Just read: 'Batman: Blind Justice'

Just read: 'Batman: Blind Justice'

This one was a bit of a wacky left turn. Blind Justice came about as DC was looking for a way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Batman -- the three issues that comprise this arc originally appeared in Detective Comics Nos. 598-600 in 1989. They turned to Sam Hamm, who wasn't a comic book writer at the time, but the man who had written the screenplay for the 1989 Batman film that was directed by Tim Burton and starred Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson.

That choice proved to be an interesting one, because while Hamm was a fan of Batman's, he wasn't a bonafide geek about the hero when he sat down to write the arc. He wrote in his intro to the story, which is featured in the trade paperback release, that he was intimidated by the size of the task -- a standard single issue bookended by two 80-page giant issues. He claimed it was about double the wordage of a standard screenplay, and that he had a much more difficult time writing the comic than he did the movie. 

Anyway, onto the subject at hand. I loved Blind Justice way more than I expected. I didn't really have much anticipation for this book, and pretty much viewed it as a side-step from my main Batman chronology, but I'm very happy I read it. Hamm's story focuses on Bruce Wayne more than it does Batman, and features the most Wayne action of any story I've read so far. I'm finding that multiple of my favorite Batman stories dig into the psychological relationship between Bruce Wayne and Batman, and that proves to be the bedrock of Blind Justice

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Super Bowl nachos recipe Super Bowl nachos recipe Super Bowl nachos recipe

Super Bowl nachos recipe Super Bowl nachos recipe Super Bowl nachos recipe

You see that headline? Super Bowl nachos recipe. I once took a class in journalism school that covered search engine optimization during one of its lectures. Super Bowl nachos recipe. They told us it was important to have your target SEO keywords (Super Bowl nachos recipe) in the headline and then repeated in your first paragraph, so Google might put your result first on the list. Super Bowl nachos recipe. Time to get rich off Super Bowl nachos recipe!

Alright, anyway. The Sorry, Internet kitchen is back at it again with the good eats today, creating nachos for you to devour during The Big Game™. I made nachos for my own consumption during two recent weekends of the football season, after I realized that football would soon be over, and becoming dismayed and worried that I hadn't yet reached a respectable amount of nacho consumption during the course of the season to date.

I ventured forth and created two different types of nachos on these weekends, sampling two different recipes that I mostly at least kinda invented myself, knowing full well that one of them might end up on this blog. After the huge popularity of my pizza soup recipe blog, which drew one of the largest crowds in presidential inauguration history (real and unedited photo proof of this is to your immediate right, or below if you're on mobile), I knew I could not wait too long to post another recipe, lest my followers riot. 

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Listen while you work: 'Narcos (A Netflix Original Series Soundtrack)'

Listen while you work: 'Narcos (A Netflix Original Series Soundtrack)'

A personal characteristic that bothers me regularly is my inability to listen to normal music while I'm doing any type of work that requires reading comprehension or writing. This didn't always used to be the case, but at some point in the last three years, it became impossible for me to have most music on via headphones while I was writing anything, and more recently, I don't like having music on when I'm reading, either.

Some quick tasks are exceptions to this rule, and I can definitely have music on when I'm doing more "drone-ish" work, like updating spreadsheets or the more technical parts of my job. But the general rule is that I'm not listening to any music with vocals while I'm working. This obviously rules out most of the music I like, and it also rules out listening to podcasts while I'm working.

This was my impetus behind getting more into instrumental post-metal recently (I'll probably have another blog about that at some point). But my recommendation for today is the Narcos original series soundtrack, which I will credit my friend Andy (who tweets once a year, about football) with turning me onto indirectly. If you haven't seen Narcos yet, it's a Netflix show about Pablo Escobar and his drug empire in Colombia. The first season was awesome, highlighted for me by the acting performances, and I'm planning on starting the second season soon.

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Just read: ' Batman: A Death In the Family' & 'A Lonely Place of Dying'

Just read: ' Batman: A Death In the Family' & 'A Lonely Place of Dying'

I'm really working my way through the classic Batman titles here! Not long after The Killing Joke, I read through a large trade paperback that collects A Death In the Family along with the follow-up-ish story A Lonely Place of Dying. The former is the more famous work, a four-issue run considered a classic for many reasons, so we'll start there.

A Death In the Family is best known for featuring the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd. He took over the mantle of Robin after Batman caught him trying to steal the tires off the Batmobile -- an origin story which I read a version of in Nightwing: Year One -- filling the role after the first Robin, Dick Grayson, left Batman's side to lead the Teen Titans and eventually take on his new persona as Nightwing.

The storyline was met with a fair amount of criticism due to an interactive aspect in its release. DC Comics allowed fans to vote on whether Robin would live or die by dialing a 900 number (this storyline was published in late 1988 and early 1989 ... so taking a vote via Twitter hashtags wasn't really an option). A total of 10,614 votes were cast, with fans voting for Todd to die by the slim margin of 5,343 to 5,271. This close margin was heavily impacted by one fan who rigged votes for Todd to die, with DC saying (over a decade later) that this one person voted enough times that he swung the vote.

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I now love pizza soup

I now love pizza soup

Yesterday I made pizza soup at home for dinner. This is the second time Katie and I have had it -- she made a version of it a couple weeks ago and I tried my own stab at it this time. I shared my love for this meal on social media and several folks on the website Twitter.com asked me for a recipe.

This is a good time to note that I did not invent pizza soup. I would never dare to claim this, as the person who invented pizza soup deserves their own spot in the Official Soup Hall of Fame (OSHOF), which is probably headquartered somewhere in the midwestern United States, if I had to guess. I did, however, combine a few different recipes that I found on the web to wind up at the concoction below.

If you're not a meat-eater, I would recommend replacing the ground beef, pepperoni and beef broth with whatever you might use as substitutes in those cases. Or, you can search the web (Google.com is my personal favorite search engine) and other smarter people / better cookers than me have probably done vegetarian and vegan versions of this.

Without further ado, here is the first and perhaps last recipe I will ever post on my blog.

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Everything I read in 2016

Everything I read in 2016

At the beginning of the year I made a goal to read more than I had in the past. Since graduating college in December 2012, I had barely read any books at all -- choosing instead to spend my time listening to music, listening to podcasts or reading Twitter / articles / etc. So I used a conscious effort to seek out authors I had an interest in, and started down that road.

Ultimately I wound up reading 14 books in 2016, which isn't a ton, but that number probably represents the most books I've read in a single year since high school. Amongst the books I read was work by Hunter S. Thompson, Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen King -- the top three authors I had on my list when I started this effort in January. I know I'll read more by them next year, even as I expand into different things.

I also picked up reading comic books, which I couldn't leave out of this post. Focusing on trade paperbacks for the sake of collectability and ease of reading, I read titles mainly with the Batman and Star Wars realms, coming to a total of 25 trade paperbacks.

A full list of all the books and trades I read this year is below. I made the effort of writing about everything I read this year as a way to keep myself engaged on my goal, so I've linked to all the blogs I wrote as well.

And, if you're so inclined, tweet me the best things you read this year and I'll start compiling a list of titles to look into.

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Just read: 'Batman: The Killing Joke' by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland

Just read: 'Batman: The Killing Joke' by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland

The Killing Joke is one of the biggest names on the Batman reading list that I'm working my way through. It's a story that I read when I was younger, one whose details I've been familiar with for years. The one-off book has grown into a role of maximal importance and controversy within the Batman universe (especially this year, with the release of a DC animated film based on the story), all of which I plan to touch on in this blog.

Author Alan Moore and illustrator Brian Bolland teamed up on the short story (it's only 48 pages long -- truly a one-shot that you can read in a single sitting) with the goal of providing an origin story for the Joker. The creative team implies, even in the actual dialogue of this book, that this is only one possible origin story for this character: The Joker says to Batman near the end of the book, "Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another ... If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!"). Moore and Bolland succeed in the origin story aspect -- presented via flashbacks -- in the sense that their work gives the Joker's character more depth and makes him more sympathetic. While the Joker is often considered Batman's greatest nemesis, he's often painted as a lunatic with no goal in mind other than destruction or devastation; giving him a backbone serves a real purpose in the Batman continuity.

The flashbacks in the version of the book that I read (a deluxe 2008 hardcover reissue) are black and white, which differs from the original publication of The Killing Joke. I chose to purchase the hardcover rather than a used copy of an out-of-print paperback after reading Bolland's thoughts on it: The deluxe hardcover is colored by Bolland himself, who regrets not being able to color the original release due to time constraints. He's said that he wasn't pleased with the original release, so I figured it made sense to purchase the version more heralded by the illustrator.

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Just read: Lee Bermejo's 'Batman: Noël'

Just read: Lee Bermejo's 'Batman: Noël'

This is a holiday-themed edition of "Just read," where I dove into an unplanned Batman tale that doesn't appear on my original Batman reading order. Batman: Noël is a one-off story featuring an older-aged Caped Crusader; while its place in the overall Batman continuity probably can't be fully hammered down, it's certainly toward the later years and definitely, at the very least, takes place after Death in the Family as it features a reference to a past Robin.

Noël is written and illustrated by Lee Bermejo, who is best known for his celebrated illustration of the graphic novel The Joker. Bermejo's style is gritty and ultra-realistic, to the point where shadows are super accentuated and play a large role in the overall aesthetic, and to the point where you can count the facial wrinkles on characters' faces. This story is based fully on Charles Dickons' A Christmas Carol, as we see a fever-ridden Batman receive visits from three "spirits" as he's out in Gotham on Christmas Eve.

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Looking back: Results of picking every Power 5 football game

Looking back: Results of picking every Power 5 football game

I have been lazy about tallying the results of the last few weeks of the final season, but in my blogging purge at the end of the year I've finally gotten around to it. Back in August, I decided to run the fool's errand of picking every Power 5 conference football game in 2016, with a few other teams' schedules thrown in for good measure. This resulted in picking a grand total of 842 regular season games! Also included were projections for conference championship games, a final Top 25 and a playoff picture.

With the regular season complete now, I can report that I finished with a record of 603-239, good for a .716 picking percentage. Not bad for picking straight-up (not against-the-spread), I think, but who really knows. When I checked on my progress after Week 4, I said that .600 or above would be a good job, and .700 or above would be surprisingly good in my eyes. Maybe I underestimated how many easy calls there were left on the schedule, but either way, my .716 picking percentage was higher than expected, and that's a good thing.

Here's a link to the spreadsheet where I picked all these games, in case you wanna see that.

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Just read: Mark Titus' 'Don't Put Me In, Coach' and Stephen King's ''Salem's Lot'

Just read: Mark Titus' 'Don't Put Me In, Coach' and Stephen King's ''Salem's Lot'

Okay, so, I didn't "just" read either of these books. I read them both a while ago, but didn't write about either of them, and that's been bothering me because I've managed to write about everything else I've read this year. It seems impossible that I'll keep this up in 2017, especially since I plan to continue to read a heavier amount, but I want to tie the bow on doing this thing for a full year.

These books obviously have nothing in common, lol. Mark Titus is a former walk-on basketball player at Ohio State University who garnered some fame for writing a pretty cool blog called Club Trillion about his experiences playing for the Buckeyes. His book, Don't Put Me In, Coach, is an awesomely titled account of those experiences woven in with stories about his blog's success. He now writers for The Ringer. 

'Salem's Lot, meanwhile, is Stephen King's second book, and the second portion of my quest to read every single novel by him, which is set to be completed in the year 2043 at my current pathetic pace; but if King keeps writing at his current pace, and continues to write at that pace forever, without slowing down in his older years (he's 69 right now), I actually won't catch up to him until 2058 or 2059, my math probably isn't perfect. Stephen King would be 112 years old at that point and still writing books at a rate that's almost as fast as I am reading them.

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Just read: A few Robin / Teen Titans / Nightwing things

Just read: A few Robin / Teen Titans / Nightwing things

Back to the Batman front! The last time I checked in along my Batman reading order was following the Birth of the Demon trilogy, which introduced Ra's al Ghul but kinda left me hanging with nowhere to go. That book was immediately preceded by the combined Batgirl/Robin Year One volume, so I was left without a particular storyline to follow; I had just learned about several new characters, but the ends of these stories were nicely tied up in a bow in terms of not having immediate follow-ups. I wound up taking a short break from Batman, and instead of coming back and diving right into stuff like The Killing Joke and Death In The Family, I decided to get into something with a fair amount of continuity first. 

Turns out, this mini-tangent had a somewhat complicated continuity to it. I decided I wanted to read more about Robin (Dick Grayson) and his arc as Batman's sidekick before joining the Teen Titans and becoming Nightwing. I mistakenly started this with Nightwing: Blüdhaven (the first full graphic novel from the Nightwing run that began in 1995/96), without realizing that I skipped a bunch of stuff in the Robin chronology by doing so. In that book, Dick Grayson -- the Robin I read about in Dark Victory and The Gauntlet -- is already somewhat established in his role as Nightwing, taking up a Batman-esque-but-not-Batman mantle in a neighboring town called Blüdhaven, while Tim Drake is in the role of Robin. That means I managed to miss out on an entire extra Robin -- Jason Todd -- but obviously I wasn't the most concerned about spoilers.

So from there, I worked my way back and read Teen Titans: Year OneTeen Titans: Judas Contract and Nightwing: Year One. These arcs clash against each other at times, with two different "first appearances" of Nightwing.  The proper one comes in "Tales of the Teen Titans #44," which is part of the Judas Contract series; meanwhile, Nightwing: Year One serves as a bit of a reimagining of that character's origin story.

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AOTY Contender Series: Modern Baseball - 'Holy Ghost'

AOTY Contender Series: Modern Baseball - 'Holy Ghost'

Duh! Modern Baseball's Holy Ghost took the top spot on my mid-year albums of the year list, and has as good a shot as anything else of being #1 come EOTY time. Also -- side note -- oddly enough, I haven't really sat down and figured out my list yet, even though I've been writing these blogs for a few weeks. I plan on doing that Tuesday in preparation for recording an episode of Chorus with Jason about our favorite albums.

Holy Ghost (Apple Music / iTunesSpotify, YouTube embedded below, Bandcampvinyl) continues to stand head and shoulders above many of the albums I've heard this year. It has a great emotional range complemented by a big leap in songwriting from MoBo on an instrumental level. And though it has very focused inspirations, it manages to appeal broadly to a wide audience, whatever the listener is going through.

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AOTY Contender Series: The Hotelier - 'Goodness'

AOTY Contender Series: The Hotelier - 'Goodness'

This piece serves as a bit of a spiritual follow-up to my notes on Against Me!'s Shape Shift With Me, and a follow-up to something I talked about with Jason on Encore back in March. The podcast topic was all about the first listen you dive into of a new album that you're very highly anticipating, and how that first listen is often filled with a sense of self-imposed "worry" or "anxiety." I use air quotes here because the worries and anxieties caused by this are certainly not as dramatic as...like...real-life issues, but it's a sense that I've become familiar with over the years and I think it's a sense that all music lovers get from time to time.

My thesis statement in regards to this topic (the podcast convo starts around the 51-minute mark of this episode) revolves around the mind games you can start to play with yourself after taking your first listen. In fact, those mind games can start even before the end of your first listen depending on how loopy you're being. All of this was presented in the context of my first time listening to The Hotelier's third album, this year's Goodness (Apple Music / iTunesSpotify, YouTube embedded below, Bandcampvinyl). I wound up totally psyching myself out before diving in for the first time, and by midway through the record I was convinced that it would never hold a candle to Home, Like NoPlace Is There, an album that I loved dearly when it was released in 2014 and still love dearly.

Truth is, rarely will any album be able to live up to the lofty expectations that you burden it with when those expectations come via the lens of an album you've been in love with for any amount of months or years. Home, Like NoPlace Is There was not a record that blew me off my feet the first time I listened to it; it's an album that slowly latched onto me until I became familiar with every crevice of it. I listened to it endlessly, which expands your love for an album -- you come to know every downstroke of a guitar or snare hit, and those moments come to mean more to you when you've sat with a record for dozens of listens. A new album that you're listening to for the first time will never match up to the emotion you retroactively place into an album that you fell in love with however long ago.

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Just read: Both 'Star Wars: Kanan' trade paperbacks

Just read: Both 'Star Wars: Kanan' trade paperbacks

After checking out the Princess LeiaLando and Chewbacca mini-series in Marvel's ongoing Star Wars universe, I moved onto the Kanan trade paperbacks. These two trades collect a total of 12 issues, which represent the full run for Kanan. It's worth noting that Kanan is a character in the TV series Rebels, which I haven't watched at all yet -- so I went into this needing something of an introduction to the character and not knowing anything about his backstory. 

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AOTY Contender Series: Against Me! - 'Shape Shift With Me'

AOTY Contender Series: Against Me! - 'Shape Shift With Me'

There were two albums that I was quite anxious to listen to this year. This happens from time to time, where you're just so excited for an album that there's a bit of trepidation before you dive in for the first time. One of those albums was The Hotelier's Goodness, and in my AOTY Contender Series entry for that album I will be diving deeper into this idea about too-great expectations, and the other of those albums was Shape Shift With Me

I didn't write too much about Against Me!'s Transgender Dysphoria Blues when it came out, but that album topped my AOTY list in 2014 (with, incidentally, The Hotelier's Home, Like NoPlace Is There right behind it). I did write a small amount about Blues this year, in the context of reading and writing about AM! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace's new book, TRANNY. The blurb I put in there is the most important thing I can say about Blues -- it was an album that taught me to think about things I'd never thought about before. You can read more into that here, if you'd like.

It's also a straightforwardly killer rock album. Diverse in its tempos, great musicianship, emotional and cathartic storytelling. Getting that and Home in the same year feels, in retrospect, like even more of a blessing than it felt like at the time. But diving into Shape Shift With Me (iTunes / Apple MusicSpotify, YouTube embedded below, vinyl), after its predecessor had such an effect on me, made me get that small anxious feeling when I started my first listen. 

As I'll write again in my Hotelier blog, this small anxious feeling can start to cause issues with your evaluation of an album when your first listen doesn't live up to the hype. I don't think I managed to make it all the way through Shape Shift on my first attempt at it -- the odd beginning with "ProVision L-3" and the new production style just didn't sit with me well at first. But the album clicked for me after continued listens, and stands up now as a worth follow-up to Blues, and the must-listen next chapter in Grace's story.

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AOTY Contender Series: PUP - 'The Dream Is Over'

AOTY Contender Series: PUP - 'The Dream Is Over'

I wrote about the PUP album in semi-decent length back when it came out in May, and my thoughts on it largely haven't changed much since then. The Dream Is Over (Apple Music/iTunesSpotify, YouTube below, Bandcampvinyl) is a very impressive effort to me for many reasons, and it's been one of my most-played albums throughout the year (it somehow fits really well in both the summer heat and the fall/winter wind). 

Chief among this sophomore effort's impressive attributes is, as I wrote in May, the apparent development and progression of this young band. They seem to be extremely comfortable in their art right now, something that has gone on display recently in the form of this great music video for "Sleep In The Heat." The Dream Is Over saw PUP extending their range from a go-to sound of loud and noisy punk rock to slower, more methodic songs full of emotion

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Just read: Marvel's 'Star Wars' mini-series 'Princess Leia,' 'Chewbacca' and 'Lando'

Just read: Marvel's 'Star Wars' mini-series 'Princess Leia,' 'Chewbacca' and 'Lando'

After taking a pretty decently long break from reading, with the exception of a couple novels that I'll write about soon, I returned to the land of trade paperbacks with a few more titles in the Star Wars universe from Marvel. The three trades I read recently include Princess LeiaChewbacca and Lando. Each of these three trade paperbacks collect a full mini-series run, and each run consists of five issues.

That makes these titles great short reads for those who are interested in going a bit deeper on specific characters. As I'll write, the timing and placement of these characters and the adventures they get into make for a very enjoyable ride. I'm still reading some more Star Wars stuff right now -- currently making my way through both trade paperbacks in the Kanan storyline, and I'll have a separate post for those.

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AOTY Contender Series: Pinegrove - 'Cardinal'

AOTY Contender Series: Pinegrove - 'Cardinal'

A big theme of my 2015 AOTY list was records that surprised me and took high-ranking spots on my final list. This was the case for Foxing's Dealer, Turnover's Peripheral Vision and The World Is...'s Harmlessness, which ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively. These stuck out because they were bands I had actually listened to before but whose new albums didn't interest me when they were initially released. That I liked them so much was a surprise, and that surprise is amplified when the same thing happens three times in one year.

I can't truly toss Pinegrove's Cardinal (Apple Music / iTunesSpotifyBandcamp, YouTube below, Amazon) into the same bucket. I hadn't heard this band before this year, so their first LP for Run For Cover Records wasn't a surprise in the same way. It came out of nowhere because this was a new band for me, not because I had any pre-existing thoughts about whether Cardinal would be any good.

But Cardinal became my first AOTY contender of 2016. It was released in February, and while it's silly to call anything an "AOTY contender" in February, it was still pretty clear to me at the time that this would make my eventual short list. I fell for it quickly and without much hesitation. The album's vibe is indie-rock mixed with alt-country/Americana: It's Limbeck's Hi, Everything's Great for 2016 emo/punk listeners, an album that isn't afraid to draw inspiration from a bunch of stuff between modern indie-rock and Springsteen's Nebraska

Cardinal is largely more subdued than Hi, Everything's Great. Vocalist Evan Hall at times drawls, murmurs or even slurs his lyrics, content to stay in the relative background of a swelling and dynamic instrumental effort. It's tempting to say his drawl sounds Southern, but Pinegrove and Hall are from New Jersey, so the end result of his vocals and his band's rock songs winds up claiming no geographic (sonic) home. It feels oddly familiar on first listen for this reason -- something you think you've heard before but cannot place.

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Just read: Laura Jane Grace's 'TRANNY'

Just read: Laura Jane Grace's 'TRANNY'

This one's a quickie, because it's a link-out to Chorus.fm for the full blog. I read Laura Jane Grace's new book, TRANNY, which chronicles both the lifespan of her band, Against Me!, and her personal lifelong experience with gender dysphoria.

The book is brilliant, as Grace is an awesome storyteller, but I feel more importantly, it's an opportunity to become more educated about gender fluidity, gender identity, and more. 

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