Thinkbook 3 | Together Is the Way

This is a #thinkbook log on #ruckology by Brandon L. Rucker in which he presents a weekly upload of brain matter from the past week.

I’ve squeezed out a lot of brain juice this past week, and in this coming week and beyond it’s only going to get more voluminous and creative. More on that tomorrow in the Workbook log for July as I look back at the last month’s activity and forward to the coming month’s projected productivity.

So this week much of my thinking was dominated by the socio-political, given that we as a nation and world are still recovering from various calamitous events. And also this week was the Democratic National Convention, which did its best to calm the burning fires of the American socio-political fabric. There seemed to be a clear and prevailing message of unification, working together in concert with one another and a certain “we can do it” in the face of insurmountable challenges if we simply work together toward our mutual goals. In other words, there’s no need for division, walls or forced relocation. In my 3 Random Thoughts below I touch on this a little more.

And now on to the past week’s entertainment.

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Movie of the Week

++ Our Friday night date night culminated with STAR TREK: BEYOND. It was a highly fun and entertaining movie, right in line with the previous two of this J.J. Abrams reboot. We left feeling like it was really good, and I still have that thought a few days later. Coincidentally, there was a theme that ran through the story, a timely theme of togetherness and teamwork. Staying together in mutual purpose in order to achieve harmony and prosper – the common Star Trek theme, of course. But also this: no matter what our sins are in the past or present, in order to make a better tomorrow we need to unify, overcome and forge ahead together.

Upon reflection a couple of days later, something about this movie has me questioning whether or not I was as emotionally engaged in it as I was with the previous two installments. I don’t think it’s the actors’ fault that maybe I’m getting a sense that it lacked a certain amount of depth. Chris Pine as Cpt. Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Comm. Spock seemed to do what they could to emote their character’s pathos. I would say that particular criticism would lay at the foot of director Justin Lin. For instance, I should have felt Kirk’s inner turmoil, Spock’s loss and even more inner turmoil, and even Krall, the villain’s century’s long plight a little deeper. I was surprised by the merely 2 hours running time, and maybe another ten minutes could have allowed for the story to delve a little deeper. I dunno, it’s just my opinion that stories/movies that are meant to be epic are even more so when the audience’s emotions are just as engaged as their intellect – amplifying the sense of awe.

In the grand scheme of things, this does not greatly diminish the overall experience, it’s more of a residual concern after the fact for me. Visually the movie was very stunning and impressive. The SFX contained both the great and not-so-great aspects of CGI. However, when scale is a big ingredient, you really can’t escape the necessity of all that CGI has to offer. As the credits rolled I noticed Simon Pegg’s credit as the co-screenwriter. A job done well. Happy to see that, for now, Kirk and Spock aren’t throwing in the towel just yet.

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TV Show of the Week

++ As we are on the verge of the season one finale of PREACHER on AMC, another thought on the show occurred to me. I’ve been on record here and elsewhere with a number of criticisms about this particular adaptation. Nothing too harsh, I don’t think. My latest thought is in regards to the show’s slow-burn, a criticism I’ve seen levied against it recently.

The thing is, there’s no need to decompress the story of PREACHER (i.e. drag its plots and storylines out unnecessarily) because there is plenty of material from the source to run probably six 10-episode seasons. Sure, they’d have to pad some things out, which they’re doing now, but they’ve actually compounded the situation because although they’ve slowed things, and have even rewound things to a point prior to where the story starts in the comics, they’ve also expedited certain things in the timeline that, in my opinion, aren’t for the most compelling storytelling reasons, at least not when in comparison to how things were plotted out in the original series. I know, I know, this is a * prequel * and they do not have the budget for what should be a weekly road trip show. Still, and I’m going to harp on this again: Tulip and Cassidy’s tryst, this early, not to mention this consensual, really bothers me and I have yet to see a compelling reason for it happening this early. Also, the Quincannon inclusion this early also has me taken aback just a bit. Still, I’m have to say I do enjoy the show and would largely consider it a success. I just can’t understand why I’m having such a hard time separating myself from the source material because that’s not how I am usually. I’m usually happy to see deviations if they make sense and are happening for compelling and understandable reasons. At any rate, I’ll continue to watch. And I’ll share my thoughts on the season finale here next week.

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Sounds of the Week

++ Leviathan and Blood Mountain by MASTODON ++ a JOE SATRIANI shuffle ++ VII: Sturm Ung Drang by LAMB OF GOD | Sincerest Misery by APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE

In other musical news, my band NEGLECT THE ALARM finally resumed practice and songwriting last week. More to come.

Three Random Thoughts of the Week

++ The socio-political divide in the United States could be simply summed up as this: inclusion VS exclusion. Think about that on a deeper level than you ever have before.

++ So many things in life that shouldn’t be about a competitive advantage actually are. Human nature is one seriously unbridled force in all of creation. Given our randomness and uniqueness, one could argue that we are a mistake. But I digress.

++ One drawback to being a writer is you spend a lot of time writing about living rather than actually doing the living.

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That last thought will be further addressed in The Evening Muse later this week.

No Reads of the Week this time because nothing I read was much of a standout. Next week should have plenty though.

And that’s all the brain juice I can squeeze out here. Much work to do this week. Check out tomorrow’s Workbook for more on that.

I leave you with only one request: please be awesome to each other. Thanks.

-BLR

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Lifebook 8 | Cosmos, Caverns, Lasers and Karts, Oh My!

#ruckology #lifebook Time spent inside the Earth after time spent studying above and beyond it.

So last weekend was a kind of a mini-family vacation with less mileage than the previous two summers when we went to stay in Wisconsin (last year) and Tennessee (2014). This year we kept the travel around three hours of one-way drive time, staying in our native Indiana and and barely crossing the liquid border of the Ohio River into the northern tip of Kentucky.

Friday, July 22nd – Charles W. Brown Planetarium, Ball State University, Muncie, IN

BlackholesWormholesPoster_SP2016We kicked off with rest and relaxation at home. Kids slept in until noonish. The entire region, if not the whole continental U.S. was under the scourge of a heatwave. If you’ve ever been in the MidWest in the dead of summer, then I don’t have to tell you about the severe humidity. So the braniac idea of going to a planetarium hit me during my activity search for some free, air-conditioned fun. Plus, it’s educational (gotta educate the kids, right?). The feature was called Black Holes, Wormholes and the Movies, pitting scientific fact against how those things are portrayed in Hollywood.

Afterward we dined at Mo’s Irish Pub, which had a rock band playing, which inspired my youngest daughter to demand to hear my music (my band’s and my solo stuff) and insist that she and I start a daddy-daughter band with her singing (she’ll be learning cello this year at school). She’s a bit of a diva, so surely this project will turn out disastrous.

Saturday, Part 1 – Indiana Caverns, Corydon, IN

IMG_0695The next day we trekked to southern Indiana to embark on some subterranean adventures. First stop was a tour of Indiana’s longest natural cavern which is part of the Binkley Caves System. Per the IC’s company website: The Binkley Cave System became the 11th longest in the nation and the longest in Indiana. Their combined length totaled 35.89 miles with more passageways awaiting discovery. The impact of this discovery was huge. A public entrance to Binkley Cave could now be created to allow visitors into the cave system. Previously all entrances were located on private property with restricted access. As of July 2014 the cave is over 40 miles long. On the tour, which begins with a very steep walk down its entrance and then down several flights of stairs to more than 100 feet underground, features a look at Ice Age animal bones, stalagmites and stalactites Part of the tour includes a 25-minute or so boat ride upon the cave’s. Our tour guide was very informative and had a bit of a wry sense of humor.

Saturday, Part 2 – Louisville Mega Cavern, Louisville, KY

Our next underground stop was a short trek away to Louisville, an ancestral place for me as my paternal grandfather lived there. We arrived at the Mega Cavern with the intent to embark on the Mega Tram ride. As their website says, “The Historic Tram Tour will take you on an underground adventure rich in history, geology, mining, recycling, green building technology, and just simply HUGE in scale!

The man-made cavern spans under a number of roadways above and is part of 17 miles of corridors located beneath the city of Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a great tour for all ages—whether you want to learn about science and history or simply want to see what a giant man-made cavern of this magnitude looks like!

nav-tram-activeYou’ll hop on an SUV-pulled tram and be joined by a MEGA Cavern expert who will guide you on your underground adventure. It’s a 60-70 minute tour, strategically lit to enjoy highlights such as:

Some Early Cavern Formations

A Historic Replica of the Cuban Missile Fallout Bunker

A Worm Recycling/Tasting Room

Sights and Facts of the Early Mining Operation

Hear About our Storm Dog and Pigeon Eating Hawk

And More Surprises Wait Around Every Corner!”

It was a little chilly at about 58 degrees when the tram was moving, but not unbearable so long as you have your family to snuggle with. Our tour guide, Lindsay was very entertaining. She had a sense of humor that was similar to Amy Schumer’s but without the raunchiness obviously. It was amazing to see the sheer scale of this cavern while also trying to reconcile all the historical details about it in your mind as you listened to the stories. It was a really fun experience that the four of us truly enjoyed.

You could say everything was about scale in a way – the biggest planetarium and the longest cave in Indiana, and the hugest limestone cavern in Kentucky.

Saturday, Part 3 – Renaissance Fun Park, Louiseville, KY

Renaissance Fun ParkOur final fun stop was arguably the most fun. Go-Kart Racing and Laser Tag. Our teenager grumbled about the go-karts beforehand, but she probably had the most fun since she was the one saying let’s do it again. My second kart wasn’t as fast as my first one. And Laser Tag was quite competitive and rewarding, though I can’t remember who won, I just know that I finished near the top in scoring on my team.

So, not quite the kind of vacation we’ve taken the previous two years (bonus points for sleeping in our own beds without the potential of bedbugs), but all in all it was a fun weekend.

On the #ruckology menu this week: Thinkbook (Sunday), Workbook (Monday), The Evening Muse and some new stuff. See ya then.

Thinkbook 2 | Read? Write? Rock?

#ruckology #thinkbook #read #write #rock Last week the first Thinkbook tackled art, this week’s keeps it in the neighborhood of the arts.

This past week I battled my usual conflict of wanting to do multiple things all at the same time: read, write and rock out. Anyone reading this obviously knows I’m a writer. And by natural extension of that I am an avid reader. Perhaps not-so obvious, unless you’ve thoroughly perused this particular blog, I am also a musician. That’s something I started aspiring toward, in 1988, well before getting bitten by the writing bug in 1993. I’ve written/co-written hundreds of songs alone or with bandmates, I’ve played several dozen shows onstage as a guitarist, a bassists and a vocalist. I’ve recorded and released music to the public over the years (plenty still unreleased as well). I’ve written an untold amount of stories, articles and poems and published scores of them both in physical and virtual publications. Of course what led to wanting to write was my being an avid reader of fiction, mostly in the suspense, crime, thriller, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, and superhero genres, which unsurprisingly are my favorite genres to write in. And that’s just the fiction, say nothing of non-fiction and journalism.

My dilemma, which obviously is not exclusive to me, is that reading leads to an intense desire to write. Listening to music stirs up the intense urge to grab any of my instruments and make music. Often all at the same time. On my personal Facebook page my “intro” reads as: I rock. I read. I write. Sometimes all at the same time.” A bit facetious, but were that humanly possible I’d be doing it constantly, burning myself out like a star gone supernova.

This past week the reading won out the most (I JUST WANT TO READ ALL THE THINGS!!!) But I have much writing to do (duh!), I mean that particular work is never done, really. But I also need to dust off the guitars because there’s been rumblings that my band, NEGLECT THE ALARM, may actually resume activity this coming week. A lot of starts-and-stops for this band over the past year and a half. Progress, at least in my mind according to the vision I had when I first put pieces together, has been severely compromised. Our 5-song demo EP should have already been released to the masses by now. We should’ve had 3 or 4 more shows behind us by now as well. But, alas. That’s a gripe for another day.

So this week I should have some busy fingers on both the keyboard and the fretboard.

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Three Random Thoughts of the Week

++ If we don’t embrace diversity in our societies then we are doomed to perpetual disharmony.

++ The scourge of anti-intellectualism in our general populace is real and scary.

++ I think I’m going to create yet “book” around here.  Inspired by last week’s Thinkbook, I’m going to start an Artbook here soon.

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Visuals of the Week

I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding these on the ‘Net, if, like, perchance you live under a rock and have managed to miss them.

++ THE WALKING DEAD Season 7 Trailer from SDCC

++ LUKE CAGE Teaser from SDCC

++ WONDER WOMAN Trailer from SDCC

++ JUSTICE LEAGUE Teaser from SDCC

++ Van Jones Vs Carl the Cuck Slayer Ultimate Street Debate [see video]

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Reads of the Week

++ Issue #15 of VELVET, a comic by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, from Image Comics

++ Issue #23 of LAZARUS, a comic by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, from Image Comics

++ Issue #2 of WONDER WOMAN by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott, from DC Comics

++ Issue #1 of THE SHEILD by Adam Christopher, Chuck Wendig and Drew Johnson, from Dark Circle Comcs

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Sounds of the Week

++ No audiobooks again this past week, but I hope to get back to listening to one or two this week.

++ Albums: …And Justice for All by METALLICA; The Way I Feel by REMY SHAND

++ Songs: “The Beauty of Gray” by LIVE; “No Ordinary Love” by SADE; “Always” by SALIVA

++ Also various songs by BEN FOLDS, RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, SLEATER-KINNEY

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That’s a wrap for this week. If you’re anywhere in the continental United States, try your best to beat the heat. And remember to be good to each other out there. We’re all in this together, whether we like it or not.

-BLR

Thinkbook 1 | Art Can Make Your Day

#ruckology #artjunkie First in a series of weekly brainjuice leakages, an upload from my cerebral mainframe to yours.

Art. Man, it really can make your day. Be it visual, audio, audio-visual, practical or virtual. Art just has that uncanny ability to touch the soul, spark the imagination and be a general catalyst to positive things in our lives. I’m a sucker for the stuff and spend an inordinate amount of time mentally immersed in it on a daily basis, whether it’s my own or that of others. Over a decade ago I used to go by the handle artjunkie online. In fact that was the name of my first ever blog (on Livejournal) some eons ago. I am certainly an art junkie for life, no doubt.

We’re certainly in some dark times these days, socially and politically. Do yourself a favor and try to make time to consume your favorite kind or art, better yet, discover some new art.

Btw, hello and g’day, my friends. I am going to attempt to do this on a weekly basis.

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Artist: Kathleen Marie Kralowec

++ So I spent part of my morning immersed in the wonderful artwork of an artisan New Yorker (transplant of California) by the name of Kathleen Kralowec, whose artwork is the featured image of this post. She’s ridiculously talented in a variety of mediums, employing a diverse array of styles. Although I’m just now discovering her, she’s been in the art game for the better part of a decade now, creating visuals for games, animations, comics and sculptures and dolls as well. She’s a graduate of Scripps College (art, philosophy) and U of C, Santa Cruz (digital art, new media). A shot in the dark, but I reached out to her to let her know that she’s a phenomenal artist and that I’d be honored to create a project with her. You should check her out using the linkage below.

Websites — ++ http://cargocollective.com/kkralowec  ++ http://cargocollective.com/KMKralowec  ++ https://www.behance.net/kkralowec

Social Networks — ++ Facebook  ++ Twitter  ++ Tumblr

Buy — ++ Amazon  ++ ComiXology  ++ DriveThruComics

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Project: CrimeTime

++ Speaking of collaborating with an artist, last weekend I met with my best friend, musical and artistic partner Joshua S. Hooten at a Mexican restaurant to enjoy some yummy food (that carne asada was the bomb!) and discuss our crime comic project.

The skinny is this — We will essentially be putting together a one-shot issue of this first project (which has a title, but is classified for now). I liken it to a demo recording by a band just starting out and trying to appeal to club promoters for opportunities to play shows. So the story will be self-contained but will act as a great tease for more to come with the batch of featured characters we have. Joshua will be handling all art duties digitally, including colors (using his MacBook Pro, Cintiq tablet and various software by Manga Studio, Adobe and Affinity). I will be providing the story and most likely the lettering as well. This will possibly be a self-publishing endeavor and will serve as a promo tool us two aspiring comic creators as we look to co-create several more comics projects for what we hope will be a long career creating together.

Here’s some test images (not final) from Joshua for a couple of characters we’ve been working on.

*Note: you can expect more art images from Joshua here in the future as we further develop our project.

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Movie of the Week

++ Saw THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS last Sunday with the fam. It was immensely entertaining and anyone with pets (we have three), particularly dogs and cats, should find all the humor bits to ring true.

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TV Show of the Week

++ After the excellent and humorous 6th episode “Sundowner” from a couple of weeks back, PREACHER and I have finally reached an accord with each other, I suppose. I’m starting to judge it less in comparison to its comic book/graphic novel source material, finally. Last week’s episode, “He Gone” was fairly good. Still, I have issues with Cassidy and Tulip hooking up so early in the overall scheme of things. And while Tulip’s TV portrayal has been a tour-de-force by Ruth Negga, her likability compared to comic book Tulip has been compromised, thus far, IMHO. Yet, overall, I’m still entertained and intrigued at this point, so I’m in for the long haul.

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Reads of the Week

++ Chapters 15 – 19 of DRIFTER, a novel by Nicholas Petrie.

++ Finished up “Coward” the first volume of CRIMINAL, a recurring comic series by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips now from Image Comics. I’ve just started reading the second volume, “Lawless”.

++ Issues #3 & 4 of THE FIX, a comic series by Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber from Image Comics.

++ Issue #3 of JACKPOT!, a comic series by Ray Fawkes and Marco Failla from AfterShock Comics.

* Recurring genre here is naturally that of crime and suspense.

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Sounds of the Week

++ I usually listen to a variety of music, podcasts and audiobooks on my iPod daily at work and in my car. This week I mostly rocked a shuffle of tunes. One full album I do recall listening to was FOR ALL KINGS by Anthrax.

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That’s all I’ve got for this week. I’ll be back next week with even more brainjuice. Maybe next time the spotlight will be on writing and storytelling.

-BLR

Images are copyright © Kathleen Kralowec and Joshua S. Hooten, respectively.

Notebook 6 | Write-or-Flight, the Phone Awaits Also

#ruckology #writeorflight

Image: screenshot from my phone.

So in yesterday’s Notebook the theme was about a writer (moi) finding himself in the compromised position of having to write on-the-go, out of office and out of his comfort zone using pen and paper rather than his trusty PC. Y’know, something normal people do all the time without quibble. Well, today’s entry is the sequel. Because …

If you (I) have to, you (I) can also be productive writing … on your (my) phone???

Say whuuuut? IKR?

Trust me, it’s not something I’ve ever wanted to have to do, but today I found myself doing just that out of desperation. While initially writing with the old school method of pen to paper today, I happened to remember a couple of things as I scribbled up a page with my chicken scratch:

  • I have Microsoft Office on my phone, featuring first and foremost MS Word.
  • My phone is also connected to my Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage account.
  • So whatever I write on the phone can be retrieved on the PC later. Win!

So, given that in the last four and a half years I’ve been a bit of a slacker, if only in terms of writing fiction (Nonfiction? No problem), you’d have to give me a virtual pat on the back for enduring such torturous methods as writing with pen and paper, or — ugh! — writing with a smartphone’s dreaded soft keyboard. Believe me, although I use it constantly all day/everyday, I hate the trepidatious writing experience that soft keyboards (and tiny text) offers. But, like I said yesterday, ya do what ya gotta do to git ‘r dun.

Because the Page awaits. Always.

No more excuses.

Yay, me.