Five Things I Am Into Right Now, July 2013

Happy SunI’m not going to write about Star Trek and Doctor Who.

No I am serious. I am not. Frankly, I have written enough about those two shows. And even though I am happily watching a Doctor Who episode each night with my wife (which I wrote about here) and rediscovering Star Trek from the 90’s (which I discussed in these two pieces- here and here). The fact is I have said enough.

A blog needs to move forward, I need to move forward…

But what the heck am I also into right now when I am not at the beach with the family, getting sun burned, or avoiding lawn work?

Think, Southard, think!

LEGO Lord of the Rings

LEGO Lord of the RingsI’ve said this before and I will probably say this again, but as video franchises go, LEGO games are the best for turning your brain off. They are not overwhelming to the senses or demand that you sit at the end of your chair for hours. No, they are just nice, with little puzzles that you know you will figure out sooner or later. No biggie…

The peaceful alternative in gaming.

Yet, here is the thing- LEGO Lord of the Rings is creepy.

They took actual audio from the movie and put the voices onto their LEGO counterparts. It feels weird, off-putting, because your brain is screaming at you that it is not right. I mean, morally I don’t think it is a problem (unless the actors don’t like it), but it just feels and looks wrong because you know in your heart it doesn’t belong there.

Also, I have to be careful when I play this game. I can only play it when my son (who is five) goes to bed. He so wants to play it (and doesn’t really understand why he can’t), but, as I explained it to him again and again- he needs to read the books first… then see the movies… and then we can talk about the strangely creepy LEGO game.

Music of Zee Avi

Zee Avi First CDI really know nothing about this artist, only discovering her music recently while writing at a pie company (Yes, I was writing at a pie company- that is how I roll, people). Usually, I have headphones on when I write never happy with the music pumped through speakers wherever I am (I need the right mood for a piece).

Yet, when Zee Avi‘s song “Bitter Heart” came on I stopped and took off my headphones. I bought some of her songs from iTunes and then hit the library to check out her other CD.

There is a wonderful classical jazz pop vibe to her. Her music reminds me a little of Meaghan Smith (who I also enjoy), but I don’t know if Meaghan would write such a cheerful song about a boyfriend addicted to opium like Zee did (“Poppy”). And did I mention the song about this druggy boyfriend is awesome fun?

Zee Avi has two CDs out, her last album came out in 2011. Do you want to know how cool she is? She toured with Pete Yorn and records on Jack Johnson’s music label! I’m fans of both artists, and I can’t believe I didn’t discover her until recently.

Despicable Me Films

Despicable MeThis one is for my son. He loves this movie and the sequel. I know reviewers have been harsh on Despicable Me 2, but I think they were missing the point. Yeah, it’s not like a Pixar film in its storytelling, but it’s the second chapter in a in a fun yarn, a laugh, it’s not something new to discover.

It just is and for kids that is awesome and all it needs to be.

I love taking my son to films and introducing him to movies, but Despicable Me is one of the few that will make him laugh out loud. Hearing him do that in a movie theater was really neat.

For me, I love the minions. I know everyone says that, but the fact they are voiced by the writer and the director adds an extra level of coolness to it for me. Could I see myself voicing a cartoon character? No, I can barely act, but I wouldn’t turn down the option… Seriously… I can be reached via this website.

If you want a fun movie for the family, be sure to check these films out. A lot of fun.

Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling

The Cuckoo's CallingWhen the news dropped on Saturday that J.K. Rowling’s new book was out-has been out since April!-under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith I made some frantic calls. And I can state in all honesty, I have the only hardcover copy of her novel within my county.

I had some issues with The Casual Vacancy, and while I respect it for a leap in her writing, I just never really fell in love with the world or the characters to keep my attention. Yet, I’ve had The Cuckoo’s Calling for only a few days now but I am hooked.

I should have it done in a few days and I hope to review it on Current State next month. To say this book is only a mystery novel is not to do justice to her writing in it. She has some beautiful writing and prose in its pages and there is solid character development, both of the detective and the minor characters. Remember, this is the JK that made us believe we knew every kid at Hogwarts and they were all unique. Such an amazing talent for characters!

The novel revolves around the apparent suicide of a super model. Cormoran Strike is a detective out of his luck. Massively in debt, newly single, and missing a leg from his time in Afghanistan, he is not your typical detective hero. He gets hired by the brother of the model, convinced she did not kill herself, but was murdered. Cormoran knows he should not take the case, he is just taking the client’s money, but he does anyway.

The genre of mystery can be so predictable and boring. Recently, I compared a popular mystery series as the equivalent of watching a TV episode (you can read and hear that review here), and while J.K. Rowling seems to salute classic mystery detective standards (like being hired for the case in a way like a Dashiell Hammett tale), she also does some really unique stuff.

I can’t wait to see how this book turns out. It all feels wonderfully new… and that is not something I get to often say in books these days.

Barenaked Ladies’ Grinning Streak

Grinning StreakI had been a fan of Barenaked Ladies since their first album. I said hi to Ed once before a concert and my wife got Steven Page to autograph a CD for me once as a surprise. I think in the 90’s I saw them about 5 times in concert. And, no, these weren’t the big shows after “One Week” exploded. My favorite CD (and still is) of theirs is Maybe You Should Drive.

Yeah, old school BNL. Classic.

That was me in the front with the boxes of Mac and Cheese aiming at band members.

BNL has been around for 25 years now and there has been some changes, the biggest with Steven Page leaving the band for a solo career. While I miss seeing Page with the other Ladies, they still flourish. And their new CD Grinning Streak is one of the best things that have done in a really long time. It might be their best album since Maroon.

Grinning Streak is a CD made for the concert experience, with each song building to a chorus almost made for a sing-along. I fell in love with the CD when I saw them in concert a week ago (which felt like a homecoming for me) and now listen to it a lot. The last time I put it on my two-year old daughter screamed “Yeah!” and immediately started dancing.

Yup, it’s one of those kind of fun CDs. Check it out.

Have a nice summer!

A Jane Austen DaydreamIf you liked reading my article, why not check out some of my published books? I’ve had four novels published in the last few years, the new A Jane Austen Daydream, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here, or Doors and Megan as an eBook on Google eBooks here. Thanks for reading!

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