Three awesome things I’ve discovered that that you should absolutely check out

Every once in a while, I run across something really outstanding, and when that happens, I feel the need to tell the world about it so that everyone can share my joy.

So for instance (and this is just an example, so that you can get a feel for what’s up here), I was listening to The Pogues’ album Hell’s Ditch the other day, and I think everyone should go get it because Celtic punk is like the best thing ever. And also, the song “Living in a World Without Her” (which is actually on the Pogue Mahone album) may be just about the coolest song I’ve ever heard.

So, get the idea? Read, participate, and share my joy.

(Oh, and by the way… I don’t make money if people buy any of these things. I just think you should know about them because if you don’t, your life will be empty. So this is like a public service or something.)

Anyway.

Cool thing #1: Mercury Falls by Rob “Diesel” Kroese

Honestly, you should probably check this book out solely because a computer nerd who works at Google has somehow gotten thousands of his readers to call him “Diesel.” That kind of magic is worth analyzing.

I bought this book because I’m an avid reader of Diesel’s blog Mattress Police. (You can tell that I’m not blowing smoke because Diesel has the distinction of being the ONLY person to date who has ever had a guest post on my blog.) I figured it’d be a fun read, but I’m going to be honest — when you read about a DIY project like this (he’s been chronicling the process of self-publishing it), your expectations are sometimes kind of low. I figured, “I’ll enjoy reading this story by a guy I’ve kind of gotten to know.” And that’s about it.

But here’s the thing: This book is good. Like, really good. It belongs on Barnes & Noble shelves next to books by Christopher Moore and Carl Hiaasen. You’d never know it was written by a first-time author. You’d also never know it wasn’t published by a major house or that it wasn’t edited by a seasoned editor. Seriously.

The story itself is about the coming of Armageddon, and about the convoluted plans, subcommittees, regulations, and bureaucracies of Heaven and Hell that are in place to make sure it happens on time, according to plan, and precisely by the book. The story follows renegade angel Mercury and unfortunate human bystander Christine Temetri (who finds herself caught up in a no-win maze of red tape and ritual when her linoleum installation goes awry and she ends up thwarting an assassination attempt on the life of a mouth-breathing nominee for the post of Antichrist) as they try to stop it.

Also, along the way, there are a few explosions and at least one really fast elevator. And some innocent snowmen are unfortunately destroyed.

Now, what I’m not going to be able to convey here is the way that Diesel manages to tell the story of opposing celestial superpowers (which operate as huge and unstoppable bodies without an apparent head) and an angel that frankly doesn’t give a shit while being striking a perfect balance between morality and satire, between irreverence and reverence. He manages to be hilarious while making you think… but not in a, “Wow, I’m really aware of this guy making me be all philosophical and shit” kind of way.

So, go get a copy if you enjoy reading funny stuff. You’ll dig it.

Cool thing #2: Rube by Matt King

Full disclosure on this one: Matt is my brother-in-law. But, that could actually work against him, and it almost did, as follows:

You know how when your sister marries some musician, it’s an unspoken rule that you’re supposed to listen to his music and then nod and say, “Mmm, this is good stuff”? Like, you know it’s going to suck, but you have to pretend that it doesn’t suck too terribly? Or how, at the very least, if it doesn’t suck, you know that it won’t actively be good… like maybe in the best-case scenario, it’ll be the type of music that you could hear it in a bar and think, “Wow, I don’t want to kill the band too badly tonight”?

Well, that’s where I was. But then I actually heard the album, and so coming from that expectation of total shit, it’s saying something that I now tell everyone that they should buy it and listen to it repeatedly.

(In fact, since we’re talking about music in the age of the internet, you can actually have a listen before you think about buying anything. You can listen to samples here.)

Now, I’m not a country music fan, and I’m not too into Matt’s other albums for that reason. You give me the album of a country music guy who lives in fucking Nashville, Tennessee of all places and I’m not really expecting to like it much. But this music isn’t country. Or at least, it’s not “traditional” country. Neither Matt nor my sister Jaime will classify it for me, but I’d say it’s somewhere between country and rockabilly and alternative, but really isn’t any of the three.

I then tell people that it’s music that reminds me of the Hatfields vs. the McCoys (Matt is descended from one of them; I forget which), and that when I hear it, I think of, like, “hills justice.” So, like, maybe it might have been at home at the end of that movie Snatch, in which Brad Pitt talked about “liking dags.”

Hands down the best album I’ve heard in a few years. You should get it.

Cool thing #3: Following Featherbottom by Philip Haussler (and illustrated by Brad Sneed)

This last item is totally different from the above two in that if you don’t have kids, you can stop reading now. Author Philip Haussler writes neither about hilarious angels nor about hillbilly revenge, and there’s no beat that you can dance to.

But if you have kids, you should pay attention because this is really cool. And then you should visit the Marblespark website because the publisher has a virtual tour of this personalized children’s book.

I got it in my head to write this blurb when Phil sent me a copy of the book personalized for my 5-year-old son, Austin. I don’t trade books for positive reviews, so if the book had sucked, I would have thanked him and then written nothing. But it didn’t suck.

Here’s why it doesn’t suck… and let me be totally honest up front so that you’ll believe me.

I don’t really understand authoring of children’s books under most circumstances. Most kids’ books have a few hundred words in them or less, and the plots aren’t exactly very convoluted or inspiring. Again being totally honest, when I see praise about a kids’ book, I usually sort of think I could write one just as good. I’m not saying that’s right or fair, but it is what I normally think.

I’m letting y’all know about this book because it’s different in a very cool way. Specifically, each book is customized to the kid… and not in some lame “this book is for Joe Blow”-written-inside-the-book-cover kind of way.

The story itself is about the travels of Felix Featherbottom, a stork tasked with finding the perfect name for a new and impending baby by flying all over the world to collect the letters of the name and returning with it prior to the birth date. And here’s how that shakes out:

When you order your kid’s book, you enter his or her name into the online form along with the right birthday and a few other pieces of information. The fine folks at Marblespark then assemble the book for you so that Featherbottom spells your kid’s name.

So in our version, Featherbottom flies to Antarctica to retrieve an A from an alien and the Abominable Snowman, then to Ukraine to pick up a U from this uniformed unicyclist carrying an urn, then to San Fransisco to grab an S off of a streetcar being ridden by a seal and a saxophonist, and so on through the letters for A-U-S-T-I-N R-O-Y.

There are a few versions of a page for the letters. So for instance, I picked the “N” page on which Featherbottom visits the North Pole instead of the one where he goes to Naples or New Orleans because the North Pole is where Santa lives, and also, the illustration on the North Pole page showed an awesome narwhal with a giant cone on its head that I knew Austin would think was pretty boss. (And yes, I was right about that. And further yes, I just wrote the word “boss.”)

And, it’s his specific birthday that Featherbottom is working toward, and the book does have a “this book is for” in the first pages, and I got to pick from three different versions of the cover.

But here’s the thing… most importantly, IT LOOKS LIKE EVERY COPY OF THE BOOK IS THIS WAY.

Sometimes when books are customized, you’ll see a slightly askew bit of customization printed in not-quite-right colors in not exactly the right spot. This doesn’t look that way. You’d think Marblespark had printed thousands just like Austin’s.

Phil’s a good guy with a good project. If you have kids or nephews or nieces or grandkids or whatever, go check out the Following Featherbottom personalized children’s book and subscribe to the Marblespark blog.

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So, that’s about it for my cool pics of early 2010 — again, all of which I’m recommending just because I think they rock and thought you might too — and honestly for no other reason. All of the above cool things are quite inexpensive, too, so if they strike you as awesome, you should get them and be enriched.

I mean, this site’s tagline is “The internet made awesome,” so I need to be sure to live up to that in a holistic fashion. I can’t just write dick jokes and think that will do it.


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Comments

  1. diesel says:

    Thanks, dude! I especially like the part where you say “You’d never know it wasn’t written by a first-time author.” ;)

    Seriously, though, thanks for the kudos and I’m glad you enjoyed the book.

  2. Johnny says:

    Stupid typos. I meant, “… WAS written.”

    I actually did notice one typo in the book. ONLY one, which is more than I can say about most books published by big houses. It was super minor. I dog-eared the page and will try to remember to shoot you an email about it.

  3. Sledge says:

    Hey Johnny. This is actually Phil. But I needed to out-diesel Diesel. Philip is such a patsy name next to Diesel… Huge thanks! Stoked Austin digs the narwhal. You’re officially the first review to work “dick joke” in. That takes special talent.

    Rob, I dig the book. Good on ya for going it alone. I’ll be watching and learning. (And reading).

    Matt, your demos rock. It sounds like the stuff at an annual folk music festival down in Winfield, Kansas. I dig!

    Phil

  4. I’ll second the recommendation for Diesel’s book. You’re right Johny, it absolutely holds its own against books coming out of the mass market publishers. Before I lent my copy to my brother I made him promise to be sure that I get it back, preferably some time this decade.

    I’ll definitely have to check out Matt and Phillip’s work.

  5. Bradley says:

    cool that you mentioned my two most favorite pogues cds! i bet i have listened to pogue mahone about 1.5 trillion times.

  6. Johnny says:

    Sledge? Dude.

    I love how I can’t come up with anything that Mike doesn’t already know about. (I’m ignoring the fact that you only knew one of the three… that’s enough.) How the hell am I supposed to surprise you, Mike?

    Bradley… two of my friends and I did an impromptu jig to “Living in a World Without Her” at my wedding and got complements all night on it, like they were asking how much we practiced. Clearly unfamiliar with people just being dumb jackasses.

  7. Johnny, what, me, know-it-all? http://www.moviesounds.com/space/knowital.wav.

    OK, maybe a little bit. But dude, you are why I know about Diesel and MF :) You linked Mattress Police way the hell back when, for which I thank you. It was a hell of a fun blog back when Diesel had time and/or motivation to keep it up. But I’m glad he’s moved on to Mercury Falls, and hopefully more where that came from. Truly the guy deserves a good book deal.

  8. Good luck on bringing “boss” back. I started about five years ago trying to revive both “groovy” and “boss”, but got tired of people asking me to repeat myself when I said “boss”. Then they’d be like, “Boss of what? I don’t get it.”

  9. Johnny says:

    Why? It’s so fab!

  10. Just please don’t bring back “grody to the max”, okay? I’ll have to stop reading you.

  11. Johnny says:

    I’m toying with doing “whack.” It’s only recently fallen out of favor, so I figure it might be easier, like reviving the recently deceased.

  12. Dude, no! Don’t you know the recycling rule? Any fad that you did the first time, you’re too old to do it when it comes back. Like a 40-year-old woman trying to wear clogs and leg warmers today. Or me in parachute pants.

  13. Lis says:

    Hey there,

    I keep having a problem with the mattress police site. When I click on the link, it goes to the site and then says that I have a malware infection. Luckily, I know this is just a hoax and don’t download any software (for an infection I know I don’t have – this is part of a new scam to get you to download problematic software), but you may want to look into the link!

    All the best,

    Lis

  14. Johnny says:

    Yeah, I heard about that, and he knows about it…. best to just stick with the site for the book, I guess.

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