Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Review: Keepers of the Dawn

Friday Review

Keepers of the Dawn

Herb J Smith’s debut science fantasy novel, Keepers of the Dawn, is an exciting and unique adventure that I’d recommend to any fan of epic fantasy. This is one that will leave you thinking for days after the last page is turned. 

Smith introduces us to a world enclosed by the Teeth, barriers said to have been erected by an ancient deity to cut the world off from Paradise for its sins, filled with a population whose thoughts can be transmitted and read telepathically through the “ether.” I absolutely loved this mindspeak concept, in that it opens up so many unique storytelling/plot possibilities, and Smith takes full advantage of employing those possibilities, showing how such can be used for good, bad, or plain deception. Bartu, the unlikely protagonist, is a mental deaf-mute, unable to gain access to the ether. Plagued by this seeming handicap, he comes to discover that his condition, as well as the ancient relic passed down for generations in his family, may be the key to bringing down the Teeth and defeating Rue-A-Kai, and ancient evil regarded as the Destroyer. 

There’s a lot to enjoy in this first volume of the series: action, intrigue, betrayal, and adventure, to say the least. Also, with the concept of mishappens(a portion of the population with physical anomalies), Smith delves into topics of prejudice and persecution. 

I did feel there were some pacing issues about three-quarters through the story. Things come to something of a halt, and there are a series of conversations essentially recapping the major events in the book up to that point. Granted, some new information is revealed, but the reader is still presented with a fairly lengthy recap that could probably have been whittled down or presented with a smoother flow.

This one criticism is basically moot, however, considering all the amazing aspects of this book. The twist ending is unexpected, original, and hints at endless possibilities for future volumes. And, given this amazing first entry, I can’t wait to see what Smith does with them.


To learn more about Keepers of the Dawn and Herb J, Smith II,
check out:


Monday, December 15, 2014

Jonas Reviews - Skylanders

Jonas introduces us to some of his favorite Skylanders characters.  Happy Monday, everyone!


Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Jonas Reviews - Mega Man 8

Jonas "reviews" one of his favorite Mega Man Games, Mega Man 8 while wearing his Mario costume :).


Friday, October 10, 2014

On my lack of writing . . .

So, since making it to the quarter-way mark on the first draft of the last Korin's Journal a couple of weeks ago, I literally haven't written a word.

The reason?

Everyone(except my wife, that is) in this household has had one sickness or another to the point that I'm not sure who has what or where one illness ended and the next began.  I do know I got a cold-ish thing from my older son which turned into a sinus infection, and that I got pink eye from the other.  That makes 2 of us currently on oral antibiotics, 2 on antibiotic eye drops, not to mention the various cough medicines, fever reducers, etc.   Oh, and my youngest(7 months) spiked a temp of 103.9 today at daycare.  And, on top of that, just a couple weeks ago I was diagnosed with bilateral kidney stones and diverticulosis.

Long story short, we're a sickly bunch in this house, and writing will have to wait.  I doubt anything written while on all these meds would be worth much anyway . . .

Hope everyone else is happy and healthy out there!


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Throwback Thursday - Like Father, Like Son

I know I have a picture of my son, Gavin, that matches my Throwback Thursday picture here, but you can still see the resemblance :)




Monday, September 8, 2014

Jonas Reviews Mouse Trap

Remember the classic build-a-trap fun of Mouse Trap?  Well, now there's a new edition for younger children under an Elefun and Friends label, and Jonas absolutely loves it!  Check out his "review" HERE or below!


Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Review - Keepers of Arden: The Brothers Volume 1

Friday Review

Keepers of Arden:
The Brothers Volume 1

Wow.  L.K. Evans's Keepers of Arden is an amazing debut novel that stole me away into its world from the very beginning and refused to let me leave.  The world of Arden is one well worth visiting, and Evans has populated it with interesting characters, many whom break free of the traditional swords and sorcery fantasy tropes.

The majority of the story revolves around Wilhelm and his brother, Salvarias, a mage whose conception early in the story bears the touch of an evil, malicious force.  Salvarias, already reviled by many for being a mage, bears the horrible burden of feeling this evil force within him, and Wilhelm's pure nature and unconditional love for him could possibly be the only thing that can save him from being consumed by it.  On top of that, an ancient evil is once again vying to gain power over Arden and has its eyes set on Salvarias to help achieve its goals.

Much of Keepers follows Wilhelm and Salvarias through their youth, showcasing their growth into adulthood.  In my opinion, this is expertly done, and serves to make these characters so much more endearing.  Following Salvarias's journey to adulthood is a heart-wrenching experience, and watching the misery of his youth compared to Wilhelm's more pleasant upbringing makes it even more so.  Constantly you want Wilhelm to discover the truth about what Salvarias is forced to go through and to make everything better.  The fact that I found myself caring so deeply about Salvarias and his brother, while hating those responsible for Salvarias's troubled youth is testament to L.K. Evan's amazing ability to craft interesting and believable characters.

There are villains, monsters, and heroes in spades throughout Keepers, and Evan's strong imagination shines through each of them.  The story has plenty of twists and turns, answering many questions that arise, while leaving many for future volumes.  The reader should be aware that this is very much an adult fantasy, and there is some very dark moments throughout.

There were only a couple of issues I had with Keepers of Arden.  One was the pacing for the latter portion.  I do understand that the beginning spans nearly two decades, but once the brothers are adults, I felt the transition into something of a "this happened, then this happened, and then this happened" was a bit abrupt.  Also, I was a little let down by the climax of the book.  Being the first book of a series, I didn't expect much closure, but I just didn't feel the protagonists had much at stake.  Yes, there was a city faced with a potential massacre, but there wasn't really a sense of the true consequences for the characters or the story if the good guys, so to speak, lost to the bad guys. 

Those are really small gripes, however, in that I was captivated throughout.  There are rarely any slow sections, and even those few were kept interesting with Evan's brilliant characters.  Truthfully, this is one of the best fantasy books I've had the pleasure of reading this year, and I can't wait to see what Evans has in store for Wilhelm, Salvarias, and the world of Arden in the next volume. 

Easily 5/5 stars.  If you're a fan of fantasy, please check this one out.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Warrior Wednesday - Sunset Run

This past Saturday I ran in the Sunset Run 5K here in Salisbury, NC, with my son, Jonas, running in the 1/2 mile fun run.  Jonas got an awesome medal, and I placed 2nd in my age division!  Here's a short video of Jonas finishing his fun run and some boring clips from my 5K run.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Top-Ten Tuesday - Top 10 NES Games

I've already made a list of my top ten favorite video games, but you must know that I am too big of a video game nerd to stop at something so broad.  Oh no, there'll be a top 10 for many of the systems, and possibly even video game genres.  Sorry, getting ahead of my dorky self.  For now, here's my top ten NES(Nintendo Entertainment System) games.

10. Mike Tyson's Punch Out

With a uniquely awesome cast of characters, bare-bones yet extremely difficult and precise gameplay, and Mario as a referee, this was one of the greatest NES games for many people at the time of its release.  There's the original version with Mr. Dream instead of Mike Tyson, but this version takes the win for the precious few who were able to claim they beat Tyson.  Note: I was, and still am, not one of those.  I'm actually a big fan of the Wii sequel/remake-ish as well.

9. Super Mario Bros 2

After the undeniably classic Super Mario Bros., this sequel really came out of left field.  That's mainly because it wasn't even developed as a Mario game at all.  It was instead a game called Doki Doki Panic, released only in Japan.  Some say the decision to turn it into a Mario game for the US is that the Japanese Super Mario Bros 2 was deemed too difficult for US gamers, while others say it's because Nintendo was unsure if US gamers would purchase a game that did little to innovate on its predecessor.  Whatever the reason, we ended up with one of the greatest NES games of all time, even if it's the furthest removed from the typical Mario formula of any numbered entry in the series.

8. Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest

Look no further than HERE to see that some people absolutely hate this game.  It's true that in the US version, you're given little to no direction,  vague clues from villagers offer essentially nothing, and there is a glaring lack of iconic boss fights like the first game.  Still, I love the deviation from the first Castlevania's setup, the RPG elements of travelling to towns, leveling up, and saving money to buy items in a side-scrolling platformer making this a trailblazer of its time.  While the lack of direction for players made this seem nothing more than a ploy to get players to call hint lines(remember when these existed??), it makes this game memorable, for the fact that it brought gamers together to share tips and tricks if nothing else.

7. Mega Man 5

I don't know what it is about Mega Man 5 that makes it my favorite NES entry, and most would claim 2 or 3 should hold the top spot.  It may be the innovation in the levels such as the gravity switching in Gravity Man's stage, or the jet-ski portion of Wave Man's stage.  It may be the memorable 8-bit music.  All that really matters, though, is that it's fun as hell to play.    

6. Gargoyle's Quest 2

I stayed over at a friend's one night and he just happened to have this late entry into the NES library.  Once he went to bed, I started playing it and was instantly hooked.  The mix of RPG and side-scrolling, amazing graphics and music, and the atmospheric nature of the game all draw you in until the end.  It took me a while to discover that the first entry was on GameBoy.  I was quick to pick up the amazing sequel, Demon's Crest, on SNES, though.  

5. Ninja Gaiden

Brutally, frustratingly, pull-your-hair-out difficult, but good enough to actually make you enjoy the suffering.  This game not only controls perfectly, has diverse levels, and a challenge bordering sadistic, but it was basically the first cinematic game on the NES.  The intro scene, telling the tale of Ryu Hayabusa's father's supposed death and Ryu's journey to America to avenge him, begins an exciting tale full of plot twists told with anime style cutscenes.  This was definitely a first for the era and made a fun game funner by drawing you through its narrative one painful level at a time.

4. Contra

One of the few games from the NES days that was actually better than the arcade version is was ported from(in my opinion, anyway).  This game is full of run-and-gun action, memorable levels and bosses, and a difficulty to give the aforementioned Ninja Gaiden a run for its money.  Well, without the 30 life code, at least.  Yeah, the infamous Konami code - Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, B, A Start.   Its NES sequel, Super Contra, improved upon an already amazing formula in several ways, but between nostalgia and a slightly more memorable soundtrack, level design, and boos fights, this one will always be my favorite of the 2 NES games(I'm ignoring the horrible Contra Force game).

3. Ninja Gaiden 2

For the 1990 follow-up to Ninja Gaiden, Tecmo dialed back the difficulty  a bit, offering the ability to collect two clones/shadows to help you fight your enemies and allowing the player  to actually climb walls without having to resort to the annoying and awkward wobbling of the left/right buttons while jumping mechanics of wall climbing in the first game.  While this makes the game more accessible, it still offers a meaty challenge that will have you going through plenty of lives, but happily coming back for more.  The story is more complex and full of B-movie type cheesiness.  The bosses are more fun, and most take a little more thinking to defeat.  Also, unlike the first game, the levels offer more variety in terms of gameplay.  In one level, you have snow blowing you in different directions, making timing key when jumping.  One level is shrouded in darkness, lit only by occasional flashes of lightning to help you choose your path.  Again the control is spot on, and deaths are, for the most part, the player's fault, much more so than the first game.  This was one of the few NES games I owned as a kid, and I will always remember the sense of accomplishment when picking it up as a teenager after giving up on it years before, and finally beating it.  I only wish the quality of this game continued on to the third NES installment of the franchise.

 2. The Legend of Zelda

Hands down, this is one of the most classic adventure games of all time, as well as one of the most pivotal.  Aside from something of a strategy guide that came with the US version, the Legend of Zelda set you out with no direction, giving you an open cave on the first screen for you to enter and retrieve your sword from the old man with the oft-quoted advice, "It's dangerous to go alone!  Take this."  Inspired by its creator(Shigeru Miyamoto, or S. Miyahonm as he is mistakingly called in the game's end credits)'s love of exploration as a child, Zelda encourages players to experience the feeling of not knowing what you will find from screen to screen or dungeon to dungeon.  With special items found from level to level being required to find new levels or defeat specific bosses, the game does require some linear gameplay, but for the most part is an open-world experience.  Only with the new 3DS's A Link Between Worlds have players again been given the opportunity to tackle the game as they see fit.

1. Super Mario Bros. 3

Absolute, old-school platforming perfection.  Tons of levels, great music, great control, great graphics, brutal difficulty(if you take on the entire map without using warp whistles), and an overall fun factor make this my favorite NES game of all time.  Several Mario staples, such as the Koopa Kids and multiple power ups were introduced in this game.  Speaking of the power-ups, you can't deny the awesomeness of the Super Leaf, Tanooki, Hammer, and Frog suits, as well as the never-properly-replicated boot!  It is a massive game to take on if you don't find and use the secret warp whistles(unless you are playing on an emulator or on Nintendo's Virtual Console), but players who forge through all the levels will find much to enjoy throughout.  I could say a lot more about the game, such as how the movie, The Wizard, was basically a feature-length commercial for it, but I think I'll go play it instead.

So there you go, another nerdy top ten!  Thoughts?


Monday, September 1, 2014

Jonas Reviews - Where Oh Where Is Huggle Buggle Bear?

It's been a couple weeks since I posted a Jonas "review", so here's Jonas talking about one of his favorite books, Where Oh Where Is Huggle Buggle Bear? by Katherine Sully.

Click HERE, or watch the embedded video below.



Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Scoop 8/17/2014

Yes, I know, it's been a loooong time(with a few more o's) since I've provided updates on Book 3 of Korin's Journal's progress.  I'm hoping to be more active in giving updates as I make my way through this first draft.  

First of all, I've been making some major changes as to working on this draft.  For a while, I was sacrificing a ton of sleep to work on this.  I'd come home from work, spend the evening with the family until the kids were in bed, stay up ridiculously late, fall asleep on the couch, wake up, and then go back to work.  Then exhaustion began to kick in, leading to evening naps when I came home, making me feel like a horrible husband and father.  Even with the naps, my late-night writing sessions were leading to multiple rewrites, mainly because I was so tired that what I got onto the computer screen was, well, complete and utter sh$#.  At the end of my current book file, there's multiple pages of stuff I'm not ready to delete just yet because I may use small parts, but is full of horrible ideas that sounded great when I wrote them tired(I guess being tired is very similar to being drunk in that aspect). 

Anyway, while untold numbers of authors go off little sleep and work both wide awake and exhausted, I realized that the no sleep thing wasn't working out for me.  That may be because there's a lot that that I have to cover in this last volume of Korin's Journal, and the meandering of my tired brain was taking me down all kinds of roads that were not only unnecessary, but also uninteresting.  

I've set up a better system and more realistic weekly goals with my writing now, and I'm very confident that I will be pressing forward at a better pace now.  

Moving on.

Two or three weeks ago, I posted on my FB page that I was hoping to be 25% done the week after that post.  Sadly, that didn't happen.  The primary reason is I decided to completely change my approach in introducing a certain character, something that will completely change a subsequent character introduction.  It basically led to a chapter I wasn't anticipating, but it will work out much better for the story.  I'd explain, but there's no way to do so without major spoilers.  They're both important, one of them vital, to the story.  With this hitch, I'm thinking that I'll reach the quarter-way point either this week or the next.  I believe I've mentioned before that I'm basing this percentage off the fact that there are 4 distinct parts to the story of book 3.  Word count wise, I'm probably going to be more than 25% done.  I've decided to sync my progress bar on this blog with those individual parts, however, so it will no longer be based on projected word count.  

As this first part winds down, a still captive Korin is about to be brought before the leader of not only those who captured him, but an entire army presumably fighting the same enemy as he.  He's going to be a little(read: ridiculously) surprised when he learns the leader's identity.  

To compensate for that horribly vague teaser, here's an update on the progress of the cover art!


Monday, August 11, 2014

Jonas Reviews - Xbox 360 Kinect Games

Check out Jonas reviewing a handful of Xbox 360 Kinect Games!

Click HERE or watch below :)


Monday, August 4, 2014

Jonas Reviews - Squinkies!

Man, I need to get on the ball with this blogging stuff.  I've kept it quiet around here for the past 3 weeks with only Jonas Reviews posts!  That said, check out Jonas's "review" of his Squinkies :).

Click HERE, or on the embedded video below.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Jonas Reviews - Jonas's Bookshelf

Check out the 9th installment of Jonas Reviews, where Jonas shows us a tiny(very tiny) portion of his book collection!  Hmm . . . there's a glaring lack of a certain awesome independent fantasy author's books.  For shame.  Anyway, watch below, or click HERE to watch!

- Brian

Monday, July 21, 2014

Jonas Reviews - Boxos Star Wars Playset

Click HERE or on the link below to check out Jonas's "review" of his brand new Boxos Star Wars Playset.  He was a little excited :)


Monday, July 14, 2014

Jonas Reviews The Mega Man Robot Master Field Guide

Hello, all!

Hope everyone has had a great weekend.  Now you can brighten up your Monday with a dose of Jonas Reviews :).

Yes, this one is A LOT longer than the typical Jonas review, but he loves his Mega Man :).  As a bonus, watch Jonas name nearly every robot master from Mega Man 1-10 at the end with just a little help from his dada.  That's literally 78 robot masters plus a few supporting characters, 88 characters in all!  If you include a couple of the more obscure ones from the Gameboy games he names in the actual book, you can increase that number to at least 90.  I can't even remember what I ate for breakfast this morning!

Click HERE or on the embedded video below.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Scoop 7/13/2014 - Book 3 Cover Art Sketch

Well, since you've requested this in droves(ish . . . very ish), here's the initial sketch for the cover of Book 3 of Korin's Journal.  As always, Janette Ramos ( has done an absolutely amazing job.  Keep in mind that this is just the initial sketch, and please let me know what you think!

Also, the first draft is up to 17% complete!  Basically the story will consist of 4 major parts, and the first is almost done, so in a way, it's closer to 25%.  Either way, progress is progress!



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Top-Ten Tuesday - Top 10 Fantasy Movies

I've already(fittingly) talked about my top ten fantasy books.  So it only stands to reason that I'm a fan of fantasy in other genres.  Therefore, here's my top ten fantasy movies.  Be warned, I cheated by lumping movies together a couple of times.  Also, try to keep in mind that I was a child of the 80s/early 90s.

10. Return to Oz

This movie, along with a couple others on this list, finds its place here with partial credit given to nostalgia and my age when I first saw it.  Even so, this is a wonderful fantasy movie which should not in any way be compared to the original.  While I believe this movie(someone correct me if I'm wrong) follows the source material of L. Frank Baum's Oz series a little more closely(drawing inspiration from The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz), it is . . . shall we say, unique.

Gone, for the most part, are the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man.  Instead, with a cast involving a talking jack-o-lantern named Jack Pumpkinhead, a robotic warrior named Tik-Tok, and a flying donkey-head couch thingy named Gump, this movie is anything but typical, even for fantasy.  Then there's always the Nome King, the Wheelers, and the evil head-changing princess to incite nightmares in any child who watches it.  Plus, it's interesting to see a young Fairuza Balk in the main role of Dorothy.

9. Time Bandits

In all honesty, I can't remember the last time I saw this movie, but to this day, it sticks with me.  For one, it comes from Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame.  If you've seen any of the films he's been involved in, you already know this is going to be an imaginative tour de force.  

Time Bandits sees an imaginative young boy, ignored by his parents, encountering a group of dwarves who come pouring out of his wardrobe one night(with a very Hobbit-ish nod) and take him on an adventure through history.  With the dwarves, the boy helps to defeat Evil, who wishes to take control of a map the dwarves possess that basically represents the space-time continuum.  

The ending to this movie will always nag at me, with its completely open-ended, not-quite-happy conclusion.

8. The Neverending Story

Definitely a movie that could only be made in the 80s, The NeverEnding Story is one of the most amazing fantasy movies I've ever seen.  Take away the synthesizer soundtrack, and you have an amazing tale in which a young, bullied boy, Bastian, finds himself as the only hope for the world of Fantasia, a fantasy land contained within a book he steals from the bookstore he hides in when escaping a group of bullies.  Fantasia is threatened by the Nothing, a force that is essentially erasing all of existence, representing the loss of people who truly believe in the world.  Bastian soon realizes the book is addressing him directly, and in the end is pulled into the world upon saving it.

One thing I absolutely love about this movie(aside from the amazingly creative Rock Biter, Luck Dragon, among dozens of other unique characters), is that in the end, we are not treated to the typical 80s fantasy movie ending of "was it really a dream?"  No, Bastian chases down his bullies atop a giant, intimidating(but in actuality quite pleasant) Luck Dragon named Falcor in the real world.  It's nice to escape the aforementioned cliche.

I am well aware that the author of the book this is based on was not happy with the film.  For years I've wanted to purchase the book and see the author's true vision.  When my first son is a couple years older, maybe, I'll pick it up and we can experience the adventure together.  

7. The Wizard of Oz

My wife will applaud that I placed this above The NeverEnding Story(we once had a discussion about which of the two movies was better, with me on the side of The NeverEnding Story).  Anyway, a decade or so later, and I can readily admit that this movie will live on far beyond the other, and for good reason.

The Wizard of Oz was already a classic book.  I could go on for paragraphs upon paragraphs about what makes this movie such a fantasy classic, or really just a true classic movie, but you've all seen it and know exactly why(and if you haven't seen it, shame on you!).  Obviously Oz was beautifully realized, and the use of color was a brilliant technological leap then, and a genius artistic device now.  The characters are awesome, the music wholly memorable, and this may be the first multi-quotable movie ever made(follow the yellow brick road, I'm melting, I'll get you my pretty . . ., etc.).

Although, even if the book ended the same way, and this movie was made weeeellll before the 80s, it ends with the "was it all just a dream" cliche I mentioned before.  Oh well, I'll forgive it this once.

6. The Dark Crystal

Full disclosure: I have a Jim Henson bias.  Anything he was involved in, in my eyes, came from the mind of an artistic genius with an imagination and the creative skill typically only associated with children.  His vision was truly brilliant.

The Dark Crystal, I believe, was his first full-length fantasy film feature.  It follows Jen, and elf-ish being belonging to a nearly extinct race called Gelflings.  The Skeksis, more 80s movies nightmare material, have nearly wiped out the Gelflings, and Jen, along with another surviving Gelfling named Kira, go on an epic journey to bring light back to a darkened world.

This movie is a great fantasy film, though it proves just how dark a children's fantasy movie could be in the 80s.

5. Harry Potter (Order of the Phoenix/Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2)

"Foul!" you say?  Well, I can lump 3 movies together if I want to, so there!  Clearly, the Harry Potter book series was revolutionary, bringing in a readership in the millions, from young children to older adults.  It sparked a movement for children to learn to love reading, as well as reading books with word counts in the 100s of thousands.  

The movies, like the books, were amazingly well done, and though I don't believe any after the Prisoner of Azkaban lived up to the books, I liked them all.  However, these three were my favorite movies of the bunch, capturing the darker feel of the two books(books 5 and 7), while keeping an air of the fantastical aspects of the series.  

4. The Princess Bride

Sorry, but you have to love this movie.  You just have to.  If you don't, then . . . well, INCONCEIVABLE!  (If you got that joke, then you're okay by me).

With a fun, lighthearted(mainly) story, a fantasy world(though the author of the book it was based on, William Goldman would like you to believe Gilder and Florin are indeed real countries), amusing characters, an amazing cast, and a huge dose of comedy, this movie can be enjoyed by just about anyone, whether they like fantasy or not.  

Also, I dare you to come up with a more quotable movie(don't take me up on this, because you'll probably win).  If you can, well, that's just plain inconceivable.

3. The Lord of the Rings (The Two Towers/Return of the King)

I'm going to gloss over these movies for the moment, and just say they were amazing, but in my opinion weren't as great as the first.  Granted, I haven't read The Lord of the Rings.  Yeah, I know, throw your stones.  I'm not a fan of Tolkein's writing.  Yes, I know in the overall scheme of things he's the most pivotal fantasy author of all time, and my own writing and love of fantasy can be traced to the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but I just can't read them with their excessive detail.  

Anyway, the point is, I can't compare these to the books, I can only base my opinion of the movies on their own merits.

2. Labyrinth

Another film that falls under the Jim Henson bias, is incredibly nostalgic for me, and can probably be directly credited for my initial love of fantasy.  David Bowie's package aside, the world that Jim Henson and his crew built for this movie is amazing.  The detail, in a mostly pre-CG world is nothing less than astounding.  The story is simple, the live actors are out-acted by the puppets, and the music(though I love it) wears the time period on its sleeve, but Labyrinth will always be one of my favorite fantasy films of all time.  I say mosty pre-CG, because the entire intro credits has a CG owl flying around the screen, a technical feat that meant nothing to me as a child, but strikes me as well before its time today.

Sarah, upon wishing her baby brother away, gets her wish granted by Jareth, the Goblin King.  A regretful Sarah is taken to Jareth's labyrinth where she has 13 hours to find her brother at the castle at the center of the Labyrinth.  Nothing I type here will do this film's endless creativity any justice, so go watch it.  If you don't like fantasy, weren't born in the 80s, and don't have parents born before 1990, this one may not be for you.

1. Fellowship of the Ring

Here's the reason I skipped the other two above.  This movie stands as my favorite fantasy film, even if it's not my favorite fantasy film story.  This movie just hit all the right notes for me.  Peter Jackson picked the perfect location for Middle Earth with New Zealand, the scenery breathtakingly beautiful.  CG is kept to a minimum, but nearly nothing looks fake or manufactured.  Heck, he freakin' built a real Shire!  I mean, really!  The actors were amazing(even if Elijah Wood displays all of 2 expressions throughout), and of any fantasy movie I've ever seen, this one strikes me as the most real.  Nothing about it snaps you out of the fantasy world.  Okay, maybe the flight through the mines of Moria where the fellowship is clearly animated.  For the most part, however, Peter Jackson takes you to Middle Earth and keeps you there for 3-4 hours(depending if you have the extended cut or not).

Of the three movies, this is the one I never tire of, and likely never will.  If you haven't seen it, watch it. If you have, go watch it again!  If your only experience with the filmerized(I'm declaring this to be a word) Middle Earth is the more recent Hobbit movies, definitely watch it. 


Monday, July 7, 2014

Jonas Reviews The Cat in the Hat

This week, Jonas reviews on of his favorite books(and let's face it, it's one of everyone's favorite books), Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat.  So for the moment, let's forget about the Mike Myer's feature film and focus on the book that made so many of us want to read when we were Jonas's age!

Click HERE or watch the embedded video below:


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Warrior Wednesday 07/02/2014 - Ridiculous Racing

This past weekend I participated in the Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge(ROC) race for its Concord, NC stop.  If you haven't heard of this race, it's like the insanely popular mud runs minus the mud.  The ROC website calls it "The original game show inspired obstacle run.  Most of the obstacles take place on giant inflatables, kind of like one of those children's bouncy-house type places for adults.  For a big kid like me, who happens to love running and obstacle races as well, it was ridiculously awesome.   I got some good video of my run with my GoPro.  Before I get to the video part, though, I'd like to discuss something.

I'd like to point out that the race was not timed.  More and more of these obstacle races are steering clear of timing as the number of non-runners increases every year, making these races more about having fun than trying to place, or set a personal best time.  Honestly, I think the non-timing aspect on these is awesome.  I do love to be timed and to compare my own times from race to race, but I love seeing people of all ages and fitness levels participate and have fun doing so even more.

Some people need a little push to set them on the right track for a healthy lifestyle, and looking at these obstacle races as a social, almost party-like event may just do the trick.  These races will have you pushing yourself in some way you're not used to, whether the general length of the race, or an obstacle that takes you out of your comfort zone.  Really, obstacle races are learning tools, providing a bit of self-realization on what you are truly capable of.

For example, when I arrived at the rope-swing obstacle(kinda like Tarzan), there was a slightly older woman paused at the rope, clearly uncertain about attempting to swing from one platform to another.  Self-doubt took hold and she turned away from the rope, starting to step off the obstacle to walk around it(no obstacle is ever mandatory in these races).  Then, one of the workers posted at the obstacle told her "You can do this.  If I can do it, you can do it."  Those two simple sentences turned that woman around, and she did it.  I bet she felt pretty damn good afterward too.  If I'd paid better attention, I'd have made sure to give her a high five on my way past(sounds lame, but when you do something to feel good about yourself that is recognized from the outside, high five's take on a whole new emotional meaning).

Anyway, the point is, she did it.  And you know what?  You can too.

All right, now here's the videos of my run as promised.  Click HERE for the highlights of the race(primarily obstacles and a guest appearance of the two most awesome boys in the world at the end), or HERE for the raw footage of my entire run.  Or you can simply click on the embedded videos below.  I recommend just checking out the highlights video.  It's much less boring and has music from Cincinnati, Ohio's Pluto Revolts, an awesome indie band worth a listen.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Top-Ten Tuesday - Top 10 Candies

Okay, so making a top ten list of my favorite candy selections may seem a bit lame, as well as a bit of a cop-out in terms of time to throw together.  The thing is, last week I had a pathetic imitation of my favorite candy of all time(see #1 on the list), and this will give me the chance to rant about a problem about one of my other favorites(a recent change that was made to it) since my wife is probably tired of hearing me talk about it every time I almost pick up a pack.

Anyway, this list is mostly candy bars, and you will quickly see that I don't list any specialty/gourmet type candies(with one exception . . . kind of).  The reason is, the only time I get things like that is at local candy stores, not chains(like Godiva), and they're not as easily classified as the branded candy I've listed below(definitely with one exception this time).  You'll also see a few seasonal items.  I'm not sure if the fact that they're seasonal has anything to do with my love for them, but when I think of my favorite candy, they're always in my mind.

On to my top ten candies!

*Note* This list will momentarily change during the month of October ;)

10. Skittles

Here it is, the object of my previously mentioned rant.  At what point did the Mars company decide that switching out lime for green apple was a good idea?!  Now, maybe today's youth prefer sour, thus the green apple switch, but come on!  And worst of all, they have the gall to label them as "Original" still.  Pshaw.  

9. Butterfinger

The ranking for this one may be a bit inflated due to the fact that my wife hates them, and therefore we don't have them laying around the house often.

8. Milk Duds


I will eat these until I get sick.  And then I will eat more.  That is all.

7. Cadbury Mini Eggs

The same as what I said for Milk Duds applies here as well.  I have an unopened bag of these from a post-Easter candy purchase that remain unopened.  Once that Pandora's Box of a bag is open, they will be gone, my stomach will ache, and then I'll have to start counting the days to when they put out next Easter's candy . . . though at the rate grocery stores are going, that may be next month.  I have seen a more recent Christmas version of these, and while it doesn't seem right, it does seem delicious.

6. Peanut Butter M&Ms

M&M's with peanut butter inside.  Need I say more?

5. Cadbury Creme Eggs

There's just something about the creamy Cadbury chocolate, and gritty, sugary inside of this egg that is pure candy delight.  Once confined to the annual Easter offering, there's also been Halloween Cadbury Screme Eggs in recent years.  Yes, there have been varieties such as caramel and chocolate ones, but nothing beats the original flavor for me.

4. Starbursts

Take one Starburst of every classic flavor(Cherry, Strawberry, Lemon, and Orange), shove them all into your mouth at once, and you'll have your new #4(or better) candy.  Then feel free to tell me I eat my candy like a little kid.  Be warned, repeated episodes of such flavor mixing may lead to diabetes.

3. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

The only reason this isn't number two is that for 3-4 times a year, there is a far better alternative(in my opinion).  

2 Reese's Peanut Butter Cup(holiday assortment specific)

 Maybe it's the different ratio of peanut butter to chocolate, or maybe it's just the spirit of the holidays, but holiday-themed Reeses cups are pure peanut butter and chocolate perfection.  Whether shaped as trees, hearts, pumpkins, or whatever, these top the classic cups for me anyday.

1. Chocolate Covered Gummy Bears

When I tell people that this is my favorite candy, they always think it seems strange until they taste them.  I've converted quite a few to the delectable delight of chocolate covered gummy bears over the years.  However, there is a catch with these.  You may see items such as "Muddy Bears" at your local grocery, or random store brands(bought some at Walgreens most recently) that seem to be the same thing.  Alas, they are not.  The only place you can get these are either your local candy store, or from that candy store chain that seems to be in 9/10 of the malls that still exist.  These have some basic flavor that blends perfectly with the chocolate, where many other offerings have all the different gummy bear flavors, and let me tell you, they don't all go well with chocolate.  Trust me; if you see these, buy them.  I'll take any leftovers if you don't like 'em!