Thursday, March 31, 2016

Magazine Review: Lightspeed Magazine Issue 70

Lightspeed has some impressive fiction in their latest issue, and I'm glad I managed to finish it and get out the review before a whole new edition comes out next month. Stories that I will remember at the end of the year are in this issue, and I was able to discover some of my favorite new authors. The short fiction in this issue is not only imaginative but disturbing and moving.

"Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station | Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0" by Caroline M. Yoachim is a hilarious take on sci-fi and choose-your-own adventure tales. It can easily be read straight through and has a ton of funny jokes. This story is fun to read and listen to on podcast, and a very cool space station is neat to experience in second person.

"Red King" by Craig DeLancey is an interesting hacker tale with a view of the future of entertainment that is both exciting and frightening. I thought the pace and plot of this story made it a fun read.

The reprints of science fiction in this issue both made me think. "The Mars Convention" by Timons Esalas not only reflects on the legacy of science fiction long after humans have destroyed the world and become extinct but also the importance of science fiction, and any fiction for that matter, in culture. "The Waiting Stars" by Aliette de Bodard had me confused at first but turned into an awesome story as the two narrations slowly connected in an awesome culmination.

The fantasy stories were some of my favorite in this issue. I've encountered Rich Larson before in a great story "Going Endo" in Apex Magazine Issue 74, so I was excited to read another story by him. "Spark Fly" is hilarious and takes a great new fantastical approach to dating while addressing the ubiquitous nature of technology in our lives. "Micheal Doesn't Hate His Mother" by Marie Vibbert freaked me out. The depiction of a strange robot mother was horrifying and the ending of this story left me stunned. That it is never clear what is going on makes this story even creepier.

The reprints in fantasy were spooky and fun as well. "The Premature Burials" by Andy Duncan made me reflect back on my Edgar Allen Poe readings and contains a touching love story too. "Rat-Catcher" by by Seanan McGuire has Shakespeare, fairies, and cats, a great read.

The novella "Miller's Wife" by Mark W. Tiedemann was intense. I was on the edge of my seat reading this story, it has tension and a cool fantastical small town mystery that plays out in a cool plot. I love reading a story where it all comes together after sticking with it through the beginning.

I was pretty hooked on the Hugh Howey Silo Series with "Wool" but the sneak peek at "Shift" made me even more excited to read the sequel.

The nonfiction in this issue is cool as well. I always appreciate reading suggestions, new perspectives on movies I've enjoyed like Deadpool, and learning more about the new books in the Star Wars universe. I'm really enjoying this subscription and happy to read the issue coming out in only a day or so for next month!

Camp NaNoWriMo Preview


At midnight tonight, April begins and with it a new writing challenge. I am a big fan of forcing myself to throw words onto a page and seeing if a story comes out, and also I really like to graph my progress for added encouragement. This year I am using the added motivation to help jump start an urban fantasy novel about angels and demons that I have been planning for nearly half a decade but never got around to actually writing.

Camp NaNoWriMo is different from the crazy writing in the month of November as it is more relaxed and writers can set their own preferred word count. I understand that some writers may make this an even tougher challenge than the 50k that November requires but I prefer to go the easier route. This year I'm putting up 30k after successfully matching my goal of 20k last July. I think a thousand words a day should be manageable.

A relaxed attitude also applies to the write-ins, which are only every so often this month. I couldn't rouse up a lot of enthusiasm in my region so I only scheduled a few meet ups where other writers are free to join me. I do hope enthusiasm increases as the month gets underway. 

I will probably only post every once in a while about my writing endeavor next month as I should be writing fiction and not blog posting. I do hope to continue my frequent posts but I am predicting that April will be a down month from my last two busy months of February and March. I am looking forward to getting some writing done again!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

TV Premiere: The Path


Hulu has entered the original programming fray with two new series, The Path and 11.22.63. The thriller series 11.22.63 is based on the Stephen King novel of the same title and stars James Franco. It is pretty good, and I'll have a review of the entire series next week after the finale. The Path just started up and the first two episodes were released to introduce us the Meiyerism cult.

This cult show stars Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad branching back into his successful medium after a few attempts to enter into movies. Paul isn't expect to lead a show alone without a master actor like Breaking Bad but is supported by other stars of television. Hugh Dancy and Michelle Monaghan back him up as other members of the cult.

Aaron Paul plays Eddie Lane, a former drug addict who has converted to the new cult, utilizing his skill as an actor. After a ayahuasca trip, he is enlightened to the truth and decides to expose the cult as a fraud. He is quickly discovered by his wife Sarah played by Monaghan who is much more serious about the cult.

Dancy plays the leader of the cult who wants to push it further. He is seen helping people from a disaster and beating up men who abuse helpless people. He is charismatic and this role provides interesting fodder for the actor after his success in the Hannibal series. There is even an interesting cameo from Emma Greenwell who plays Mandy in Shameless as a new convert. 

The Path shows promise and with the freedom of streaming this could be some interesting television. The premise is intriguing and the acting looks compelling. I look forward to watching more episodes each week as it is released to see how it turns out!

Book Review: Glitch Rain by Alex Livingston


Cyberpunk has been a great genre that has fallen away as more of our lives feel like the real thing. The advantage Alex Livingston has over previous authors like Neal Stephenson and William Gibson is that he knows some of the terms that sound natural in the computer age like tweets, instagram, and vape pens. Glitch Rain adds another cool story to the genre and updates the language for the modern generation.

The story revolves around a similar protagonist from the classic, a wizened crook named Akuba who is tech savvy enough to make a paying customer disappear from their social media when they don't want to be spotted at an event. Akuba is a fun character to follow as she seeks to throw off a lifetime worth of debt to a childhood bully and now mob leader, controller of drones Shaky. Akuba is tough yet funny. Readers can enjoy reading about her as she runs after Gray Men, survives autodrive car chases, and fends off drones in crazy shootouts.

I've enjoyed Livingston writing since I first encountered it in Apex Magazine Issue 73 with a great story called Proximity. I would recommend checking it out. It's clear that Livingston has developed a complex world built like a garbage island on top of the old lore of cyberpunk with the modern vernacular tacked on top. I enjoyed how the author took the language making situations that used to be totally confusing and playing them out with our new technology. The narrative voice is hilarious at times, naming characters Ibuprofen and saying "prolly" instead of probably, and hints at what's in store for our language.

The plot is fast paced in this novella and I look forward to when the author gets a chance to flesh out his creativity in later novels. The pace just assumes a reader can catch up and since we now live in a similar world, it's not impossible. The setting feels believable and though this book flings us through scenes it is globe spanning and has a certain epic quality. The inclusion of drones bring the action to another level. Akuba's sidekick Isaac, who lives in a shipping container, is a great character to add to the plot. 

Glitch Rain is a great novella that shows promise for a clever new writer in the cyberpunk genre. I would recommend this to the reader on the go who catches chapters on the bus, at lunch, or in the middle of a car chase while shooting off a tweet. This book shows promise and I look forward to what Alex Livingston has to offer in the future!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

TV Show Review: Daredevil Season 2


The dark side of Marvel comes out in the very cool Netflix series and the second season of Daredevil follows through introducing two new villainous heroes in the Punisher and Elektra. The Punisher storyline kicks off the new series with his brutal revenge tactics getting the attention of the blind, red vigilante. While Daredevil agrees with Punisher's motives, there is a fundamental agreement in their method, particularly that Punisher leaves everyone dead.

Jon Bernthal plays Frank Castle with his similar gruff nature that he has brought to Shane in The Walking Dead and other rough characters, which made him an excellent choice for the comic book hero. Bernthal is at his best when he is showing his grief over his family's massacre or beating the hell out of criminals with no mercy. 

The Punisher storyline has plenty of twist and turns as Karen Page, played by True Blood's Deborah Ann Woll, tries to solve the mystery. Sometimes this show can be slow like it doesn't have enough story for a full thirteen episodes and has to drag out some mysteries. Every show ends with a climactic battle and the first few are extra exciting when the Punisher and Daredevil square off on the rooftops of Hell's Kitchen.

The second part of the second season focuses around the other complication in Daredevil's life embodied by the beautiful Elektra played by Elodie Yung. Yung is great as the ruthless warrior. 

This storyline sees old enemies return with Nobu and his group of ninjas known as The Hand, a longtime villain of Daredevil. This storyline also features the return of Daredevil's blind mentor Stick, played by Scott Glenn. All of this revolves around a strange mystery war that feels right at home in a comic book but comes off strange in the real world interpretation.

This show is one of my favorite and I think the second season only falls slightly from the first with a lot of characters bouncing around. I enjoyed the growing connection between the other heroes of the Marvel show universe especially with Foggy Nelson played by Elden Henson who has a change in his career that connects him to Jessica Jones and the Night Nurse, or Claire Temple, played by Rosario Dawson who showed up in Jessica Jones and is rumored to appear more in the upcoming Luke Cage. 

Daredevil has done it again. I've been a fan of Charlie Cox since I first saw him in Boardwalk Empire and his Matt Murdock is moody and believable as the hero. This show has taken a new approach to the hero genre and I look forward to what Marvel and Netflix have in store.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Politics: Hawaii, Alaska, and Washington Democratic Caucuses

Yesterday won't gain much media attention especially with the tragic events recently but Bernie Sanders swept three more states to attempt to mount the greatest comeback in political history. I will not hold out hope that any of these wins will mean anything but it is interesting to see Sanders chipping away at Hillary Clintons lead. 

Washington was Sanders's biggest win of the night with 65 delegates going to him but the democratic vote splits the state's delegates and Clinton gained delegates as well. Bernie Sanders performs a lot better in the West, that has been a clear trend and it is surprising that these large state wins won't carry enough weight. The Sanders campaign claims to be building more momentum than ever and hope to ride this wave to the convention this summer.

Alaska doesn't carry a lot of delegates but adds to Sanders's victories for last night. He won this very northern state by the widest margin topping Clinton by over sixty percent. This win shows that the Senator from Vermont can perform in various arena and adds to his narrative that he dominates in the West.

Hawaii added further to Sanders's delegate but Clinton campaigned in all three states so that she would not have a total loss on Saturday. Clinton only added one delegate in this state however. Both of these states far out from the lower 48 are largely supporting the Democratic Socialist movement.

Looking at the delegate count total, Hillary Clinton has just six under a seven hundred lead over Bernie Sanders with 1733 delegates. With the addition of Saturday's sweep, Sanders breaches a thousand delegates. It is surprising to me how well he has done in this election when Clinton was deemed the rightful heir to the Democratic nomination. 

April has four days of voting on the Democratic side and five on the Republican. On April 5th, the Democrats and Republicans will face off in Wisconsin, which carries a large chunk of delegates. The Republicans have an earlier vote on the first in North Dakota. Wyoming falls on the 9th for Democrats and Republican vote in Colorado that day. The 19th will have the candidates compete for the largest amount of delegates in a single state in April with New York state. This win could be the final blow for many candidates. Finally at the end of the month on the 26th, five states in the Northeast will have a say with Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in a very competitive territory!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Book Review: Transport by Peter Welmerink


I picked up Peter Welmerink's first book in his zombie series about an HTV, heavy transport vehicle, at the Imaginarium convention in Louisville, Kentucky last year. After hearing him talk about his writing, I was curious to see how it turned out in the book. Transport is the start of what could grow into a very interesting series about a small group of military facing off against a zombie. The concept of a heavy vehicle rolling over zombies is an awesome idea and there is plenty of gore and squishing throughout this book.

The novel is a short read and didn't take much time, great for padding my Goodreads reading challenge. The pacing is fast and I would like to have learned more about the crew aboard the HTV. Even by the end I felt as if I didn't know them all and wanted to see how they interacted with each other. They didn't have much time for that since they faced tons of awful zombie challenges.

There are some very intense and cool action scenes throughout this book and anybody who is a fan of military fiction and zombies will get a kick out of it. The mission adds interesting complexity as Lettner, an evil regent responsible for bombing innocent people including the protagonist's family, has crash landed is in need of transport. Not only are the zombies an issue but the people trying to kill this scumbag as well.

Jake Billet, the leader of the HTV crew, was a fun character to read about and the Welmerink is at his best when describing a character he clearly enjoys writing about. I did have some trouble keeping up as he would switch between first name to last name to some other descriptive noun when describing characters to avoid repetitive sentences but it kept making me have to pause and remember, which character was mention. Stokes, Loutonia, and Mulholland round out the crew. I often found myself lost within the action and it would take a couple sentence to understand what exactly was happening.

There was also a lot of attention to detail when it came to setting and military equipment, which I appreciate. I always like to learn a little even if I'm reading zombie fiction. Sometimes these bits of description would slow the action down but I got a sense that there was a big world with a lot going on that should serve to play out over a series well. 

There was one really awesome part near the climax with a mutate zombie bull, probably the coolest scene in a book full of cool scenes. I enjoyed the tank facing off against a formidable foe and this made the ending very entertaining. I look forward to picking up more of the Transport series and seeing how the writing and character progress!

Friday, March 25, 2016

NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: Elite Eight

With the sweet sixteen games over, there are only eight teams left with four games to be played out over the weekend to determine the final four. The eight sweet sixteen games did not all turn out to be as competitive as I'd thought they would be but there were definitely a few close ones. 

SOUTH

The two teams that will have a chance to represent the East region in the final four are the 1 and 2 seed in their bracket. Kansas has been my pick since the beginning so I'm glad that they are going. I was a bit surprised that 2 seed Villanova has made it this far but they have proven that they deserved their ranking. 


WEST

A curious thing about this March Madness stuff but the two teams that remain in the West Region are the 1 and 2 seed. Oregon beat Duke by quite a few and Oklahoma didn't see too much of a challenge from Texas A&M. Oregon and Oklahoma will face off on Saturday at 6pm. I'm going with the 2 seed on this one but I would be foolish to count out Oregon yet. However, I think Oklahoma will be in the Final Four. 


MIDWEST

The Midwest region has a bit more variety though the 1 seed also made it to the elite eight in a tough Virginia Cavaliers team. The 10 seed Syracuse Orange had a tough game against Gonzaga but pulled it out in the final seconds to have a chance to play for the Final Four. I thought Syracuse wouldn't do so good so they are definitely a team to watch out for. I will stick with my choice of Virginia after Michigan State dropped out so early but Syracuse could give them a challenge. 


EAST

The East finished up late this evening hence why I write about them last. Even now there are a few second left in the UNC vs Indiana game but with the Tar Heels having a double digit lead and only second left, I think I'm safe concluding a North Carolina win. They will go on to face Notre Dame who just barely squeezed by Wisconsin. I picked this wrong but foresaw the Fighting Irish going far. It will be interesting to see if they have what it takes to go to the Final Four.



With the final eight teams decided and only a total of seven games left, this awesome basketball journey is coming to an end. It's interesting that four of the teams on one side of the bracket are all from the ACC. The Big 12 has two as well. I really enjoyed the whole process and look forward to a few great games to conclude it!

TV Show Review: House of Cards (Season )4

The Netflix political thriller continues with President Frank Underwood and First Lady Claire Underwood battling one another after the fallout from season 3. I've followed along with Frank's steady rise from Majority WHIP to Vice President and President. Kevin Spacey has been nominated multiple times for his role but the true star of this season is Robin Wright as the scheming wife. 

The show picks up in the midst of the primary campaign. The Underwoods are facing opposition from the former Attorney General Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel). It was interesting to see how Frank Underwood who is so callous would interact with people to win votes, but Spacey does a brilliant job turning on the light-hearted charm in front of crowds. 

The Underwood campaign is threatened and beset by questions of turmoil in the marriage. Frank works to snub out these rumors and find Claire in her home state of Texas. The brilliant Ellen Burstyn appears as Elizabeth Hale, Claire's wealthy mother and no lover of Frank Underwood. Robin Wright really shines in the back in forth between these two veteran actors and the writers always find a clever way to pull Frank out of seemingly impossible situations.

Frank disposes of opponents and moves onto the general election where he faces a Republican opponent. The new character competing against Spacey's crafty Underwood is the growingly popular Joel Kinnaman. I've enjoyed his work since The Killing and I'm really looking forward to his role in Suicide Squad. Kinnaman puts on the boyish charm as Will Conway but he's no match for the ruthlessness of Frank Underwood. 

As the campaign heats up, so does an investigation into the events of the first season that have slowly developed throughout the show. Sebastian Arcelus played Lucas Goodwin who was a friend of Zoe Barnes, the reporter from season 1 and 2 who did not survive her encounter with Frank Underwood. Lucas has had his life destroyed but still works to come back with the truth. This character arc leads to the assassination attempt, which was one of the most exciting parts of this season.

I was greatly intrigued with the direction this show and it ended with some great cliffhangers right before the election. The final shot showed that now Claire is part of the scheme even breaking the fourth wall with her husband. There were some silly pseudo-reality parts like the ISIS copy of ICO and a hostage situation on American soil but overall this show has been fun to watch and changed the way television shows are released. I would recommend this show to anyone interested in the political intrigue or thrillers, it is available on Netflix to stream all four seasons. 

TV Show Review: Baskets


The new FX show about Chip Baskets the Clown played by Zach Galifianakis is created by him and Louis C. K.. The show tells the story of a clown that trains in France at the clown school despite not knowing any French. Galifianakis uses his great talent at physical comedy and goofiness to generate hilarious situations. Most of the scenes in Paris are so funny because he always claims not to understand what people are saying only when they are speaking English.

After dropping out of clown school and assuming the name Renoir, he takes his wife, who only married him for a green card, (Sabina Sciubba) back to Bakersfield to work as a rodeo clown. He doesn't make enough money to live so eventually is kicked out of his motel room, which he had moved into with every item he owns. He falls in with his insurance rate adjuster Martha, played with a deadpan voice by Martha Kelly. Martha is willing to help him through pretty much anything.

The funniest part of the show is when Chip returns to his home to see his mother (Louie Anderson). He steals the show from his first scene and his funny voice and a great script make for plenty of laughs. It's really funny that she loves her adopted DJ twins more than her actually sons. 

Zach Galifianakis plays double duty by also playing Dale Baskets, Chip's twin brother. Dale runs an online community college and has the Southern accent Galifianakis used in movies like The Campaign. Dale roots a bit too hard for his daughter's volleyball team and is always condescending to his brother Chip.

There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments as this is two of the best comedians able to explore a topic ripe for humor. I would recommend this to Galifianakis fans and anyone looking for a new take on comedy. FX has another funny hit on their hands!

Batman Movies Ranked

Reeling off the disappointment of the Batman v Superman movie, I thought I would try to place where it fell in comparison to some of the past films featuring the dark knight. I haven't seen the older version in a while but I watched it multiple times throughout my childhood and have nearly every scene memorized from the first two. I only did live action movies and didn't include that really old one. In animated, Mask of the Phantasm will always be one of my favorite cartoons and I'm sure there are plenty more I just haven't seen them all. 

Here is my ranking of the previous Batman films and the newest one in theaters:

1. The Dark Knight


2. Batman
3. The Dark Knight Rises
4. Batman Returns
5. Batman Begins
6. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
7. Batman Forever
8. Batman & Robin

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice


Extremely disappointed with how this movie turned out. It was boring, full of dull scenes that moved a boring, inconsequential plot forward. Batman v Superman did not deliver on the promise of the title and subtitle Dawn of Justice played out on video clips on a computer so it was not something interesting to watch on a big screen. This movie was not visually dazzling or at all entertaining, it was a poor attempt to mimic Marvel's success and failed miserably.

I am a fan and anticipated this movie since they first announced it. I prepared by looking back. I didn't cringe too much as details emerged of bad casting and alternating release dates. Even as I watched the movie I held out hope that the tide would turn and the second half would be worth the first half wait, but alas no. This movie didn't even match up to its immediate predecessor in Man of Steel and was the worst version of Batman yet, maybe a little better than George Clooney but equally silly.

There will be spoilers from here on out so I'd stop reading if you're not into that sort of thing. This movie definitely got marketed as the prequel to something bigger but I'm not enthusiastic about what lies ahead. Warner Brothers studio didn't earn it with a solid series of movies and this movie results in a very forced feel with exposition by a goofy Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne.

There is so much that I thought would pay off. Batman only actually fights Superman once in that odd looking metallic suit. The actual face off was so quick that if I had taken a bathroom break by the time I got back it would have been over. The fight was not cool or clever or fun to watch. It was slow and dull. Batman felt like a bad guy and it never changed after the inevitable team up. Wonder Woman was also stuck in and though Gal Gadot looked cool while fighting it didn't feel like she developed from any part of the plot. 

The casting was off as many of the actors from Man of Steel return like a miscast Lois Lane in Amy Adams. She does the best she can but it isn't much. Laurence Fishburne was probably the only one who gave a decent performance and I could forgive Henry Cavill since his movie got stolen. Ben Affleck, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, and the troll from Lord of the Rings as Doomsday all delivered bad performances. Lex Luthor was annoying and Eisenberg tried too hard in the role that did not generate fear or respect.

The final fight with Doomsday was pretty dull but at least that was the best part. All of the actions scenes were nothing special. Audiences have been spoiled by recent films. There are huge scenes that are dream sequences, a montage of Superman saving people, and lines that appear in the advertisements are altered in the film. 

I don't really want to go on about this movie since I don't like giving bad reviews and thinking about the failure upsets me. The studio knows it will make money but probably not what it could have if it had been successful. The movie gives a rough start to the DC expanded universe but there is Suicide Squad to look forward to late in the summer and maybe they'll turn it around by Wonder Woman and Justice League next year!

MidAmeriCon II Hugo Award Nominations

I have only recently entered the world of science fiction and fantasy writing deeply in the last year or so but when I started to hear about the Hugo Awards I would often choose books from the previous winners to help inform me of the current state of speculative fiction.

Last year, I enjoyed the Imaginarium convention in Louisville, Kentucky so much that I decided to sign up for a few more conventions this year to expand my knowledge and meet cool people in the industry. I went for it and picked the biggest convention I had heard of with MidAmeriCon II, the World Science Fiction Convention that will be hosting the Hugo Awards this year. 

As I learn more I hope to be able to further understand how all of this works but as I understand it now, the Hugo Awards are one of the top science fiction and fantasy awards alongside the Nebula awards and the Locus awards, I think. I hope to do a post about the nominations for these awards before they are announced and then come back to them after the winners are chosen.

Right now, I'm mentioning the Hugo awards and my attendance at this upcoming convention in August because the nomination window is closing. Last year a strange thing happened where a group of writers, publishers, editors and what not came together to create a slate of pieces that should be nominated for the Hugo awards. This move made it so that other pieces lost out on a chance to win the awards despite having a lot of votes but just not the support of this concentrated group. I don't know what they are choosing this year but I have my own picks that I'll mention. 

I didn't get a chance to read as much current science fiction as I would have liked, especially longer fiction like novellas and novels. I am usually a year or two behind the currently published books. I only just recently picked up the book Ancillary Justice and the two subsequent sequel. The first one won the Hugo Award for best novel two years ago. I have read a lot more short stories this year. The magazine I am most familiar with is Apex Magazine since I've had classes with the brilliant editor Jason Sizemore. 

I've chosen several short stories from Apex to be nominated including: "Sing Me Your Scars" by Damien Angelica Walters (her whole collection should be nominated and her new novel Paper Tigers is near the top of my reading list), "Pocosin" by Ursula Vernon (Vernon has won a Hugo before for "Jackalope Wives", another awesome story any fan of fantasy should check out), and "Going Endo" by Rich Larson (Larson is becoming one of my favorite short fiction writers, he has a great story "Sparks Fly" in the current issue of Lightspeed). 

I am also nominating "Severance" by Chris Bucholz for best novel from Apex Publications. This novel was so funny and action-packed, a great twist on the generation ship tale. The editor Jason Sizemore should definitely be including for best short form and he also wrote a hilarious book called "For Exposure: The Life and Times of  Small Press Publisher" that taught me a lot about the convention circuit and inspired me to go out and try it myself. This book should be a nominee in the "Best Related Work" category. Most of these stories can be found online or if you don't have time to read them check them out on the podcast during your commute, or before bed, or whenever. 

I went back and found some popular stories that have already been nominated for Nebula awards or recognized on the Locus reading list. I have recently started reading the montly issues of Lightspeed and Clarkesworld and you can see my reviews of the more recent issues on this blog. I went back and found podcasts of a couple stories and decided on "Cat Pictures Please" by Naomi Kritzer and "Today I am Paul" by Martin L. Shoemaker from Clarkesworld magazine. Unfortunately this filled up all my short story slots so I couldn't fit in a Lightspeed story but next year I will know a lot more stories to choose from. 

I also nominated "Ancillary Mercy" by Ann Leckie, which I think will get nominated and I hope to have read by the time it comes to a vote, and "Heart of a Lion" by Stephen Zimmer for best novel. I also chose Mad Max, The Martian, and Star Wars for "Best Dramatic Presentation". There is less than a week left for nominations but I may try to fit in a few more picks. I'm so excited to attend MidAmeriCon in Kansas City this year! 


Movie Review: The Dark Knight

One of my favorite movies ever and my favorite superhero movie, The Dark Knight shows the potential of a Batman movie. The film has some flaws but those are easily glossed over with the brilliant performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker, for which he won an Academy Award. Christian Bale returns to play the Batman and though this movie continues the story that started with Batman Begins, it feels like a wholly separate film that stands easily on its own. 

The movie starts with a very cool robbery scene. I remember this scene being released early to build excitement and I watched it several times. It introduced the villain in a very cool way and showed his craziness from his first reveal. The story of Gotham continues in the wake of the appearance of Batman. It draws from the phase of the comics that I am more familiar with in that Batman has been practicing his crime fighting for a while and most criminals are scared.

The Joker is the oddball and perfect ingredient in this mix but other characters also shine. Aaron Eckhart is great as Harvey Dent who eventually burns into the evil deranged villain Two Face. His makeup was disturbingly awesome mixing the realism of Christopher Nolan's vision with the cartoonish comic book villain. I also like how they brought back Cillian Murphy for a short cameo at the beginning as the Scarecrow.

The movie has several very cool action scenes including one in China where Batman flings out of a building attached to a plane. The car chase through the middle is hard to see the first time around but now that I know every action beat, I think it is fun to watch, especially when the truck flips. The helicopter crash is one of the weakest in film but Joker's dialogue keeps the tension up.

Nolan was not afraid to trick the crowd and take risks with the plot, which I really appreciated. There were plenty of shocks and these mysteries were able to be covered up before the release so caught me totally off guard on my first viewing. The ending was a little long but I appreciate having a lot of a Batman movie to watch. Morgan Freeman returns as Lucius Fox, the executive of the Wayne Foundation. His character jockeyed back and forth over the ethical nature of surveillance, still an important issue several years later.

The reviews don't look great for the new film coming out and I'm going to see it tonight so I will be with a review shortly. I have heard it is a bit violent, which I don't mind, and full of action. I am looking forward to it but I don't think it will match the awesomeness of The Dark Knight!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: Sweet 16 Preview

The Sweet Sixteen games start tomorrow and I am so excited about these upcoming games. The pretenders got eliminated fast busting everybody's bracket and the competition will get even fiercer in this round. The top four teams from each bracket region will face off in nightly games. With less games, it will be easier to keep up.

SOUTH

The first game Thursday night will be between 2 seed Villanova and 3 seed Miami. I've actually got the Hurricanes in the elite eight of my bracket so I'll be rooting for them but I have underestimated Villanova the entire way. I'm sticking with Miami in an upset victory.
The other game features the team I've picked to go all the way in 1 seed Kansas facing off against 5 seed Maryland. The Terrapins surprised me since I literally picked every other team in their section of the bracket to win so my streak is not strong. If Kansas loses my bracket is fucked, so I'm sticking with the Jayhawks.


WEST

The other region going at it on Thursday night features the former champions Duke Blue Devils facing their toughest challenge yet with the 1 seed Oregon Ducks. Duke is the 4 seed and has only face a 13 and 12 seed so far. With these unimpressive wins, I'm thinking Duke will not be ready to take out the Ducks but I'm probably totally wrong on this one. My bracket says Oregon so I'm going with that.

The other battle in this tough region is between 2 seed Oklahoma and 3 seed Texas A&M. I am an SEC fan once all my other choices are eliminated, except for Alabama, so I would root for the Aggies but my bracket has the Sooners in the Final Four so I'll pick Oklahoma.

EAST

On Friday night the teams are a bit more interesting. The 1 seed North Carolina Tar Heels face 5 seed Indiana. The Hoosiers beat Kentucky so I am definitely not rooting for them. I have underestimated UNC in this blog bracket but have them going all the way in others so I'll pick the Tar Heels.

The upsets were pretty craszy in the bottom part of the bracket leaving two teams that got shut down by Kentucky monster team last year. The Fighting Irish looked alright in the tough division of the ACC but Wisconsin has expereince. I actually picked Wisconsin to get this far but thought they would lose to West Virginia. Being totally wrong doesn't stop me from making a foolish pick in the Badgers. Wisconsin will face UNC in the elite 8 East.

MIDWEST

The craziest regions in the tournament has maintained their 1 seed Virginia taking on 4 seed Iowa State. The Cyclones could end the Cavaliers run but I'm sticking with Virginia for this one as I have them in the elite eight for my first picks and in the championship after a few red X-marks.

Another late night game is between the strangest teams to get this far. Syracuse is taking on Gonzaga, an 11 seed against a 10 seed. I had Gonzaga in the Sweet Sixteen but that Michigan State had major repercussions for my bracket. I'm sticking with Gonzaga to move on and face Virginia.

That's my assessment of the upcoming games of the Sweet 16 but I have been so wrong already I don't know what to expect. I'm looking forward to getting back into the tournament again!

Book Review: Starve Better by Nick Mamatas

I like reading about writing more than I like writing, which is a major reason why I am not published. I read a book every few months that is full of plans on how to write and keep focused so that one day I will have a novel. This book was more entertaining but not full of any of that faux encouragement that inspires me for a few hours and leaves me staring at a blank screen.

Nick Mamatas was the editor of Clarkesworld magazine, which I recently started to read and enjoy a lot. He also has published plenty of short stories, novels, nonfiction pieces. He has plenty of experience to fall back on and the anecdotes that fill this book are both hilarious and informative. I've read a few of his stories and found them really good, the short fiction piece in the book is worth the price. The voice of his narrators and the one he uses here are very similar, and I found it very amusing. 

Mamatas goes through the usual parts of a writing advice book, but I found his insights unique. He has great takes on dialogue, starting a story, and where to put the page breaks. He demonstrates these with examples that clearly explain how to utilize them, and made me laugh. 

The book also focused on the career of actually being a writer, the tough parts and the profitable parts. Mamatas makes it clear that there are opportunities out there and even though this book is a few years old, many of these chances still exist. I think his experience pays off here the most and his stories get even funnier with the hint of desperation yet craftiness that came from his past exploits. Some of this advice won't work for writers without a lot of confidence in their ability. I found myself discouraged at times but I appreciate that after getting inspiring emails that eventually ask me for cash.

This book is a collection of blog posts so there are some repetitive paragraphs but those stories sink in all the more. Writing a book for writers can not be easy because there are plenty of writers out there who believe they know everything about writing but without any proof that they actually do. Mamatas breaks it down in an enjoyable way and has some great ideas too. This book should be essential reading for that undergraduate deliberating whether to be an English major or young blogger who thinks they can make it in this tough business!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Politics: Western Tuesday

Three states voted for the Democrats and two voted for the Republicans with a mixture of caucus and primary in these Western states. Utah, Idaho, and Arizona are coming late to the game when the race is nearly over and the runners up are lagging just far enough behind to not have a chance but still not drop out just yet. A lot of weird stuff was going in the political sphere tonight plus awful terrorist attacks in Belgium this morning so it is a lot to take in.

Arizona was the only state to be declared for candidates at a moderate time in the night as all of these states are operating in a much later time zone than myself. I should've gone to bed after seeing these but for some reason I can't sleep much tonight, but Bernie Sander and Ted Cruz should both drop out but for some reason they both stay in. Arizona went to front runners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The results were heavily in their favor though curiously Trump still could not cross over fifty percent. Clinton took the victory and turned it into an impassioned speech already turning her eye to the general election but the night was far from over.

Utah managed to pull through and give light to both Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz. Sanders won in a landslide and Cruz did as well. Trump actually came in third in this state. It's an dramatic switch from a state nearby Arizona but if I remember the West correctly, it's a hell of a lot more space than it looks on a map. Utah will keep both candidates in the race to challenge the frontrunners but surely won't be enough to put them over the edge. 

Idaho had already gone to Ted Cruz early in the primary season but Bernie Sanders claimed a victory there as well. It seems that some states are frontrunner states and others support the conservative or liberal movements of the party, a very interesting thing to look back on once this is over. That gives Sanders two states tonight and though it is late, he can claim Tuesday night as a victory. Ted Cruz is hoping for a brokered convention so he needs to gather as many delegates as possible to maintain influence when it comes time to fight back against Trump.

Before I get into the responses from the candidates on the the Brussels attack, I wanted to look at the strange fight going on between Cruz and Trump. Apparently a Super PAC used Trump's wife posing for GQ magazine to attack Trump before the Utah votes but Trump tweeted out that it was Cruz and threatened to go after his wife, who was a Wall Street banker, specifically Goldman Sachs. Cruz quickly responded hashtagging Trump as classless. I think the whole debate is amusing yet I'm also wary that either of these two men could be the next president of the United States.

The attack on Brussels was the much more serious issue of the day and it depressed me to even think about it. The responses were typical for both sides with Trump coming out strong first then Cruz trying to one up him in toughness. Clinton and Sanders tried to bring reason to a conflict that does not seem to be between reasonable people. I am just curious how much terrorism and the threat to national safety will play into the general election. If more attacks continue and some here in America, then it could dominate the debates leaving behind other important domestic issues, especially with Clinton and Trump on the stage. I am really looking forward to these two candidates facing off and it appears that both sides are readying their arguments. 

There are still plenty of primary season votes left but it appears that the nominees have already been decided. I'm enjoying looking at the stuff so I'll still follow along but I don't expect much to change!

Movie Review: Batman Begins


The first of what is now known as the Dark Knight trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan sought to reboot the franchise that had already had four movies before it. There was a marked difference in this franchise as other superhero franchises were starting up but this story was taking more of a realistic, dark, and gritty approach to the comic book character. 

Christian Bale played Bruce Wayne as he grows into the Dark Knight. The story is told through flashbacks with a young Bruce Wayne played by Gus Lewis. The parts in the past were slow but they were separated by the training Bruce goes through under Liam Neeson's Ducard. I thought the training was interesting and set up the hallucinogenic chemical that would be used in later acts.

Wayne returns from the dead and all the back story is filled in to let us know there are gangsters running rampant in Gotham city. Gary Oldman plays Jim Gordon, only a sergeant here, who is enlisted by Batman to help root out the corrupt cops. I liked Gordon's progression starting out in this one. I also like Tom Wilkinson as the mob boss Carmine Falcone and Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow, Dr. Jonathan Crane.

The action was filmed with a lot of cuts so it was never easy to see what was going on but it created the mystery that Batman could be anywhere at once and pop out of the shadows from off screen. I did like the finale though the casting of Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes was a drawback. This choice was remedied in the sequel. Michael Caine was brilliant as Alfred as he is in most movies.

This movie set off of the best presentation of Batman so far in film and it will be hard to match that with this new iteration. Christian Bale was the fourth actor to play it and he will be replaced by Ben Affleck in the new one. The review don't look great for Batman v Superman and I don't think it will match any film in this trilogy. 

Magazine Review: Clarkesworld Issue 114

The second issue of Clarkesworld I've read has made me very pleased with my subscription. The stories carry a similar tone to the previous issue and the nonfiction is informative. I'm glad to find such great fiction available to read that doesn't take much time yet keeps me thinking about it for weeks afterwards.

The first story "Salvage Opportunity" by Jack Skillingstead tells a familiar tale of a lone space worker whose only companion is an artificial intelligence. The worker, Badar, thinks he prefers a life separated from other individuals but finds himself increasingly lonely. I found this theme incredibly relatable and the actions of the AI funny and moving as well. I think future space salvage companies will read stories like this and take precautions against sending out anyone alone into this sort of extreme isolation. 

"Seven Cups of Coffee" by A. C. Wise is a time travel story about missed connections and love. I thought the structure was cool and I'm a big fan of stories about the paradox of jumping into different times. The story left me rooting for the protagonist and moved by the emotional power of love against the passage of time.

"The Governess with a Mechanical Womb" by Leena Likitalo painted a bleak apocalypse after an alien invasion with a very interesting alien called the Victorians. I thought the description of these aliens was very creepy, especially the black Governess who was actually a human once but had been converted by the invaders. The story also has a great core about siblings and continuing to move on despite atrocity.

"Coyote Invents the Land of the Dead" by Kij Johnson was confusing to me. I couldn't ever grip on the afterlife setting but I did feel the longing of Dee in her search for Jace though was often confused with what was going on. This confusion did at to the strange setting that was a bizarre depiction of the afterlife. I also enjoyed the narration.

Both of the reprints were very cool. "The King of Norway" by Cecelia Holland was an action-packed viking battle with a lot of cool scenes. "Gray Wings" by Karl Bunker was such a great story, one of my favorite reprints that I've come across. The description of flying and nano healing were very cool and the story dealt with deep themes. 

The nonfiction taught me quite a bit like the blast from the past in "The Age of Excessive: Psychedelic SF, On-Screen and Off" by Mark Cole. I like current movies so it was very cool to see where the influences derived from and how science fiction has changed over the decades. I learned a useful writing tip in thinking about what wardrobes my characters wear through Star Wars in the Genevieve Valentine piece "Another Word: How to Clothe a Character, Using only Star Wars References". The interview introduced me to an author that I am adding to my reading list with "All the Words in the Sky" author Charlie Jane Anders interviewed by Chris Urie.

Another great issue has opened my world to short science fiction and fantasy. I have gone back and dug up some of the older podcasts, which are really enjoyable to listen to during a long data entry session. I have definitely looked at some of the stories from past issues that have garnered attention when I nominated for the Hugo awards this year!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Movie Review: Man of Steel

I'm so excited for the big showdown of Batman v Superman this weekend and really all the superheroes facing off this year. So to get myself pumped for the new movie, I'm going to look back at a few previous films. I would love to go all the way back to the early batman and superman movies but I will have to save that for when the movie is released for home viewing since I don't have the older films and I'm waiting to get them.

I'm starting with the one that is truly connected to the DC Comics universe that will play right into the the Batman v Superman in Man of Steel. From what I've learned of the commercial, the events of Man of Steel are the cause of all the battling. I am glad I took a quick refreshers since I've only seen this movie a few times and it still feels really new to me.

This new iteration of Superman is bogged down with many of the origin story stuff that most first superhero stories have to go through to finally get to the action. Fortunately in Man of Steel, there is an awesome sequence with Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Superman's real father, flying through Krypton as the planet begins to fail and he has to eject his natural born son.

The plot slows down in the middle as it flashes through flashbacks of Clark Kent's young life in Kansas. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane play Clark's adoptive parents who encourage him to keep his power concealed. It also tells the tale of Clark's adult self searching for some answers. he discovers a crash landed ship that kicks of the second half of the plot. I thought the super suit looked pretty cool, which is tough considering the makeup of Superman's outfit. Henry Cavill was a great casting choice for the all-American superhero. 

I thought it was a strange casting choice to choose Amy Adams as Lois Lane. She's a great actress but I didn't see her as the intrepid reporters from previous iterations and comic books. Her storyline was probably one of the weakest parts and the chemistry of the romance seemed nonexistent. I liked Laurence Fishburne as the editor of the Daily Planet, Perry White. His part showed what it was like on the ground during the destruction of Metropolis. 

I found the action really cool when Superman starts to fly and especially when the aliens land under the command of General Zod, played viciously by the great Michael Shannon. I really enjoyed how they slammed and flew through Smallville with destruction and awesome special effects throughout. 

The final battle was full of amazing imagery that was loud and action-packed, very fun to watch. I was overall pleased with the final action scenes and I've seen much worse as far as disaster in movies. I think that they will follow this action film with a great sequel that will kick off a whole new awesome universe of superheroes!

Book Review: The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters


A friend recommended this book to me after listening to some story ideas I had and I almost always take word of mouth recommendations. It took me a while to get around to this but when I finally started it, I was not disappointed. The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters creates an interesting dynamic and setting putting a creative and cool twist on the classic detective mystery tale. 

The premise of the novel is that an asteroid is on trajectory to destroy civilization as we know it and pretty much wipe out the entire world. It really got me thinking about just what I would do and after all, every human is operating on a minimal amount of time but as a society it really changes things. Winters does a good job describing what would happen and uses the first person narration to move the plot forward and not bogging down the story with description.

I was immediately entrance by what would happen and found many of the scenarios depicted to be believable though, of course, I have no idea what would actually happen. The mystery is engaging though probably the weakest part of the book. I did find the twist and turns interesting but only because everyone's behavior is just simply so bizarre with impending doom. 

The writing was great and the character Detective Hank Palace was likable. He was a by the book detective who was taking advantage of his chance to be a detective and solve a murder case, something that he wanted to do his whole life. Though nearly every character questions his motives, I found myself rooting for Palace and his detective skills.

This story starts a trilogy and I am really looking forward to the next book because it is set up to really make a reader want to know what is going to happen. I would recommend this book to science fiction fans, thriller fans, detective novel fans, and readers who like to think about the world around them. I highly enjoyed The Last Policeman!

NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: Second Round Recap

The second round did not let up on surprising upsets and breathtaking games. I was so disappointed that my Kentucky Wildcats didn't advance against the Indiana Hoosiers, which pretty much trashes most of my remaining brackets. At least Kansas and all the other 1 seed teams are moving t the sweet sixteen. I'll continue to look at each region as I reflect back and I should have a separate post to look at the sweet sixteen on Wednesday before the next games. 

EAST

UNC showed their dominance as they beat Providence and moved forward to the sweet sixteen with a nineteen point win. UNC is a great pick to win the championship, easily the representative for the East region.
As mentioned earlier, Indian moved on to be the Tar Heels opponent. They barely won and they'll most likely be eliminated. I don't want to talk about it too much. 

Notre Dame barely made it but there was some craziness around the basket in the final seconds. I was surprised at SF Austin's performance and it would have been interesting to see them continue but the Fighting Irish will have a stronger fight against Wisconsin who upset the 2 seed Xavier at the bottom of the east.  I'll make my predictions for winners in the next post.

SOUTH

Kansas looked really sharp as they beat the 2014 champion UConn Huskies. I am definitely still please with my overall pick of Kansas and from what I've heard, I've got plenty who agree with me. 

Maryland also showed that the Hawaii win over California was just a first round fluke that by beating them by thirteen points. 

Miami stopped Wichita State's run from the final four. I think the Hurricanes are very powerful and even had a fun bracket that I filled out where they won. Villanova proved they can continue on as a strong 2 seed by winning over 7 seed Iowa. 

WEST

1 seed Oregon also looks like a top contenders as they beat out St. Joe's though the Hawks did put up quite a fight. Oregon looks to have a tough battle with the top 4 seed still going strong. 
The battle below will be one hell of a fight but I'm getting ahead of myself. The Texas A&M Aggies had to really struggle to top Northern Iowa in double overtime in which they had to come from behind to even have a chance. Oklahoma didn't exactly cruise against VCU and I thought they might even lose for a moment.

MIDWEST

Not as much excitement in the West but the 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers had a little competition from the Butler Bulldogs. I think UVA is another team to look out for and I have picked them for several second chance brackets.
Iowa State crushed Arkansas Little Rock's hopes as the cinderella story but I don't think they will have much legs after this win. 

The bizarre bottom part of the Midwest Region continued to play out with some more insanity. I actually had Gonzaga going pretty far so I was happy to see them beat 3 seed Utah. Syracuse got lucky and didn't have to face the powerhouse Spartans and made quick work of Middle Tennessee who pulled off possibly the biggest upset of the tournament.

That's my take on the crazy second round. I'm going to study the bracket tomorrow then make a list of predictions for what I think will happen in the sweet sixteen. I love how unpredictable this game is but I do wish the team I was rooting for got farther! 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Book Review: Split Second by David Baldacci


I was curious about David Baldacci's work because after all he is a bestseller. Nearly every book he publishes hits the top ten list so I wanted to find out what all the hype was about. I read this book off and on throughout two months reading the short chapters or segments as I followed along with Sean King and Michelle Maxwell as they sought to discover the mystery of dual attacks on politicians separated by over a decade yet some how connected.

I liked the mystery and the suggest connection and could not see solve the case as I read it along. I can totally understand how readers who are not particular about their characters and plot can enjoy a mystery like this one. I found some parts of it interesting though I wouldn't dedicate too much time to a close reading of it to see if the prose actually makes sense.

I found Baldacci's pacing enjoyable and it seemed like every chapter had a purpose and helped to ratchet up the plot and mystery. I found the characters bland and even Sean King who had failed at his cherished job as a Secret Service agent long ago seemed to get off to easy from his failure.

There were moments at the end that came off as absurd with the cliche of the pause to explain all of the mystery. I think that it is interesting that Baldacci set this up to become a series. I'm not sure if I'll have the reading time to ever pick up the second book but I would be curious to see what fans think.

If you are a fan of the mindless thrillers with a mystery that is clearly explained, then I would recommend this book, not that it needs the extra promotion. I'm always curious about what books sell and why they do so. I think it says a lot about readers than it does about the work. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament First Round Recap/Second Round Preview

The teams of 64 have fallen down to a 32 and the second round gets started today. March Madness did not disappoint with some huge upsets that change the face of the bracket moving forward. The biggest upset of all was 2Michigan State falling to 15Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. 
While a 15 seed beating a 2 seed was the biggest upset, there were plenty of other upsets to go around. I'll start around the divisions and work my way through.

SOUTH
Number one teams never lose, so at least there is that to hold onto, so the Kansas Jayhawks stayed in and the upset I did predict, though a small one, was 9Connecticut over 8Colorado. The UConn Huskies will face the Jayhawks tonight. I'm sticking with my pick of the Jayhawks to go all the way. 

Tomorrow Maryland will face off against another upset maker in Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors were a 13 seed over 4 seed California. I did not see that coming. I'm choosing Hawaii to continue to surprise. 


Continuing down the bracket, I managed to predict the 11Wichita State Shockers beating 6Arizona but I have Miami making it to the elite eight after they beat 14Buffalo and take down the Shockers this afternoon in the earliest game. 

Iowa looked good in there win over Temple though the Owls took the Hawkeyes to overtime. Tomorrow Iowa will face off against a number 2 seed that did win in Villanova, who won against UNC Asheville. I think Nova will have a hard time advancing forward and my faith in 2 seeds is shaken.

WEST
The number 1 seed Oregon moved forward over 16 seed Holy Cross to face 8 seed St. Joseph's who beat 9 seed Cincinnati, which was an upset I predicted wrongly. Oregon should continue to move forward against the St. Joe Hawks. 

Below that 4 seed Duke moved forward against 13 seed UNC Wilmington and the Blue Devils will face 12 seed Yale who had another big upset over the 5 seed Baylor Bears. 



The Bulldogs face the Blue Devils in the second game this afternoon, and I'm going with Duke.

Northern Iowa, an 11 seed, beat the 6 seed Texas Longhorns to go on and face 3 seed Texas A&M, the SEC Championship runner up, who beat 14 Green Bay. I am taking the Aggies to go forward and face Oklahoma. Oklahoma plays VCU tomorrow as they did beat their 15 seed opponent in Cal St. Bakersfield. VCU upset Oregon St. but I saw that coming as the Rams have experience. 

EAST
On the other side of the bracket, the UNC Tar Heels, and a team that now has a greater to appear in the champion ship, beat FGCU from the first four. North Carolina will play 9 seed Providence who surprised me by beating 8 seed USC. UNC should go far.

The matchup below that is one I'm so excited to see with the 4 seed Kentucky Wildcats facing off against the 5 seed Indian Hoosiers. I am going to be rooting so hard for the Wildcats at around 5:15 pm today. Go Big Blue!


The ACC is a strong conference in the tournament and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish proved that by advancing over Michigan. Below that I had put a lot on the Big 12, which was why it was such a surprised when 3 seed West Virginia fell to 14 seed Stephen F Austin. 
West Virginia was another team I had in the Final Four so my bracket is already busted after the first round. I think Notre Dame will be powerful in this region. 

At the bottom of the East, the former runner up in Wisconsin moved on against Pittsburgh and the number 2 seed Xavier made it past Weber State.  I chose Wisconsin. 

MIDWEST
This division had the most upsets in the first round and was so unpredictable. I did pick 1 seed Virginia and number 9 seed Butler to face off later today after they beat 16 seed Hampton and 8 seed Texas Tech respectively. I think Virginia will move forward and their chances are much better further on without a 2 seed to contend with. 

I didn't predict the 5 seed Purdue Boilermakers to be upset by the 12 seed Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans.
 The Trojans will face 4 seed Iowa State who beat 13 seed Iona. I'm going with Iowa State.

In the bracket below I correctly pick the upset of 11 seed Gonzaga over 6 seed Seton Hall. I also picked Utah to win against Fresno State. I think Gonzaga will continue to surprise. 

The bottom part of this bracket was full of surprises with 10 seed Syracuse upsetting 7 seed Dayton and of course Michigan State falling to Middle Tennessee.

This post clearly shows how unpredictable and crazy this tournament can be. I have had a fun time keeping up with it and I look forward to watching the next round today and tomorrow!