Category Archives: media consumption

Book Meme

How I feel without a laptop.

“These fairy tales take me away from the harsh reality of peasant life.”

1. What’s on your current book wish list? If too many to list, describe what kind of things are on it.
I have a book wishlist a mile long, but some titles that pop into my head are Cinder, Supergods and Devil Said Bang.

2. If you could get just one of those as a gift right now, which would it be?
Well, Devil Said Bang isn’t out yet, and while I do want to read Cinder, Supergods has been calling to me lately. I’ve been seeing and hearing about it all over, despite it coming out about a year ago now. So yeah, I’ll go with Grant Morrison.

3. Are there any books in your collection that you want a different or secondary copy of?
I collect editions of Alice in Wonderland, but lately I haven’t been finding as many. I really want the Ralph Steadman illustrated version (it’s expensive!) and the Vintage version, because the cover makes me smile.

4. When is the last time you sold/donated/otherwise got rid of books you didn’t want anymore?
Oh, within the last month or two. I don’t keep as many books as I used to. Unless it’s near and dear to my heart, or I think I might read it again, I usually donate it to local book exchange.

5. Do you have any books written in a language other than your native tongue?
Sadly, no. I might be able to muddle through a couple children’s books in Spanish or French, though.

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The Moral of the Story

I watch a lot of things. I’m passionately dedicated to my NBC comedies, my FOX supernatural shows (about they only thing they do right), and my HBO medieval dramas. I love anime and its ridiculousness, its magical elements, its absurd humor and its exaggerated designs. Movies of all kind interest me, especially superhero and animated films. I’m looking forward to The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises just as much as ParaNorman and Brave.

And I also love cartoons.

I’m not just talking The Simpsons, Family Guy and Adult Swim. In fact, I’m not really a fan of Family Guy. A lot of things on Adult Swim honestly just look like they were created for and by stoners. I am ridiculously dedicated to FX’s Archer, though, and I honestly don’t know why I don’t own all the season of The Venture Bros. on DVD. But I’m talking about cartoons made for children. I’m talking about things like My Little Pony.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is the latest iteration of the popular franchise, thanks, in large part to Cartoon Network veteran Lauren Faust. She took a line of toys made for four year olds and turned it into the most popular thing on the internet since… well, I’m not sure I’ve seen anything this popular, something so well-crafted, that it has caught the interest of everyone from the four year olds it’s intended to entertain, to grown men in their 20s and 30s.

I’m also talking about things like Young Justice. Part of Cartoon Network’s DC Nation Saturday morning programming block, Young Justice is a complex and often dark story about many of the DCU’s major players’ sidekicks. Though I have very different thoughts about DC’s comics, their animation department almost never disappoints. From the grimdark Batman: The Animated Series to the retro comedy Teen Titans, the studio has produced some amazing television aimed at children. Young Justice is no different. Named for the 90s comic series about  a team of teenage heroes, YJ is clever, and never speaks down to its audience. The target demographic may be children, but the narrative is rich, smart and layered. They don’t shy away from more adult concepts, such as death and psychological trauma. In short, Young Justice remembers that its target audience aren’t just young children, but people, as well.

One last show I’m particularly fond of is the newest incarnation of the long running Scooby-Doo series. Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated brings the fun and mystery of the older Scooby series and injects them with actual plot and character development. Instead of Fred being just the fearless leader of the gang, he is obsessed with traps and has a complicated home life with his mayor father and missing mother. Daphne is no longer brainless bait, but a smart, crafty girl with strange allergies and a trio of accomplished older sisters whose accomplishments she isn’t sure she can live up to.

If you know me at all, you know I’m not kidding you with these recommendations. I love children’s cartoons. I grew up on television; when my mother slept through the day so she could work at night, and when my dad was too exhausted after his 9 to 5, I parked myself in front of the television, and I learned. Oh, I read and eventually succumbed to the lure of the computer, too, of course, but my formative years were spent watching Nicktoons and Cartoon Cartoons, classics – like Looney Toons and Charlie Brown – and everything in-between. Children’s television is what originally taught me how to be a good person. It taught me that all people are people, and they should be treated as such. (Of course, somewhere along the way I missed the memo that said “It’s okay to forget all that stuff kid’s media taught you about being a decent human being.” And thank goodness for that.) It taught me that the world was diverse, and has made me critical of adult shows that don’t have actors of color, or women, or differing sexualities, or disabled representation. (And I’m also critical of those who do have all those things. I’m looking at you, Glee.)

As someone who grew up on TV, I’m glad children’s cartoons are getting smarter. I’m not going to try and convince everyone that all of the shows I watched as a kid are the best. Some of them were great, some of them were terrible, and most of them fell somewhere in-between. The shows I really appreciated, though, were those that didn’t talk down to kids, to me. Television is a medium that is often used purely for profit, creating shows for kids just to sell toys, like the original My Little Pony. Some have tie-ins, like Young Justice, with it’s own comic series and years and years of comic book back issues. And still others are one in a long line of rebooted and reworked versions of a classic, like Scooby Doo. That all of these shows could have easily been thrown together for make a quick buck is really what makes them stand out. All of them could have been terrible, but instead the right team of writers, producers, character designers, animators and fans made them happen. Yes, many of the people who worked on these cartoons for children were and are big fans, and that’s what makes them so great.

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Get Your Money for Nothing and Your Books for Free (Or At Least Really Cheap)

I like to read. I think that’s a given. I try to read about 50 books a year, which, if you can do math, is about a book a week. I don’t try to cram 52 books into a year though, because sometimes you just need a break. (Especially as the year winds down and you find yourself surrounded by people you’re supposed to interact with instead of say, burying your nose in a book and ignoring them as best you can.)

Of course, to read so many  books a year, I need to have access to at least 50 books. And books are expensive, especially if you buy them new. Here’s an Important Fact: After you buy a book, kind of like after you buy anything, unless the book remains in pristine condition and becomes incredibly hard to get, it will never be worth the cover price again. Even if you haven’t read it, broken the spine or just left it on a shelf after you brought it home, it’s value decreases. This can be hard if you want to resell it, but it’s great if you’re into used books. And if you’re still reading this, I bet you are. Here are a few ways I’ve found to get books for very cheap, and in some cases, totally free.

1. Libraries

Libraries: Pretty, temperature controlled and full of the knowledge of the ages, or something like that.

I almost didn’t put this on the list, but people legitimately forget libraries are places you can borrow books for free. Libraries have lots going on, like after school programs, computer training and ESL classes, so people forget that their main goal is to provide information; lending books and other media are the core of that goal.

Not to mention they’re very easy to find. Simply Google searching the name of the place you live and “library” should result in plenty of hits. Taking in a driver’s license or a piece of mail with your name on it gets you a library card and access to a plethora of books. And, yes, DVDs and CDs too.

Also, many libraries have book sales. Depending on the library and the condition of the books, they can range anywhere from a few dollars to mere cents, and they can go home with you forever, so long as you can get them there. Certain libraries even eventually do mass purges, in which the books become 100% free to the public. Next time you’re at the library, check to see if they do book sales (it usually happens at the main branch), and ask for a schedule. If there’s a point when the books are available for free, the schedule will let you know when.

2. Bookmooch
Bookmooch is a free online service that lets you trade in your old books for new ones. For the price of shipping a book media mail, you can get another, simply by asking. This is how it works: You post books you don’t want anymore, people request those books, you ship them out, earn points, and then request books you want from others who are willing to send them from you. Though not entirely free, it’s a great way to get rid of books cluttering up your home, as well as get new ones. You can chose where you want to ship books, so if you can’t afford to pay to send a book to the other side of the world, that’s absolutely peachy.

I mention Bookmooch specifically, but there are plenty of other sites out there that specialize in book trading, including: Paperback Swap, Title Trader and Bookin. I can’t vouch for their (complete) freeness, but a quick read over the rules and terms of service should let you know.

3. Book Exchanges

The best kind of books at the Bay Area Book Exchange.

Depending on where you live, these may or may not exist, but it never hurts to Google your area + “book exchange.” How book exchanges tend to work that is a group of citizens, usually local booksellers and aficionados, get to together, collect a bunch of books from the community, rent a store front, and use it to both collect and give away used books. The nicer books they receive, they sell locally or online to pay for overhead, and the rest go onto the shelves. Some exchanges make you actually do what the title says, and give you a book for a book, five books for five books, et cetera. Others simply let you take whatever you want home, up to a certain amount.

4. Yard, Garage, Estate Sales and Flea Markets
Out of anything on this list, yard and garage sales are the hardest places to find books. If they have any books, it’s usually easy readers the sellers’ children have outgrown. Many people selling on their lawn focus more on housewares, toys, games, and even clothes, instead of books. But the good news is, because so few people try to sell books this way, and so few people go to yard sales to buy them, people who DO put out books often have them for very cheap, or eventually throw them into the “free” pile when they fail to clear out. Going to yard sales later in the day will sometimes yield incredibly cheap or absolutely free books, if you stumble upon the right one.

Estate sales and flea markets are better. Estates sales are an “everything must go” type of sale that happens when a person dies and no one has claim to their possessions, or when houses are foreclosed with everything inside, and the bank makes the money to pay off the mortgage by selling off the leftover stuff. This means anything the person owned, from crockery to furniture to – yes – books are up for grabs. And because whoever’s selling is probably trying to move things fast, deals can be made, especially if the books are rather used. Don’t be afraid of haggle.

The same goes for flea markets, where anything found at them can have a dubious origin and a not so fresh exterior. I once found a copy of Lloyd Alexanders The Black Cauldron for 50 cents, and talked the woman running the stall down to 25 cents because the cover was ripped. Usually, people are just looking to get rid of things at flea markets, and they’re happy with any decent price that gets the item off their hands. Once again, going towards the end of the market day you’ll find prices greatly reduced, but since a flea market has more variety, it’s always good to get their earlier to check out the wears.

5. Half.com, Amazon Marketplace, eBay, etc.
These seem pretty obvious to me, but I notice a lot of people buying straight from Amazon when they could get a gently used copy of the same thing for a third of the price. Many, many, MANY books are listed on there for no more than a cent + shipping. This is an especially good deal if you need to order any books in bulk, and you find a seller who has an entire warehouse to liquidate. Half.com and eBay work similarly, though the cheapest you can sell on Half is, I believe, $.75. Still, that’s a fraction of the original cost, including shipping. On eBay, people often sell books in lots. You can walk away from an auction with 50 books for $5 if you’re you’re a good enough bid sniper.

6. Entering Contests
Plenty of web sites, such as my favorite book cataloging site, GoodReads, have free giveaways. On GoodReads, entering is as simple as giving the site your address and telling them you want the book. If you win one, it’s implied you leave a review, but what are you amassing books for if you’re not reading them? Plus, reviewing them increases your chances of winning more!

Check authors web sites for giveaways too, as well as popular literary blogs. And if you know of any sites that do giveaways, feel free to leave them in the comments.

7. Ebooks, Project Gutenberg and some pretty awesome authors
I think we all know what ebooks are by now, but did you know that some of them are absolutely free? Books in the public domain can be freely uploaded, downloaded and archived as much as you want. If you have an eReader, many of these public domain books can be downloaded for free straight onto it, or, if you’re not so technologically advanced, web sites like Project Gutenberg provide versions you can download and read on your computer or phone, and most can be read right on the site. GoodReads also has quite a collection of free-to-read ebooks, as well as free previews and excerpts.

Some authors are into sharing and don’t treat the copyright on their works as absolute law. Or, at least, they have more malleable ideas about copyright, and make their materials available for really cheap or free. Authors like Neil Gaiman provide free samples of their work on their websites – entire stories or audio readings. (And he ALWAYS tweets about free and cheap offers on his books.) Wil Wheaton, author and tech geek, sells homemade books very cheaply, both in print and ebook format. And some authors, like Cory Doctorow, hate copyright with a burning passion, and make all of their work available for free online.

My point with this entry: Seek, and ye shall find. All of the above points are completely legal ways to get cheap or entirely free books. Even if you’re not as voracious a reader as I am, it never hurts to have a few unread novels lying around for when you need them.

And P.S.: If you know of any other ways to get free or super cheap books, feel free to leave them in the comments!

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Movies, Films, Picture Shows, Et Cetera

Though I’m impartial to new years resolutions (What do you mean I’ve already made some?), I’ve made up my mind about how I plan to enjoy my media this year. As far as reading goes, I won’t be buying any new books this year, and instead trying to focus on reading my usual amount (50, give or take), while at the same time reducing the bowing of my bookshelves. As for television, I haven’t picked up any mid-season shows I wasn’t already watching, and my interest in it is waning, especially with the abrupt “cancellation” of Community. This anime season is pretty good in comparison to past seasons, but most of what I’m watching is throw away humor shows, Persona 4 and a couple of “out there” shows; you know, the kind that gives anime its weird reputation in the West.

And then there’s movies. And, as far as I’m concerned, 2012 is going to be all about movies.

There are three separate superhero movies coming out just this year (I’m not counting the Ghost Rider sequel, no), a Ghibli film, something with Daniel Radcliffe in it and a number of other things I want to check out. Below is my movie list for the year, pulled from what IMDb currently has to offer.

Red Tails – January 20 (out now!)
We Need to Talk About Kevin – January 27
The Woman in Black – February 3
The Secret World of Arrietty –  February 17
The Raven – March 9
The Hunger Games – March 23 *
The Cabin in the Woods – April 13
The Three Stooges – April 13 **
The Avengers – May 4
Hysteria – May 18
Men in Black III – May 25
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – June 22
Brave – June 22
Magic Mike – June 29
The Amazing Spider-Man – July 6
The Dark Knight Rises – July 20
The Bourne Legacy – August 3
ParaNorman – August 17
Hotel Transylvania – September 21
James Bond: Skyfall – November 9
World War Z – December 9
The Great Gatsby – December 28 ***

That’s quite a mix of films. I have everything on there from kids movies, to superheroes, to zombies, to period pieces, to horror to Edgar Allen Poe solving crimes. And there’s at least one movie per month, except, of course, for October. Poor October, no good movies get released during you.

I’m also going to keep track of the movies as I watch them, in a delightful visual format, you can find here, on my Tumblr.

What movies are you looking forward to this year?

__

* I haven’t read these books, but I want to see what all the hype is about. I also kind of want to see how similar it is to Battle Royale.
** I’m doing it for Sean Hayes.
*** Yes, I expect this to be terrible, too.

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