Andy’s Current Favorites: June 2018

As my annual summer vacation to the beach continues to chug along, I thought I’d take the easy way out with one of my blogs for this week by just giving everyone another dose of my the Big Four for the month. Yep, as referenced when I did this back in April as well, this is  supposed to give people a window into my life a month at a time. What I’m reading, listening to, what video games are gumming up all by productive free time etc. So without further ado.

Current Book I’m Reading:

Adventures of Blake & Mortimer: The Time Trap by Edgar P. Jacobs

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Yeah, I know. Most of you out there are probably saying that I promised weeks ago, that I would read the Phantom while I was at the beach and do a read pile on it. You anonymous demanding peeps and your unrealistic deadlines. I thumb my nose in your direction!

The truth is though when you are at the beach with those breezy ocean smells at night and plenty of cold beer, you can actually get a lot of reading done. So not only did I read some of The Phantom, but also some Spider man which I’ll talk about next week, and now I’ve worked my way to the book you see above.

A couple years back I picked up a couple of the volumes of Adventures of Blake & Mortimer series during a sale at Comixology. It was during one of my artsy fartsy moods when I wanted to sip black coffee and talk about the existential meaning of life.

In other words, read a lot of Tintin.

Because nothing screams French cafes and hipster drip coffee makers than some good old fashioned Tintin. Yes, I know Hergé Tintin series was originally aimed at children, and it still functions as great as that (just ask my 6 year old son Jakob, who loves the Secret of the Unicorn book). However just the mention of Tintin evokes an air of organic soaps, beard oils, homebrewed IPAs, and paying way too much for cloth diapers.

Adventures of Blake & Mortimer is very similar to Tintin in that regard as they are both done by a Belgian writer/artist in this particular case Edgar P. Jacobs. In fact, this series  was one of the first to appear in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine called Tintin. However, unlike Tintin that was primarily an all ages book, good old Blake and Mortimer is definitely more of an adult style romp, a Post WWII world filled with secret scientists, foreign agents, political intrigue and the like. It does mix in quite a lot of science fiction into the book, which is another reason I snatched it up on sale given my belief that Post WWII Sci-Fi is some of the best ever written.The main protagonist is Professor Philip Angus Mortimer, a Scottish Physicist who definitely is more Reed Richards like in that he seems to excel not only in his field but is a jack of all trades when it comes to science. Almost like what they would do with Bernard Quatermass years later in those fantastic BBC serials like Quatermass and the Pit…ooo…maybe I should do a review of that….damn it, I’m getting off topic.

He’s often paired with a MI6 secret agent named Captain Francis Percy Blake which again is very similar to a lot of series done over the years since, where the no nonsense fed/officer/agent is paired with the eccentric scientist/criminal profiler/weirdo and together they learn and grow with each other over the course of outrageous adventures.

This particular story just deals with Mortimer however as he’s lured by his scientific curiosity to test an experimental time machine built by his old rival, the evil Dr. Miloch, only to find out later it was a trap designed to kill him as the machine keeps sending him to all these dangerous points in history. At first, Mortimer has to escape man eating dinosaurs and getting executed in the Middle Ages after being accused of being an accomplice of the rebels during a peasant uprising. But ultimately the book picks up as he enters the far future and finds a post apocalyptic world caused by a nuclear war years before. The book does get pretty interesting at that point with an Orwellian style tyranny set up to govern the survivors and Mortimer’s attempts to overthrow this horrible regime by developing microbombs for the resistance. Things hit a fever pitch when the Lava Monster shows up…yeah…every future has to have one of those.

In any case, this book definitely isn’t for everyone. For one thing, it’s one of the wordiest comics I’ve every read. It’s almost as if the author forgot that you can see what’s happening in the pictures and decides to instead describe everything to you in excruciating detail at times. This would be an absolute nightmare for someone like my fellow Ghost, Rob Stewart, given he thinks Silver Age Marvel is wordy at times, that ain’t nuthin’ compared to this. Still what is written you can’t argue isn’t written well and can be at times pretty gripping stuff despite showing it’s age a bit. And the art does have a very neat, crisp, timeliness quality to it. So if you are someone like me that can breeze over some of the text and focus on self summarizing everything, it’s not a bad pick up and definitely makes you feel more cultured for the experience.

Current Favorite Album While Reading Comics:

Bob Dylan’s Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10:

Many of my favorite Bob Dylan albums have been from the Bootleg series, as I’m convinced that nearly half of all the really great Dylan songs never made it on to albums. It’s insane to think of that much quality music being pretty much tossed and I still don’t understand in many cases why it was.

This volume includes music from the period between Nashville Skyline and New Morning, in the late 60s to the early 70s. It’s actually the start of my favorite period of Bob music, as he really has such a solid singing voice during this time, better than an other time, and he’s not afraid to blend in a lot of different types of music into his records. He’s got rock and roll, folk, bluegrass, blues, country, a little bit of everything churned together in one big pot. He did a lot of collaborations with other famous musicians as well, such as Johnny Cash, George Harrison, and the members of the Band, and so he’s exposed to so many different kinds of personalities and amazing talents that the music they create together takes on an entire different feel.

Dylan often says this was a lost period, one where he struggled to find his voice in the wake of so many ground breaking albums like Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. Some even say it was due to his domestication and family life that had made him “soft”, losing some of that creative edge that he didn’t reclaim until Blood on the Tracks when he started to have martial issues.

Some of my favorite tracks off this album include: Spanish is the Loving Tongue, Railroad Bill, New Morning (w/horns), Thirsty Boots, and Time Passes Slowly.

Time Passes Slowly in particular is a fantastic George Harrison collaboration. This song was ultimately released on New Morning, but not in the version that appears on this album, again proving my theory that most of the Dylan album releases of songs are nowhere near as good as the ones that were “thrown away”.

This song is breezy and fun with better vocalization by Dylan than the album version. It also includes a little chorus with some harmony by Harrison and Dylan which again is easy on the ears. My personal favorite line in this version is “Time passes slowly up here in the daylight, We stare straight ahead and try hard just to stay right”.

Current Favorite Video Game:

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I know. I know. It’s crazy that I’m talking about a video game that didn’t come out before 1996 in one of my blog posts. Wonders never cease, I guess. But c’mon, who didn’t think that merging two of the greatest fantasy genre type games in the Zelda series and the Elder Scrolls series wouldn’t be like fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches!?! Like absolutely delicious and instantly addictive.

Yes, an open world Zelda game cast in the frame of a “Skyrim”esque world is exactly what we have needed for years now, and not only that but for those that scoff that this game just plugs Link into a tried and true Bethesda type formulaic game universe, I think they are missing the point.

The point being without Legend of Zelda, there wouldn’t be any of those other games. The Granddaddy of all Action RPG video games. This is the franchise we’ve wanted delivered in this manner for years now, and once you start playing it, you almost feel like everything else just copied this, even though it came out after.

Some may decry Nintendo games as not being edgy or adult enough, the family friendly “Disney” version of video games, but now as a Dad of two young kids, I actually think it takes more skill to make decent video games that can appeal to a massive audience of both kids and adults a like. And for me, Nintendo hit it out of the park with this one. They sacrificed none of the high stakes adventure, drama, or gameplay in giving you a world without the blood, gore, sex, and violence that seems to be mainstays of other similar games to the point where you really think “did I really need all of that?” Did I really need to see someone in Skyrim decapitated with an executioner’s axe for the sake of realism to enjoy that fantasy video game? Like did that immersement really get me to enjoy that video game? Or was it I didn’t have a game I actually cared about like “Legend of Zelda” so that stuff had to be added from the word “go” in order for me to buy in?

After playing Breath of the Wild for the past couple of months with my six year old son by my side, seeing his wide eyed enthusiasm for beautifully packaged story of classic good vs. evil, inter-spliced with gigantic steampunk elephants, and I think I have my answer.

Current Favorite Movie:

The Incredibles 2

Given it was hot as blazes this afternoon at the beach, we decided to take a break from the surf and sun and spend our day in an air conditioned movie theater seeing the one super hero movie that we should have been hyping more on our podcast, but for some reason didn’t: Incredibles 2.

Maybe it was because it wasn’t a movie about characters from the Big 2, maybe it was because it was animated, maybe because it was aimed primarily at kids, or maybe the Ghosts of the Stratosphere sometimes just miss the boat. Hey, we may be great, but we ain’t perfect, folks.

For the record, I was a pretty huge fan of the original Incredibles movie. I felt it really captured a ton of the classic comic book tropes such as superhero registration, sidekicks who turn villain, and the concept of the family unit as a superhero team. In fact at the time, I thought it was the best movie made about the Fantastic Four despite not having one of the FF actually appear. But they were there in spirit with Mr. Incredible as the Thing, Violet at Invisible Girl, Dash as the Torch, and Elasta Girl as Mr. Fantastic.  They even fight the Underminer at the end which might as well have been the Mole Man. Yup, I even heard that they had to rewrite the original Fantastic Four movies’ script because it was too similar in tone to the Incredibles movie and Fox thought Disney had beat them to the punch.

Despite being released nearly 14 years later, the sequel picks up right where the first movie ends with the team’s battle against the aforementioned Mole Man clone, which again causes a lot of destruction for which the Incredibles are mainly blamed.  However some long silent champions of returning the rights of super heroics to those exceptional individuals sit up and take notice, and start working with Mr. Incredible and Elasta Girl to change the perception of superheroes as public menaces. Of course, Elasta Girl becomes their poster child which is a great way to showcase her as a solo superhero just like Mr. Incredible’s story in the first one.

I guess that was the biggest issue I had though with this second movie, as at times it just felt like a retread of the same stuff that we saw with the first one what the semi mysterious corporate boss sending one of the Incredible clan on some clandestine missions, an arch villain that rises out of that scenario, rest of the family comes to the rescue etc.  Yep, it definitely felt like a sequel, but it’s also a sequel to a movie I liked so it sorta is already better than most.

However, you still can’t shake that feeling at times. But hey at least we got to see a lot more of that superhero universe than just the family and Frozone, which was super neat at times (I personally loved the superhero “Reflux”, thought that was a funny concept). And my son loved the scenes with Jack-Jack, especially his battle with the racoon trying to steal the trash, he was laughing so loud I thought the rest of the movie theater was going to shush us.

Speaking of my son, in closing, I did mention to him that I’d love to have him on the podcast to do his 6 year old review of Incredibles 2, so if anyone else out there that’s a loyal listener would like to hear that, please let me know and I might record it and release it as a website exclusive in future!

 

Mmmmmm….Milkshakes at the Movies!

 

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