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A review of Dot and Tot of Merryland (1901) by L Frank Baum

Posted in books, Frank Baum, reviews with tags , , , , , on December 8, 2016 by Paxton

Baum Readalong

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Baum review, so let’s do this.

The illustrator of the first Oz book was WW Denslow.  If you recall, he illustrated only the very first Oz book before John Neill took over in book two and illustrated over 30 Oz books in his career.  Denslow and Baum had a falling out in 1902 over royalties from the first Wizard of Oz musical.  However, before that happened, Denslow had also illustrated Baum’s books By the Candelabra Glare, Father Goose: His Book and another children’s fantasy story called Dot and Tot of Merryland.

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Dot and Tot of Merryland was published in 1901, the very next year after The Wonderful Wizard of Oz although it was actually written around the same time.  As I mentioned, the book is a children’s fantasy book written in the same style as Wizard.  Child protagonists visit a magical fairy land and must find their way back home when they become trapped there.

Yes, that sounds awfully familiar but it’s Baum style, it’s straight up in his wheelhouse.  He managed to make this concept work for like four or five of his Oz books, so I’m not too worried he’ll make it work here.

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The story begins with Dot who is a bit of a sickly child. She’s sent to live in her father’s palatial mansion in the outskirts of town. While there she has the run of the estate. She starts playing with the gardener’s little boy, Tot. They are having a picnic out by the stream that runs through the back yard and they are swept away in a rowboat which takes them through a tunnel in the mountains where they emerge in a fairy land called Merryland.  They meet a crazy cast of characters including a guy with long whiskers called the “Watchdog” that oversees the entrance to Merryland and they meet the ruler of the land who is a walking, talking wax doll.  Dot and Tot are adopted by the queen and go with her to tour the seven valleys of Merryland.

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High Fantasy Month is back with a magical kingdom for sale and a crippled midget

Posted in books, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , on March 7, 2016 by Paxton

High Fantasy Month

Click the above banner to see my other High Fantasy Month reviews.  I had recently picked up a new omnibus of a fantasy series and read the first book, so I thought I’d follow it up with a few more fantasy books and knock out another High Fantasy Month.

It’s interesting, the collection of books this month are all sort of similarly themed.  I really didn’t even plan it out that way.  Each of the books in this months collection are novels mostly set in a fantasy world, but have some twist to the story.  They aren’t straight up fantasy, they have a little something extra.  It’s an interesting mix this month.

Here are the reviews:


Magic Kingdom for Sale–Sold! (Landover Book 1) (1986) – Terry BrooksThe Magical Kingdom of Landover is a series, written by the great Terry Brooks, that has, currently, about 5 books.  I’ve read only one other Brooks novel and that’s the Star Wars Episode I novelization.  But it’s good, it really is and it made me want to read more Brooks.  I thought I was going to start reading Brooks’ other magnum opus, which sort of spawned this whole idea of High Fantasy Month, The Sword of Shannara, however, I found the first three books of the Landover series in an omnibus for super cheap so I snapped it up and started reading without much thought.  The basic premise is that a lawyer, disappointed with his life after his wife dies, finds an ad in a catalog to buy a magical fantasy land called Landover for $1 million.  Spontaneously he decides to do it, but it doesn’t turn out to be exactly what he expects.  Initially, that premise spoke “satire” to me. I fully expected a massively tongue-in-cheek parody of fantasy novels.  What I got was surprising.  The novel takes a while to really get started, but once it does, it’s really good.  It takes the premise honestly and earnestly.  It’s not a satire or a parody.  It plays the entire plot straight and is a better novel for it.  I liked it much more than I thought considering my expectations were completely wrong and the first 80 pages or so were kind of slow to get through.  I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.


Fool: A Novel (2009) – Christopher Moore – I have read two other Christopher Moore books and thought they were okay (A Dirty Job, Lamb).  He has interesting premises, but sometimes he’s a little too droll for my tastes.  Like the other Moore books I read, the premise of this book sounded pretty great.  A satire of William Shakespeare’s King Lear told from the point of view of the fool.  It has lots of mad kings, backstabbing daughters, witches, lusty maidens and, of course, a ghost (there’s always a damn ghost).  After years of wanting it I finally grabbed the eBook for cheap a year or so ago but just couldn’t get myself to start it until this month.  What did I think?  Similar to Moore’s other books.  Well written, very dry, sarcastic, British humor.  This feels like a BBC mini-series.  I wasn’t laughing out loud but I chuckled a lot and enjoyed the ride.  For the most part.  And now I can pretty much say I’ve read Shakespeare’s King Lear.


Sir Apropos of Nothing (2001) – Peter David – I love Peter David’s novels and for years I tried to read everything he’d written.  I originally read this book back in 2005 when I randomly found it on eBay.  I loved it.  The story is a parody of fantasy books in general.  It uses a lot of the tropes and has fun with them.  Peter David is great at humorous dialogue and he doesn’t disappoint here.  Essentially, it’s your traditional epic hero fantasy, except, instead of focusing on the hero, the story focuses on one of the side characters.  And that side character is well aware he’s in a hero’s tale and that he’s not the hero.  In fact, he prefers it.  Lots of fun with the fantasy genre.  Also, I’m surprised at how similar this book was to Moore’s Fool.  I guess it’s sort of the same idea, except David’s idea goes a little more broad with the concept.  And, honestly, I think it’s a better book.

High Fantasy Month is back to slay some dragons

Posted in books, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , on February 16, 2015 by Paxton

High Fantasy Month

The last time I did this was back in July, so I thought it was time to knock out a few more fantasy books.  Next time, I may switch up the media and do High Fantasy movies instead of books only.  I’ve been sort of dying to see Sword & the Sorceror.

Anyway, recently I bought a few fantasy books I’ve been eyeballing during a fire sale on Google Play and Amazon. So let’s see how I did.


The Wise Man’s Fear: The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day Two (2011) – Patrick Rothfuss – I read the first book in Rothfuss’ series, The Name of the Wind, back in January 2014 and I enjoyed it. It was very story heavy with lots of characters with weird names but the book is well written and I was very interested in the world that Rothfuss had built.  So, when I found the sequel on sale for super cheap a few months ago on Google Play, I snatched it up. It continues the story of Kvothe, a legendary arcanist (ie magic user) who is relating the unbelievable events of his life story to a scribe.  Overall, this book is good.  However, it’s LOOOOONG.  The eBook is 875 pages long.  And it feels every bit of that length.  And I didn’t realize this, but it’s also a road book.  The main character, Kvothe, is sent out on a journey that lasts FOREVER.  He finishes the initial task on the journey and then goes off on an interlude. And then another interlude.  And another.  To infinity.  I was ready for the book to end.  But the book is written very well and is set in an interesting world with an interesting take on magic.  I just think, since we KNOW this book is continuing into a third book, that Rothfuss should have ended it a little sooner.  And I feel this is a gripe I have with many books in the fantasy genre.


Troll Mountain: The Complete Novel (2014) – Matthew Reilly – I’ve read most of Matthew Reilly’s books. He’s a great action adventure author who’s most famous series involves a special forces officer code-named Scarecrow.  So, this was a bit of a genre departure for Reilly.  It’s a junior fantasy adventure.  Very simple.  Short.  The novel is in three parts and each part is only about 50 pages long.  I actually liked it quite a lot.  It reminds me of L Frank Baum’s fantasy stories.  Like this could have been a lost fantasy fable found in his papers after he died.  It has that type of heart and charm with a touch of morality and lessons to be learned.  The story involves our hero, Raf, who has a sister that has fallen ill to a disease that is plaguing the land.  There are trolls living in a nearby mountain that have an elixir that will cure it but they require a high payment.  Raf, who is poor, decides to travel to Troll Mountain, sneak into their vault and steal the elixir in order to save his sister.  It’s a pretty fun, quick and light read that I highly recommend.


Mistborn: The Final Empire (Book 1) (2006) – Brandon Sanderson – I’ve had my eye on Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy for a while.  Finally Amazon put the Kindle versions on sale for a song (all 3 books for less than $6) and I snatched them right up.  So, I read the first book in the trilogy and it’s pretty damn good.  The world Sanderson creates is interesting and he has filled this world with interesting characters and a very interesting system of magic.  And the setup is similar to something you’d see in another fantasy series I like, The Lies of Lock Lamora by Scott Lynch.  It’s a group of thieves and cons who are hired to perform an impossible heist.  Exactly the type of plot I love.  I will definitely continue this trilogy.  However, I have a similar gripe about this book that I had with the first book in this list.  The book is a little bit too long.  The first book in this trilogy is nearly 700 pages.  Knowing there are two more books in this series, reading through to 700 pages starts to get a little tiring.  And slightly annoying.  Even when I enjoy the characters and subject matter, story fatigue sets in around 600-700 pages.  However, that being said, I really did enjoy the book and would recommend it.


The Second Book Of Swords – Fred Saberhagen – You’ll recall during my last High Fantasy Month that I read Fred Saberhagen’s First Book of Swords. I actually have the compilation of all three of the original swords books, so I thought I’d pick up the book and read the second book in the series.  But, alas, I didn’t get much further than 4-5 pages.  I just couldn’t get into it.  I kept glazing over reading the pages and nothing would stick.  Not sure what was wrong.  I’m close to saying I’m not reading this series anymore, but I may give it a few months and try again.  When I couldn’t finish this book, I started to read Mistborn instead.  And you see how that turned out, so clearly it was an issue with this story and not with me getting tired of reading fantasy books.

A review of The Master Key, An Electrical Fairy Tale by L Frank Baum (1901)

Posted in books, Frank Baum, reviews with tags , , , , , on January 5, 2015 by Paxton

Following the Yellow Brick Road

Well, it’s been a while since I did an L Frank Baum review.  The last Oz book I reviewed was the first post-Baum Oz book The Royal Book of Oz (#15 in the series) back in September 2013.  I then reviewed Baum’s non-Oz The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus back in December 2013.  Unfortunately, now, I see I’d not done a Baum review in 2014.  And that’s a shame.  Really sorry about that.

So I thought it was time to check out another of Baum’s non-Oz tales.  There’s a short novel Baum wrote that always sounded interesting and has intrigued me ever since.  So I thought I’d do that book today.

In 1901, one year after Baum published the first Wizard of Oz book, he released the short novel The Master Key, An Electrical Fairy Tale.

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The book was illustrated by Fanny Young Cory who also illustrated Baum’s The Enchanted Island of Yew in 1903.  It’s a short boy’s adventure novella with some early elements of science fiction.

The story concerns a young boy, Rob Joslyn, who likes to experiment with electrical devices.  He spends his time in his workshop creating electrical inventions that spread all throughout the house.  One night while tinkering with his switchboard, he is assaulted by a bright light and sees a being made entirely of brilliant light appear.  It’s the Demon of Electricity.  Apparently, Rob has touched the “Master Key” and has earned the right to command the Demon.  For this honor Rob will receive three gifts from the Demon for the next three weeks to total nine gifts.  Over the next few weeks Rob takes the gifts from the Demon and has several adventures all across the globe.

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The gifts that Rob receives are all based on electricity and are supposed to show Rob how electricity can be harnessed in nature to do wonderous things.  Rob receives a transportation device that uses electrical and magnetic energy to physically transport someone swiftly over great distances.  He also receives a tin of food tablets that provide all the nutrition a human body needs for 24 hours (that is somehow based on electricity).  He also receives glasses that read a person’s electrical aura to tell if they are good, evil, wise or kind and a small tube that shoots out an electrical signal that knocks a person unconscious for 1 hour.  Rob uses these gifts to travel across the globe and help out people like the Kings of England and France, two shipwrecked sailors and a group of middle eastern peoples in a war with each other.

It’s a fun, fanciful read.  Typical Baum.  Rob winds up getting into a lot of his mischief because he falls asleep at inopportune moments but he’s able to use the gifts and his own ingenuity to get out of the situations.  The story reminds me a lot of Aladdin with the Demon of Electricity as the genie and Rob as Aladdin.

Baum makes a few good predictions with his gifts.  Especially considering he was writing in 1901.  The electrical tube that incapacitates people for an hour is strikingly similar to a Tazer.  In a later passage, Baum comes very close to describing intellectual piracy with another gift the Demon bestows on Rob.  It’s a small device that can look in on any event that is happening throughout the world.  At one point Rob watches a brand new play being performed and is suddenly filled with guilt because he didn’t pay to see the performance.  Rob goes on to think that if these little devices become more common then people would sit at home to watch the performances and the actors would all starve to death.  Very prescient if you ask me, Mr Baum.

Fanny Cory’s illustrations are simple yet fit the story well. Below are two of the color illustrations. There are also numerous smaller black and white illustrations throughout the chapters. The picture on the left showcases the first time Rob uses the electrical transporter to fly away from his house in front of his family. The right picture shows Rob after encountering a tribe of cannibals on an island. Click the images to see them bigger.

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I love the cover to the book, it has always intrigued me. It comes from an illustration on the inside. Here’s that illustration from inside the book.  It is the first time the Demon of Electricity appears to Rob in his workshop.

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Considering the Demon is the main thrust of the story, I’m surprised there are not really any big illustrations of him. He is only showcased a few times in some of the smaller black and white chapter drawings.

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Overall, yes, I can recommend this book. It has the typical Baum charm and is fun to read. Very much a journey story where the protagonist learns a lesson and essentially figures out that he was better off before the fantastical events of the book started.

The book is in the public domain and can be read in its entirety here.

A Review of the 1973 TV Guide Fall Preview Issue

Posted in fall tv premier, nostalgia, pop culture, reviews, TV, TV shows with tags , , , , , on February 27, 2013 by Paxton

TV Guide Fall Preview reviews

Welcome to the second installment of my TV Guide Fall Preview reviews.  This is a feature that I sort of “borrowed” from my good friend Shawn Robare over at Branded in the 80s.  He covered mostly the issues from the 1980s, I’ll start taking a look at issues from the 70s as well as the 90s.

I previously reviewed the 1974 Fall Preview issue for my birthday last year. I love looking back at these old Fall Preview issues to see the debut of popular shows when they were brand new as well as see well known actors in TV shows that have long since been swallowed up by time.  These issues also provide great full page ads for some of the new shows as well as some great vintage ads for products that haven’t been seen in years.

So, let’s dive right into this installment with the Fall Preview issue from 1 year before the previous installment.  This article is going to run long.  There’s just so much information and ads to show you, so prepare for a ton of information to come your way.  Starting now:

Here is the cover to the 1973 TV Guide Fall Preview issue.

1973 TV Guide Fall Preview

There are several very popular shows that debuted this year.

Like last time, I’ll divide this article into three parts.  In the first part I’ll look at all the new shows that are debuting in 1973.  Following that I’ll look at full page ads for TV shows and movies and at the end I’ll show you some awesome vintage advertising from this issue.  It should be lots of fun.

So, let’s begin by taking a look at all the brand new shows for the 1973 TV season (which, technically, began in Sep 1972).

Bob Newhart The Waltons
The Bob Newhart Show (left) first debuted during the 1973 fall season.  This is a great show and one of my favorites. The Bob Newhart Show would become immensely popular following The Mary Tyler Moore Show for its first three seasons. The show would eventually last 6 seasons and air its final episode on April Fool’s Day, 1978.

Another very popular show, The Waltons (right), would debut this season as well.  Again, this show would become extremely popular and last for nine seasons before bowing out in 1981.  I remember this show but never really liked it.  I thought it was boring as balls.

MASH Anna and the King
The TV show M*A*S*H (left) was based on the 1970 Robert Altman movie.  M*A*S*H would become a ratings phenomenon and go on 8 seasons before airing its final episode in Feb 1983.  That final episode garnered the highest ratings of any single episode of a TV show then or since.

Yul Brenner was probably most closely associated with the role of the King of Siam from the stage and movie musical versions of The King and I than any other of his roles.  He toured in the traveling stage production until just before his death.  The non-musical television adaptation, Anna and the King (right), was an attempt to repeat that success.  It didn’t work and the show was cancelled after 13 episodes.

The Men NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie
The Men (left) was an umbrella title for three separate TV shows made by three different studios. It was a spinoff of the weekly NBC Mystery Movie.  Each installment of the anthology series would rotate and air every third week.  The first series in the rotation was called Assignment Vienna and starred Robert Conrad as Jake Webster, an American agent in Austria posing as a bar owner. He’s real job, though, was tracking down spies and criminals for the US government.  The second series was called Jigsaw and featured a Police Detective that disliked proper police procedure and protocol but was effective in “piecing together” crimes like a puzzle.  The final series was called The Delphi Bureau and starred Laurence Luckinbill (Sybok from Star Trek V).  Luckinbill starred as an American agent with a photographic memory who works for an obscure anti-espionage department in the US government.   That last one actually sounds like a show that would air today (See The Mentalist, White Collar, Suits, etc).

The NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie (right) began its life the previous season as just The NBC Mystery Movie. It’s where the TV show Columbo got its start. After its success, the group was moved to Sunday and The NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie was born with three more shows.  Those shows were Banacek, starring Hannibal Smith himself (George Peppard) as a Polish-American insurance investigator (?) in Boston.  Cool Million featured a security/retrieval expert whose fee was $1 million per job.  Madigan, the third show, featured Richard Widmark reprising his role from a 1968 movie he had made about an NYPD detective.  This particular incarnation of the NBC Mystery Movie would only last a season.  Both Madigan and Cool Million would be canceled by the end of the season to be replaced by three more detective shows.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2012: A review of Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, movies, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2012 by Paxton

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Platinum Dunes had a minor success with their Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot in 2003.  2009’s Friday the 13th reboot also actually made some money.  So, in 2010, New Line and Platinum Dunes decided to reboot the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.

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I am a fan of Freddy Krueger as well as the slasher movies of the 80s. However, if I had to pick, I was more of a Jason guy myself. But I enjoyed the Nightmare movies, especially the first one and the third one.  I was intrigued by this reboot, I enjoyed the Friday the 13th reboot by New Line/Platinum Dunes in 2009 and I loved the idea of Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy, so I was anxious to see how well they pulled this off.

Unlike the Friday the 13th reboot, I had not watched this movie beforehand, it was my first viewing.  I was intrigued by the idea of Jackie Haley playing Freddy and I really liked the look of Freddy from the trailer.  I didn’t go into it with HIGH expectations, per say, but I was optimistic.

Check out the trailer:

I think the best thing about the movie is the “look and feel”.  It was definitely grittier and more dark than the later Nightmare movies.  I also liked Haley as Freddy.  His mannerisms and his look were very well realized.  I even thought Haley was slightly more menacing than the original Freddy, well at least the version from the later movies.  The wise-cracking jokester killer.  All in all, I enjoyed it.  It sort of fell apart at the end, mainly because I think the teens in the movie weren’t very interesting.  I didn’t really like anybody.  Rooney Mara was okay if a bit understated as Nancy.  Katie Cassidy did pretty good, but I think I just got bored with the teens by the end.  I like the way Freddy is “dispatched” in the final battle and how the final stinger shot is sort of an homage to the final shot in the original Nightmare movie.

I liked it, but I didn’t love it.  However, that being said, I would watch another Jackie Haley as Freddy Nightmare movie.  I think the potential is there to have a really good sequel.  Especially if they follow along the story lines of Nightmare 3: Dream Warriors.

And they have to reunite Dokken for the soundtrack.  That is a must.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2012: A review of Friday the 13th (2009)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, movies, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2012 by Paxton

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In 2009, New Line and Platinum Dunes released Friday the 13th. It was a reboot/re-imagining of the horror movie franchise from 1980.

F13 reboot

I’m a big fan of Jason Vorhees and the Friday the 13th franchise. I enjoy most of the installments but my favorite ones are Part VI: Jason Lives and Part III in 3D. I also enjoy Jason X because it’s balls out crazy with Uber Jason. So I’m a fan going in and that means I have the potential to hate everything about this reboot. Let’s see if I do.

The story starts with a mother going crazy and killing all the counselors (except one) at Camp Crystal Lake after her son drowns. Unknown to the mother, the son, Jason, was still alive and watches her get beheaded by the last surviving counselor. Years later, Jason is surviving off the land and lives in the tunnels hidden underneath the camp. A group of partying kids stumble upon the remains of Camp Crystal Lake and Jason does everything he can to protect “his turf” against the interlopers. Now, that synopsis is decidedly biased towards Jason, but that is essentially what happens. Overall, the story follows a typical Friday the 13th structure. Teenagers partying, stumble upon abandoned camp, show boobies, incur the wrath of Jason, get killed.

Check out the trailer:

However, when you delve into the details of this movie, it is slightly different than the formula. Most especially with the behavior of Jason. The movie turns Jason into a survivalist. He isn’t just killing to kill. It is implied that Jason has lived on the grounds of old Camp Crystal Lake for years by himself. He only becomes “active” when someone “invades his area”. He’s protecting his ground in the most egregious way possible. They’ve also made this Jason leaner, faster and more calculating. He’s actually laying traps for his victims. I for one love this portrayal of Jason and I love that we see his lair and that he can get around camp underground in the tunnels without being seen. I always wondered how this giant murderous dude in a hockey mask walked around the wide open camp without being seen except at the last moment. Jason knows this camp like the back of his hand, so this combined with the tunnels is a great solution.

Now, I guess, let’s discuss the teens. They were what they were. You have the hot, horny party chicks. The prude chick. The douchebag guy. The sweet guy. The stoner. The black guy.  They are all there and they all serve their purpose, to be killed off in a spectactular fashion. For instance, Jason scores a sweet bow and arrow kill on a guy around the 45 min mark. Yes, he actually shoots an arrow with a bow into a guy’s head that is driving a boat on the lake. BAD. ASS.  Jason also stabs one of the horny blondes in the head from above.  So the kills are pretty good and imaginative.

As for the hot girls, the movie delivers.  For me, the hottest chick in the movie was Bree, who is played by Juliana Guill (see pic below).  Followed very closely by Amanda, played by America Olivo with Willa Ford as Chelsea a close third.  All three of these chicks are smoking hot and make a fine addition to the Friday the 13th babe museum.  And all three show boobs (BONUS).


Hello, I’m Bree and I’m incredibly hot. And drunk.

So, overall, this reboot isn’t that bad. I really like what they did with Jason and I liked a lot of the kills. I also enjoyed how Jason started off with the sack over his head for the first few kills in an homage to the original Part II. Jason Vorhees didn’t get the hockey mask until the mid point of Part III so this version also doesn’t get the mask until mid-way through the movie. That was a nice touch.  And the black and white intro that replayed the climatic scene of Mrs Vorhees getting beheaded was also really well done.  I liked what this movie did with the Jason mythos and I would enjoy seeing more of this Jason on the big screen. However, it’s unclear whether we are actually going to get a sequel, even though this movie made pretty good money.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.