It’s been a while since I’ve been able to offer an update on The Lost Worlds of Power, the fan-written collection of Nintendo game novelizations of which I’m honored to be a part. However, I’m told that the October 31 release date is still firm! The book will be available as a free download that day, so be on the lookout for that!

In the mean time, I am pleased to offer the illustration for my selection, “Legendary Wings,” by cartoonist Ron DelVillano:

Legendary Wings

When editor Philip J. Reed sent it to me as part of a bundle with the other illustrations, he noted:

Just so you know, I didn’t give Ron any guidance on what your stories were actually about…true to the Worlds of Power spirit! I only told him the games. In some cases, he actually ended up with some coincidentally appropriate details, which I love, and in other cases
the illustration is totally irrelevent, which I love even more.

How accurately does Ron’s illustration reflect the contents of my story? I’ll leave that for you to judge, but for the record, I think it’s awesome! More information will be forthcoming as I have it!

. . . And as a bonus, here’s another of Ron’s illustrations that is perfect for getting into the Halloween spirit:

Monster Party-01

The title? “Monster Party,” of course.

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Nut Buster with Loud Report: Fireworks Roundup

AKA "Giant Squirrel vs. Ewok"

AKA “Giant Chipmunk vs. Ewok”

Going to the park or downtown to watch the big professional fireworks show is always an enjoyable spectacle; no patriotic or sporting event is complete without them.  When synchronized with music they can be even more dramatic.

However, I’ve always enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the fireworks you can buy and shoot off yourself.  The sulfurous smell, the shredded paper, and even the burnt fingers bring back memories of family gatherings and idle summer days.  Where I grew up, in Kansas, fireworks were legal for about a week around July 4, although a window has now opened for New Year’s Eve as well; I was both awestruck and jealous when I visited my cousins in Tennessee as a kid and learned that they could buy and shoot off fireworks all year round.

I also enjoyed the packaging and was intrigued by the Chinese script and traditional designs, a vintage commercial style that inspired Salvador Dali to paint his Board of Demented Associations (Fireworks) in the early 1930s.

board-of-demented-associations-fireworks

Fireworks with traditional packaging can still be found, but in recent years I’ve noticed a more trend-driven approach to packaging, with the larger fireworks especially trying to stand out in a crowded marketplace with photoshopped labels that look like movie posters or glossy magazine ads, and names that reflect their Chinese manufacturers’ idea of American pop culture. (They’re even rated, with the “Wizard’s Wrath,” for example, rated “A for Action.”)  Considering how difficult it can be to distinguish between numerous models that all promise to “emit showers of sparks with loud report,” they need any advantage they can get.

Sometimes the result is zany dada poetry, like fireworks named “One Dumb Cousin” and “Massive American.” Others are obvious appeals to things that are current, like the laptop-shaped “iPyro;” a few years ago there were numerous fireworks with “cyber” in their name, but other than the “iPyro” all I saw this year was “Twitter Glitter.”

iPyro

There are also the unauthorized “Captain Americas” (an obvious choice) and illustrations that look sort of like Darth Vader or other characters.  There was a Britney Spears firework for a while but I haven’t seen it recently.

To all my American readers: have a happy and safe Independence Day!

Which sounds better: Ukulelepalooza or Ukulelepocalypse?

A last-minute Facebook alert led me to check out the Wichita Ukulele Society’s appearance at The Donut Whole this evening, a combination concert, jam session and singalong.  Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my interest in groups of like instruments, so you just know that I couldn’t resist hearing a band of about a dozen (give or take a few members of the audience playing along) ukulele enthusiasts.  The repertoire included expected songs like “Tom Dooley,” “You Are My Sunshine,” and “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” (complete with falsetto, and on Tiny Tim’s birthday, no less!), as well as surprises like “Y.M.C.A.,” “Paint it Black,”  and “Margaritaville.”

The donuts were just an added bonus.

wpid-20140412_230226.jpg

Pictures Prove: Nineteen Bassoons Converge in Concert

As part of Monday night’s Friends University Band concert, nineteen bassoons (including two contrabassoons) were played together on the stage of Sebits Auditorium.  Stix, the performing arm of the Wichita Bassoon Society, was joined by guest artist Nancy Goeres.  They performed Daniel Baldwin’s charming Echo of the Spheres (scored for four bassoon quartets) under the direction of Dr. John Taylor.  What kind of encore could follow such a piece? Leroy Anderson’s Bugler’s Holiday, of course!

UPDATE: Video of the two pieces can be found here and here.

Five Favorite Images of 2013

First of all, I don’t do Pinterest.  Or Tumblr.  (Never say never, but not right now, at any rate.)  But I do like to keep track of pictures I enjoy.  The end of the year is a time for solemn list-making by critics and fans alike.  By its very nature, this blog isn’t focused on movies, music, or books alone, so I won’t pretend to sum up the year in depth.  Making lists is fun, however, so here is a (hopefully) fun list: some of my favorite images from 2013.  Some of these have been around for a while, but they were new to me in the last year.

5.  Super Lil Bub!

A_SUPER

Everyone knows Lil Bub, the google-eyed cat that has taken the Internet by storm.  This 8-bit style retro design by Drew Wise was available as a tee shirt earlier this year.  I didn’t get one–I have a lot of tee shirts already–but this needs to be commemorated.  Even if it was just Lil Bub flying her saucer around space, who wouldn’t want to play this game?

4. Cookie Monster Cupcakes: Nailed It

Cookie-Monster-Cupcakes..-Nailed-It

Yes, these are everywhere.  But so help me, I laugh at this one every time I see it.  Never not funny.

3.  Injustice: Gods Among Us: shocked Batman

supes-kills-joker

I haven’t read Injustice: Gods Among Us, and frankly I doubt I’ll bother.  Although I have a documented interest in stories that put familiar characters in extreme situations, a graphic novel tied into a video game (from the makers of Mortal Kombat, in case that wasn’t obvious), and in which Superman is tricked into killing Lois Lane–and then goes on a rampage and kills pretty much everyone else–doesn’t grab me.  I’ll grant that Injustice has been polarizing: depending on whom you ask, it’s either the best or worst thing to happen to comics in years.  But what I like about the above illustration (from artist Jheremy Raapack) isn’t Superman disemboweling the Joker with his bare hands, but the look on Batman’s face in the background:

Injustice-Gods-Among-Us-Batman

If someone wanted to put this on a tee shirt, I’d seriously consider it.

2.  Platypus Venn Diagram

platypus.venn

This one has apparently been around for some time as well–as far as I can tell it’s the creation of Tenso Graphics, but I first saw it on this They Might Be Giants Tumblr.

1.  Sleeping Tyrannosaurus Rex

sleeping.trex

This illustration, by artist John Conway, just tickles me.  It’s from the excellent book All Yesterdays by Conway, C. M. Kosemen, and Darren Naish, which I may write about in more detail in the future.  The book is subtitled “Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals,” and the artists are deliberately trying to avoid the clichés that often define paleoart.  As Naish writes in the accompanying text,

Most hunting animals spend long days resting, either in order to conserve energy, or while digesting the food acquired from a fresh kill.  Like most warm-blooded predators, the fearsome T. Rex may have spent most of its time asleep.

Fearsome, yes, but just look at it: it’s almost as cute as Lil Bub.