WEDNESDAY WORDS! TOP BOOKS OF THE WEEK!

WEDNESDAYS WORDS is a new weekly installment that ranks the most interesting, intriguing books of the week (old, new, reissues, digital, etc). Contributors represent a variety of genres and sources. Each book includes Title and publisher blurb.


How Your House Works: A Visual Guide to Understanding and Maintaining Your Home, Updated and Expanded (RSMeans) by Charlie Wing. Understand how to maintain everything in your home—including the kitchen sink

How Your House Works, Second Edition reinforces the fact that it pays to be an informed consumer. Knowledge of your home’s systems helps you control repair and construction costs and makes sure the correct elements are being installed or replaced. How Your House Works uncovers the mysteries behind just about every major appliance and building element in your house. Clear, full-color drawings show you exactly how these things should be put together and how they function, including what to check if they don’t work.

Covering topics such as electrical systems, heating and air conditioning, plumbing, major household appliances, foundation, framing, doors, and windows, this updated Second Edition has considerable additional information, with new chapters related to sustainability in and outside the house, as well as new topics, including clock thermostats, ventless gas heaters, moisture and mold, and passive solar heating.

Jazz Age Josephine: Dancer, singer–who’s that, who? Why, that’s MISS Josephine Baker, to you!
Jazz Age Josephine [Hardcover]- A picture book biography that will inspire readers to dance to their own beats!

Singer, dancer, actress, and independent dame, Josephine Baker felt life was a performance. She lived by her own rules and helped to shake up the status quo with wild costumes and a you-can’t-tell-me-no attitude that made her famous. She even had a pet leopard in Paris!

From bestselling children’s biographer Jonah Winter and two-time Caldecott Honoree Marjorie Priceman comes a story of a woman the stage could barely contain. Rising from a poor, segregated upbringing, Josephine Baker was able to break through racial barriers with her own sense of flair and astonishing dance abilities. She was a pillar of steel with a heart of gold—all wrapped up in feathers, sequins, and an infectious rhythm.

Mekanika – ‘Mekanika,’ issued in 2000, is the first collection of work from this Argentinan born artist. Almost all the work here dates after his decision to relocate to Europe, which seemed to trigger a creative flowering… The reader will find both published and unknown work here plus an interesting discussion by the artist himself. If you are a lover of works of the imagination this is a collection that is required reading, and has become hard to find.’-AMAZON Review

King: A Comics Biography, Special Edition
King: A Comics Biography, Special Edition [Hardcover] – A special expanded edition of a Fantagraphics classic. “Anderson uses a film noir style, with a Wellesian mastery of shadows and moods.”—Vibe
Ho Che Anderson has spent over 10 years researching, writing, and drawing King, a monumental graphic biography that liberates Martin Luther King Jr. from the saintly, one-dimensional, hagiographic image so prevalent in pop culture. Here is King—father, husband, politician, deal broker, idealist, pragmatist, inspiration to millions—brought to vivid, flesh-and-blood life.

Out of print since 2006, King is Fantagraphics’ most-requested reprint. In recognition of the advances made in American social equality that has made it possible to elect America’s first black President, Fantagraphics Books is publishing King: The Special Edition, a newly designed volume that includes the original 240-page graphic biography, as well as nearly a hundred additional pages of “extras,”.


T. E. LAWRENCE AND THE ARAB REVOLT: An Illustrated Guide

Guerrilla Leader: T. E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt [Hardcover]
James Schneider (Author) – Publication Date: November 8, 2011
Reclaiming T. E. Lawrence from hype and legend, James J. Schneider offers a startling reexamination of this leader’s critical role in shaping the modern Middle East. Just how did this obscure British junior intelligence officer, unschooled in the art of war, become “Lawrence of Arabia” and inspire a loosely affiliated cluster of desert tribes to band together in an all-or-nothing insurgency against their Turkish overlords? The answers have profound implications for our time as well, as a new generation of revolutionaries pulls pages from Lawrence’s playbook of irregular warfare.

Blowing up trains and harassing supply lines with dynamite and audacity, Lawrence drove the mighty armies of the Ottoman Turks to distraction and brought the Arabs to the brink of self-determination. But his success hinged on more than just innovative tactics: As he immersed himself in Arab culture, Lawrence learned that a traditional Western-style hierarchical command structure could not work in a tribal system where warriors lead not only an army but an entire community. Weaving quotations from Lawrence’s own writings with the histories of his greatest campaigns, Schneider shows how this stranger in a strange land evolved over time into the model of the self-reflective, enabling leader who eschews glory for himself but instead seeks to empower his followers. Guerrilla Leader also offers a valuable analysis of Lawrence’s innovative theories of insurgency and their relevance to the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East.

With insights into Lawrence’s views on discipline, his fear of failure, and his enduring influence on military leadership in the twenty-first century, Guerrilla Leader is a bracingly fresh take on one of the great subjects of the modern era.


The Works: Anatomy of a City
The Works: Anatomy of a City [Paperback] by Kate Ascher – A fascinating guided tour of the ways things work in a modern city. Have you ever wondered how the water in your faucet gets there? Where your garbage goes? What the pipes under city streets do? How bananas from Ecuador get to your local market? Why radiators in apartment buildings clang?

Using New York City as its point of reference, The Works takes readers down manholes and behind the scenes to explain exactly how an urban infrastructure operates. Deftly weaving text and graphics, author Kate Ascher explores the systems that manage water, traffic, sewage and garbage, subways, electricity, mail, and much more. Full of fascinating facts and anecdotes, The Works gives readers a unique glimpse at what lies behind and beneath urban life in the twenty-first century.

Beneath the Metropolis: The Secret Lives of Cities
Beneath the Metropolis: The Secret Lives of Cities [Paperback]- The pulse of great cities may be most palpable above ground, but it is below the busy streets where we can observe their rich archaeological history and the infrastructure that keeps them running.

In Beneath the Metropolis journalist Alex Marshall investigates how geological features, archaeological remnants of past civilizations, and layered networks transporting water, electricity, and people, have shaped these cities through centuries of political turbulence and advancements in engineering — and how they are determining the course of the cities’ future.

From the first-century catacombs of Rome, the New York subway system, and the swamps and ancient quays beneath London, to San Francisco’s fault lines, the depleted aquifer below Mexico City, and Mao Tse-tung’s extensive network of secret tunnels under Beijing, these subterranean environments offer a unique cross-section of a city’s history and future.

Stunningly illustrated with colorful photographs, drawings, and maps, Beneath the Metropolis reveals the hidden worlds beneath our feet, and charts the cities’ development through centuries of forgotten history, political change, and technological innovation.

The WEDNESDAYS WORDS column is a new blog feature, appearing (you guessed it!) every Wednesday. Come back next week to see which books make the list!

If you’re a publisher, writer, or other creative representative looking to submit items for WEDNESDAYS WORDS, just leave a comment on this post with your email/contact info, comments don’t get posted they come right to me, and I’ll reach out to you with the snail mail details.

And as far as readers, if you see items on WEDNESDAYS WORDS you’re considering purchasing then, if you are able and would like to support this blog, please utilize the attached links.

Your helpful purchases through those links, generates much appreciated pennies to keep this blog running. Your feedback and support… just way cool, and way appreciated. Thanks!

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Most Anticipated films for the remainder of 2012 Film 1 of 10: Robert Zemeckis’ FLIGHT

2012 is off to a gangbusters start, and is poised to be the best movie year in terms of both quality and commerce for Hollywood since 2008. And like that year, it’s a very Superhero and Sequel Heavy Blockbuster summer.

This installment will be coverage of my most anticipated films for the remainder of 2012. But in true Heroic Times fashion, you’ll see some entries covered in each installment that you won’t find mentioned anywhere else. Enjoy 🙂

So part of the purpose of this reoccurring installment is to give love to films that might otherwise fly under the radar.

So what is on the list already?!!

Okay, Okay! Sheesh, you’re a pushy bunch… here goes:

The first film that get’s the nod is FLIGHT.

I find Robert Zemeckis an interesting Director. He tends toward light, family friendly films, which I have to be honest is not really what I gravitate to. However Zemeckis does family friendly, very well.

His films are a diverse, and always imaginative and technologically ground breaking bunch, from the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy, to FOREST GUMP, to WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT to WHAT LIES BENEATH (I think it’s the film of his, an ode to Hitchcock, that holds up the best). WHAT LIES BENEATH showed me that Zemeckis could handle more mature and suspenseful films… and that brings me to FLIGHT.

So news that a new film of Zemeckis is in post-production, called FLIGHT and starring an all star cast (that includes:

Denzel Washington [opposite the drop-dead gorgeous Sanaa Lathan], Don Cheadle [with the majestic Megalyn Echikunwoke], Bruce Greenwood [raucus with the lovely Leslie Hope] , Tamara Tunie , Garcelle Beauvais, Rhoda Griffis, John Goodman, Michael Beasley, and Nadine Velazquez ) makes me happy.

First and foremost because that’s a cast filled with REAL actors, rather than just CW faces of the moment. And films that have an ethnically diverse and deep cast (so more than just 2 characters of color) gets me to spend my money and go to the theater.

Huge fan of RED TAILS, so suck it! 🙂

I’m just a dumb ass southern boy, who misses my cartoons on Saturday, and my Hong Kong Chop Suey Soul Cinema Creature Feature films on the weekends. Current Hollywood films are just too bland and similar for me in terms of both content and casting. So any time I get a film that grates against the imposed tokenism of conventional Hollywood films… well saddle up the General Lee boys… cause I’m there! 🙂

Now that said Zemeckis does have some issues as director.

He helms big budget films, that have a hard time making their return on investment. His last two films, BEOWULF and CHRISTMAS CAROL carried budgets of 150million and 200 million respectively, and they didn’t make that money back theatrically, not even utilizing the IMAX and 3D price gouging.

This has less to do with the director and more to do with studios budgeting 150 million for a film, that would be more sensibly priced at a 50 million budget.

Just like with the upcoming BATTLESHIP, if that film was budgeted at 50 million rather than 200 million it could without question make a profit. As it stands I think BATTLESHIP is going to do commercially the same that JOHN CARTER did; which is to say not well.

The mindset of the studios pricing everything so high, including the cameras and marketing, I think has more to do with keeping the little guy, the independent studio out of the process of getting films in theaters, rather than the content of the specific film. I think it’s really about for the most part ensuring the people who can get movies into the theaters are one of the big studios.

Now of course in this day and age of found footage films you can definitely make films cheaply, but those films, THE PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, etc have to be picked up and sanctified by the gate keeper, the big studios, otherwise like most films made, such as BLACK DYNAMITE, they get seen at film festivals and that’s it.

Without the blessing of a gatekeeper, Sony, Fox, the big boys, You have no chance to make your money back in theatrical distribution. If you’re lucky you get some limited streaming or DVD deal, but for all intents and purposes you’re dead in the water.

So yeah that’s the only rationale I can find for studios not just having astronomical budgets on films, but in the wake of the films struggling to break even… keeping the budgets astronomical.

The studios increasingly using the films as loss leaders, tax breaks/write offs, and as a means of market control/theatrical control. And further they are using their bad decisions, their shell game of profit and loss, to cry broke and enforce changes on the theatrical market. Such as the move away from real film cameras and projectors (35mm and the rarer 70mm) and instead move to all digital cameras and theatrical installations. (Which is bad for numerous reasons not least of which digital cameras/projectors cannot match the range of 35mm film, and is left in the dust by 70mm film; as anyone who has seen LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 70mm can attest).

So all that thinking weighs in when discussing Zemeckis’ recent mega-budget films, and their under-performance. Zemeckis’ films are so expensive they tend not to break even theatrically. It is a paradigm, an unsupportable one I think, that bears watching and curtailing in the future.

But for the present if the studios are good with their movies not breaking even, it works for me.

So yeah count me among the ones anticipating Zemeckis’ thriller tinged drama… FLIGHT.

MOVIE REVIEW! THOR IMAX 3D… The Verdict is…..????

Well the long awaited THOR movie is finally exploding across screens everywhere, and as I mentioned in my previous posts a lot hinged on this film, not least of which is a turnaround in a string of commercial disappointments for director Kenneth Branagh.

Well having just come back from seeing THOR in IMAX 3D… my verdict….??

It’s good, I enjoyed myself. It’s nicely paced, surprisingly smart film that also hit all the notes and plot points to shut-up people who were complaining about a multi-cultural cast, particularly Idris Elba (who always brings it), for pretty much all the story reasons I surmised.

So I was expecting it be action packed, but not necessarily as inventive, and even touching as it was.

Now that said, it does perhaps not quite meet the Juggernaut action expectations built up, but a solid story and performances, make up for that.

Kenneth Branagh handling perhaps the most difficult of all comic adaptations, exceptionally well, finding that difficult balance between regal and relate-able.

THOR even in the comic books, is extremely hard to a/get right and b/command a storyline. Instead working best as the heavy gun of the Avengers, then as a solo character. So for Branagh to steer this ship safely into movie theater shores, is no small accomplishment.

That said the ending felt a bit anti-climatic, the most effective action is clearly in the early portions of the movie. But that aside, the story beats, the emotional intensity, the Shakespearean like levels of tragedy and sacrifice, Branagh hits well. Hits hard enough… to satisfy.

Now leaving the movie proper to discuss the projection of the movie. I saw this in IMAX 3D, paying rather than the normal $8 matinée price, an exorbitant $14.50 for ‘IMAX 3D’. A $6.50 surcharge.

Before seeing this movie I couldn’t get any reviews to really discuss the 3D and if it was worth it. I’ve seen my share of IMAX 3D movies, real ones and the retrofitted AMC ones, and the ones not shot in 3D but simply post-processed, ie THOR.

Outside of a real IMAX THEATER (5 to 8 stories high, viewable at better science centers throughout the world), the best I’ve seen at an AMC IMAX theater (a midget IMAX) is of course AVATAR. Cameron pushing the technology to create 3D that actually works in a cine-plex.

But beyond AVATAR on IMAX 3D, most other 3D films suffer in comparison. THOR is no exception, it looks okay in 3D, but closer to the inferior Sony backed REALD 3D process, then real IMAX 3D. Sony’s inferior REALD 3D, gives a sense of looking into the screen, but it’s unable to give a real sense of the screen coming forward into real space, your space. This is what true IMAX 3D does so well. Not only offering depth, looking into something, but immersion, the film intruding and surrounding your real space.

So THOR IN IMAX 3D, looks okay, it just isn’t great. It isn’t IMAX 3D, and therefore is not worth the $6.50 surcharge. I personally think 3D movies should be the same price as 2D movies, but particularly if you’re going to charge that premium, the 3D experience should be breathtaking, and THOR IN IMAX 3D is just okay. The 3D almost transparent, and therefore, what’s the point.

So all in all if you can see this in 3D for no price increase, go for it. Otherwise avoid and stick to 2D on a big screen, you won’t be missing anything. And may actually gain something in brightness of picture.

3D is a nice thing for the occasional viewing, for the gee whiz factor, but it is no replacement for a really beautiful rendered and composed 2D film.

Just as HDTV for all its praise is not, nor never will be the equal of 35mm film, much less 70mm film.

HDTV is like DVD, a bastard compression medium, used to compress film into something viewable into the consumer confines of a tv and a living room, rather than the commercial standard of a movie screen and theater. Similar, but make no mistake, inferior, to true film.

And whereas a 70mm true IMAX 3D movie is in no way inferior to standard 70mm film, it is not appropriate for everything.

Cinema is a language.

And just as Black and White film can speak in a way color film can’t, and why I’m a huge Film Noir fan, 2D is also a distinct cinematic language, and sometimes that flat plane is the thing.

Not being in the shot, but observing the shot, is the thing.

Just as you can do THE THIRD MAN in color, but you would lose an ineffable part of the tone by so doing, that’s the same way that David Lean’s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 70mm, saying things about distance and alienation, would be lost translated into the “in-your-face” histrionics of IMAX 3D.

I like 3D in all its forms, to differing degrees, but even in its best forms I understand it’s a gimmick, that should not be overused.

3D ultimately is about lying to your brain, it’s about forcing a lie onto your brain, that this thing in front of you on the screen has as much depth and reality as the person sitting beside you or the world outside the theater.

In moderation it’s a fun gimmick.

But with this recent push to 3D TVs, you risk making it something else. You risk making the exception of lying to your brain, the rule, and what long term effects this can have, particularly on children’s development, growing up exposed constantly to this new medium, what challenge or aberration to their motor skills, and coordination, and socialization?, are questions that in the rush toward a new revenue stream… too many are ignoring.

Some of these 3D TVs are coming with warnings. You should heed them, and leave the 3D in the theater. My gut reaction? Stick to 2D for the home. At least till all the bugs are shaken out.

Likewise troubling, is the Sony push to digitize cinemas, as it has nothing to do with the best picture quality and everything to do with control and maximizing profit streams. The theaters forced to go this route will see their profit margins dwindle, and find themselves ever more at the mercy of the studios. And true 70mm and 35 mm theaters will go the way of the dodo, becoming a high priced specialty item for the few to seek out.

Here ends the public service announcement. :). Back to our THOR review.

Here on out I’ll be avoiding all 3D movies, unless a/specifically shot in IMAX 3D, with the Cameron cameras, or b/if it’s something especially gimmicky and is the same price as a regular film.

So given this criteria Michael Bay’s TRANSFORMERS III, which meets criteria # 1, will be the next 3D flick I check out. Unlike some people, I’m still quite enamored of Michael Bay’s visuals and always have fun at his movies. So if any movie can visually give Cameron’s AVATAR a battle, it may be Bay’s TRANSFORMERS.

So getting back to THOR, a very good if not great movie, that is poised to be the critical and commercial hit that Kenneth Branagh was definitely needing. And stay past the credits for the easter egg, if so inclined. Nothing earth shattering, but it’s fun that Marvel continues to do this universe building. Giving people a reason to sit through the credits.

Grade is a strong B/B+.