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!