Book Review: ‘Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living’ by Nick Offerman

You will most likely recognize Nick Offerman as the anti-government government worker, Ron Swanson from the fantastic show Parks & Recreation. The real man isn’t too far from living up to the awesomeness that is his fictional counterpart. Now while his political philosophy may not be as hardcore in real life, he is just as much a man’s man and a complete badass. He’s also a die hard Cubs fan, so there is that too.

This book is primarily autobiographical. Nick tells tales of his childhood, his life, his struggles and everything in-between. He spends a good deal of time talking about the men who helped shape him into who he is.

He also discusses his love of the Cubs, his love of woodworking and his sweet breakdancing skills. He covers his thoughts on diet and health, which is important coming from the man who on television only ever seems to eat turf & turf while pillaging through cigars and Scotch. He also goes into facial hair, which is just one of many things that he has earned expert status on.

The highpoint and best parts of the book, which are sprinkled throughout, are the times where he talks about his love for his wife, Megan Mullally. The book is almost a love letter to his wife and although it is somewhat mushy and sweet, it still comes off manly as fuck and is a good lesson to other men on how to treat and see their wives or girlfriends.

Finishing this book, I wasn’t left unsatisfied. I expected it to be a good primer on who Nick Offerman is and I was left with a lot more than that. There isn’t a chapter in this book that one can’t learn something from. Paddle Your Own Canoe is not just a well-written, educational and entertaining book, it is a valuable book.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Nick Offerman’s other books: Gumption and Good Clean Fun.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Target Snake Eyes

Target Snake Eyes is the culmination of several stories. It is a conclusion to all the stuff that happens after the big Cobra Command event, which followed the massive Cobra Civil War crossover.

This is the final chapter of the larger arc that is spread over G.I. Joe: Deep Terror, G.I. Joe: Cobra, Vol. 2: Son of the SnakeG.I. Joe: Cobra, Vol. 3: Oktober Guard and G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow, Vol. 1.

Additionally, this sets up the new comic book series G.I. Joe: Special Missions, which happens alongside the events of two other new titles, G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files and G.I. Joe (the third main series for the franchise at IDW). This list here will help you make sense out of the timeline and the multiple titles since IDW is pretty confusing on how they release G.I. Joe stuff.

This kicks off with G.I. Joe and Cobra hunting for Snake Eyes and his Arashikage ninja brother Storm Shadow. Snake Eyes is believed to be working against the Joes and Storm Shadow has taken his clan and left Cobra. Snake Eyes has his own agenda, as that’s sort of his modus operandi. This eventually leads to Storm Shadow feeling betrayed and a rift forming between the two, once again.

Target Snake Eyes also deals with Joe and Cobra teams that aren’t in great shape. The Baroness comes up with a massive scheme to give Cobra a lot more power but the scheme fails and she finds herself in the crosshairs of Cobra Commander.

There is a lot of Serpentor, Coil politics, Arashikage politics, Cobra politics, Joe politics and a big crescendo that finishes the story and gives you a sense of narrative completion other than a few open ended bits that will carry over into future story arcs.

Overall, this is a really good book if you are a fan of the ninja side of the G.I. Joe universe.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: The two stories that lead into it: G.I. Joe: Deep Terror and G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow, Vol. 1.

Comic Review: The Infinity Gauntlet

Since the new Avengers movie is coming out very shortly and it is about Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet, I wanted to revisit those stories in their original comic book format. This is the first of The Infinity Trilogy, which also features The Infinity War and The Infinity Crusade.

This was the biggest Marvel mega crossover event of my most formative years. I had read Secret Wars I and II, as well as some of the major X-Men centered mega events before this but this one, at least when I was a preteen, seemed like it was legitimately for all the marbles like nothing else that came before it. Therefore, when it was revealed several years ago that the Marvel Cinematic Universe was building towards Thanos and his acquisition of the Infinity Stones, I knew that the third Avengers movie was going to be the biggest cinematic event in the history of comic book movies.

But how does the original body of work stack up now, two and a half decades later?

Well, it’s still really damn good and was a heck of a read.

The story is comprised of six beefy oversized issues. The first three serve to set up the final three, which cover the massive space battle between Thanos and everything the Marvel Universe could throw at him. The first half is a bit slow but it is necessary to understand what is happening. The fourth issue throws Earth’s heroes at Thanos, the fifth issue throws Marvel’s cosmic entities and gods at Thanos and the sixth and final issue sees Nebula acquire the Infinity Gauntlet, causing Thanos to have to reassess his place in the order of the universe.

I think that the biggest difference between this classic version and the upcoming film adaptation is that the build will be much different and it should be.

Here, Thanos is motivated by the petty idea that he can use the Gauntlet to win over the heart of Death. While it does work for the comics, it isn’t something that could really work on film, at least not with a lot more narrative work than the Marvel screenwriters will have time for if they also need to focus on wedging every cinematic hero into the film. By modern standards, Thanos’ motivation seems cheesy but I’ll buy into it because it isn’t something that I couldn’t see the character doing. He’s flawed and egomaniacal, and he would be driven to win over what he feels he cannot have.

I liked where this story went, how it challenged the heroes, how the writers worked it so that Thanos wasn’t “omnipotent” and how it all panned out in the end.

The Infinity Gauntelt is still a great Marvel mega crossover event that deserves the recognition and legendary status it has.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Its sequels The Infinity War and The Infinity Crusade.

Book Review: ‘Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk’ by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain

I really don’t think that there is a better book on punk music.

Please Kill Me is pretty unique. It is a large book full of compelling and eye-opening stories told first hand by the artists and people who were there. It is a piece of work that delves deeper into the history of punk rock more than anything else I’ve ever encountered in any medium. It leaves no stone unturned and gives you more insight than you would ever expect.

Each chapter focuses on a specific subject or era in time throughout early punk’s history and it is told orally, albeit written down, by dozens upon dozens of those who were in the thick of this iconic cultural movement. The highlights for me were the bits told by or about Iggy Pop. Dude, was an even more interesting character than I had realized.

Whether you are into punk or not, this is still thoroughly enjoyable. If you are just a big fan of music in general or that period of time, this book is an eye-opener. The words and tales of those in this book are like a time machine, bringing the reader back to that exciting and innovative time. I can’t recommend this book enough.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Other books on the history of punk and rock music: Richard Hell’s I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean TrampMeet Me in the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman and Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad.

Comic Review: American Flagg! – Definitive Collection

American Flagg is considered a classic and a masterpiece by many comic book aficionados since it was running regularly in the 1980s. I never read it back then, I was pretty much only concerned with G.I. JoeStar Wars and superhero comics at the time. It was also much more adult than what I was ready for back when I was in elementary school.

I did finally pick this up, after Comixology had it up for free for Unlimited subscribers. I’ve heard only good things and thought that it was an experience that was long overdue.

Sadly, it didn’t resonate with me. Maybe it’s because it feels like a relic of that ’80s era and it doesn’t work outside of that time, other than being nostalgia for those who loved it back then.

I will say that the writing is pretty good and that the artwork is better than what was the standard, at the time. I like the character design, use of color and the tone of it. I just couldn’t get into the narrative despite the writing being mature and better than what I used to read back in the ’80s.

With those who I’ve talked to about it, this is often times compared to Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s work on Robocop, as well as the original Robocop film. It may even have hints of Blade Runner. While those are all things I like, I just couldn’t get enthusiastic about American Flagg, which actually disappointed me.

I wanted to like it at more than just a visual level. I just felt that the characters were too generic and simple but then again, maybe that’s the point, as they live in a superficial, entertainment obsessed society. Still, it didn’t make for an interesting read, as it was difficult to feel a connection to any of the main characters.

I liked the talking cat though.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Has similar themes to Robocop and Watchmen.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Cobra, Vol. 3: Oktober Guard

G.I. Joe: Cobra, Vol. 3: Oktober Guard is a direct pickup of the plot thread that started in G.I. Joe: Cobra, Vol. 2: Son of the Snake.

This follows Flint’s team of Joes, operating out of a casino in Las Vegas with the assistance of Tomax, a former major player in Cobra. This also follows Major Bludd’s story and the aftermath of his part in the Cobra Command crossover event. Additionally, this also happens at the same time as the events in G.I. Joe: Deep Terror and G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow, Vol. 1.

This is written by Chuck Dixon, the greatest G.I. Joe writer that isn’t the legendary Larry Hama. This is also one of my favorite smaller scale Dixon stories. It’s about a small group of characters and isn’t forced to wedge in every Joe and Cobra character like the mega events Cobra Civil War and Cobra Command.

The primary thing of importance here is that this story arc introduces the IDW G.I. Joe universe to the Oktober Guard, who were pretty prevalent during the Cold War G.I. Joe stories of the 1980s. In the old days, they were the Soviet Union’s version of G.I. Joe. In the IDW universe, they are a Russian group that exists in secret and are more like mercenaries than a government agency.

This book also serves to further develop Flint, Lady Jaye, Chameleon, Ronin and Major Bludd. Ultimately, this leads to Major Bludd becoming the leader of Oktober Guard. While that’s a bit of a spoiler, the way in which it happens is pretty cool.

I really liked this story, it continues a great track record of Chuck Dixon’s G.I. Joe tenure and IDW’s handling of the property during this era. Sadly, IDW would lose touch later on but at this point, G.I. Joe is still solid.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: G.I. Joe: Cobra, Vol. 2: Son of the Snake (the story before it) and G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files, Vol. 1 and 2 (which follows it).

Book Review: ‘The $100 Startup’ by Chris Guillebeau

*Written in 2014.

The $100 Startup was an awesome and inspiring read. Actually, I read it twice back-to-back.

The book tells several stories of people who started their own businesses for very little money, how they marketed themselves, found a good niche and became great successes. The stories within these pages helped me cultivate some ideas I have been mulling over and it pushed me in the direction of working towards my ultimate goal, creating something solely my own that makes me money and affords me the ability to work where I want, when I want and how I want.

This book isn’t a “get rich quick” scheme that promises the universe but gives you nothing. This book preaches hard work, ingenuity and gives one the tools to succeed. The tools aren’t even that complicated and this book keeps things simple and straightforward.

There are a lot of books on startups but this one takes the cake, in my opinion. It can’t guarantee your success but it can certainly prepare you for what’s ahead if you take the journey. It also has enough depth and several examples to help get your idea machine churning.

All in all, it is a pretty invaluable book.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Other books by Chris Guillebeau.