Thursday, December 26, 2013

Weekly Pull List: 12/26/2013

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! This week, Christmas fell on a Wednesday, which throws a big wrench in the usual comic book day.  But don't fear, this week is a small week with only a few things on my pull list.  For all the comics available this week, check out

Doctor Who Special 2013 #1: This one-shot celebrates the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, and it should be pretty good.  This is also the final time IDW will publish a Doctor Who comic, as 2013 marks the end of their publishing rights with the BBC.  It is also going to be one final look back at Matt Smith, who ended his run as the Doctor on Wednesday night when he regenerated into Peter Capaldi.

Origin II #1: This comic continues the story that started back in the original Origin storyline about the early years in Wolverine's life.  I just read Origin to get ready for this special limited series, and it was pretty good, and it got me excited to read more about Wolverine's early years.  The story is also written by Kieron Gillen, who is currently knocking Iron Man out of the park.

That's everything for this week!  A small week like this will allow me to pick up a back issue of Spider-Man that is just sitting in my local comic shop, which is extremely exciting.  What comics are you picking up this week?  Let us know by leaving your pull list in the comments!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Best Christmas Albums

Around the holiday season, I start listening to all the Christmas music in my iTunes library.  And I figured I'd share my favorites from those 1000+ songs with all of you!

"Boogie Woogie Christmas" - Brian Setzer
This is one of the albums my dad shared with me when I was younger, and I still love it to this day.  This album is full of great swingin' songs, and I really love his rendition of "Jingle Bells."  The version of "The Nutcracker Suite" that's on this album is featured in a bunch of movies, including "Elf."

"Brad Paisley Christmas" - Brad Paisley
I have a bunch of country Christmas albums on iTunes, but this is definitely my favorite.  I love Paisley's guitar playing, and he really lets it shine during his instrumental rendition of "Jingle Bells."  He also shares a great duet with his 13-year-old self from the show Jamboree USA.  It's a pretty cool look back at where his career started.

"Christmas Cheers" - Straight No Chaser
I found Straight No Chaser a few years ago, and their two Christmas albums just blow me away every year.  This one is my favorite, and it includes a great song called "The Christmas Can-Can."    The last song on the album is their rendition of "The12 Days of Christmas," which is one of the best Christmas songs you'll ever hear.  Check it out at the end of this post.

"Christmas in the Aire" - Mannheim Steamroller
I love listening to Mannheim Steamroller around the holidays.  They have a few Halloween albums, but their five Christmas albums are where they really shine.  This album is my favorite, and their synthesizer music never sounded better.  If you haven't heard them, check them out.  I'm sure you won't regret it.

"Christmas with the Rat Pack" - Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.
This album is awesome.  While Sinatra and Martin have their own Christmas albums, this is the one to listen to.  These three really shine on this album, and it's always a treat to listen to Christmas classics sung by these three greats.

"25" - Chicago
Chicago has some of the best renditions of Christmas songs I've ever heard.  I like every song on this album, and I always look forward to this CD when it comes up in my playlist.

I hope you found something new to listen to this Christmas season, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.  Let me know what your favorite Christmas album is by commenting below!

And, as promised, here is Straight No Chaser's "12 Days of Christmas:"

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Weekly Pull List: 12/18/2013

Well finals are over, so that gives me some free time to write a couple blogs, and that will start with a new weekly feature to the blog: the weekly pull list of comic books.  I'll talk about the books that I'll pick up this week, and then highlight which book I'm most excited to read.  As I will only be previewing the comics I will pick up, you can check out everything that is available this week by checking them out on Comixology.  So let's get started!

Dark Horse Comics
Itty Bitty Hellboy #5: This book can only be described as adorable.  Who cares if it's a kid's book, I still love it.  This is also the final issue in this limited series.

DC Comics
Harley Quinn #1: If you read Harley Quinn #0, you'll realize that this book is going to be fun.  It's like Deadpool, only with a girl and Batman.

Marvel Comics
All-New X-Men #20: This series is always one of my favorites, and now X-23 is here! I don't really know much about her, but she's basically Wolverine if he had two claws and was a girl.
Amazing Spider-Man #700.4: This continues a bunch of leftover stories with Peter Parker as Spider-Man. I love them, and you should too.
Amazing Spider-Man #700.5: See above.
Daredevil #34: One of the best series Marvel is currently putting out, and you should really check it out.  Only a few issue remain before it is relaunched as part of "All-New Marvel NOW!"
Deadpool #21: This begins a new arc with Deadpool.  He didn't get paid by S.H.I.E.L.D. for taking down the dead presidents, and he may or may not still be sad about his last story arc. Check that out too.
Indestructible Hulk #17.INH: This issue is an Inhumanity tie-in, and this is a series that is always fun to read.
Scarlet Spider #25: This is the final issue of this fantastic series. Will Kaine survive?
Superior Spider-Man #24: Part 3 of this story arc. We get to find out who Superior Venom is, and it's going to be great.
Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #8: He pretty much screwed everything up with his Superior Six, so let's see what he can do with this issue.  Maybe clean up his mess?  Nah, probably not.
X-Men #8: Honestly, I have no idea who most of the characters in this book are, but that's fine.  It's a good book, and this one will be part 2 of the "Muertas" story arc.

Pull of the Week: Scarlet Spider #25
This is the final issue of this series, and it all comes down to this.  Kaine can either stand and be a hero, or he can become a monster.  Who knows if he even survived the explosion at the end of the last issue!  If you pick up any book this week, this is the one.

So what books are you picking up this week?  Let us know by leaving a comment!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Numbers Change, Class Doesn't: Thank You Mark Martin

Next year won't be the same without Mark Martin on the track.  Thank you for all the memories.

Jimmie Johnson Wins 6th Sprint Cup Championship

Originally written for CLNS Radio.

Jimmie Johnson clinched his sixth Sprint Cup Series championship with a ninth place finish on Sunday.

Jimmie Johnson hoists the Sprint Cup Championship.  He is now only one title away from tying Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty. (Photo courtesy NASCAR via Getty Images)
Johnson came into the day with a 28-point lead over Matt Kenseth, and a 34-point lead over Kevin Harvick.  He was able to hang on to the points lead after Kenseth finished second and Harvick finished 10th.  

Johnson beat Kenseth by 19 points.

Johnson said he doesn't discount what he and his team have been able to accomplish.

"I am lost for words," Johnson told ESPN.  "I'm so honored to drive for this race team and I'm so honored to have a six-pack."

Johnson said he credits his team with helping him be as consistent as he has been.

"I think it's the relationship we have and the bond we have as a team.  I don't know how it happens, but I'm excited it does and I'm happy it does."

Johnson's team owner Rick Hendrick said he was proud of his team for all their hard work.

"We're like a big family and these guys work hard and all the teams work together," Hendrick said in victory lane.  "I never thought I'd win one of these things, let alone 11."

"Matt Kenseth and the Gibbs crowd are great guys, but these guys worked their butts off and hopefully we can get a few more."

Johnson's first five championships came during a record-breaking stretch when he won five in a row between 2006-2010.  During that time, he became the first person to win five consecutive championships, breaking Cale Yarborough's record of three-straight.

Johnson now stands on the doorstep of even more history.  He is now only one championship away from tying the all-time record, held by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

Denny Hamlin Wins NASCAR Finale at Homestead

Originally written for CLNS Radio.
Denny Hamlin won the Ford 400 on Sunday after pulling away from Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the closing laps.

Denny Hamlin poses with the Ford 400 trophy.  The win was Hamlin's first victory of the season, and it keeps his streak of eight consecutive seasons with at least one win alive. (Photo courtesy NASCAR via Getty Images)
Hamlin had to outrun his teammate Kenseth, who led the most laps on Sunday.  Kenseth was chasing Jimmie Johnson for the Sprint Cup Championship, but he fell 19 points shy of the title.

The victory was Hamlin's first of the season after a year of struggles for the team.  Hamlin missed a month with back problems early in the season, and he said he was happy to be back in victory lane.

"It's amazing," Hamlin told ESPN.  "The whole FedEx team stuck with us.  It's a heck of a way to go out."
Kenseth started on the pole, and he quickly pulled away from the field.  On lap 10, the first caution of the day came out for debris on the track.  

Hamlin stayed out while the rest of the field pitted, and he led the field back to the green flag on lap 15.  Hamlin quickly lost the lead to Kevin Harvick, who was on fresher tires.

On lap 17, Kenseth took the lead back from Harvick.  He led until lap 24, when Travis Kvapil spun to bring out the second caution of the day.  Harvick won the race off pit road once all the leaders made pit stops.

Kurt Busch was able to take the lead away from Harvick when the race restarted on lap 28.  Kenseth took the lead away from Busch on lap 32.

Jamie McMurray hit pit road on lap 66 to begin a round of green-flag pit stops.  During the round of stops, the third caution of the day came out for debris on lap 68.

Kenseth led the field back to the green flag on lap 73, and the race stayed green until Dave Blaney spun on lap 90 to bring out the fourth caution of the race.

Kenseth led when the race restarted on lap 95, and he pulled away from Jimmie Johnson during the run.
Mark Martin, in his final Sprint Cup Series race, hit pit road on lap 140 to start a round of green-flag pit stops.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead on lap 141, but he pitted the same lap.

When pit stops had cycled around, Earnhardt was back in the lead ahead of Kenseth.  

The caution came out on lap 152 for debris.  The leaders pitted for tires and fuel, and Kenseth won the race off pit road.

Kenseth took the green flag on lap 158, and he led until his teammate Hamlin took the lead on lap 167.
The sixth caution of the day came out for debris on lap 189.  Hamlin won the race off pit road to keep the lead.

When the race restarted on lap 194, the field stacked up.  Johnson and Kenseth got together, and the contact dropped Johnson outside the top 20.

The caution came back out on lap 207 for a flat right-rear tire from Paul Menard.  Harvick won the race off pit road, and he led the field back to the green flag on lap 212.

Brad Keselowski got around Harvick for the lead on lap 214, but he only held onto the top spot until Earnhardt passed him on lap 224.

The final caution of the day came out on lap 232 when a small fire erupted under Menard's car.  Once he brought his car to the pits, his tire blew up from the heat, but no one was injured.

Hamlin won the race off pit road, and he led the field back to the green flag on lap 240.  Going through Turn 2, Earnhardt was able to get around Hamlin for the lead.

Hamlin took the lead again on lap 243 and he held off Kenseth and Earnhardt to win the Ford 400.

Here are the unofficial results:

1. Denny Hamlin
2. Matt Kenseth
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
4. Martin Truex Jr.
5. Clint Bowyer
6. Brad Keselowski
7. Kyle Busch
8. Joey Logano
9. Jimmie Johnson
10. Kevin Harvick
11. Jeff Gordon
12. Carl Edwards
13. Kasey Kahne
14. Elliott Sadler
15. Kyle Larson
16. Aric Almirola
17. Ryan Newman
18. Juan Pablo Montoya
19. Mark Martin
20. Danica Patrick
21. Kurt Busch
22. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
23. Jeff Burton
24. Greg Biffle
25. Parker Kligerman
26. Marcos Ambrose
27. David Gilliland
28. Casey Mears
29. David Ragan
30. Jamie McMurray
31. David Reutimann
32. J.J. Yeley
33. Landon Cassill
34. Ken Schrader
35. Joe Nemechek
36. AJ Allmendinger
37. Travis Kvapil
38. Dave Blaney
39. Paul Menard
40. Trevor Bayne
41. Josh Wise
42. Tony Raines
43. Michael McDowell

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Top 5 Mark Martin Moments: IROC

I've reached the final moment in my countdown of my Top 5 Mark Martin Moments.  For this moment, I'll take a look at something that Martin is extremely proud of.


Mark Martin was the King of IROC.  IROC stands for International Race of Champions, and it was a series that put the best drivers in the world -- in cars prepared the exact same way -- to see who was the best.  And Mark Martin was the best every time he got into a car.

Each season was only four races long, so you had to be extremely consistent to win a championship.  One bad race and your season was over.

Martin raced 12 separate years in IROC, for a total of 47 career races.  He won 13 of those races, a record in IROC.  He won five championships, also an IROC record. 

Mark Martin's 2005 Championship IROC car sits in his museum in Batesville, AR.  Martin won a record five championships in the now-defunct series. (Photo courtesy Mark Martin Museum and Gift Shop Facebook Page)
The amazing part of those stats are who he raced against.  The list of drivers he beat include Dale Earnhardt, Emerson Fittipaldi, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Rahal, Scott Pruett, Al Unser, Steve Kinser, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Helio Castroneves.

Martin has won many races, but he still says that his IROC stats are one of the things he is most proud of.  If IROC were still around today, I'm sure Martin would still be kicking butt and proving why he is one of the best drivers in the world.

Thank you for all the great memories Mark, and good luck going into this new phase of your career.

What is your favorite moment of Mark Martin in IROC? Let me know by leaving a comment!

What did you think of my Top 5 Mark Martin Moments?  What would you have included? If you missed any of them, check out moment #5, moment #4, moment #3 and moment #2

Friday, November 15, 2013

Top 5 Mark Martin Moments: 2005 All-Star Race

I continue to look at my Top 5 Mark Martin Moments today, with moment number 2!

2. 2005 All-Star Race

This race was honestly the best.  I remember watching this and being so excited that Mark Martin was going to win in his final All-Star Race of his career.  Now, we all know that he came back the next season, but this was in the middle of his "Salute to You" tour.

Martin had a dominant car, and it was a sweet throwback Valvoline paint scheme.  As he led the field around the track, fans flashed back to memories of Martin in a similar paint scheme winning races throughout the '90s.

Mark Martin crosses the finish line in the 2005 All-Star Race.  The win was extra-special because of the throwback paint scheme Martin ran as a part of his "Salute to You" tour. (Photo courtesy Chris Stanford/NASCAR)

But the reason I mostly remember that race was what he said after taking the checkered flag: "I'll be back next year if ya'll give me a ride."

Those words gave every Mark Martin fan hope that maybe 2005 wasn't the last season we'd see him in a Sprint Cup car.  The smile on Mark's face in victory lane was priceless, and everyone knew that he still had a few more wins up his sleeve if he came back in 2006.

Of course we all know that Martin didn't retire in 2005, and he won't dare utter the word "retire" this weekend at Homestead.  And if he does return to the track at some point, we'll all be there to cheer him on.

What is your favorite memory of Mark Martin?  Comment below and let us know!

Check out moment #5, moment #4 and moment #3, and check back tomorrow for the final moment on our countdown!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Top 5 Mark Martin Moments: Roush Racing

The countdown of the Top 5 Mark Martin Moments continues today with number three!

3. Roush Racing

No matter how many times Martin changes teams, many will still think of him as the driver of Jack Roush's No. 6 car.

Roush gave Martin a fresh start in the Cup Series when Roush picked Martin as the driver for his start-up Roush Racing team in 1988.  Together, they paired for 35 wins and 41 poles between 1988 and 2006.

Martin was the face of the team, and was a teammate to many drivers in the garage who came through Roush Racing.  Some of the drivers he mentored include Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards.

Martin celebrates his final victory with Roush Racing with his team in Kansas in 2005.  Martin won 35 races while at Roush Racing.  (Photo courtesy Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, the pairing split up after almost 20 years together when Roush did not have any room for Martin in 2007.  The rules stated that no one could have more than four teams, but Roush was grandfathered in because he had five at the time.  As much as he would have liked, Roush could not add a sixth team so that Martin could run a partial schedule like he wanted.  Instead, Martin headed to Ginn Racing, which eventually became DEI.

Martin's tenure at Roush was long and successful, but all good things must come to an end.  Fans everywhere will always remember the great things that Roush and Martin did together.

What is your favorite memory while Mark was at Roush Racing? Comment below!

Be sure to check out number 5 and number 4 on our countdown, and check back tomorrow for #2 on our list of Mark Martin memories!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Top 5 Mark Martin Moments: Nationwide Series

Today I continue to look back through Mark Martin's career with my favorite moments.  Today, we look at moment number four:

4. Nationwide Series

Before Kyle Busch dominated the Nationwide Series, the greatest driver of the series was Mark Martin.  It seemed that every time Martin got into a Nationwide car, he would win the race.  His stats for the series are absolutely remarkable.

In a 23-year career, Martin has run 236 races.  He's won 49 of those, which is a remarkable 20.7%.  He also has 30 career poles and 112 career Top 5's.  All of those used to be records before Busch began to dominate the Series.

The fact that Martin has those numbers is made even more impressive by the fact that he only ran one full season in the Nationwide Series, in 1987.

His last win came in 2011, and it was one of the most exciting finishes I can remember as a fan.  After taking the white flag, Brad Keselowski cut down a tire while leading to hand the lead over to Martin.  Check out the last few laps below:

Even though Kyle Busch has surpassed Martin as the king of the Nationwide Series, I don't think we will ever see someone be as dominant as Martin was for such a long period of time.  From his first seasons in NASCAR to his last seasons, he could win in a Nationwide car if he was given the chance.

What is your favorite memory of Mark in the Nationwide Series?  Comment below to let us know!

Be sure to check out Moment #5, and check back tomorrow as our countdown continues!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Top 5 Mark Martin Moments: 2009 Season with Hendrick Motorsports

This weekend, Mark Martin will make his final start before moving on to a new phase in his career.  While he will still be around the track -- and won't use the word "retire" -- the chances of seeing Mark in a Sprint Cup Car on a regular basis are very slim.

So to celebrate his great career, I'll take a look at some of my favorite Mark Martin moments.  So to start off, here is the number five moment on my list:

5. 2009 Sprint Cup Season with Hendrick Motorsports

The 2009 season was a great year for Mark Martin fans.  After running a partial schedule in 2007 and 2008, he returned to full-time competition to drive the No. 5 car for Hendrick Motorsports.  Joining Hendrick Motorsports seemed to be a good move for Martin, but no one expected the paring to produce like they did.

Martin quickly got into victory lane in just the eighth race of the season at Phoenix in April.  He won again in May, this time at the historic Southern 500 from Darlington Raceway.  He took the checkered flag again a month later at Michigan in June, and then he won at Chicago in July for his fourth win of the season.

Mark Martin celebrates his win at Darlington in May 2009.  That season he had five wins on his way to a runner-up finish in the points. (Photo courtesy Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
He had to race his way into the Chase because of some very bad finishes early in the season, but he continued his winning ways once the Chase began.  He won the Chase opener at New Hampshire for his fifth and final win of the season.

He gave Jimmie Johnson a run for the Championship, but he too fell during Johnson's historic five-championship run.  He finished second in the points for the fifth time in his long career.  But with Jeff Gordon finishing third in points, it was the first time a team had swept the top three positions in the points.

While five wins wasn't a career high for Martin -- he won five times in 1993 and seven times in 1998 -- it was a career resurgence for the veteran driver.  He whipped the young guns into shape, and proved that the "old man" could still get it done.

What did you think of Mark Martin's 2009 season?  Let me know by commenting below!  Be sure to check back tomorrow for the fourth moment in our countdown!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Harvick Wins the Advocare 500

Originally written for CLNS Radio.

Kevin Harvick won the Advocare 500 from Phoenix International Raceway after Carl Edwards ran out of gas coming to the white flag on Sunday.

Kevin Harvick celebrates his win at Phoenix International Raceway.  The win was the 200th NASCAR victory for team owner Richard Childress. Photo courtesy Robert Laberge/Getty Images
Harvick ran out of gas on lap 269, which cost him the big lead he had at that point.  He was able to work his way back up front, and he was running second when Edwards ran out of gas going down the backstretch.

"I really wasn't expecting that," Harvick told ESPN.  "We had a really fast car all day, and we could make up ground through traffic."

With the win, Harvick is now third in the championship points, just 34 points behind Jimmie Johnson for the lead.  He is still mathematically eligible as the Cup Series head to Homestead for the final race of the season.

"That's all you can ask for is just to be in it," Harvick said.  "Anything can happen, and you got to be in it to win it."

Johnson started on the pole, but he quickly lost the lead.  Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano took him 3-wide in Turn 1, and he almost spun out after contact with Logano in Turn 3.  After the dust had settled, Hamlin was the leader and Johnson was sixth.

On lap 19, Jeff Gordon caught Hamlin to take the lead.  Hamlin quickly began falling through the field.  He fell out of the top 20 before he spun on lap 51 to bring out the first caution.  

The race restarted on lap 56, and Kevin Harvick was able to work his way around Gordon for the lead.  Harvick led until the second caution came out on lap 101 when Joe Nemechek hit the outside wall.

Kasey Kahne won the race off pit road, and he led the field back to the green flag on lap 106.  He cleared Keselowski for the lead coming out of Turn 3, and he led until Timmy Hill hit the wall on lap 117 to bring out another caution.

When the race restarted on lap 121, Keselowski was able to get around Kahne for the lead.  Keselowski led until the next caution came out on lap 132.  Travis Kvapil blew an engine, and Dave Blaney spun in the oil that was dropped on the track.

Keselowski led the field back to the green flag on lap 137, but the caution came back out on lap 145.  David Reutimann spun in Turn 3, and Cole Whitt, Danica Patrick and Justin Allgaier were involved in the accident.

Gordon stayed out under caution, and he led the field back to the green flag on lap 159.  Jamie McMurray restarted second, and he was able to get around Gordon for the lead when the green flag fell.  The next lap, Gordon was able to get back around McMurray for the lead.

J.J. Yeley spun on lap 164 to bring out the caution.  Ryan Newman didn't pit under the caution, and he led the field to the green flag on lap 168.  

Reutimann slammed the wall on lap 191 to bring out the seventh caution of the day.  Joey Logano stayed out under the caution to take the lead.

Logano led the field back to the green flag on lap 200.  He led until Kahne took the lead on lap 224.

Kahne had to pit on lap 248 for fuel.  This handed the lead to Harvick, who led until he ran out of gas on lap 269.

After stops had cycled around on lap 278, Carl Edwards led the race.  He led until the final caution of the day came out on lap 283 for debris in Turn 3.

Edwards led the field to the green flag on lap 288, and he quickly pulled away from the field.  He slowed coming down the backstretch with just under two laps to go, which allowed Harvick to take the lead and get the victory.

Here are the unofficial results:

1. Kevin Harvick
2. Kasey Kahne
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5. Kurt Busch
6. Juan Pablo Montoya
7. Kyle Busch
8. Martin Truex Jr.
9. Joey Logano
10. Ryan Newman
11. Brad Keselowski
12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
13. Greg Biffle
14. Jeff Gordon
15. Mark Martin
16. Paul Menard
17. Jeff Burton
18. Jamie McMurray
19. Aric Almirola
20. Clint Bowyer
21. Carl Edwards
22. Bobby Labonte
23. Matt Kenseth
24. David Gilliland
25. Elliot Sadler
26. Marcos Ambrose
27. Casey Mears
28. Denny Hamlin
29. J.J. Yeley
30. Dave Blaney
31. Justin Allgaier
32. Michael McDowell
33. Danica Patrick
34. Timmy Hill
35. David Ragan
36. Josh Wise
37. Reed Sorenson
38. Joe Nemechek
39. David Reutimann
40. Cole Whitt
41. Travis Kvapil
42. Landon Cassill
43. Tony Raines