Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Master's Experience #10: Week 8

Time for Graduate School updates!

Last week was Week 8 in the current semester. It started off with a midterm exam for Indexing and Abstracting and ended with a discussion post regarding software for digital libraries. We read about open-source software and for this week's discussion I had to choose and learn about a specific digital library software. I chose CollectionSpace, which is a site predominantly designed for museums that allows quite a bit of customization depending on an organization's specialty (ex: anthropology, botanical gardens, art). I had to discuss features of the software and some of the technical components involved.

 I'm also working on a group project which involves putting together a collection of items in a digital library using Omeka, a collection website. My group came up with College Football as our digital library topic, so I'm actually really excited to see how this project turns out!

Reading stats for the week: 

Week 8: 139 pages

Running Semester Total: 1,421 pages

I'm currently on Spring Break so Week 9 updates will be up in around two weeks if I am able to maintain this schedule. I know this was a short update, but midterm work tends to be weighty for the grade, but brief in terms of discussion potential.

Thanks for reading!!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Comic Spotlight: Oblivion Song #1

Hello everyone!

This week I've got another comic review post for y'all. On occasion I like to check out new comic series that are coming out. I particularly like to check for stand alone series that are not too far into their runs and exist outside of a universe continuity. This is why it will be rare for me to review anything DC or Marvel related that is actually CURRENT to the releases happening now (ex: DC Rebirth). I never read the New 52 or Marvel's Secret Wars, so I'd like to catch up with all of that before I cover any of the current series they are releasing WITHIN continuity.

Last Wednesday, a new series was released and I checked out the first issue. Here is my review:

Oblivion Song #1

Publisher: Image Comics
Rating: T+
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Illustrator: Lorenzo De Felici & Annalisa Leoni
Published: March 7, 2018

A decade ago, 300,000 citizens of Philadelphia were suddenly lost in Oblivion. The government made every attempt to recover them, but after many years, they gave up. Nathan Cole...won't. He makes daily trips, risking his life to try and rescue those still living in the apocalyptic hellscape of Oblivion. But maybe...Nathan is looking for something else? Why can't he resist the siren call of the Oblivion Song? 


Robert Kirkman is the creator/writer of The Walking Dead, which was a hit comic series before it moved to television, and which I have yet to read. This is apparently the first new series that Kirkman has done in about four years. 

Oblivion Song #1 opens with the protagonist of the story, Nathan Cole, in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic world where there is a stringy goo over buildings and monsters are roaming. He locates two people and uses a gun to shoot darts that make them disappear. He darts himself and we find out that he travels between two different places and brings the people from the apocalyptic place to the regular world. The basis seems to be that 10 years ago something occurred which is referred to as "the Transference" and the people lost during that were honored on a memorial stone with their names etched onto it. Nathan Cole has succeeded in bringing some people back. He used to have a program that would assist in rescues with more of a rescue team approach, but now the government refuses to fund it. Nathan is hellbent on finding and returning people, with the main motivation being that he hopes to find his brother, Ed, and bring him back. This issue ends with a bit of a cliffhanger and potential for the story to progress in very interesting ways. Additionally, this issue presents the general meaning of the series title, which was intriguing and I'm hoping that it is subtly nodded at throughout the series in more ways. I'm hoping that Oblivion Song becomes a deeper, encompassing meaning for the series than simply a placeholder for a singular aspect of the post-apocalyptic world we have been introduced to.

The story seems solid so far. The hero seems likable, albeit he does have personal motivations for doing what he does. Perhaps if he wasn't personally affected, he wouldn't be so deadset on bringing people back, but it is because he was affected that we have this story. That isn't the question to be wondering. The questions on my mind include: How did the Transference happen? How does the crossing over between the two worlds happen? What will he do without better funding? What was up with the people at the end? 

A lot of the strength of this story comes with the character designs presented and the style of the comic. It isn't hyper realistic, but it isn't cartoonish either. There is a really good color blend that isn't too dull or overly vibrant for the story being told. It sits right in the middle for me, so I find it pleasing. The design of each character is done in a way that makes for strong storytelling and differentiation in experience. Characters that have been in the apocalyptic zone, even if they are returned, are marked with distinct wrinkles on the face. When we see a couple in the other world at the start, their faces are almost wild seeming and edgy compared to people maintaining a normal existence. Additionally, through one of the main characters associated with Nathan, we see the shift in overall personality and the subtle trauma that still exists from having to survive in an unfamiliar landscape. There aren't literal scars, but there are indicators of personal scarring from the experience which is very well presented artistically. 

Note to Parents: I can honestly say this issue wasn't too bad as far as content goes. I saw one definite curse word, 2 potentials depending on your strictness, and not very much in terms of violence/gore (1 shriveled-ish corpse that isn't hyper detailed, sort of reminiscent of a more cartoony 1999 Mummy film style), but in future issues, this could increase, I am not sure and won't know until more issues are released. 

Thus far, I can honestly say that my interest is piqued and I would love to see what happens next. I think this story has a lot of potential, and I hope it ends up providing more suspense and intrigue as more issues are released. The one thing I would hate to see is this story become predictable or slow in its pace. I think it a steady increase is maintained and twists are presented well, this could be a very good run in the future. Issue #1 gets a 4 out of 5 from me. The previous Image comic sample issues I've read thus far have been very bizarre, so this is one of the first ones I have actually been genuinely interested in following more. 

Oblivion Song #2 is scheduled for release on April 11, 2018.   

If you liked this post, have read this issue, or are interested in it, leave a comment. If there are other comic series, old/new/upcoming that you would like to see reviewed here, let me know! 

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Clone Wars, Mandalorians, and Zabrak: REVIEWING Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir

I'm finally reviewing something after a long time of...not reviewing much of anything....

So here is a Star Wars Saturday post!!!

At the beginning of 2016, I started reading Star Wars novels regularly. I began with what is now known as the Legends series. I had read at least one novel previously in this list, but only for fun (Death Troopers). Just before I started reading them, I saw Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and I realized that the timeline was not as straightforward as I may have believed when I was younger. What happened was actually a big deal to long time fans (which I can't say I really was at the time that it was all happening). Things that had happened were said to potentially NOT have happened within the universe and only select things were "Canon", which means that some things were officially confirmed to have happened and be within the timeline. Star Wars novels and TV shows were divided into Canon and Legends, particularly since new stories were being developed and released that directly interfered with previous canon (ex: Luke Skywalker used to be married and Leia and Han had different children than the son they currently have).

I found out about all of this and began with the Legends series, then as my interest began to be piqued by Rogue One I found myself wanting to actually read everything Canon. So I found a reading guide for both and here we are now.

One of the things that remained Canon was The Clone Wars, an animated show that ran from 2008-2013. I grew up without cable television, so I never had the opportunity to watch it. Enter my boyfriend and his Star Wars fascination, particularly with clones and you've got the recipe that led to me binge watching the show in its entirety within about a year's time (yes, bingeing for me takes longer than a couple weeks sometimes and I still count it as a binge since I focus on the one show alone as best I can).

Upon the conclusion of the show I was hooked and wanting more. On the Star Wars official website I ended up finding interviews with the writers and directors about where the show was headed, as well as incomplete story reels that could be watched despite them not being fully animated. Additionally, I discovered that some of the scripts for the show had been turned into other media (a novel and a comic), which brings us to today's post.

Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir 

Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Author: Jeremy Barlow
Illustrative Team: Juan Frigeri, Mauro Vargas, Wes Dzioba, Michael Heisler, Chris Scalf 
Published: 2014
Collects Star Wars: Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir #1-4 and Star Wars Tales #7-9


21532254Getting cut in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi and being rejected by his former Sith Master Darth Sidious isn't going to defeat Darth Maul. In fact, it only makes him mad enough to take on the galaxy - with an army of Mandalorians! After forming the Shadow Collective - a criminal organization composed of the Hutts, Black Sun, the Mandalorians, and the fearsome Nightbrothers - Maul wages war against Darth Sidious and his generals, Count Dooku and General Grievous!

Adapted from unproduced screenplays for Season 6 of The Clone Wars television show, this is the final chapter planned for Darth Maul' saga.

As the synopsis states, this comic was developed based on a script for an episode of The Clone Wars that was planned but never produced. I have no idea why, and have never been able to explain it, but Darth Maul has been one of my favorite Star Wars characters. I watched Episode I frequently as a kid and greatly enjoyed it. As a kid I didn't pay much attention to the political parts of the story, I just liked the grand settings, the exotic aliens, and the absolute beauty that is John Williams' score (Duel of the Fates = #1 for me). I was enthralled by the double blade that Maul wielded and even though he isn't a very developed character within the films, he was definitely intimidating and the lack of story about him made him all that much more interesting to me. He was just a scary looking dude with a lightsaber unlike any I had ever seen before and that was enough to convince me that he was pretty awesome. 

This extends so far as to become the basis for gifts over the last couple years including this mini plush:

This Lego set of the scene where my favorite Star Wars instrumental track occurs in the movie...set up exactly like how it is for Qui-Gonn's ultimate end, with Obi-Wan blocked by the red laser wall and everything. Also the very detailed Lego minifigure of Maul that was included in the set: 

(all gifts from my boyfriend, for separate occasions)

Fast forward to 2016, when I become aware of Disney XD's newest animated Star Wars show, Rebels. I was watching it with my sister and at some point we notice that Darth Maul is in it. I'm insanely confused, because all I had known was that he was cut in half in Episode I, never to return again. At this point I found out about The Clone Wars show being Canon and sharing a continuity with Rebels. So I backtracked. 

Darth Maul makes a comeback in The Clone Wars, which cleared up a lot...until I reached the end of the show and his arc was left incomplete. He had been with Lord Sidious and suddenly the show was over. Thankfully, the showrunners foresaw these issues long before I jumped in and they didn't want their work to go to waste. So that is where this comic volume comes into play. 

Darth Maul - Son of Dathomir is set after the end of Clone Wars and before the beginning of Rebels. Darth Maul is captured by Sidious, but had taken control of Death Watch, a group of Mandalorians seen as terrorists on the planet of Mandalore and created his own crime syndicate. This comic follows Maul as he tries to exact revenge on Darth Sidious for discarding him and Count Dooku as well as General Grievous for their involvement and general replacing of him at the Emperor's side. Maul comes from the planet of Dathomir, a planet known for breeding warriors and the Nightsisters (Ventress's home planet and people). He is a Zabrak, an alien species marked with tattoos of yellow or red shades mixed with black, and a ring of horns around the top of their heads. Zabrak from Dathomir are sometimes referred to as Nightbrothers. 

This was one of the best Star Wars comics I have read and one of the best storylines so far. It reads exactly like an episode of Clone Wars (which makes sense, since it was originally supposed to be one) and brought me to the point I needed to be so I can eventually get back to watching Rebels (my quest through Canon material has caused me to fall behind so no spoilers on that front please, I have to catch up). 

The art in this comic is very bright compared to the cover and is much more cartoony than the realistic cover. This to me was a plus, because that helps maintain the essence of The Clone Wars, despite this being a 2D art style whereas the show was rendered in 3D-ish CGI animation. Some of the things I enjoyed most were the art style, particularly the color vibrancy, the focus on Maul and what he had created, and the conclusion of arcs involving Mother Talzin. Additionally, the inclusion of Maul Mandalorian helmets was a huge bonus that I greatly enjoyed. I am very fond of the color schemes selected for the various Death Watch members in terms of armor and the design of the Zabrak-esque helmets. The attention to detail captures one of the things I have always enjoyed about Star Wars in general, the unique way that each alien or group reads as far as design and profile go. Star Wars is a story in a very large universe and the diversity presented and the variations on familiar designs is very entertaining to see, so I'm very appreciative of the detail present in this series. 

I am very pleased that the screenplay of the planned episode was translated into this collection of comics. It was the next best thing that could have happened since the show had to be cancelled. This is one of my favorite entries in the Star Wars Canon timeline thus far. I think this one played a lot to my personal interests and hit all the right notes for me to enjoy it enough to deem it as a 5 out of a possible 5. The art was sharp and bright, the story was well written and it was basically everything I wanted and hoped it would be.  

Thanks for reading my latest review! If this is liked, I might write more reviews for other Star Wars related materials...or I'll at least be sure to present the ones I liked the most in my reading through of both timelines, Canon and Legend. 

See you next post, and may the force be with you!  

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Updates & Master's Experience #9: Weeks 5-7

Hello everyone!

I'm back again with more general updates. I tend to post these quite a bit, because as time passes I'm always looking to improve things. I have said before that I am not revising any of my posts from past years in terms of writing style. However, that does not mean that I am not checking to be sure that links to images and videos still work

Thanks to my current work in my Master's program, I have learned a lot about search engines and about metadata, such as how it is embedded into websites. Due to this, I have finally learned a skill I should have known as a blogger a long time ago. I have finally learned how to embed things into my posts using the HTML code. So I'll be double checking my old movie posts for broken trailer links, that way they stay up to date. I'm using a new source for linking those (IMDB) because it is a site that I use rather frequently to check movie ratings (I watch more rated R movies than I used to so I check content warnings for things like gore in science fiction movies --> Aliens I'm looking at you!!!). I like the quality of their trailers and images, so this is where I will be sourcing from. As such, the videos will look different. They will present movie info and I have currently formatted the embedded sections to fit within the post size, which means if you click play on the trailer, it will appear small. Please just make them full screen should you be interested in them. I'm going to try to play with the frame size using the HTML coding to find a nice happy medium if possible, so until then, please just full screen them.

I haven't posted since February, but that is because things have gotten hectic yet again! Somehow life finds a way to intercept me and drag me along for a while before letting me catch a breather. Between school, reading, volunteering, and family engagements, its a wonder I remember to breathe sometimes.

Here are the latest updates for my MLIS studies: 

Week 5: I was working on a group paper which has now been graded (95/100), on the topic of the Future of Indexing for my Indexing and Abstracting course. Additionally, I had a paper due for my Information Organization course, which I got 100/100 on. I got pushed back on work due to the Colorado trip, but managed to get back on track pretty solidly. [185 pages]

Week 6: I was working on another index this week, as well as writing an abstract, for the group papers in my Indexing and Abstracting course. [121 pages]

Week 7: The big focus for last week was my semester long project for Information Organization. Its an IOP (Information Organization Project). Adequately named, but not very indicative of what is actually being done for it. Let's just say I had to write about 13 pages on a database that I am creating in theory and in an alternate form online. Also learned a lot about metadata and metadata standards. [139 pages]

I am currently in the middle of Week 8 so I have not completed this week's assignments or finished the readings. I wait to update at the end of the week since I can be sure everything has been taken care of.

My running total for the semester, based from Week 1-7, is now up to: 1282 pages

Beyond meeting school deadlines I am also working to meet Library Due Dates for books I have checked out! So lots of reading and studying happening. I've also had the awesome pleasure of getting to see Thor Ragnarok and Coco at a local movie theater (both of which I had been very excited for, for MONTHS). I'm super happy that Coco won two awards from the Academy, despite my not caring very much for award shows in general. I'm always happy when movies I enjoy get accolades, especially when they are so touching and emotion-inducing.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Master's Experience #8: Weeks 3 & 4

Hello all!

Some of you may have noticed that no updates went out this past Sunday or the Sunday before. I have been out of town, so I didn't have a chance to set anything up (schoolwork being what it is). This week I'm posting a bit late, but it will cover both weeks I missed. I might put up some things about my trip later, but I have to get back into my school things, so that will have to wait for now.

Week 3
I was working on a discussion post, an index, and the first part of a semester-long project I have. I had to create an index for a web article about peanuts, write a discussion comparing two digital library collections, and do a 2 and a half page preliminary document for a project.

All together that week I ended up reading 182 pages of material. This was a major step down from the previous week but I also had hockey games, trip preparation, and family obligations to take care of. Given the time that I worked that isn't too bad of a total.

Week 4
This week I was out of town, in Colorado. During this week I mainly had to write a discussion post and work on a group paper that required lots of research. I could only dedicate a few hours on certain days of the week since I was with family, but ended up reading 257 pages of required readings and research for the paper.


My semester total is starting to wrack up big time now. We will see where this week takes me.

Again, trip updates to come later, trying to get back into the swing of things and return to normalcy after freezing my toes off for a week!