilogy is a perfect example of how YA and children’s literature is often subversive – this is why there are so many book burnings and book censorships.

The first book is an entertaining satire of the 2000s-2010s told through a futuristic hellscape. But taken together the trilogy is somewhat of a primer for the YA reader to begin to question ideas of propaganda – is everything I see on TV real even if it’s the news? It also is a good introduction to a very hard idea – often both sides of a revolution contain despicable people. To tie it back with the first point, there are no guarantees that the freedom fighters will treat people any better than the “evil” government.

This final book, in particular, is interesting to read in light of the CIA torture report that Congress put out a few months ago. What does it say about District 13 that they are willing to sink to Snow’s lows? What does it say about us that we are willing to do horrible things in the name of righteousness?

Returning to this book as a look at the reality of civil war and revolution – people on the Internet agitate for lots of things. But you often hear people speak of the need for a new revolution in America to put us back on the right course. But 200+ years after our founding and having never fought a war on our land since the Civil War, we forget how destructive war is. This book is a great companion to what has happened in the middle east since the Arab Spring. Oh, how we welcomed the destruction of tyranny. But things haven’t quite turned out well in many of those countries. In Egypt’s case, the new government is just as repressive as the old one (at least when it comes to media and criticism).

Collins also did a great job rendering Katniss a wreck at the end of it all. It is nice to have a protagonist who has realistic responses to tragedy rather than brushing them off.

Given how complex this book is and how Hollywood tends to soften edgy books, I’ll be curious to see how the Mocking Jay part 2 ends. I suspect it’ll have a radically different ending. But who knows, maybe they’ll have some balls and put out a complicated PG-13 movie.

Having completed the trilogy I’m glad I finally gave it a chance and sorry I wrote it off for so long as a Battle Royale knockoff. As I said before, while the plots are superficially similar, the writers’ intentions are not in the same arena. I will definitely make sure my daughter reads these books when she’s at the right reading level.

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Review: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical QuestionsWhat If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My undergraduate degree is Electrical Engineering, but the most important thing I learned was not anything about Maxwell’s Equations or electrons and holes – it was how to view the world in order to ask questions about it. That’s what Munroe does so brilliantly on his blog, What If? This book is a collection of posts from What If? and a few extra questions. The negative compared to the website is that there aren’t mouse-over jokes (although sometimes he puts that in there as a caption). The positive is that if you have the book, you have it forever. The website may or may not exist in a few years. I recommend for any scientific types in your life and anyone who likes to explore.

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Review: Love Hina, Vol. 12

Love Hina, Vol. 12Love Hina, Vol. 12 by Ken Akamatsu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The book continues where the last one left off: with Kanako desperate to get intimate (physically and emotionally) with her adopted brother. While not biological incest, I still am not completely comfortable with it. Of course, coupled with the fact that she’s constantly doing what would be considered rapist behavior – impersonating others to get in bed/kiss/etc with him, tying him up, refusing to take “no” as an answer – it’s a bit much.

Interestingly, for MOST of the previous books MOST of the girls denied feeling anything for Keitaro. The exceptions being Kitsune who at least always seemed up for a romp in bed with Keitaro and Shinobu. In this trade basically it’s become Ranma or Tenchi up in this place. Everyone’s implied to essentially be fantasizing about him for their pleasure. The change in dynamic mere serves to frustrate me (and maybe most/all?) readers with Keitaro’s constant torch carrying for the tsundere Naru who doesn’t want him, but doesn’t want others to have him.

Fortunately, by the end she’s made a decision and, unlike previous books, it appears from what they do on the last couple pages that this time she means it.

Two more books to see where Akamatsu takes things. I think this series may cement my thoughts that I’m pretty much going to have to be convinced to read any lovey/dovey manga in the future. Between Ranma and this one, it seems like just WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too much will they won’t they. I’d prefer to have that settled within the first book or two and then focus on how they deal with the relationship and even, gasp, find out they perhaps weren’t right for each other.

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2014 Blog Stats

WordPress sent me my Jetpack stats email for 2014. Here’s what they said:

Xenogears - 5

2014 Video Games Report and Game of the Year

This year I did not play as many new games as in previous years. I was deep in my graduate degree and most of my free time was during work travel. Since I don’t have a powerful laptop (and Steam on Linux was just taking off early on this year anyway), most of that time was spent reading. Still, I did play some great games and still managed to log in quite a few hours.

Civilization V - against Dave - Founding Shanghai - 2440 BC
Civilization V – against Dave – Founding Shanghai – 2440 BC

Civilization 5 (95 hr): The year started off strong with the fun online games I was playing with Dan and Dave. Then Dave moved and we didn’t play for a while. Then GMR lost a month or two worth of turns. We have the turns on our computers, but we haven’t gotten the system back up yet. I hope we recover the games, I was having a lot of fun. Shoot, I almost spent 100 hrs on this game this year.

Poker Night 2
Poker Night 2

Poker Night 2 (13 hrs 30 min): I played here and there when I just wanted to play a quick game. Also sat by Danielle while she played to see how she thinks about Poker strategy. Still haven’t gotten more than one player’s token.

Hate Plus - Mute sees The Death of Mute
Hate Plus – Mute sees The Death of Mute

Hate Plus (8  hrs): Sure, it’s a visual novel and somewhat (par for the genre) a dating sim. But that’s way too reductionist. This is a powerful reminder that video games are no less valid a medium for talking about important issues than books, movies, and TV shows. Comics have been fighting the same fight, but are further along with more people considering them art than with video games. This is old hat for readers of this blog, I’ve been declaring various games as examples of art for a while now. However this sequel/prequel to Analogue: A Hate Story is a cautionary tale of how just a few unchecked changes here and there lead to a world that’s worse of for all except those in power. Games like this remind you that Rome didn’t go from Republic to Empire overnight.

Analogue: A Hate Story - The Pale Bride's Diaries
Analogue: A Hate Story – The Pale Bride’s Diaries

Analogue: A Hate Story ( 4 hrs): It seems as though there’s at least one game each year that really pushes and pulls at my emotions. I found myself caring deeply about the fictional characters in this game, especially the main character. Her deep inability to understand how profoundly the world has changed and for the world to understand her was just so sad.

Poker Night at the Inventory
Poker Night at the Inventory

Poker Night at the Inventory (2 hrs) – Played to get all the items.

Xenogears - "Sometimes I wish I were a man"
Xenogears – “Sometimes I wish I were a man”

Xenogears (1 hr) – Just started this. Looks like it has a lot of potential, but I’m not sure how much patience I still have for the Square style. We’ll see.

Team Fortress 2 - Halloween 2014 - Bumper Cars
Team Fortress 2 – Halloween 2014 – Bumper Cars

Team Fortress (1 hr 30 min): This year mostly only logged in for holiday play.

Mario Kart Wii - I won the whole cup
Mario Kart Wii – I won the whole cup

Mario Kart Wii (1 hr 15 min): The Dolphin emulator revives my interest in my Wii games and I bring the discs up to the computer room. Now that Nintendo has turned off the servers, the emulator may be the only way to play online.

Guitar Solo

Beatles Rock Band (1 hr): Since Scarlett seemed to get a lot out of a concert film of I Fight Dragons, I figured she might enjoy the game. She did and asked me to play a few times. I figure she’ll really enjoy it when she’s older. Too bad the plastic instrument genre died. Maybe it’ll be back one day.

Cities in Motion 2
Cities in Motion 2

Cities in Motion 2 (45 min): Never did play it again in 2014 after that one time. Maybe 2015? I doubt it, I have so many games to play. Maybe 2016.


Super Meat Boy (30 min): I got this in a Humble Bundle after seeing the Indie Game movie. It was neat, but too intnse for me.

Guacamelee Bilingual Bonus! (If you speak spanish you will get a bit more out of the game)
Guacamelee Bilingual Bonus! (If you speak spanish you will get a bit more out of the game)

Guacamelee (30 min) – I’ll very likely play this some more. Just need that time. 2015’s going to be an extremely busy year (at least for the first half) so  we’ll see.

Oil Rush
Oil Rush

Oil Rush (30 min): For the moment I’m mostly over RTSes so I don’t see myself playing this again.

To the Moon Holiday DLC (30 min): The sequel was on sale for the Steam Sale. Maybe I’ll get it this summer.

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (30 min): We’ll see if the bug bites me again and I play some more.

Game of the Year

This year my game of the year is Analogue: A Hate Story. Christine Love creates this amazing and compelling world full of alliances and betrayals; Secrets kept from spouses. The generation ship gone awry is such a great science fiction trope and Love uses it to its fullest. As I mentioned above, this game was able to mess with my emotions and get me to care. That’s always the mark of great storytelling. If you can get over any biases you may have with the manga art style and the bad rap that visual novels have, you can experience a world unlike any other you’ll experience this year while at the same time being familiar enough to be anchored in emotional reality.

Analogue: A Hate Story - Hyun-ae begins to explain her genocide
Analogue: A Hate Story – Hyun-ae begins to explain her genocide 2014 Listening Trends

Once again Scarlett had a hand in determining the year’s winners. However, sometime around June she stopped requesting Disney music all the time, allowing others a chance at the spotlight. Still, while other artists were able to take the top artist spots, I didn’t listen to any one song often enough to undermine the Disney songs taking the top spots there.


1. Alan Menken (450 listens) – THE Disney songwriter
2. Mandy Moore (332 listens) – 100% all of these are from the Tangled soundtrack
2. Five Iron Frenzy (332 listens) – I just enjoyed the heck out of FIF music this year.
4. The Beatles (329 listens) – As usual, this is a mix of me picking something different when the family’s together and just enjoying listening to it myself.
5. Anberlin (247 listens) – I had Google Music load all the albums to my phone in preparation for the concert. This means when I listen to music in the car, Anberlin is very likely to come up.
6 .I Fight Dragons (207 listens) – As I mentioned in the Q4 post, most of this is due to the new album coming out this year.
7. Donna Murphy (139 listens) – A great performance on the Tangled soundtrack.
8. Chance the Rapper (116 listens) – Many of these are from early in the year. I still really enjoy Acid Rap, but am also ready for something new.
9. “Weird Al” Yankovic (115 listens) – A new album produced most of these scrobbles. It’d be slightly higher if the Android app didn’t have a problem with the quotation marks in the artist name.
10. Childish Gambino (113 listens) – I went through as part of listening to my music in alphabetical order. It reinforced that I probably am done with him for now. Lyrically my wife can’t stand it and I shouldn’t listen to it in front of the toddler.
11. Celia Cruz (100 listens) – The Queen of Salsa.
12. Brad Kane (97 listens) – From the Aladdin soundtrack.
13. The Beach Boys (96 listens) – I continue to love Pet Sounds.
14. Billie Holiday (93 listens) – She’s so great it’s too bad she isn’t really played on many radio stations anymore.
15. Jonathan Coulton (92 listens) – Wow, didn’t realize I listened to so much JoCo.


No real comments to make here. It’s all Scarlett’s fault.

1. Mandy Moore – When Will My Life Begin (70 listens)
2. Donna Murphy – Mother Knows Best (69 listens)
3. Mandy Moore – When Will My Life Begin (Reprise 1) (64 listens)
4. Mandy Moore – When Will My Life Begin (Reprise 2) (59 listens)
5. Mandy Moore – I’ve Got a Dream (53 listens)
6 .Jodi Benson – Part of Your World (51 listens)
6. Mandy Moore – I See the Light (51 listens)
6. Donna Murphy – Mother Knows Best (Reprise) (51 listens)
9. Samuel E. Wright – Under The Sea (38 listens)
10. Daughters of Triton – Daughters Of Triton (37 listens)
10. Idina Menzel – Let It Go (37 listens)
10. Kristen Bell; Santino Fontana – Love Is An Open Door (37 listens)
13. Brad Kane – One Jump Ahead (36 listens)
14. Jodi Benson – Part Of Your World (Reprise) (35 listens)
15. Josh Gad – In Summer (33 listens)

Milestone Scrobbles

75000th scrobble was Chvrches – “Gun”. 80000th was The Cardigans – “My Favorite Game.” Don’t care much for the first, but the second is a lot of fun.

Top Overall Artists

1. Fantastic Plastic Machine (3,570 listens) – No change in rank
2. Five Iron Frenzy (2,502 listens) – No change in rank
3. Anberlin (2,329 listens) – No change in rank
4. The Beatles (1,912 listens) – No change in rank
5. Relient K (1,786 listens) – No change in rank
6. “Weird Al” Yankovic (1,504 listens) – No change in rank
7. Gnarls Barkley (1,086 listens) – No change in rank
8. Fall Out Boy (1,036 listens) – No change in rank, but sure to overtake Gnarls Barkley by this time next year
9. Andrea Echeverri (893 listens) – No change in rank
10. Gwen Stefani (868 listens) – No change in rank
11. DC Talk (859 listens) – Up from #12
12. Tom Lehrer (851 listens) – Dropped from #11
13. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (803 listens) – No change in rank
14. I Fight Dragons (777 listens) – Came up from below the top 15 and will probably overtake CYHSY and MAYBE Tom Lehrer in the next year.
15. Lostprophets (758 listens) – Dropped from #14

Top Overall Songs

Just lie their continued appearance on the top artist list despite the fact that I nearly never listen to them, it’s crazy that CYHSY, Gnarls Barkley, and Andrea Echeverri dominate the list. However, there are some signs that this may not continue much longer.

1. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood (116 listens) – No change in rank
2. Fantastic Plastic Machine – Take Me To The Disco [Malibu Mix] (104 listens) – Up from #3
2. Jonathan Coulton – The Princess Who Saved Herself (104 listens) – Up from #6
4. Fantastic Plastic Machine – Steppin’ Out (102 listens) – Up from #5
5. Gnarls Barkley – Who Cares (97 listens) – Dropped from #4
6. Gnarls Barkley – Just A Thought (91 listens) – Up from #10
7. Andrea Echeverri – Quedate (85 listens) – Up from #8
7. Gnarls Barkley – The Last Time (85 listens) – No change in rank
9. Fantastic Plastic Machine – Love Is Psychedelic (82 listens) – Up from #11
9. Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere (82 listens) – No change in rank
11. Gnarls Barkley – Crazy (81 listens) – No change in rank
12. Andrea Echeverri – Amortiguador (80 listens) – Up from #14
12. Gnarls Barkley – Smiley Faces (80 listens) – Drop from #11
14. Andrea Echeverri – Menos Mal (79 listens) – Up from #15
14. Anberlin – Audrey, Start The Revolution! (79 listens) – First time on the list!

Scrobbles at End of 2014: 83632
Total Scrobbles in 2014: 12552. Interesting, I thought I’d listened to less music than last year. Maybe I did, but I listened to more scrobbled music this year? Or maybe I just misremembered. That’s what numbers are good for. Listening Trends 2014 Q4

1. Five Iron Frenzy (147 listens) – Many of these came from me continuing to go through my collection in alphabetical order.
2. I Fight Dragons (102 listens) – IFD’s Kickstarter album finally came out. I really like it a lot. I’ve been listening to the B side more than the song cycle, but that’s mostly because those are more easily listened to here and there while the song cycle is best heard all at once.
3. Anberlin (98 listens) – Tried to listen to a bunch of Anberlin to get ready for their farewell concert.
4. Fantastic Plastic Machine (71 listens) – Also from the alphabetical listen.
5. Fall Out Boy (63 listens) – Partly from the alphabetical listen and partly from Scrobbles from Spotify of their new singles.
6. Final Fantasy (Soundtracks) (50 listens) – from the alphabetical listens.
7. Edith Piaf (44 listens) – from the alphabetical listens. I’d completely forgotten we had a bunch of her music. We used to listen to it more often.
7. Doctor Octoroc (44 listens) – from the alphabetical listens. I really don’t like the albums anymore.
9. Willy Chirino (43 listens) – Mostly from listening to his great Christmas album. The only Spanish-language Christmas album I have.
10. Relient K (41 listens) – I felt nostalgic for some Relient K. Still love the earlier stuff.
11. DC Talk (40 listens) – While I still like some of the songs, others have not aged well.
12. Dj CUTMAN (39 listens) – I just love these remixes.
13. Celia Cruz (38 listens) – Put on some Celia because Scarlett really likes to dance to salsa.
14. Elvis Presley (35 listens) – Going through my collection of #1s.
15. Taylor Swift (32 listens) – Danielle got the new album and, unsurprisingly for Ms Swift, it’s quite catchy.


Total Songs (in my collection): 15474 (Up from 15303) – even less of an increase than before, but I haven’t been focusing on getting new music.

Total Artists:4562 (up from 4526) – again, only a few new ones.

Total Albums:3521 (up from 3496) – mostly one per artist, I think.

Average Songs Per Album: 4.39 (up from 4.38)

Average Songs Per Artist: 3.39 (up from 3.38)

Total Scrobbles at End of Quarter: 83632

Total Scrobbles for this Quarter:3093 – a lot higher than before.

Xenogears - Opening feature

December 2014 Video Games

Poker Night 2 (2 hrs) – Played with Danielle thanks to Steam in-house streaming. Also played alone to unlock some more skins.


Xenogears (1 hr) – After having wanted to play this for around 15 years, finally started. So far my best friend is getting married, I was raised by the Elder, and people fight with found ancient tech giant robots. The anime cutscenes are well animated, but the voice acting is flatter than a mathematical plane.

Team Fortress 2 (15 min) – Played for the Christmas holiday changes.

2014 in Books

I only have a bit of free time each day – usually no more than about two hours when you add it all up. So whichever of my hobbies tends to catch fire is the one that gets the majority of the attention. 2013 was a pretty good year for video games, but in 2014 I did not play very many. By contrast, 2014 was an AWESOME year for reading. I track my reading on Goodreads for a variety of reasons including having conversations around books (most people I know don’t read and those that do read different books than I do). I looked at previous years and decided I’ve give myself a goal of reading 23 books.

A few things happened – I discovered a Humble Books bundle that interested me then I found out about the site and that got me reading ebooks again. Then there was an Audiobook bundle with Fight Club (which I’d always been meaning to read) and that got me listening to audiobooks instead of only listening to podcasts. I won a bunch of advanced reader copies of books, giving me physical books to read during my lunch breaks. I realized I could borrow comic book trade paperbacks from my local library.  Finally, I had a lot of travel for work this year – over 50 hours of flights  all put together.

So, I ended up reading 64 books (278% of my goal, Goodreads tells me) According to Goodreads 14774 pages (although audiobooks are not properly represented there).

Surprises from this year’s reading:

  • Carl Hiaasen’s Striptease was surprisingly hilarious and actually had the least lewd scenes of anything I read this year
  • World War Z and I, Zombie taught me that I could enjoy zombie fiction under the right circumstances. (Really, confirmed for me that my enjoyment of The Walking Dead wasn’t a fluke caused because it was a comic)
  • I can still enjoy YA Fiction
  • Short story collections are fun – I’ll be on the lookout for more of them

So here’s the list of books I read this year, a quick blurb, and links to the reviews on here, Comic POW!, and/or GoodReads as applicable. (The review on here is the same as the one on Goodreads, but I am in control of whether my blog continues to exist. I cannot guarantee the continued existence of Goodreads)

  1. Walrus: Brandon Graham’s All Bum Album – Brandon Graham is one of my newest favorite comic creators. He often includes great sketches on his blog so I wanted to buy this collection. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  2. Escalator – While the stories on their own aren’t anything special, as a collection they give  you tremendous insight into how Brandon Graham’s mind worked back when he wrote it. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  3. The Complete Multiple Warheads – This is the series that got me interested in Brandon Graham. It introduced me to his love of puns and his idiosyncratic art style. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  4. King City – This book has a ridiculous premise, but still explores some pretty serious issues. A great example of how comics are just as valid a medium for exploration of important ideas as books, TV, and movies. (Review on Comic POW! Review on Goodreads)
  5. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – I had to read this for my graduate program. While I had been exposed to some of the ideas before, it was still pretty neat to learn about some of the topics like the inability to completely rid ourselves of racism from our subconscious. (Review on Goodreads)
  6. The Man Who Invented Castro – A neat example of how the act of reporting on the news changes it (kinda like quantum physics). Paired well with another book I read this year Havana Nocturne. (I didn’t review it, but here are my status updates on Goodreads)
  7. A Once Crowded Sky – This book is almost a must-read for anyone who’s a long-time fan of traditional comics. I had the good fortune of meeting the author at Baltimore Comic-Con this year and he’s now famous for writing the new Dick Grayson book. So he was quite excited I wanted to talk to him about this book. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  8. To Be or Not To Be: A Chooseable-Path Adventure – I read a lot of choose-your-own-adventure books when I was a kid. They seem to be having a resurgence in culture (see NPH’s biography). (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  9. Zombies vs Unicorns – responsible for my renewed interest in both YA and short story collections. Also a great book to read on ereader if you don’t want to constantly answer questions about what you’re reading instead of reading it. Sidenote: when well-written, Unicorns can be extremely scary. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  10. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth – I was raised religiously (in a good way, not an oppressive way), but I always had so many questions about  Jesus. He’s crucial to Christianity, but takes up such a small amount of the Bible. (Especially if you consider the Gospels are the same story 4 times). This book helped explain a lot of that in terms of the society in which Jesus existed and the society in which the Gospel was written. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads. Definitely check out my status notes as a lot of it didn’t make it into the review)
  11. Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon – the tone of Archer and a look at what Hawkeye does when he’s not being an Avenger. One of the most creative comics coming out of the Big Two in the 2010s. (Review on Comic POW!)
  12. Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits – the awesomeness continues.
  13. The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure – The first of the books that were turned into a movie that I read this year. In some ways just as good as the movie; in other ways better. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  14. The Martian – I joined a science fiction and fantasy book club on Goodreads. After hearing the author interview for this book, I knew I had to read along with the club. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  15. Rasl – a bizarre science fiction comic that focuses on the human element as well as contributing to the whole Tesla was awesome meme. The first comic I read because Goodreads recommended it. I find it works well for indie comics that way. (Review on Comic POW! Review on Goodreads)
  16. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Freefall – I wanted to see where things went after Season 8. (I won’t comment on each trade) (Review on Goodreads)
  17. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: On Your Own (Review on Goodreads)
  18. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Welcome to the Team (Review on Goodreads)
  19. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Guarded (Read on Goodreads)
  20. East of West, Vol. 1: The Promise – Dan introduced me to Jon Hickman’s work and I’m so glad because this series is pretty awesome. It starts off involving The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and an alternate history for the USA and just goes from there. (Review on Comic POW! Review on Goodreads)
  21. The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 1: Science, Bad- Hickman applied to an alternate Manhattan Projects timeline. (Review on Comic POW!)
  22. The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 2: They Rule (Review on Comic POW!)
  23. Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present – This was the first advanced reader copy I won in 2014. It was a great eye-opener for comics outside the USA. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  24. Fight Club – The second book I read this year which has been turned into a movie. Just like Princess Bride, I’d seen the movie first. I wanted to see how it differed. Interestingly, Chuck Palahniuk prefers the movie version. I think they both have things they do better because of their mediums. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  25. Don’t Know Much About Mythology: Everything You Need to Know About the Greatest Stories in Human History but Never Learned – This year was the year of alignment across books. Reading this book was great pre-work for reading American Gods. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  26. How Music Works – This book’s title was a bit of a trick, but it ended up being one of my favorite non-fiction books of the year. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  27. From Hell – Another book that aligned with a future book – a huge part of the book revolves around both Masonic symbols and ancient worship of goddesses rather than gods. It both tuned me well for American Gods and The Forbidden Knowledge of Enoch. Also, another book that was eventually made into a movie. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  28. Striptease – Another book that became a movie. Also very funny and takes place in my state of origin: Florida. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  29. Wizzywig: Portrait of a Serial Hacker – A comic and semi-biography (made up of the lives of various hackers) that made me quite sad. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  30. Red Sonja Vol. 1: Queen of Plagues – It took knowing that Gail Simone wouldn’t stand for ridiculous sexism to get me to read a Red Sonja story. And I really liked Simone’s take on it! (Review on Comic POW! Review on Goodreads)
  31. The Mocking Dead Volume 1 – If the title is a put-off, read my review. It really is worth a read if you are a student of the zombie tropes. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  32. My Little Phony – By contrast with #31, a poorly done parody. (By my standards, anyway) (Review on Goodreads)
  33. Vampirella vs Fluffy – Not a good first intro to Vampirella. (Review on Goodreads)
  34. The Sword & Sorcery Anthology – My second anthology of short stories; a lot of fun. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  35. The Silver Ninja: Indoctrination – Another book I got for review. I felt a bit sad giving a low review, but figured I owed it to him to give him honest feedback. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  36. A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk – I got this book as part of a Steampunk bundle. It’s one of those genres where I love the idea of a world that reached some of our advances through steam power. Like all genres that surge, there tends to be a moneygrab as everyone takes their story that would have worked just fine without it and stuffing steampunk into it. This is NOT that, although it seems like it would be that way. It actually works really well as a Shakespeare cover (in the musical sense of the word) (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  37. Jam – I wasn’t sure if Mr Croshaw of Zero Punctuation could be just as funny with a book. He surpassed my expectations and I hope these last two did well enough for him to consider a third. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  38. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War – Dan recommended this years ago and I was finally able to get around to it. I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. Also spawned a movie although I’m told there is almost no relation to the book. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  39. Mother Fucking Flowers – Another advanced reader copy I won. This one was just as interesting as its title would suggest. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  40. Red Rising – I didn’t know at the time that I’d end up reading Hunger Games, so it was interesting I ended up reading Hunger Games in Space first. Although, to be honest that reductionist description does it a huge disservice. It’s really as I described it in my review: “This book is a little Enders Game, a little Battle Royale, and a little 1984 with a dash of Harry Potter”. Although, knowing what I know now, I’d replace Battle Royale with Hunger Games as it is a bit closer to that mold. I think I read somewhere this will be a movie as well. I think it’d make a better show on HBO because of how layered it is compared to Hunger Games. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  41. Limbus, Inc – I’ve had mixed results with anthologies taking place in the same universe. This one, however, was extremely enjoyable (as was the meta-plot). (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  42. Havana Nocturne – My dad lent me this fascinating audiobook about Cuba in the 40s and 50s when it was effectively ruled by American gangsters. The decadence in the capital while the rest of the island hungered does seem to invite comparisons to The Hunger Games. Cuba didn’t turn out so well after that revolution. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  43. Borg Like Me & Other Tales of Art, Eros, and Embedded Systems – I participated in the Kickstarter for this book and it was definitely worth it. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  44. Chrono Trigger – I was looking forward to this because of how important this game was in my gaming life. The book was great. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  45. Mogworld – I read Croshaw’s first book after the second because I thought I’d have to be an MMORG person to enjoy it. Nope. It was fun no matter what. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  46. I, Zombie – As I mentioned before, this really changed the way I look at zombie fiction. It was really good. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  47. Pwned – Got this as part of a bundle that had other stuff I wanted. Zombies v Unicorns made me consider checking out this YA book. I was impressed with the way the author made me relate to the character and flipped the script on some of the tropes. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  48. American gods – It’s clear why Gaiman is considered a master of his craft. This book was a great introduction to his non-comics work. (Before I’d read his collaboration with Pratchett, Good Omens) (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  49. Managing the Risks of Organizational Accidents – Another book I read for grad school. Helped me realize some of the non-intuitive reasons for accidents at work. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  50. The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations – Another book for grad school. (Review on Goodreads)
  51. Coral Hare: Atomic Agent (A WW2 Spy Novel) Inspired by actual historical events – Another book I got free for review purposes. I interviewed the author at Baltimore Comic-Con. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  52. Vagina Mundi – Most disappointing book I read in 2014. It was another book I got for free for review. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  53. No Land’s Man – Yet another free book for review. (I was really lucky this year!) I have really enjoyed Aasiv Mandvi’s appearances on The Daily Show and various movie cameos. Unlike other comedian-penned books I’ve read, this one was quiet and contemplative. Don’t think this one was ghost-written, it’s too personal and autobiographical. It has funny moments, but it’s more about getting to know Mandvi. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  54. The Forbidden Knowledge of Enoch – A crazy romp through an alternate history based on Masonic knowledge and other esoteric things. Although the author did not succeed in convincing me, it was mostly well-written (outside of the logical fallacies) and I think it would make a pretty neat movie. Also, it was interesting to read after reading From Hell. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  55. The Intern’s Handbook: A Thriller – Going in only having read the description, I was surprised at how much I ended up enjoying it. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  56. Homeland – I enjoy Cory Doctorow’s books because they have a tech focus, are usually grounded in tech not too far-flung from what we have today, and have an important message. But the Little Brother series reminds us of our impotence in the face of government corruption and that depresses me. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  57. Joe the Barbarian – Another indie comic that Goodreads recommended to me. Like Rasl, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would at first. (Review on Comic POW! Review on Goodreads)
  58. The Eyre Affair – A recommendation from Dan. Rare for those, it fell a bit flat for me. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  59. Jumper – This one surprised me on three fronts: It wasn’t as sci-fi as I thought it would be, it has a lot of violence against the main character, we knew a lot about Islamic terrorism before 11 Sept – at least some people did; the book mentions the difference between Shi’a and Sunni. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  60. Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet Vol 1 – I continue exploring pulp at Dynamite. No reviews yet. Working on one for Comic POW!
  61. Love Hina Vol 11 – I finally make moves to finish up the series I started back in undergrad. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  62. The Hunger Games – I got this as part of a Humble Bundle so I wouldn’t feel badly if I didn’t like it. Susan Collins surprised me and I learned why people love this series. It’s not a white-washed Battle Royale. It’s its own thing and it is great. (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)
  63. Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet Vol 2. (Same as #60)
  64. Catching Fire – This book really hits home with its propaganda war (which REALLY picks up steam in the third book – which I’m not quite done with yet) (Review on here. Review on Goodreads)

Quick tidbit for the stats junkie in me:

According to the shelves I added the books to, these are the top 5 categories of books:

  1. Graphic Novels and Comics (almost 1/3)
  2. Basis for Movie
  3. Audiobooks
  4. First Reads (free for review)
  5. Video Games

Looking back, it’s hard to pick any ONE best book of 2014. They were all so different in so many ways. Of all 64 books, 14 were given five star ratings. Looking at those, I can make the following assessments:

  • Best Audiobook: Fight Club
  • Best Comic: East of West
  • Best Comedy: Jam
  • Best Historical Fiction: Coral Hare
  • Best Drama: I, Zombie

I’ve really enjoyed being transported to so many different worlds and situations. I hope that I can at least meet my 2015 goal of 30 books (just under 3 per month).

Review: Catching Fire

Catching Fire (Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While the first book was a satire of reality TV (including the wrap up episode), this book is about the importance of controlling messaging and of revolution. Collins explores how The Capital controls what the districts see and know in an effort to limit the likelihood of rebellion. Having seen the Arab Spring and movements like the 99%, it’s clear that this book is one of the more realistic science fiction rebellion portrayals. (It really drives home the lack of the info wars in the canon star wars movies. Where are the accusations that the rebels are terrorists? )

Of course, like the previous book and surely the next one, there is the theme of trust. Who can be trusted in a rebellion? Who is a double agent? When these themes are properly explored (as in The Hunger Games), they strip away the romanticism of espionage away from what James Bond makes us think it is. Real life is more like the Afghan CIA source who gained their trust and then blew them up. Katniss has been through the ringer on this and it may break her.

Over all I think Collins has done a great job of casting a convincing scenario and set of characters that tell an entertaining story while being as realistic as she can be while still having the main character survive to the last book. (Although for a moment there I thought she was going to pull a Ned Stark)

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