Mental Floss on Youtube with John Green

I've mentioned Mental Floss before, but that was in the context of their books and magazines.  They have since spread their wings and have joined the ranks of publications with a video presence on YouTube.

I recommend the Mental Floss channel largely do to my interest in trivia, and the short, bite-sized nature of the videos, presented in rapid-fire format by... John Green.

Yes, that John Green.  Not being a big fan of his books (they are one of the reasons this blog exists; please don't take this too personally, Mr. Green, it is a matter of taste as much as anything), I was dismayed to find this, but he is perfect for the job.  His quick delivery and manner really serve the videos well.  He comes across knowledgeable and not too smug.

Find the YouTube channel here.

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Grand Theft Auto: Why boys aren't reading in September

I posted this last September, but this is clearly an appropriate post since the newest game, Grand Theft Auto V, is out this week and set to sell a billion dollars worth of copies by next month.  So if you didn't see it the first time, here it is again:

Jacked by David Kushner

Grand Theft Auto is an video game series that is entirely inappropriate for teens.  That said, c'mon.  Of course they have played it.  And of course they are waiting with baited breath for GTA V, due out sometime next year.  The series is infamous for its violent and sexual content, what with the brazen murder of innocent pedestrians, police officers and just general wreaking of havoc.  On the other hand, it's also a beautifully crafted series, each generation featuring groundbreaking graphics, freedom to travel the city and just cruise around absorbing the atmosphere.

Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto by David Kushner traces the history of the game from its humble beginning as a city simulator to the record shattering sales of the 4th edition that in its first 24 hours of sale made more money than any form of entertainment ever before in the same amount of time.  Grand Theft Auto was and continues to be a major cornerstone of gaming, but before it made it big, it was just a fringe game by a small start-up.

Parallel to the main story, Jacked also discusses the efforts by moral crusader Jack Thompson to get the game banned in the name of protecting child from the violent contained contained in the series.  This obviously never happened, but it serves to create a pretty scary villain for the story of the game.  (Scary, of course, if you like games and want to keep playing them).

The pace is a bit slow for my taste, and doesn't actually get into that much detail about the process, but this is more than I'd ever heard before about the behind-the-scenes of the series, so this is a good, reasonable-length approach to the subject, one that should be able to hold the attention of gamers who enjoy it.
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American Gun by Chris Kyle

I'm a suburban Canadian, so you might imagine I haven't spent much (any) time in and around gun culture.  My house had no guns, my friends and extended family had no guns, and aside from the gun range next to the archery range I trained at as a kid, had never seen a gun fired in real life.  (I did have a bunch pointed at me, though, due to a misunderstanding at my then workplace where I accidentally triggered an armed robbery alarm thinking it was a device for removing security tags from clothing).

I don't have any particular interest in firearms, but due to frequent video gaming, I've seen my share of brand names and style in digital form.

American Gun by the late Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle tells a brief history of 10 significant firearms that contributed to major points and events in US history, starting with the long guns that tamed the frontier in the early days of the country to the modern weapon of choice, the M16.

This book is a proud American book but a proud member of the military, but he doesn't really make any strong political or loaded statements about guns or gun control.  It's mostly a history of the weapons and their uses, both for good and for evil.

For boys who play a lot of games, particularly first-person shooters and for people just generally interested in military history, this is a good casual read.  It's siimply written and not terribly long.

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Mogworld by Yathzee Croshaw

Jim dies in the prologue.  All he wants to do is stay dead, but unlucky for him, he's been resurrected and hired as a minion of a dread necromancer.  It's the best job he's ever had, but it's just not the same as being dead.

After a brief time enjoying his undead life, some bizarre angel-type creatures swoop in a start deleting everything, permanently eliminating the necromancer, the castle and all but him and 2 other undead, which is strange: until the Deleter attack, people are resurrected into new bodies when they die, and even the undead come back when they try to wipe themselves out,  Jim embarks on a quest to find these Deleters and have them eliminate him, too.  But maybe taking some time to be a hero instead of completely dead might, maybe, not be the worst thing in the world.

Yahtzee Croshaw is a video game journalist and this, his first novel, shows it.  It is deeply rooted in games, particularly World of Warcraft-style multi-user games.  Readers who play that kind of game regularly will recognize all the hallmarks of adventure games and quests, including their frequent resurrection

The book isn't perfect - you can see the big reveal coming from a mile away, but assuming you enjoy adventure games, it won't bother you much, even if it seems like we are supposed to be surprised. 

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