Monday, August 25, 2014

Meth Monday: Beach Signing & the Emmys

Hello! Readers Mine, and welcome to the Emmy Awards edition of "Meth Monday"!

That's right, beginning at 8 pm eastern, and going on until the stroke of 11 tonight, the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards kick off, and Breaking Bad is once again, and - sadly - for the final time, a major contender. Nominated for 16 Emmys, including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Writing for a Drama (Moira Walley-Beckett for "Ozymandias" and Vince Gilligan for "Felina"), Lead Actor (Bryan Cranston), Directing (Vince Gilligan for "Felina"), Supporting Actor (Aaron Paul), Supporting Actress (Anna Gunn), and Dale and I are especially excited for friend-of-the-book Michael Slovis' nomination for Outstanding Cinematography for "Granite State." The competition is tough, but for my money Breaking Bad is the show to beat - again. In fact, Cranston and Paul - along with Julia Louis-Dreyfus - have cooked up a little teaser for Emmy night complete with a raft of inside jokes:

In other, Wanna Cook? related news: Dale and I will be signing copies of the book at Books-A-Million in the Myrtle Beach Mall at Myrtle Beach, SC on Saturday, 13 September, starting at 2 pm! That's right, it's a beach-side book signing. Well, okay, not beach side, but beach-close. Like maybe eight blocks? That counts, right? Seriously, if you're down at the beach, or have merely been looking for an excuse to go to the beach, what could be better than attending a book signing about the greatest TV show in history? Plus, you know, free meth! This lady loves the stuff:

My mom, with "meth" at our book-launch.
She may well kill me for this but: WORTH IT!
So come on out and see us at the beach, and follow us on social media (to the top right on this blog, and look for #WannaCook everywhere) for all of the latest Breaking Bad news that crosses our screens. And if you can't make it to Books-A-Million for the signing, don't worry, you can pick up Wanna Cook? The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Bad at their website, and nice people in uniform will bring it right to your door! Also, don't forget to check in with my co-author, K. Dale Koontz, this week for her post-Emmys "Walter White Wednesday" post at Unfettered Brilliance.

Until next time -- Keep Cookin'!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Meth Monday: It's Tuesday Bitch!

Yes, yes, I know, I had an actual streak of weekly "Meth Monday" posts going there, and then I took a few days at the beach and blew it. Oh well. Honestly, since I did spend much of last week at the beach, there's really not all that much to report anyway.

However, AMC's Breaking Bad Binge is officially underway every Sunday from 5 pm until 1am. Importantly, AMC is not merely re-broadcasting the episodes, but also putting out a lot of brand new extras to go along with them, including new interviews with the cast. Most recently, we heard from Aaron Paul about what his favorite Jesse moments were, and it's no surprise that they included this gem, which is one of my favorites:

So that's about it for this week. We hope to be announcing the date and location of our next book signing soon, but until then, you can fins Wanna Cook? at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Powell's Books. And follow me on the social medias (upper right on this blog) for all of the Breaking Bad news that crosses my inbox.

Also be sure and look for Dale's and my latest "The Ten Percent" column over on Biff Bam Pop! It'll be going live Thursday morning, and you don't want to miss it. So until next week, Readers Mine,

Keep Cookin'!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Paving With Good Intentions

You know, Readers Mine, I had planned to get another "Comics At War" post up this week. I even know what I'm going to post about, but it's just not going to happen. See, I'm in the middle of a 4 week online class to get up to speed on an online education software suite, as well as attending various meetings as I move towards my first semester of teaching (plus some other gigs), and, well, tomorrow Dale and I are going to the beach. So in order to stay caught up with the things that simply have to get done, I had to let the blogging slide this week, and I'm sorry about that, because I'm really enjoying doing this regularly these days. That being said, I', going to the beach with the love of my life tomorrow, and I have no intention of feeling bad about skipping a post. I'll see you next Monday with another "Meth Monday," and I'll get the "Comics At War" post up next week instead. Until then, here's a public service announcement:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Meth Monday: Slinging Books

Hello Readers Mine, and welcome to "Meth Monday" at Solomon Mao's!

Last week was pretty busy in terms of getting out there and talking about our book, Wanna Cook? The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Bad. ECW Press is an incredibly supportive publisher, but they're also a small press, and -- the size of our egos and ambitions notwithstanding -- we're not NY Times bestselling authors, so we knew from the get go that much of the burden of marketing Wanna Cook? through things like book signings, teh interwebs, etc, would rest on our shoulders. Hence the rack of social media buttons to the upper right on this blog.

Don't get me wrong, ECW helps out a lot. They print up posters, bookmarks, and business cards for us that are very slick and professional, their publicists Jenna Illies and Michelle Melski rock at getting the word out through review copies, media blasts about signings, etc, and they cover both traditional and online sources. But it is up to Dale and I to get out there and hustle for signings, con appearances, talks, podcasts, webcasts, etc, etc. I guess in biz-speak what we're doing is building a brand as we try and sell our book. It turns out that this process can be a lot of fun.

So last Wednesday we had the opportunity to talk Wanna Cook?, Breaking Bad, and the week in pop-culture with the crew of the CultureSMASH! Webcast, which turned out to be a total blast, and I think we made some new friends along the way. You can check it out on the CultureSMASH! site, or right here:

Stephen, Nicolas, Catherine, Mike, and the rest of the SMASH Cast made us feel incredibly welcome, and even did me the courtesy to laugh at a few of my snarky comments. It was tremendous fun, and they produce a hell of a pop-culture site, so bookmark 'em! Then on Thursday, our first regular pop-culture column premiered over on Biff Bam Pop! We call it "The Ten Percent" and I'll quote the set up for you:
“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon
Hello, and welcome to the first installment of “The Ten Percent,” a regular column where every other week we’ll look at the corollary of Sturgeon’s Law: ten percent of everything is not crud. In terms of television and film, Sturgeon’s Law and its corollary have been operative even before Georges Méliès built his glass-walled studio in 1897, and continue to hold true today. For every film or television show that gets people talking years or even decades after its premiere, there are probably a thousand others that may have been seen once, and never thought of again. To be clear, we’re not talking high culture and low culture here. In fact, we think those categories are complete BS. What we are talking about are the works which last, be they drama or comedy, animation or live-action, documentary or wildest fiction. They last because they are high quality productions, even – dare we say it – works of art which demand more of their viewer than passive reception. They are the “Ten Percent.”
Where did we start? With Breaking Bad, of course! Check out the full article here, and look for us every other week at Biff Bam Pop! -- another pop-culture site that's well worth following! Finally, we spent a lovely few hours at Barnes & Noble in Winston-Salem, NC on Saturday meeting folks and signing copies of Wanna Cook? This was our most successful signing to date, and the management and staff at B&N were absolutely fantastic. So thanks to everyone there and everyone who came out for making our day a so much fun!

My co-author, K. Dale Koontz, in full regalia (including BrBa earrings!) at our table at Barnes & Noble in Winston-Salem 
So that was our week of getting out there and talking Breaking Bad and Wanna Cook? if you're in the Winston-Salem area, missed the signing, but still want an autographed copy, swing by Barnes & Noble -- we signed a few for the store before we left. And that's it for this week's "Meth Monday," Readers Mine/ Join me again next week, and be sure to catch Dale's 'Walter White Wednesday" posts over on Unfettered Brilliance, and follow us here, there, and everywhere for all the latest Breaking Bad and pop-culture news that comes across our screens. Until next time,

Keep Cookin'!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Meth Monday: Webcastin' 'Bout My Generation

Hello Readers Mine, and welcome to another "Meth Monday" at Solomon Mao's!

So the last episode of Breaking Bad aired about a year ago, the complete series in out on DVD, Blu-ray, and even streaming in 4K on Netflix, and yet the show is still in the news, and still winning awards, most recently Best Drama Series from the Critics Choice Television Awards and Program of the Year from the Television Critics Association for its final eight episodes. What's more, Breaking Bad is nominated for thirteen Emmy's this year, including Best Drama Series and Best Actor. Seriously, this is the show that keeps on giving (and getting!) Why? Because:

Fortunately for Dale and I, people still want to talk about the show, and people still want more of and about it, and many of those fine folks seem to enjoy getting it from Wanna Cook? The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Bad. Which is how we came to be guests on the Culture Smash Cast this Wednesday, August 6, at 8 pm. It seems that Catherine Holder got a hold of a copy of Wanna Cook? after the Culture Smash Cast Breaking Bad wrap-up and, judging from her review, really dug the book. This leads me to this week's Valuable Lesson Learned: social media is worth paying attention to. See, after I read Ms. Holder's review, I went out and found her Twitter handle, as well as that of CultureSmash, and Tweeted them a "thanks" along with a link to the review. Shortly thereafter, I got a message from CultureSmash editor Stephen Lackey asking us if we'd like to come on the Cast and talk about the book and Breaking Bad, to which we said "YEAH BITCH!" (Okay, so not really, but I'm sure Stephen took the "bitch" part as read.)

Nor is this the only time that a thank you Tweet sent out to a reviewer and site garnered us an opportunity. I did the same for Glenn Walker's review over at, and the end result of that is that Dale and I will be writing a regular column for BiffBamPop premiering this Thursday, 07 August. We're calling it "The Ten Percent," after Theodore Sturgeon's Revelation that "90% of everything is crap." We will be focusing primarily on film and television, and every two weeks we'll pop up to take a look at something we consider a part of that magical 10% that isn't crap, and is therefore worth the time it takes to give it a closer look. Guess what show we'll be starting with?

Finally, You can also get a daily dose of Dale & Ensley on the latest episode of the Gobbledygeek Podcast where we join AJ and Paul to talk about Neil Gaiman's Sandman, the truth about polar bears, and big-beaked bastard birds.

So that's it for this week's Wanna Cook? doings, but we've got some more stuff in the works as we get closer to AMC's binge re-broadcast of Breaking Bad starting on 10 August, so keep an eye out here, and over on Unfettered Brilliance and look for us on social media (hint: click on the various symbols on the upper right of this page) for all the latest Breaking Bad news that comes across our screens.

Keep Cookin'!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Four Color Culture: X-Men: No More Humans

Hello Readers Mine! Welcome to another installment of "Four Color Culture." This week I'm going to be looking at X-Men: No More Humans, a Marvel Original Graphic Novel (OGN) which hit the stands (are there really any stands left anywhere?) in early May of this year. Written by Mike Carey with art by Salvador Larroca, color by Justin Ponsor and letters by Cory Petit, No More Humans turned out to be a really pleasant surprise.

X-Men: No More Humans, cover art by Salvador Larroca. Marvel Worldwide, 2014.

Full disclosure here: despite an early, passionate, and ongoing love of the X-Men, I don't currently have any X-titles on my pull list. Like many comic fans my age, I dropped out of buying comics regularly in the early 1990s when every time you turned around there was a new foil-hologram-cover, factory-bagged #1, 1.5 million copies printed "collectors issue" launching yet another new book from one of the Big Two. These were the days when the proliferation of the X-titles began, and yes, I admit it, I still have all five variant covers of X-Men #1 (Volume 2, 1992). But shortly thereafter I no longer bothered trying to keep up. So it went until the fall of 2012, when I found myself in a city with a really good comic shop (Atomik Comiks in Johnson City, TN - hey guys!), and a budding career studying and writing about pop-culture. So back to comics I went. And boy were there a lot of X-titles! And literally about seventeen years worth of continuity I had missed and which was still playing out with no scorecard in sight. I came in right at the very end of the A vs. X cross-over, just in time to read the last issues of Uncanny X-Men (volume 3,487), and the birth of All-New X-Men and Marvel NOW! (the first one).

Honestly, I wasn't impressed with All-New's first few issues (though people whose taste I generally trust have assured me I should go back and read the series), nor did Wolverine and the X-Men  do it for me, and fuck me if Marvel wasn't launching even more X-books, and who the hell knows what's going on or who's on which team anymore anyway, so the only semi-X-title I kept on my new list was Uncanny Avengers (and yes, I realize the irony in that the one title I still get has relied so much on back-stories and continuity from the years 1995 - 2012 that, despite having collected every issue since #1, there have been entire runs of four or five issues where I had to read Wikipedia for three hours just to kinda know what was going on). Since then, every time I think about catching up on the X-Folks, I look at the sheer amount of reading it would take, and I just go re-read the latest issue of Saga or Astro City.

Girls! Girls! You're both pretty!
 Carey, Larroca, and Ponsor, page 20, panel 1.
Even so, X-Men: No More Humans is the first X-Men OGN since the magnificent God Loves, Man Kills, and it promised to be a stand-alone work, so I ordered it. I'm really glad I did. Basically, all of the various X-People wake up on morning to discover that every non-mutant has disappeared from the face of the Earth. Both Cyclops' and Wolverine's X-teams investigate and wind up joining forces in order to solve the mystery of the humans' disappearance. Personalities and agendas are still present, but you really don't have to know any back-story to jump right in to this. A half-paragraph synopsis of the current state of X-affairs sets things up, and the two teams are working together by page 21. Carey and Larroca tell a really good story here. There's angst, action, betrayals, battles, old loves come back, and at the end of the day, the best that can be hoped for is the status quo ante bellum.

Behold: Magneto! Because... Magneto!
Carey, Larroca, and Ponsor, page 20.
The art is lovely. Larroca's style is largly realistic, he pays attention to details, particularly when it comes to faces, and his figures move well. His weakness is female faces and body-types, which sometimes look so much alike that it is difficult to tell Emma Frost from Jean Grey except for the hair. He's not afraid of blacks, but doesn't over use them, and his sunny day scenes keep the shadows in their proper places. There are a few obligatory and predictable splash pages, but whether it's Magneto, Storm's team, or Scott's the X-Men have always  liked to make an entrance, so I'll give the splashes a pass. Juston Ponsor is invaluable throughout, but particularly in panels where he unerringly uses color-washes and shading to evoke mood or to show various powers reaching right out for you.

Carey flat-out nails the voices of Scott, Storm, Wolverine, Magneto, and the Hanks, but, most of the other X-Men are more seen than heard, and the passive-aggressive dialogue between past Jean Grey and Emma Frost feels forced and tired. Plot-wise, Carey is tight and his pacing is spot-on, slowing down for ye olde X-speeches and statements of integrity when he should and smoothly letting the punches fly fast and relentlessly when all hell breaks loose. No More Humans  is basically a common foe/problem story, but it is well told, and neither X-team is forced to break their established worldviews. Most importantly, this is an X-story that can be read and enjoyed without having read All-New or Uncanny (volume 3,488) or whatever. In fact, it's the first book in a while that has made me want to go back and catch up on my X-reading. Maybe.

So check out X-Men: No More Humans if you get a chance, and check back here at Solomon Mao's every now and again for more of my musings on various comics and other pop-culture productions.

See ya next time!