Book Review: Supervillain of the Day

images-47Lovecraft has been dominating my bookshelf of late, and in the interest of maintaining my sanity, I had to find something less dire to immerse myself in. Something to laugh at. Something that didn’t involve reanimation, wall-dwelling rats, or cosmic entities preparing blot mankind from the earth.

Supervillain of the Day (the first book in a new series by Katie Daniels) turned out to be just what I needed. It isn’t perfect – the writing is spotty at times, and some of the character interactions could use polishing – but it is, most definitely, fun.

Supervillains are wreaking havoc all over the world – except in London, England, that is. For most Londoners this is very good news. For the editor of a tabloid specializing in “strange and unusual” stories? Not so much. But reporter Jeffry Floyd is on the case, charged with the task of finding a supervillain… or else. “Or else” being the loss of his job.

The book’s opening sentence sets the tone for the rest of the tale:

No one knew that the new mayor was a supervillain until the day he lost his temper with his secretary and tried to force-choke her from across the room.

Say hello to superhero comedy. Or should I say, supervillain comedy. (If you’ve seen Megamind, you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about). The story’s greatest strength is that it embraces the ridiculous and runs with it. Between the zany characters, outlandish situations, and crackerjack dialogue, there was seldom a moment I didn’t have a grin on my face while reading. Short though it is – you can finish it in a single sitting – it’s nice to know that “this is not the end.” More books are on the way, and Supervillain of the Day is a promising start to the series.

As a sidenote, I can easily picture this series as a graphic novel. The concept, the action, and the characters would lend themselves well to that medium, and if such a “graphic novelization” ever came to pass, it would make a good story even better. Who doesn’t like crazy artwork to go along with their supervillains?

Now… to Lovecraft I return. I have a feeling I won’t be laughing much. Unless laughing maniacally counts; and in that case, you should be worried.

(I received this book free from the author in exchange for a review.
I was not required to write a positive review.)

Flotsam & Jetsam (1/17)

This Isn’t the Response You’re Looking For – This is too good: “The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn’t on the horizon.”

Mind-Blowing 3D Chalk Works – Mind-blowing is pretty accurate.

Mining for Truth – “The Bible will not unpack itself; we have to exert our minds to think.” An increasingly unpopular activity for many Christians, unfortunately.

Before It Gets Big Enough – An excellent piece from Frank Turk. “The problem really isn’t that we live in a post-Christian nation. We should accept that we do. We should be convinced of it. The problem is when we are therefore satisfied with that, and we find that Jesus is only our private savior, and our local comfort, and our homestyle god.”

Book Review: Will You Be My Facebook Friend – This looks like an worthwhile read. I’m tempted to add it to my TBR list. Will another addition cause the infernal thing to come crashing down on my head? I think I’ll chance it.

Alarming Level of Pride – So funny and so true. So painfully true.

Looper – “Looper is a gangster movie with a time-travelling sci-fi setup. It breaks the mold of most time travel movies by completely subjecting the logic of time travel to the needs of the story. And boy, does it tell a story.” It gladdens me to find someone who is as enthusiastic about this movie as I am.”

How Ben Lapps Makes Breakfast – If you play the guitar, or like making breakfast, go watch this video. Like, now.

“Men in general do not live as if they looked to die; and therefore do not die as if they looked to live.” – Thomas Manton

I Hope

“Remember this: the strongest sign of the decay of a nation is the feminization of men and the masculinization of women. It is notable that in Communist nations women are exhorted, and compelled, to do what has traditionally been men’s work. American women, some of them, feel triumphant that they have broken down the ‘barricades’ between the work of the sexes. I hope they will still feel triumphant when some commissar forces a shovel or an axe into their soft hands and compels them to pound and cut forests and dig ditches. I hope they will be ‘happy’ when a husband deserts them and they must support their children and themselves alone. (After all, if a woman must be ‘free’ she shouldn’t object to men being free too, should she?) I hope they will feel ‘fulfilled’ when they are given no more courtesies due to their sex and no kindnesses, but are kicked aside on the subways buses by men, and jostled out of the way by men on busy sidewalks and elevators. I hope, when they look in their mirrors, that they will be pleased to see exhausted, embittered faces, and that they will be consoled by their paychecks.”

– Taylor Caldwell

Grace and Culture Building

You cannot flunk out of the Christian faith. You can be expelled for high rebellion (which is what excommunication is), but you cannot be kicked out for being slow or lazy. You cannot even be kicked out for being sinful. How many times will God accept you back to this Table? More than seventy times seven? The church is tailor-made for misfits. Robert Frost once defined home as the place where, ‘if you have to go, they have to take you in.’ And this is why, in a fundamental way, the church is your home. You might be the king of the screw-ups, but you are always most welcome here. Own your sin, and you are never on your own.

An excellent sermon by Pastor Wilson. Part II can be found here – I haven’t listened to it yet, but I’ve no doubt it’s as good as the first installment. (Thanks to Becky for originally bring it to my attention.)

OverRated Oscars

4516b_lgWith Oscar season in full swing, it seems the perfect time to share an excerpt (or four) from Mark Juddery’s book OverRated: The 50 Most Overhyped Things in History.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that Looper and The Dark Knight Rises were utterly ignored by the Academy this year. Whether you agree with the nominations or not, however, I think we can all agree on one thing: the Oscars are seriously overrated. Mark Juddery shares a few reasons why. (Geek Alert!)

The Greatest Show on Earth (Really?)

When critics want to show how ludicrous the Academy Awards really are, the film that they most frequently pick on is The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), directed by Cecil B. DeMille, about a group of touring circus performers. It had an all-star cast, including James Stewart in clown makeup and Betty Hutton as an emotional trapeze artist. It is not quite as awful as critics suggest, but it isn’t anything exceptional either. But it somehow managed to win the Oscar for best picture in 1952. A bad year for movies? Actually, it was the year of Singin’ In the Rain (which won nothing, and wasn’t even nominated for best picture), High Noon, and The Quiet Man, films that are now considered by critics and others to be “all-time classics” (whatever that means). (pp. 85-86)

Clueless Is As Clueless Does

Most members of the Academy [of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences] are as clueless as anyone else. I interviewed one in 2001 – the late actor Ron Randell, then eighty years old and unable to remember most of his career. The Oscars had been awarded a week beforehand, and I noticed that he had video copies next to his television of many of the nominated films, sent to him by the studios.

He revealed that he had never seen any of these films, didn’t know anything about them (and didn’t even know how to operate his video player), but voted anyway. For whom? He couldn’t remember. Did he vote for his fellow Australian actor, Russell Crowe (who had won that year for Gladiator)? He frowned: “Russell Crowe… The name rings a bell. I might have voted for him.”

There are many other stories, at least some of which are true (like the one above). Henry Fonda’s widow once said that he always let the maid fill out his Oscar ballot. Dancer-actor Ann Miller seriously considered not voting one year because of the “sloppy appearances of the actresses” who were nominated. (pp. 86-87)

Political Shenanigans

Of course, voters might well be influenced by the campaigns. Harvey Weinstein, as founder of Miramax Films, was often blamed for turning the Oscars into a political election, since his studio began its aggressive lobbying for films like The Crying Game, The Piano, and Pulp Fiction, promoting these films as art house masterpieces. (None of them were named best picture, but they all did rather well at the Oscars.) Miramax finally won a best picture award for Shakespeare in Love, which also won a best actress trophy for Gwyneth Paltrow. To show how much of a political contest this had become, Miramax had engaged in the kind of negative campaigning that would make U.S. elections seem nice, attacking Paltrow’s competitors (including Emily Watson, Fernanda Montenegro, and especially Cate Blanchett) for the terrible crime of not being American.

While Weinstein might have had them down to a fine art, Oscar political campaigns have been going on since at least 1930 (the second year that the awards were presented), when the powerful actor-producer Mary Pickford invited the voting committee to an exclusive party at her mansion. The result: she was named best actress for Coquette. (p. 87)

How Important Is It?

Well, an Oscar can boost your career greatly, but it won’t necessarily save you from obscurity. Remember F. Murray Abraham, named best actor of 1984? (Amadeus was the movie.) Remember that the first actress to win two Oscars (in subsequent years, no less) was not Katherine Hepburn or Bette Davis, but a woman named Luis Rainer? No, I didn’t think you did.

Hopefully, voters are swayed by quality, not hype. Then again, these are the people who decided that The Greatest Show on Earth was “better” than Singin’ In the Rain. Fortunately, in the history of cinema, we remember more than just Oscar winners. (p. 88)