Monday, 20 January 2020

Stumptown Vol. 4: The Case of a Cup of Joe

Today I finished Stumptown Vol 4 which is the 4th and so far, last edition of the Stumptown series.

Portland's best private investigator Dex Parios is back, and this time, the case is a real grind. When she picks up a simple assignment to escort a package of highly-prized coffee beans, Dex has no idea that she's stepping into the web of the Barista Mafia and eccentric billionaires with no compunction about using force to get the most coveted coffee around. And to top it all off, her sister is in town.

Join Eisner Award-winner Greg Rucka and series artist Justin Greenwood (The Fuse) for the The Case of a Cup of Joe, the fourth case in the critically-acclaimed Stumptown series. This oversized hardcover edition also collects a bonus silent issue, as well as extra material such as issue covers, process pieces, and creator commentary.

This story, like the last, was drawn by Justin Greenwood. Greenwood took over from Mathew Southworth, who did the artwork for the first two of the series.

This story introduces Dex's sister, Fuji. It's no surprise that they don't get along. Dex may be flawed, but her sister is more so. I love Dex's character, but found Fuji rather unlikable.

Once again the story is a fast paced tale, told well by Rucka and again, I enjoyed Greenwoods artwork. A bonus story follows, listed as Chapter 5, but is a fresh tale. There is also a multi-paged interview with Rucka and Greenwood on how the story and art came together.

I hope this isn't the last of the series. Looking back, a new Stumptown came out in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017. Hey! What happened to 2019?

Hopefully, more of this series will follow.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Stumptown Vol. 3

I'm determined to finish all four Stumptown books currently available before the end of January. Today I finished Vol.3, The Case of the King of Clubs.

Greg Rucka's fan-favorite P.I. is back on the case in this new hardcover! When one of investigator Dex Parios's dearest friends is brutalized following a Portland Timbers match, Dex is determined to get to the bottom of the attack no matter who stands in her way! Join Eisner Award-winner Rucka and new series artist Justin Greenwood (The Fuse) as Dex kicks more than just soccer balls in her pursuit of the assailant.

One big difference is the artwork, which is now done by Justin Greenwood instead of  Mathew Southward. It's as well done as before but the panels are brighter. I would take either in any Stumptown graphic novel.

I enjoyed the story, although I wasn't quite satisfied by the ending. Dex is herself and is drawn pretty much the same. Despite all her faults, she is a loyal friend which drives her in this story.

Still hooked on the graphic novels and the TV show. Looking forward to Volume 4.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Chris Hadfield's Generator 2020

Tonight I went to see Chris Hadfield's Generator. This is the 4th year for it. 2018 was the first time I went but had to miss it last year. Damn! Made sure I didn't miss it this year as I bought my ticket in October.

Probably the best thing to happen to a Canadian winter since they invented the crazy carpet.

Generator remains the only show in Toronto where you can find robotic exoskeletons, stand up comedians, cyborgs, wunderkind, astronauts, musicians, celebrities, and spoken word artists seamlessly blended onto the same stage. It's unique. Let's face it, it's weird. But we love it, the audience loves it, and we can't wait to show you what we have in store this year.

Bring your friends! Bring your enemies! Bring whatever pets Roy Thomson Hall allows! Generator is back, and better than ever.

The show took place at Roy Thompson Hall.

So many people took the stage in the 3 hour show. What is unexpected is how comical scientists can be when talking about their fields. I laughed most of the night, while I learned fascinating facts and discoveries.

First up was the costumed band TWRP.

Robin Ince, a British comedian was the emcee for the night and was hilarious.

Brendan Frey was up first.  He spoke about how he and his team developed an artificial intelligence  (AI) to search for searching for the detection and possible treatment of genetic diseases and the teams successes.

I found it wonderful how Jae Rhim Lee and Shari Forbes could discuss death in such a meaningful and humorous way. Lee started talking about her admiration of sloths and worked it into the development of an eco-friendly mushroom burial suit and how much better it is for the world. Hey, not so far fetched. Actor Luke Perry was buried in one!

Forbes is the Research Chair in Forensic Thanatology and the Director of the Secure Site for Research in Thanatology. So what is that? She runs a body farm, Canada's first. What is a body farm? People donate their bodies so when they die, they are buried on this farm. Forensic scientist then can learn about decomposition of a body in the earth and to train dogs to search for bodies through their scent. Wow!

Second City was there showcase a little of their new She the People show.

That was a lot of show, and that was just the first half. After intermission, astronaut and man of many talents, Chis Hadfield, came out and with TWRP did a great job with House of the Rising Sun, After he spoke about the history of maps. He was funny and I learned a lot.

Never before had I heard of "Math Comedy". Well. Matt Parker is a Math stand-up from Australia and performs his full act around the world. He was so funny that I'll be heading out to buy his new book, When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World. Tonight he spoke about a 1970s British court case(s) where MacDonald's was taken to court over their claim their 8 item menu had 40,312 combinations. I couldn't stop laughing!

This was amazing. Adrian Owen, from a Professor at The Brain and Mind Institute, Western University in London Ontario, spoke about he and his team discovered how to determine in a person hospitalized in a vegetative state, not only has brain function, and is aware and thinking. Around 20% of those in this state, have that possibility.

He also found a way to communicate with them through yes and no questions. He put up a quote from a patient who awoke years after, which I can't find on-line. It said how the person felt now she was being communicated with and how she was knew she was now, even in that condition, being treated as a person, rather than an object. He won the order of the British Empire for his work.

Aaron Chen, a stand-up from Australia, did a great 10 minute set.

Finally, Simone Giertz, who had a U tube video show, Shitty Robots, showed a few of her videos, talked about her creation, Truckla, a Tesla she turned into an electric pickup truck. Then, while she built paper airplanes in a contest with Chris Hadfield, she spoke about her ordeal with the discovery of a brain tumour. That she was funny while talking about it was amazing.

After a fast 3 hours, the show was over. I got more than my money's worth for sure. I may have missed last year's show, but won't miss the next one.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Illuminae: The Illuminae Files_01 by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I enjoy a good science fiction novel, so when my friend, Alfred, recommended Illuminae, I read it.

Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the worst thing she'd ever been through. That was before her planet was invaded. Now, with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating craft, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit. 

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents--including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more--Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

I cut out much if the description above as I felt it gave away too much of the story, which, by the way, is fabulous.

This is a fast exciting tale which is told in a very different manner., or as the writers say in the 'Acknowledgements" this oh-o strange bookthing. The story is pieced together through reports, transcribed conversations and some excellently done graphics. The only time it feels like there is descriptive action in the plot, is when an analyst transcribes what he sees through surveillance cameras.

Even though it is a thick book, a 599 page read, the font and the way the book is put together, makes this, actually, a fast read. It was also a fast read as it was a hard book to put down, between the action and all the twists, turns and surprises.

This is a three book series by Australian sci-fi writers Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Yes, I'm hooked and looking forward to getting into the next book, Gemina, real soon.

Thanks Alfred.

Monday, 6 January 2020

The Newly Renovated Paradise Theater, Bloor St, Toronto

Tonight I went to the Paradise Theatre to see the 1998 movie, Last Night, a fabulous, apocalyptic film with Sandra Oh, Don McKellar and Sarah Polly. Not only was I excited about seeing this movie, which I haven't seen for years, but also for being able to see this newly renovated theatre.

The Paradise originally opened in 1937. The venue had 643 seats with a smoking area in the balcony. In 1966, the theatre was sold to the Giacominis family who showed non-subtitled Italian movies direct from Italy. It was then sold in the 1980s to an owner who showed soft porn.

In the 1990s, the theatre became part of the Festival Cinemas chain, which included the Bloor Cinema (now the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema), The Revue, The Kingsway and The Fox Beaches. The chain closed in 2006 and the theatre was shut down.

For awhile it was in danger of becoming a drug store but was saved by Moray Tawse who purchased the theatre in 2013 and spent years and millions to restore.

The entrance has the old fashioned front entrance ticket booth.

Inside there is a nice oval snack bar area. Plans are in store to expand this area in the next year into the building next door. The bartender moves so fast behind the bar that he blurs the shot.

Popcorn comes from this old style popcorn maker.

The theatre reduced the seating to 183, all of which are leather fold up seats with drink holders and lots of leg room. The theatre will house movies, special events and live performances. I must say the inside is spectacular! Movies are shown through their high tech system. Tonight was the first showing of Last Night, having been restored to this format, of which I forget the term. The screen retracts for talks. The theatre will be showing films which have Q&As afterwards featuring directors and actors.

There seem to be theme months. For instance, January is Toronto Plays Itself, with all the films in the series having been shot in Toronto. Next month's theme will be Odd Couples: a slanted nod to the most romantic month of the year (and a leap one at that!), Paradise presents some of the movies’ most unexpected and quirky couplings, with a few other-worldly ones thrown in for good measure. Spanning decades and genres, we’ve assembled a motley season of cult favourites (Harold and Maude, Starman), modern hits (Lost in Translation, Out of Sight) and undiscovered classics (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, A Special Day), plus many other improbable and moving love stories ripe for rediscovery.

Everything is so well-done and thought out. I'll be watching this theatre for more films and events in the future. When I do, hopefully the weather will be better for my outside shots.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Stumptown Vol. 2

In December I read my first Stumptown Graphic Novel and loved. Today I finished Volume 2: The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case.

From Eisner Award-winning writer Greg Rucka and acclaimed artist Matthew Southworth comes a new Stumptown mystery! Dex Parios has finally opened her own office, and her first case is to find rock star Mim Bracca's baby - her prized guitar - which disappeared after her band Tailhook's Portland show. Mim has no leads, and she doesn't want to go to the police, but Dex needs the case, and besides, it shouldn't be that hard to find a missing guitar. As long as the D.E.A. doesn't get involved ... or the Skinheads.

This one is as gritty and fun as the first. I'm not sure if the original Stumptown, published in 2011, was meant as a one off, this one came out 2 years later in 2013 but the backgrounds of Dex Perois and her brother Ansel, have been expanded. Each panel has the same gritty and dark feel as the first volume.

Like the first book, the story is interesting, fast paced, with the art work excellently done. I'm enjoying this series as much as I'm enjoying the TV show.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Stumptown Vol. 1

I rarely read graphic novels. In fact I think I've only ever read a couple. Stumptown, however, interested me as I became quickly hooked by the TV show inspired by it. The other day I picked up all four volumes in the series.

Volume#1 is titled,:The Case of the Girl Who Took her Shampoo (But Left her Mini).

Dex is the proprietor of Stumptown Investigations, and a fairly talented P.I. Unfortunately, she's less adept at throwing dice than solving cases. Her recent streak has left her beyond broke—she's into the Confederated Tribes of the Wind Coast for 18 large. But maybe Dex's luck is about to change.

Sue-Lynne, head of the Wind Coast's casino operation, will clear Dex' debt if she can locate Sue-Lynne's missing granddaughter. Is this job Dex's way out of the hole or a shove down one much much deeper?

I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story by Greg Rucka is a fast paced, dark tale, with a flawed but heroic and moral main character, Dex Perios.

Here's the way she describes herself to another in the story: I gamble, I drink, I smoke, I've got a car that runs half the time. I just took out a second mortgage, half my bills are past due ... I own three pairs of shoes, one dress that I'm not ashamed to be seen in, two pairs of jeans and a collection of t-shirts that say more about my adolescence than I car to remember ... My word is all I have.

How's that for a tragic hero?

The plot is well complimented by the art work of Mathew Southworth. The gritty story is aided by each panel illustrating the gloom and dinginess of the setting.

As a bonus, there is a second short Dex Perois story at the end. I loved both.

I'm looking forward to diving into the next volume in the series