5 Movies You Need to See

It's so cool, it's blue!

March 30, 2011

Let’s lighten things up a bit.

Every year, hundreds of movies get released. Some go straight to video. Others go the big screen, and a lucky few get the star treatment and are put out with a massive advertising campaign that will ensure everyone and their grandmother goes to see it.

This does not, unfortunately, translate as quality.

Here are five movies you might have missed in the last few years but should certainly take a look at.

Aaah! Zombies

Tim: I don’t feel like a zombie.

Nick: Yeah, well idiots don’t feel stupid but they are.

A deadly chemical weapon is lose on the streets of LA and a group of unsuspecting friends have been contaminated and turned into the living dead… except they perceive everyone else as acting strangely while they’ve developed superpowers.

Zombie comedies can be done wonderfully. Shaun of the Dead is one example. Other zombie movies, comedy or not, are just an excuse to show gore. Aaah! Zombies does something other films haven’t done. It shows the classic zombie outbreak, but it shows it from the point of view of the infected. Since their metabolism is moving so much slower, they perceive everyone else as speaking gibberish and moving abnormally fast.

In other words, the infected don’t know they’re zombies.

That’s pretty much the set-up to every comedic scene, everything from the realization that brains are delicious, to an exploding cat, and to the eventual revelation that our heroes are really brain munchers.

For a movie with a very low budget, you really don’t mind the cheap effects. There’s not much gore, but what there is gets used to perfect comedic effect. This is a movie that knows its audience. It uses every stereotype in the book and turns it on its head.

The military veteran. The geek. The dumb friend. They all get their moment to shine and actually develop as characters. You actually end up caring about characters that start out as nothing but stereotypes. To top it off, it contains one of the best death scenes I’ve seen in a movie. I almost teared up.

Grace

Madeline: Please, you don’t understand. She’s special. She needs… special food.

Speaking of zombies… What could be worse than seeing someone you love turned into the undead? Not having the mercy to put that loved one out of its misery.

Grace is the story of a mother who, after a car accident, loses her husband and her unborn child. However, instead of having the dead fetus removed, she agrees to go through with the birth. The child is born to everyone’s surprise… but things get downright disturbing as mommy realizes little Grace won’t eat anything but blood. Sucked from mommy’s nipples…

And the human body only has so much blood to give, right?

Grace is that rare horror movie that actually disturbs you on a deep level. It’s not about gore or blood, although those play a part. It relies on the premise that a mother will do anything and everything to save her child. If that includes using her own blood as milk while her abomination of a child sucks it from her breast, so be it. If it means killing others for blood, okay.

But there are no villains in this story. Not really. The horror is internal. The baby is not a monster in the traditional sense. It was born this way. This film uses the idea of the horror within and takes the concept of motherhood to a horrifying extreme.

Let me just say right here and now that this movie is not for the psychologically squeamish. This movie can grab you by the brain.

Trick ‘r Treat

Billy: Charlie Brown’s an asshole!

Remember old slasher films from the 80’s? Dark neighborhoods, creepy killers and things in the darkness, urban legends, and enough camp to fill a season of Star Trek?

Trick ‘r Treat takes the best things about all those movies and mixes it into an anthology of Halloween-themed stories.

Set during a single Halloween night, the four stories intertwine Pulp Fiction-style into a single narrative detailing the lives of people in a nameless Midwestern town. Careful viewers will see characters from different stories in the same scene as events in one story inadvertently affect the others. Although it appears to follow the standard slasher formulas, like Aaah! Zombies, it plays with those expectations and delivers a movie that satisfies the hunger for real entertainment.

Perhaps more than Aaah! Zombies, this one aims for the horror audience and uses the tropes of 80’s slasher movies and gives them a fresh look and feel. It’s a modern movie, but it has the same fresh feeling that Halloween did when I first saw it more than fifteen years ago. It’s not so much that it imitates other movies. It’s that this movie can’t be imitated.

RoboCop: Prime Directives

John Cable: What the hell is that?
Alex Murphy: That’s the hell I got you beat your next move.

RoboCop was a landmark movie event. It was gritty, ultra-violent, and a surprisingly sophisticated commentary on modern consumer culture. In short, it provided a standard for action science fiction that has rarely been equaled or topped.

The sequels? Not so much…

Somewhere along the way, the franchise lost its sense of direction. The television series was okay, as far as it could go on television, but when Prime Directives came out, it was like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Set more than ten years after the original movie (and ignoring the sequels and television show), Prime Directives shows a RoboCop who is very much aware of his own age in a city nearly dominated by OCP. As flashbacks reveal more of Alex Murphy’s life before being turned into Delta City’s cyborg defender, RoboCop must deal not only with a terrorist plot that could kill every human on Earth, but with a former partner turned into a deadlier, more advanced RoboCop unit.

The movie starts small, but it quickly balloons into an epic story that ends with, perhaps, the only way the RoboCop franchise could end. I won’t give it away, but I’d say it’s more than satisfactory.

This miniseries is no RoboCop. I won’t pretend it gets anywhere near the original. However, it goes back to the satire, the dark humor, and the character-centered plot that made the first the classic it is today. It’s got plenty of allusion to the original film. The miniseries debuted on the Sci-Fi Channel (yes, before it changed to “Syfy”) and got very little publicity. I saw it, though, and it still stands out to me as a great example of what can be done with a small budget and a lot of heart.

Pardon the crappy low-res trailer with bad late 90’s trailer music. It’s the best I could find.

Mother Maiden

Mother Maiden: We are the things that you see out of the corner of your eye. The shapes and shadows that skirt the periphery… We are the folklore legends… the frost giants… the leprechauns… the trolls under the bridge… the ghosts in the attic…

Within Temptation is one of my favorite bands. They have an epic, cinematic sound that goes great with things like Dungeons and Dragons. I usually listen to them as I write story concepts. Their new album, The Unforgiving, is their best, so far, I think, and it goes a little further by creating a modern fantasy story where damned souls work towards absolution by fighting evil with an enigmatic figure named Mother Maiden.

The band has released two of the short films tied to the album. Comic books will follow soon, too. Although the films barely touch on the world of The Unforgiving, they’re enough to keep me wanting more.

Oh, and the music’s good too. The second film is already out in case you want to see that one.

And now on to the links!

  • Any good tabletop gamer knows that dice stacking is a time honored tradition. I, however, would be hard-pressed to do these incredible balancing acts.
  • Grumpy Dudes is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs. As has been pointed out in other sites, a minister with no education proclaims that next month will herald the end of all things. Please take a moment to visit the Grumpy Dudes and see what you should do before the End of Times next month.
  • For anyone who needs some cuteness in their life, I present to you some pug thugs.
  • And finally, in the tradition of movies so cheesy they might be pure awesome… Hobo with a Shotgun.

2010 Roundup

I mean it. Thanks to each and every one of you.

December 27, 2010

It’s been a year already? You know, I remember that it was almost around this time that I first started bouncing around the idea of Randomology. The first article was published in mid-January, but since I started drafting and researching around this time, I’m calling January 31st the official anniversary for this website.

The first website design, for those who were here in those first few weeks, was a rough template assembled with what I can only call finger paint. Yes, it worked, but it looked just as artificial as it felt. As I learned to download and use WordPress, embed links, and use Deviantart images, I became more comfortable with this whole blogging thing.

Overall, though, I think it’s been a wonderful experience. I’ve learned many things, and I’ve set goals for the coming year that should make it an interesting, and stressful, 12 months.

And what exactly have we learned this year?


Right through you by ~ValentineTheChicken on deviantART

Censorship is alive and well. It’s the same knee-jerk reaction, and while people still invoke the innocence of the children, their arguments are just as invalid. Art is a tool, a form of expression. Silencing it won’t work, and all art, even the trashy soap operas, deserve some measure of respect. Now, whether they’re good or bad art is another question, but they should be heard nonetheless.

I learned that I hated Beck, but by actually listening to him and picking apart his arguments on everything from art to language, I came to the quick realization that people are not just stupid… they’re downright psychotic for listening to a man who contradicts himself and twists religion to his own needs. He is a cult leader, and while his ramblings have been getting more and more incoherent (going so far as to label a fight on obesity as a socialist conspiracy).

My prediction? He’ll self-destruct or say something so utterly offensive that he’ll get canned or someone will take him at his word and do something violent.

Of course, Fox, the most popular news network (and oh how I cringe to call them that) will whitewash the issue. Just like they and others like to “clean up” history and the news to make it look better for conservatives.

My own state spent several months putting history through the washing cycle (along with the Klan robes) and making it look as though progressives, you know, the ones that actually advanced the causes of freedom and equality, were the ones to blame for all of society’s ills.


Faux news logo by ~Party9999999 on deviantART

I learned that people fear words. They fear language. Why? Words have no power by themselves. Intent and use have power. Maybe ancient myths would have us believe that knowing a thing’s name gives us power, but that’s not the case. Knowing about sex doesn’t make you a slut. Knowing curse words will not keep you from thinking bad thoughts and wanting to curse someone.

Likewise, certain words have gained power they never imagined. “Socialist” and “liberal” have joined “progressive” in becoming labels for a group that seeks to overthrow our country… or at least that’s what the Right keeps shouting. Language has changed to fit the world.

I’ve learned that I have much to learn when it comes to writing. I’m pretty good, I think. I’ve got a decent imagination, and I’ve written novel-length manuscripts before, but Charcoal Streets is perhaps the most aggressive endeavor I’ve ever undertaken. Besides the time and scheduling conflicts I built up since mid-summer, as well as a very unfortunate business partnership with a self-proclaimed filmmaker, I’ve not given my baby the work it deserves.


Living a Writer’s Dream. by ~Hurricane-Hannah on deviantART

The research I’ve done in the last year has given me more insight into people than at any other point in my life except perhaps my senior year at college. I’ve seen the best and worst. I’ve seen artists struggle and create wonderful works of art. I’ve seen freedom grow. I’ve seen racism rear its ugly head.

But these are all just small revelations and growth spurts.

I grew a fanbase for my writing.

I connected with people all over the world.

I began my journey to publishing a novel.

I grew closer to my girlfriend as we lived and worked together… until I proposed to her right before Christmas and she accepted.

I am poised to make this site, my art, and my writing, the best they can be.

See you on January 3rd. Buckle your seatbelts. Wear a helmet. Put your flak vest on. It’s full throttle when we come back.

War on Christmas Salvo 3 UPDATE: O’Reilly Made Jesus His Whore

And the winner, and still champion, JESUUUUUUUS OF NAAAAAAZAREEEEEETH!

December 22, 2010

O’Reilly answered us!

And by “us” I mean Olbermann, Colbert, The Young Turks, and all of us who called him the self-centered hypocrite that that he is for trying to use the teachings of Jesus as an excuse to not tax the rich. It seems that my early Christmas present was a rebuttal with all the eloquence and intelligence of a five-year old trying to squirm out of getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Just to refresh your memory, O’Reilly wrote an article in which he used Christian teaching as a justification for not helping the poor. In his mind, if you cannot help yourself, you do not deserve help, which as I and others showed, is a complete reversal of what Jesus actually said.

And what did Bill “My Audience is so Old It Doesn’t Know About Youtube” O’Reilly say?

Before we get to the meat, a word of the Founding Fathers.

It’s disrespectful to bring up the fact that Benjamin Franklin liked the ladies? Sure, Colbert’s joke that Franklin uttered the phrase “The Lord helps those who help themselves” between “mouthfuls of French whore” may sound disrespectful, but only really if you think sex is a bad thing. I think most of my readers will agree that the fact that Franklin was not only a great inventor, statesman, a Founding Father, and quite the ladies’ man makes him a model to strive for.

Anyway, on to Bill-O’s rebuttal.


Super Jesus by ~M-Thirteen on deviantART

Bill refers to the Parable of the Talents, a story Jesus told in which a man gives three servants some money. Two invest the money and pay it back with interest while the third hid it away. The third servant is then chastised and cast out.

I remember hearing this story as a child. It’s in Matthew 25:14-30. As it was explained to me, the parable refers not to money, but to the gospel of Christ. Don’t keep it for yourself, I was told. Spread the word and multiply it. Use it. Don’t hold it in. In fact, if you’ve ever heard the song, “This Little Light of Mine,” you get the idea. It’s a call to ministry.

Bill, it seems, has never heard of a metaphor. In fact, the idea that the money in the story is a symbol, as most things in parables are usually interpreted, is not even considered.

Then Bill goes and does something really weird. He says that charity is a cornerstone of Christian teaching and then says that Mother Teresa is a perfect example of saintly behavior while instantly saying that we should not do what she did because it’s inconvenient. You know, I agree with him. I’m not so selfless that I would drop everything to go help people on the other side of the world. But then… I’m not Mother Teresa.


carry your cross by ~JmPhotography09 on deviantART

It gets weirder as Bill equates “rich people” with “responsible people” and the poor and unemployed with “irresponsible people.” Tell me, just how irresponsible is it to not have a job despite months of looking? How irresponsible is it to look for government aid such as food stamps to keep food on the table? Is it irresponsible to accept government loans and grants to go to college when you don’t have the means?

Bill, though, takes it a step further by saying we have no responsibility to pay for other people’s gin and cocaine, somehow assuming that’s what people do with food stamps and government aid.

Now that’s just sick and low.

First off, being rich doesn’t make you responsible. It makes you rich. It doesn’t make you some financial expert, and it doesn’t mean you create jobs. It just means you get paid a lot, and if the clowns at Fox are any indication, brains and common sense are not needed to rake in millions each year.

Kind of makes me want to write a book at Tea Baggers just to make money from them.


Wrapped in the Flag… by ~YNot1989 on deviantART

Look, Bill didn’t actually address the points I and many others bashed him for. He just repeated them with the same conviction. And no, Bill, Jesus wouldn’t agree with you.

He would jump down from the cross, break off a piece, and slap you with it until the seventh angel blew his trumpet.

If you want to make an argument for not taxing the rich, stop using Jesus like Republican Senators and members of Congress use 9/11. It’s like a freaking security blanket. Just say you want people to do things your way because you’re a self-centered prick with no concept of how the world works. Admit that you’ve taken Jesus and made him your five-dollar whore. At least be honest with your self-centeredness. Don’t pass the blame to a guy you believe died so you could get into heaven.

It’s one thing to be a bastard. Don’t be a lying bastard on top of that. Remember, Bill, Jesus loves you, but he doesn’t have to like you.

No links today. However, look for a special Christmas story from Via Rosa this Friday. See you then, and I hope everyone had a happy Solstice!


Christmas Time in Mexico by *KeeperOfLight on deviantART

War on Christmas Salvo 3: O’Reilly Killed Baby Jesus

Only one will survive! Start placing your bets!

December 20, 2010

UPDATE! Looks like Bill-O got a lot of flak from a lot of people and he responded. Check it out and my response back to him.

If you’re going to shove Christmas down the collective throats of the American public, at least have the decency to get the religion right.

For some years now, Bill O’Reilly has been waging a war against those who would wage war against Christianity and especially Christmas. He rails against anyone who says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Christmas, as we all know, is the Christian holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, who set up the first Christmas tree and forever tied America’s economy to Santa’s ass.

Look, I have my problems with Christmas, and most Christians realize, or I hope they realize, that Christmas as it is celebrated today is an amalgamation of various religious practices, many of which can be traced to pagan faiths. That’s fine. If you want to celebrate Christmas with Santa, Charlie Brown, and a Christmas goose, that’s your choice. If you want to celebrate with tamales, posadas, and a separate, sibling holiday to await the Three Wise Men, have at it.


A Mexican Christmas by ~TheDarkRoom-Photo on deviantART

However, do not betray the spirit of the holiday, the core event you claim to hold so dear, by dumping your bile-filled eggnog on Baby Jesus.

Bill, if you’re reading this, you made Baby Jesus cry. And he’s going to shove a nativity scene up your Tea Bagging backside.

If you believe Christmas is a time for charity and brotherhood, then you probably subscribe to the belief that Jesus was an extraordinary man who changed the world and his teachings and examples are something to emulate.

Apparently, Bill, though you call yourself a Christian, you’ve probably never read the Bible in any detail because, and I’m guessing here, the words were too big for you.

Let me back up for a moment, Bill. You wrote an article where you claimed, and I’m quoting:

Every fair-minded person should support government safety nets for people who need assistance through no fault of their own. But guys like McDermott don’t make distinctions like that. For them, the baby Jesus wants us to “provide” no matter what the circumstance. Being a Christian, I know that while Jesus promoted charity at the highest level, he was not self-destructive. The Lord helps those who help themselves. Does he not?

No, Bill. See, I can’t claim to have actually read the whole Bible. I’ve read the Books of Moses, a fair amount of the Gospels, and most of Revelations. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it was Herod in the library with the candlestick. I can, however, use a search engine to look through the Bible much quicker than I can read it, and I can tell you right now that the phrase “God helps those who cannot help themselves” is nowhere in the Bible.

And no, I don’t mean just the specific phrase. The sentiment itself is not even in the Bible. If I may go old school Biblical for a moment, sort of Sinners in the Hands on an Angry God old school, you Bill, are headed to the hot place if your religion is correct. You’ve corrupted the Holy Scriptures.

Romans 5:6: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

Proverbs 28:26: He who trusts in himself is a fool…

Isaiah 25:4: You have been a refuge for the poor,/ a refuge for the needy in his distress,/ a shelter from the storm/ and a shade from the heat./ For the breath of the ruthless/ is like a storm driving against a wall.

And what about the helping the sick and healing the lame? I’m sure this sort of health care would scare the crap out of you and your ilk. How dare Jesus of Nazareth just hand out healing to anyone who needed it at no cost? That communist bastard!


Jesus Era Comunista by ~malinhion on deviantART

But your biggest sin, Bill, the one that cannot be excused, is your absolute ignorance, or is it stupidity, at one of the most fundamental aspects of Christianity.

Jesus wasn’t self-destructive? Bill, the man allowed himself to be killed, tortured in some of the most brutal ways imaginable, to save humanity when, according to that Bible you claim to hold so dear, we were helpless to do anything about it. We were born with sin and were unredeemable by our own works according to Romans 3:23.

In fact, Jesus didn’t even want to do it. He was sacrificed by God. He had to be strengthened by an angel, had to pray until he sweat blood, and then he went to his appointed fate. Self-destructive? He died, a small price to pay for an immortal, but the point between the arrest and death would have been torturous for anyone.

So this Christmas season, Bill, as you sit in your home surrounded by the wealth you’ve amassed by lying and attacking those who genuinely want to make this world a better place, I hope you are visited by the ghost of Christmas past. I hope you see the happiness in Whoville. I hope you realize that Christians aren’t being persecuted and that all of these so-called attacks are either fabrications of your senile mind or exaggerations.

Happy Holidays, Bill O’Reilly.

Oh, I’m sorry. That was rude.

Feliz Navidad, Jaime O’Reilly.


christmas love by =SeraphicTragedy on deviantART

And now, on to the links!

  • As many of you probably know, I’m an avid Dungeons and Dragons player. I’ve gotten some weird questions from my group, and people who just want to know about the game, but these questions have to be the strangest I’ve ever read.
  • There’s a new iPhone app that lets you instantly translate text. This is useful if you’re in a foreign country and need quick help. It will also, I’m sure, wreak havoc with ESL classes since students will now rely on their phones to do the work for them, and some of the translations aren’t spot-on with the app, either.
  • Have you noticed those cool Facebook hacks where people place their pictures in such a way as to create a window effect on their profiles? Here’s how you can do it, and if you’re really lazy, here’s the REALLY quick way.
  • And finally, for all the nerds out there, hot girls wearing Batman clothing. Not bat-suits. Clothes with Batman themes. Enjoy, and I’ll see you back here on Wednesday!

A Defense of Drug Abuse

It's fine as long as you drink with a group. Honestly!

December 13, 2010

Man cannot live on bread alone. Occasionally, there must be drink.

Artists in every field occasionally dabble with the dilemma of drugs and alcohol. Not so much in, “Should I drink/ use this?” as much as, “Will this make me a better artist?” There is no image more enduring than that of the writer or artist in some smoky bar, stiff drink in one hand, cigarette in the other, notebook or sketchpad at the ready for inspiration to hit.

It’s crap.

Well, mostly. It would be a lie to say that drugs and alcohol haven’t helped art in some way. As Bill Hicks once said, the greatest music in the last century has been influenced by drug use. So, in an effort to build on that tradition, let’s go over a few of the more popular drinks and what they can do for you as a writer.

I do want to point out that I firmly believe, along with Stephen King and scores of writers, that any artist that NEEDS alcohol or something else in order to function is in desperate need of some help. This is just a review of various drinks and how they can best be used to jump start creativity or how to use them in a social situation with other writers.


Gluttony 2 Redone by ~TchaikovskyCF on deviantART

Bourbon

This is a stiff drink, not for the uninitiated, that a friend once called perfect writing inspiration as long as you blasted some James Brown.

Bourbon is best enjoyed by yourself unless you can find others to drink it with you. I prefer it straight, though if the weather’s a bit hot some ice is always welcome. Bourbon on the rocks may not be as manly, but hey… It works.

As a solitary drink, enjoy it slowly. Taste the different flavors. Feel the wood-aged smokiness. Poetry benefits from that sensation of aged whiskey, the sting of the first taste, and the legacy of rugged men throughout the years sipping this spirit in bars all over the world. If bourbon’s not your thing, other whiskeys like Crown Royal or even Jack Daniels work in a pinch. This is actually my drink of choice when just working alone.

Expect to grow some facial hair with bourbon.

Tequila

Under no circumstances or threat of a bullet to the brain EVER drink any tequila that does not say “100% agave” on the label. I mean it. You better eat a bullet before you drink any of the swill served at scores of college parties or office Christmas parties.

I’m serious. Tequila drunk, real tequila drunk, is a sensation that’s not easily replicated by any other liquor I’ve ever had. You’re a bit numb and uninhibited but without the fog of other alcohols. The next day, if all you drank was pure tequila distilled from 100% agave, you’ll wake up without any hint of hangover. Sip it. Enjoy the flavors, the sharp sting and the mellow wood flavors.

While I don’t usually condone mixed drinks, a shot of tequila with some orange juice and a shot of sangrita makes a delicious alternative for those who don’t like straight liquor. Pace yourself to one drink an hour and you’ll stay within a zone of clear-headedness that will help you write and consider ideas previously taboo.

And you won’t be so drowsy that you’ll forget what you’re thinking about.

Still, pace yourself. Whether or not your antics end up on Youtube is your own fault.


Tequila by *coldasylum on deviantART

Beer

If you’re looking for inspiration, this is actually the last place you should look. I enjoy a good, dark beer, but even I have to admit that this is one of the worst drinks, in any form, for inspiration. It’s fizzy and makes you go to the bathroom every ten minutes. It may be good for social get-togethers, and may work with other artists, but as a general rule, it’s not great when it comes to opening the ol’ brainpan.


Beer by ~tilk-the-cyborg on deviantART

Absinthe

The Green Faerie… It’s blamed for the madness of an entire generation of artists. Absinthe is now available in the United States, and I have a limited experience with it, but I can honestly say it’s one of the more interesting drinks to have while working.

Like tequila, it seems to induce clear-headedness while granting the regular benefits of inebriation. Inhibitions and the normal censors in the brain go down while you remain alert. That, combined with a light numbing in the mouth from the oils and chemicals in the liquor, make it feel unlike anything I’ve ever had before. I can see why Van Gogh and Oscar Wilde coveted this drink. While I’m not a fan of sweet drinks, the connection, however tenuous, to those great masters is thrilling.


OOAK Sculpture: La Fee Verte by *Indigo-Ocean on deviantART

And that’s really what the drink gives you: a connection to the past. Drinking is a social experience. You should enjoy it with others, preferably artists and creative types who can loosen up and share their insight and accept your own ramblings.

Anyone who needs liquor to work has a problem. But nothing is more traditional, more insightful, than the occasional alcohol-fueled gab session.

Hey, I wrote two theses at a bar, which brings us to one final point:

Pick your bars carefully.

Dark corners are good. Anything that plays decent music is welcome, but not necessary. If the bar gets too crowded, you’ve lost any ability to work. If you’re going to write or sketch, arrive early or late. Avoid the peak hours or pick a nice corner with enough light to see. And tip your waiter or bartender. Let them know you mean business. As someone who also worked in the food service industry, I can tell you that a constant good tipper goes a long way to getting you in the bar’s good graces. Hey, it might even score you a free drink.

And observe.

Even if you yourself don’t do any drinking, bars are perfect places to get a glimpse into human behavior. As the alcohol flows, you’ll see people acting like idiots, but you’ll also see and hear material you’d never think of on your own.

Now go get drunk and write something.

And for those artists who are 21 (or pretend to be 21), what drinks do you prefer while working?

And now for links!

  • The Salvation Army won’t distribute Harry Potter and Twilight toys because they are against the organization’s Christian beliefs. Wow. Really? I can understand not giving away Twilight toys (they cause cancer, you know), but Harry Potter toys?
  • The science fiction purist in me says AAAAGH! But the geek in me says “Oh!” to these redesigned Darth Vader models.
  • And finally, movies like this are the reason alcohol should not be taken on a constant basis while writing.

War on Christmas Salvo 2: Jesus Had Gay Sex with Ants

December 8, 2010

Censorship! Oh, how I missed you! Yes, I’ve got Palin, Beck, Fox News, and the other morons out there, but the joy of censorship, of someone trying to shut down art, brings me the kind of righteous tingle I can’t get from regular conservative idiots.

Some of you have probably heard about the exhibit at the Smithsonian that’s getting flak from the Right, and even some members of Congress, for supposedly showing pornographic gay art and for desecrating the image of Jesus on the cross. Obviously, conservatives are up in arms… except their arguments hold as much water as a venetian blind on the space shuttle.


World War Christmas by ~Th4rlDEAL on deviantART

I Know You Are, But What Am I?

One of the main gripes with the exhibit is that one of the pieces is a video showing a crucifix covered in ants. Obviously, an image of Jesus in a room filled with homoerotic art would be an outrage, but an image of Jesus covered in ants while sitting in a room filled with homoerotic art surely demands attention!

I want to ask you something. What’s the difference between “offensive” and “disgusting?”

I keep hearing “offensive” getting thrown around whenever someone talks about this or any other piece of art that depicts something which questions his or her beliefs or otherwise shows something “holy” or “divine” in a base, physical way.

“Offensive” means that something is irritating or annoying, that it is repugnant to moral sense. An image of Jesus covered in ants, then, is sure offensive!

Except it’s about as offensive as a picture of an abandoned church.

See, what Fox and the peanut gallery on the Right fail to mention, or even look up, is that the video they’re whining about is about how the morals of Christianity have been cast aside and that the teachings of Christ have been thrown to the ground.

In other words, it’s practically a call for a return to Christian morality. If you’re offended by the image after reading the context in which it is shown, then you must also be offended at the sight of old churches because they’re showing God’s house in disrepair.


Enjoying Christmas by ~caithness155 on deviantART

It’s Christmas at the Smithsonian!

The timing on this exhibit couldn’t be more sinister. A desecrated Jesus just weeks before Christmas! Surely the Left is out to destroy Christmas once again!

Sadly, no. See, the exhibit’s been open since October. People didn’t start making a fuzz until this week.

Also, and I can’t believe how often we have to say this, Christmas does not have a monopoly on the winter season. There are plenty of other holidays this time of year. Just because something comes out or occurs during the holiday season, it doesn’t mean it’s either an attack or a celebration of Christmas.

The exhibit has zero to do with Christmas except that it’s December and it’s still open. It’s like saying Pearl Harbor Day is anti-Christmas because it also takes place in December and takes people’s attention away from Christmas.


For Love and Money by ~raynamarshall on deviantART

We Didn’t Pay For It

A fair number of bloggers, including Andrew Breitbart’s lackeys, are up in arms that the Smithsonian would pay for this art. How could public funds be used to purchase art most Americans would find distasteful and pornographic?

I got news for you. Taxpayers didn’t pay a single cent for the art.

All art in the Smithsonian is privately-funded. We didn’t pay for it.

“But we pay for the buildings, the maintenance, and the staff! We should have a say on what kind of art gets shown there!”

Really? You want to take a vote on this?

Polls in the last few years have found that even Christians are warming to the idea of gay marriage, gay rights, and gays in general. While it’s still less than 50%, it’s a big enough number that it’s impossible to call gays a fringe group. What’s the difference between art of nude men and art of nude statues featuring women?


A True Artist by ~brushmage on deviantART

And your Art Credentials Are…

This all brings us to the age-old question: What is art?

It’s easy to say that art depicting gay sex or male nudity is not art because it makes some people grossed out or uncomfortable.

So what?

If we based art imply on the basis of “I don’t like it” or “It offends me,” we wouldn’t have rock music, Stanley Kubrick, and Star Trek. It’s hard to define an artist, but I’d like to think that an artist is someone who makes it his or her business to understand the craft. Even a critic of art should be able to describe it and analyze it beyond the superficial notes, colors, or layers of paint.

The people crying “foul” are none of that, meaning that if they don’t know how to look at art, how can they possible say it’s offensive?

Let the ant-covered Jesus be!


Jesus Crown by ~EveSalvatore on deviantART

“Transparent” is the New Black

It's treason because you want to know things!

December 6, 2010

The truth will set you free.

Unless you work in government. The recent Wikileaks documents that outlined thousands of instances (some suspected, some known, others unknown) have shown many governments around the world to be the backstabbing, two-faced, sycophantic bastards we always knew they were.

This is as transparent as government has ever gotten. With one move, the website put out thousands of pages of formerly classified documents, and, like the release documents outlining the United States crimes in the Middle East, Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, have been targeted as terrorists, criminals, and traitors to the United States.

Whether you agree or disagree with the decision to put these documents out, I have to admit that I’ve learned a few things from this whole fiasco.


Curiosity by ~genki-de on deviantART

Curiosity is for Terrorists

Government needs secrecy when it is necessary. Secrecy is not the default. In fact, a free society, especially a democratic society, should be informed of the decisions and tactics government officials use. Yes, the talks can happen in private, and yes, there is a time and a place to release information, but we have a government that is so used to secrets, so used to treating everything like it’s a threat to the American way of life, that we’ve lost sight of the fact that we SHOULD know what is going on.

An informed population is necessary for a democracy. Even a democratic republic needs to know as much as possible, even if makes the government look bad.

As embarrassing as these incidents may be for the government, the State Department, and who knows who else, I can’t stress the fact that if someone did something inappropriate, it’s not the public’s fault for finding out.

Which brings us to the next point…


95. Lies by *GhuneiM on deviantART

It’s the Cop’s Fault

Most of the criticism from the government has been that the documents put people at risk. The Defense Department already killed that little fear, but it would be naïve to think that revealing classified diplomatic communications won’t hurt diplomatic relations.

But is it the referee’s fault for pointing to an illegal move, or the player’s fault for punching a guy in the face?

Okay, I don’t do sports, so let me give you a more apt metaphor. If I write an article and use an incorrect fact, comma splice, or otherwise botch some aspect of the article and am called out for it, do I A) correct the mistake and acknowledge the fault, move on, and learn from it or B) accuse the corrector of tyranny and of stifling my creativity?

I think most people would go for Option A.

Government is people. That’s it. Some are very powerful and rub shoulders with heads of state, hold the fate of billions of dollars in their decisions, or could otherwise sway the minds of millions.

But let me give you a little insight into the way Washington works.

I wasn’t there that long, but I can tell you this: politicians don’t wield a lot of power. At least, not a lot of the ones I interacted with. The power rests in polls, staffers, and advisors. Yes, there are some people who enter politics and have clear goals, then will use their position to advance their goals. However, for many of them, it all comes down to securing their jobs for the next election cycle, and I don’t have to tell you that popular vote does not make facts. Public opinion is opinion.

You are entitled to your own informed opinion. You are not entitled to your own facts.


Strings of the Government by ~shimpo on deviantART

America is Great… or Else!

I can understand people being mad at Wikileaks for exposing the government. I can understand the fear that the data may hurt diplomatic relations. All in all, taking everything into context, it’s better to have the information out than to have it remain secret.

However, it’s another thing to call for the summary execution of Julian Assange or even the assassination of those involved.

No trial.

No mercy.

Nothing.

America has survived a lot of things. We survived two world wars. We lived through the Great Depression. We stood toe-to-toe with the Soviet Union for decades without falling into nuclear war. Terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers and killed thousands and we made it through, too.

I don’t think finding out that our government is composed of idiots is going to shake the foundation of American society.

To paraphrase Babylon 5, they did the right thing. They went about it the wrong way, and the bitch of it is that they have a point.

All I’m trying to say is… if you don’t want something biting you in the ass later, either don’t do it, or man up and accept the consequences.

Sorry, but no links until later this week. It’s finals week and I’m in the middle of three nervous breakdowns. Will keep you posted…


Wikileaks by *TheCH on deviantART

Return of the Revenge of the Son of the Sequel

I will drop neutron bombs on Hollywood if this goes through...

December 3, 2010

Perhaps now more than ever, Hollywood is entranced with the idea of reusing old ideas and trying to make them hip and gritty. This is nothing new. They tried it years ago with Super Mario Brothers and to a spectacular failure. Sequels are old hat. Remakes are nothing new. Re-imaginings are a newer concept.

But there’s a reason some work and some don’t and now Hollywood is after my beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

We know of no cast and no story details other than it is a re-imagining of the original concept and will not feature any of the television show cast, mythology, and Joss Whedon will not have any part in it.

Before I get to the obligatory nerd rage over this, let’s go over a few other remakes and re-imaginings and why they worked.


Lil Formers – Star Trek by *MattMoylan on deviantART

Star Trek

This one got the ol’ nerd rage going. How could anyone, ANYONE, think he or she could recreate the campy cheesiness of the original series? How could you out-Shatner Shatner? Whatever its faults, Star Trek had decades of history on the pop radar. Even people who’ve never seen it knew about Klingons, knew the phrase “Beam me up, Scotty,” and could pick out a Star Trek parody a mile away.

It’s part of American pop culture, so why did the 2009 re-imagining work so well?

If you ever get the chance to see the original, the pilots for Star trek, “The Cage” and “Where No man Has Gone Before,” you’ll notice something absent from later incarnations of the story. People die. People and human emotion drive the stories. There is ZERO technobabble.

The new Star Trek got back to the roots of the original series. Cowboys in space, unapologetic, brash, and full of humanity. Yes, even Spock. J. J. Abrahams brought us back to a time when men were men, women wore miniskirts, and no one routed SHIT through the deflector. The greatest Star Trek episodes of all time, whatever the series, deal with people first and use the technology to advance the story, not the other way around. The moment characters become secondary to science, you have hard SF, and Star Trek has enough holes in its plots to preclude any possibility the science will get it right. Hell, they can’t even get basic continuity right. Do you really expect them to respect relativity, core engineering principles, and quantum mechanics?


Batman – Colored – by ~pochrzas on deviantART

Batman

Can we erase Batman and Robin from our collective memories? The movie is barely tolerable with Rifftrax and did more damage to Batman than the Adam West series. Yes, I loved the old live-action series, but let’s face it. Given the tone of the old comics, the darkness and noir roots of the original, it’s a bit like trying to adapt Sam Spade into a Broadway musical staring The Situation.

Chris Nolan actually did something similar to J. J. Abrahams. He made the characters human again and gave us real darkness, not some emo-crap. It wasn’t about the cool toys as much as it was about the people. Batman Begins was dark, and The Dark Knight brought it to an epic crescendo with a real-world, creepy-as-hell interpretation of the Joker.

Because these characters were people, we cared for them. The Joker became a menacing, mesmerizing villain not simply because of his nihilistic genius, but because we saw Bruce Wayne grow up and slowly become Batman. We watched Harvey Dent knowing he would become one of Batman’s greatest foes.

And we cared. We really cared.


BSG Propaganda wall by ~damndirtyape on deviantART

Battlestar Galactica

When I first heard Ronald Moore was going to remake Battlestar Galactica, I had one question.

“Wait, the guy from Star Trek is going to redo the show with the walking toasters?”

I like being proven wrong.

While the original Battlestar Galactica has a camp value of its own, it was an attempt to cash in on the Star Wars craze of the late 70s. Let’s face it, though, there’s plenty of appeal for cheese, and BSG built up a loyal fanbase. Even if it was never as popular as other franchises, people knew about it and it remained relevant.

Moore, however, again did the smart thing and made people the focus of the new show. The BSG Writer’s Bible even made it a commandment. No aliens, no gee-whiz tech, nothing like that.

Thou shalt be real…


Buffy Season 8 Wallpaper by ~Bacafreak on deviantART

What Does it Mean?!

Notice the pattern. Most of these remakes were based on properties that had faltered or became the subject of ridicule. As much as I hate to admit it, Nolan’s Batman, Star Trek, and BSG all benefited from being based on ideas and series that, quite frankly were considered jokes. When the bar is that low, it’s easy to impress, but even ignoring that, the final products built new mythologies and drew new audiences in.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2011)

The original movie, as Joss Whedon has said many times, was a distortion of his original script and vision and the show staring Sarah Michelle Gellar. It was more than just a cute blond fighting demons. It had story. It managed to use rounded characters, ongoing story-arcs, and used horror, science fiction, and fantasy as metaphors. Despite some shortcomings, it was as close to a perfect show.

So what exactly are we going to add?

No Angel or Spike.

No Scoobies.

It’s not set in high-school or college.

Joss Whedon’s signature dialogue will not be making an appearance.

The tongue-in-cheek references to horror and fantasy, critical to the success of the show, will likely be gone or turned into self-referential humor.

We are left, ladies and gentlemen, with an athletic girl fighting monsters with medieval weaponry in a modern setting.

So…. Pretty much any half-assed anime.

Pretty much the only reason to make a sequel or remake something is because the original fell short somewhere. This is worse than remaking foreign movies. Most people in the United States have probably never seen the original foreign versions. This will be a show based on a show based on a movie. And the show was closer to the original script of the movie, so if they’re basing this on the movie, it’s the twice-removed bastard child of Buffy.

No links today. Classes are winding down, but the work is increasing. it’s like we’re nearing the academic singularity.

War on Christmas Salvo 1: Christianity is Un-American

Do what the nice books tells you to do...

December 1, 2010

As Christmas approaches and we get closer to the End Times, I can’t help but marvel at how so many far-Right conservatives still cling to the notion that divine intervention is the key to salvation. More specifically, I’m shocked that we still need to discuss why we are not a Christian nation. In fact, if you were to actually dissect Christianity, you would find it is the most UN-American religion you can find. Allow me to explain.


Rage over Babylon by ~ZivCG on deviantART

The Tower of Babel

The people of the world decided to work together and build a tower to the sky. Seeing this, God cursed them to speak different languages so they could not work together.

It would be very easy to take this story and look at it as a metaphor for the supremacy of God and how humanity should not meddle in things it does not understand, but it has a much more subtle and much more chilling message.

God does not want cooperation between different people. This is a gross slap in the face to the community-building and melting pot attitude of America. Or patchwork quilt. Whatever you want to call it. The point is that we are a group of people from diverse backgrounds and faiths and we live and work together. Sometimes we fight, but for the most part we seem to get along.

This, it seems, is wrong in the eyes of God.

Of course, leave it to idiots like Beck, for example, to look to the story of Babel and use it as a positive example.

Render Unto Caesar

Our country was founded on revolution. Even today, the idea of the rebel is romanticized even by people who claim to stand for conservative values. A rebel can change things. A rebel can alter the course of history by standing up the status quo and enlightening the masses.

Sadly, the Bible proclaims all rebellion to be a sin. And apparently, you also have to pay the taxes they tell you to pay.

Romans 13:1-6 states the following (emphasis added):

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.

4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.

7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Did you catch all of that? Every authority that is in place was placed there by God, so rebelling against any authority is a sin. Not just a sin against a person. It’s a direct sin against God. Think about it. By this logic, American revolutionaries were acting against the honorable and rightful rule of the British. Every Tea Partier screaming about taxes and how they are un-American while also screaming that the Constitution is divinely inspired needs to rationalize this.


Freedom Is Slavery by ~enigma06 on deviantART

Here Comes the Shotgun

There are an army of things you can’t do based on the Bible. Let me just shotgun this and give you the quick version.

You can’t eat shellfish. Goodbye, fishing industry.

You can’t divorce. There go the now-traditional second and third marriages.

You can’t wear gold. Say goodbye to all your jewelry.

You can’t tattoo your body. That means many members of our armed forces are now sinners in the eyes of God.

You cannot worship any gods besides Him. Say goodbye to the First Amendment.

Most famously, you can’t be gay. There goes the assertion that people should be judged based on their character.

Women must submit to men. In fact, women barely count as people. There goes equality.


The holy Bible by ~bardos92 on deviantART

What Does It Mean?

If you consider yourself a Christian and an American, you have one of three choices to make.

First, you could stand there and claim that the Bible is the infallible word of God, in which case you must subjugate women, abstain from shrimp and pork, obey the government no matter what it says, and otherwise live only among your own kind least God strike you with aphasia.

Secondly, you can SAY you believe the Bible is the literal truth of God, but you must pick and choose which passages you agree with based on your political and personal, not religious, beliefs. In other words, use the Bible to prove certain points while ignoring the commands you don’t like. This seems to be quite popular with fundamentalists.

HOWEVER, there is a third option…

You can admit to yourself that the Bible is the work of men working and translating over several centuries, that it is a product of its time, a religious guide written in its beginning by desert nomads who had no more an understanding of science than the average third-grader and is therefore very likely incompatible with the modern notion of “morality.” While it does contain some beautiful poetry (I’m actually quite fond of Psalm 91) and some meaningful advice (Proverbs 12:1 comes to mind), it can’t be taken as utterly infallible.

To say the Bible must be accepted as it is without question is like saying that I have to like ALL of Star Wars, that I can’t see the prequel trilogy for what it is: the quest for more money. God is a bit like George Lucas. The later works seem to suffer from too many special effects, and the early stuff definitely shows its age.

All I’m trying to say is… if I hear one more idiot talking about America as a Christian nation and how we need to do exactly what the Bible says without question… I’m going to make them eat shrimp and damn them to Hell.


The Unknown Chapel 2 by ~Ph0t0graphy on deviantART

Link time!

  • It’s almost a year until the end of the world, and what better way to celebrate than to look back at all the ways robots will turn on us. I doubt any of these will be operational in a year, but one can hope, right?
  • When I was in college, I was lucky enough to take a class with Doctor Maurice Manning, a wonderful teacher and an incredible poet. Another professor of mine recently posted a poem of Dr. Manning’s on Facebook and I had to share it here. Even if you don’t regularly read poetry or you think it’s hard, give it a look. it’s surprisingly simple yet moving.
  • Pay close attention… if you haven’t read Sarah Palin’s new book, she praises the virtues of… the common sense of pre-schoolers. I don’t know about you, but if she runs for president in 2012, I wouldn’t vote for her simply because she looks up to people who routinely eat paste and must be reminded there is no monster under the bed. In other words, her Fox News co-stars ZING!
  • And finally, Leslie Nielsen, a standard in dead-pan comedy, a seasoned actor of both drama and comedy, passed away recently. He left us a body of work from the campy yet cerebral (Forbidden Planet) to the teen slasher flick (Prom Night) and to the classic dead-pan delivery of his later years (Airplane!, The Naked Gun, etc). I think Olbermann probably did one of the better tributes to the Nielsen, so enjoy, and I’l see you on Friday.

Cthulhu Goes to College

For homework, read pages 345 to the square root of negative thirteen.

November 22, 2010

Cthulhu does not sleep! He simply couldn’t get his clay joints moving.

I recently used the 2005 silent-film Cthulhu in class. For those of you who haven’t seen it or don’t even have a desire to watch an adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s work… watch it.

Seriously. It’s a very entertaining movie and, unknown to me at the time, one of the greatest tools I’ve ever used as a teacher. I was originally going to use clips from the movie to just teach sentence structure, comprehension, and critical thinking in English. Instead, I found out that silent films actually offer us teachers a few interesting opportunities.

What Did He Say?

Since we gained access to the internet and videos in class, teachers have had the opportunity to use dialogue and real-world applications in lessons. This is invaluable, especially when you’re trying to teach English or any other language. Nothing helps more than hearing and seeing someone use it.

Silent films don’t have spoken dialogue, but they do have narration and occasional speech cards. As the movie progressed, we paused and rewound and we didn’t have to strain to make out any accents or anything similar. In fact, pausing the title cards gave my students the chance to actually read out what the characters were saying and made it feel like an interactive experience.

It was like a weird Rocky Horror show with tentacles.


Family Circus Cthulhu by ~I-AM-RESISTY on deviantART

My First Horror Movie

Call of Cthulhu has some very nice music. It’s the kind of soundtrack you’d expect from the depths of madness and despair brought forth from the unnamed eons of the past… and it’s in the same style as 1920’s silent films. It’s big and bombastic and although there’s some blood some bleeding eyes, cannibalized corpses, and the handiwork of cultists, it doesn’t have the gore factor of modern horror movies.

This is part of what made it so appealing to many of my students. One student in particular had voiced her opposition and revulsion at horror movies, and as the plot unfolded, she was one of the ones paying the most attention. When the lights came back on, she was laughing and giggling along with several other girls.

Black and white film gives us something we’ve been missing for years in the horror genre.

Horror.

When all you have is acting, lighting, and music to drive your point home, you have to try and hit real fear. You can’t rely on a gore shot or a special effect. You have to actually create the emotions in your audience, and horror is one of the more exhilarating, so not only did they get to watch a movie, but they get a jolt that keeps them awake.


Uncle Cthulhus Squamous Sauce by ~EdmondDantes on deviantART

Once Upon an Eon…

Storytelling, real storytelling, is a rare thing. I don’t have cable and frankly, I don’t miss it too much. Call of Cthulhu has the distinction of being one of the many Lovecraft stories that were at one point considered “unfilmable.” It’s set in the 1920s and uses a style usually unknown to many modern audiences.

And that’s what makes it so refreshing.

While the term “Lovecraftian” is easily used by those of us who know of the man’s work or even derivative works, this weird mix of science fiction and horror is a breath of fresh air for a large chunk of the population. Now apply that to a student who is new to American culture, let alone American fiction.

You end up with an experience he or she won’t soon forget.


the call of cthulhu by *seguidilla on deviantART

Bugs Bunny and the Great Learning Era

I learned to speak English thanks to Bugs Bunny. My mother, after a certain point, forbade me from watching television in Spanish. I had to watch it in English, and that included cartoons. My students learned new vocabulary and applied it to the movie they watched, making it stick more than just memorizing. They remember names, plot, and got to interact with the lesson.

My uncle used to say I’d grow up to be a cartoon base don how I talked.

And this is how you teach a language. It’s how you teach anything worth teaching, Make the students interact with it. Make it interesting. Most importantly, don’t let them know they’re learning.

Links tomorrow, then a break until Monday for the holidays. Thanks for reading, and have a Happy Turkey Day. And don’t forget the Big Guy is coming soon…