Frank Miller is Dead to Me

I should have known when I saw 300...

November 14, 2011

I love Frank Miller’s work. The man created some of the most iconic images and stories in comic books. He made Daredevil gritty. He created Sin City and gave us Marv, Nancy, and Dwight. Because of him, we know what would happen if Superman ever grew the balls to fight Batman.

Surprise! Batman wins.

I’ve been a fan of his work for a long time, but I think I may now have to distance myself from the author and look back on his older works with nostalgia. Frank Miller recently espoused his views on the Occupy Wall Street movement. This, ladies, and gentlemen, is proof that your heroes should always be looked at as people, not gods.

Today, one of my gods fell.

Frank Miller’s Batman by *JonFreeman on deviantART

Everybody’s been too damn polite about this nonsense:

The “Occupy” movement, whether displaying itself on Wall Street or in the streets of Oakland (which has, with unspeakable cowardice, embraced it) is anything but an exercise of our blessed First Amendment. “Occupy” is nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness. These clowns can do nothing but harm America.

Yes, these protestors are clearly louts and thieves…

Frank, did you know that half of them have full time jobs? Twenty percent have part-time jobs. Another ten percent are students. The protestors do not have “false righteousness.” There is a laundry list of grievances.

Unemployed has spiked, and while more and more Americans are out of a job, the top earners are making more and more. That money has to come from somewhere, right?  A CEO will make 350% what their average worker will make. That’s up from 50% just a few decades ago. Do the people who manage everything really work that much harder than the people who do the grunt work?

Basically, if the companies are making billions upon billions, why aren’t they creating jobs? The tax breaks on the rich have been in place for almost ten years. We’re waiting for them to start creating jobs still? I thought this was the conservative plan? Give the rich more money and they’ll make more jobs. Well…

They’ve had ten years. What happened?

RoboCop Hates Frank Miller by ~Anicomicgeek on deviantART

“Occupy” is nothing short of a clumsy, poorly-expressed attempt at anarchy, to the extent that the “movement” – HAH! Some “movement”, except if the word “bowel” is attached – is anything more than an ugly fashion statement by a bunch of iPhone, iPad wielding spoiled brats who should stop getting in the way of working people and find jobs for themselves.

This is no popular uprising. This is garbage. And goodness knows they’re spewing their garbage – both politically and physically – every which way they can find.

The regulations were put in place after the Great Depression. We softened them under Reagan. Since then, we’ve have twenty years of fluctuating markets, Enron collapsing, and then, just as Bush was about to exit office, all those unregulated gambles and power plays came crashing down with our economy.

The 99% doesn’t want anarchy. We want capitalism to come back, but the right kind of capitalism. The kind of free market libertarians like the Koch brothers and the Tea Party want is nice if you’re a millionaire, but we don’t have that luxury. Maybe it’s the age divide that’s making you blind to the whole thing?

I Am Not A Terrorist by ~Myiesha on deviantART

Wake up, pond scum. America is at war against a ruthless enemy.

Maybe, between bouts of self-pity and all the other tasty tidbits of narcissism you’ve been served up in your sheltered, comfy little worlds, you’ve heard terms like al-Qaeda and Islamicism.

And this enemy of mine — not of yours, apparently – must be getting a dark chuckle, if not an outright horselaugh – out of your vain, childish, self-destructive spectacle.

…Frank, when did Islam become the enemy? Seriously! I’ve written plenty on this, so just read here if you want the lowdown.

In the name of decency, go home to your parents, you losers. Go back to your mommas’ basements and play with your Lords Of Warcraft.

Or better yet, enlist for the real thing. Maybe our military could whip some of you into shape.

Okay, did you miss the part where there are actual veterans at the protests? Shouldn’t be hard to find out about this since a Marine and an Army Ranger have both been injured by police. In fact, the police used flash-bang grenades on protestors trying to help said Marine. If we had ANY sense of honor and respect for our armed forces, the police involved would be fired and charged with… well, something! These men fought for us, for the right to say as we wish, speak our minds, and they came back home only to be hospitalized and brutally injured by our own police.

And, if you follow the second link in this article, you’ll find that a good percentage of the protestors are a bit older than the media makes them seem.

They might not let you babies keep your iPhones, though. Try to soldier on.



The Last Laugh by ~Zombiique on deviantART

As I understand the term “schmuck,” it means an obnoxious person who is stupid or foolish. Frank, I hope you like being pushed to the edge of fandom. I hope you like being remembered for your older works. Fans have stayed with you through Batman All-Stars and a few other stumbles, but this letter is about to help you drop the last of those few annoying fans you still had for your current work. Yes, you are entitled to your opinion. You made that opinion quite clear in Holy Terror.

But thank you for showing us that you either don’t know jack about the movement or you actually believe people who have been screwed by the system, work hard, and want equal pay are somehow anarchists. You write about superheroes who go outside the system to achieve their goals and these guys protesting on the streets are somehow the villains?!

Please, Bruce Wayne would join the protests if he had the time.

Young Bruce Wayne by *ErikVonLehmann on deviantART

Our country has been bought for a long time. I and millions of others have no illusions about it, but this is perhaps the time where our democracy, where our right to free speech and the right to pursue happiness, is the most threatened.

We are no longer citizens. We are consumers in the great United States of Corporations. We used to think people were property. Now we think companies are people. Politicians are to blame for the mess they created, but they were merely the puppets of the banks and the corporate interests. We can keep voting out people who are bought, but until we get rid of the mechanism that allows for what amounts to legal bribery, nothing is going to change. Our government will not belong to the people, but to those who give the most money. Who needs votes when you’ve got billionaire sponsors? Most millionaires, in fact, support an additional tax on their wealth. It’s the VERY few rich who wish to keep things the way they are.

The “hippies” won the culture war. Get over it. The liberal victory is the reason you even have a job.

Frank, given the plot of Dark Knight Strikes Back, you’d think you’d know better. Power corrupts. When the system can no longer deal with that corruption, when the people are powerless to do anything, revolution is inevitable.

We’re not there yet, but it’s getting close.

I can still take pleasure in your older works, take them individually for what they are, but as of right now, Frank, you are gone. Good bye.

Now, I’ll go back to one of the remaining gods in my personal pantheon: George Carlin.

Burned Out on Awesomeness

November 11, 2011

There are a lot of things going on this week, everything from Perry’s gaffe to the Penn State fiasco to the story about the gay penguins in the zoo. All of it interesting, all of it story-worthy…

And I wrote on none of it.

Instead, let’s talk about gaming and the art of writing.

I’ve mentioned how I’ve been in a bit of a funk with my writing these last few weeks, and I thought gaming and writing on the website ,may have taken away valuable time from working on Charcoal Streets. In a way, yes, these things do take up some of my time, and yes, I could use that time to write.

But I found out last year that I’m getting burned out. The stories sound goo. They’re good, but the problem is that editing and writing the stories is all I did. I couldn’t see the big picture, couldn’t tie them together like I wanted. Basically, I was getting writing tunnel vision. There’s something noble about the image of a lone writer sitting at a keyboard or with a writing pad, furiously writing, putting down a wild storm of ideas before finishing a masterpiece.

Frankly, I wished I worked like that.

When I’m on a roll, I’m on a roll. I can type out a few thousand words in a morning and have it edited by the afternoon. On an average week, with freelancing and the site, I type at least 800 words a day and get the edited by the evening. Sometimes, this can go as high as 1200 words on a particularly heavy week.

Am I just spinning my wheels? Sometimes it feels like it, but writing for the site, freelancing, and writing for our weekly games keeps me sharp. It gives me ideas. I’ve researched Gothic literature. I found biographies on villains, war heroes, and religious conflict that can help me build my world. I saw photography that was powerful and moving. I saw a young girl of fifteen smile as her mother’s dying wish.

I have a notebook filled with quotes, ideas, phrases, even just words. I don’t know how they all fit together yet, but I know that when I figure it out, it’ll make for an awesome book. I’m not worried about the time it takes to write something. I’m worried about the ideas to make it good.

So, this is a short post, just venting a bit, but I’m starting to get the hang of this new schedule. Next week should be much easier. And productive.


Randomology-Themed Drinks Vol. 1

Art, music, gaming, and booze go together like... well, like art, gaming, and booze.

November 9, 2011

I recently discovered Drinkify, a website that matches muscicians with the type of drink best suited to listen to their music. There’s a short list of a few samples over at Buzzfeed, but I think someone needs to make a database for drinks best suited to artists and other areas of art. And gaming.

In fact, we need to get some drinks together. Let’s get started.

Edgar Allan Poe

Black Faerie

  • 1/3 oz absinthe
  • 2/3 oz blackberry liqueur

Add blackberry liqueur to shot glass and layer absinthe on top.

H. P. Lovecraft

Dark and Stormy

  • 1 oz black rum
  • 1 beer

Pour rum into the beer. Drink.

Don Quixote

Butterbeer (light)

  • 1 part Schnapps, butterscotch
  • 1 dash Schnapps, vanilla
  • 7 parts cream soda

Add both vanilla and butterscotch Schnapps to mug. Pour in cold cream soda and stir very gently.

Neil Gaiman

Scotch Toddy

  • 1.5 oz Scotch
  • 1 tea bag
  • 1 tbsp honey

Put scotch and honey into a mug. Add a tea bag and fill with boiling water. Steep for a few minutes, then remove the tea bag.

Fizzy Drinks by ~JS92 on deviantART

Dungeons and Dragons

This one actually has several drink suggestions based on your style of play. I’m planning on making the spiced wine this weekend to try it out.


  • 1 bottle of beer (bock works best)
  • 1 shot bourbon (Jim Beam works best)

Add the shot of bourbon to the beer. Drink.

German Hot Spiced Wine

  • 1 gal Burgundy wine
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 1 tsp all-spice
  • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
  • Whole cloves
  • 3 lemons
  • Sugar

Slice half the orange and 2 lemons. Peel the zest from the last lemon. Drop into pot. In a tea ball or a piece of cheese cloth, put the allspice, cinnamon sticks, and cloves, drop into pot. Add the burgundy and water. Heat on low until hot, add sugar. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 2 hours. Turn off and let rest 30 minutes. Remove tea ball or cheesecloth. Serve in warmed mugs and garnish with 1/2 slice orange floating in cup.


  • ½ oz bourbon
  • ½ oz Mountain Dew
  • 1 oz cinnamon Schnapps

Mix all ingredients in mixing glass, along with 1 cup crushed iced. Strain into margarita glass and serve immediately.

That’s it for today, folks. I’d like to make this a regular feature. If you have specific drink recipes or combos you think are applicable for authors, art, gaming, movies, whatever, send me a message through the Contact Me page and I might include it next time. For now, with the recent announcement that Where’s Waldo? might be made into a movie, enjoy this possible sneak peak at what this cinematic, uhm, experience, might be like.

RELUCTANTLY Defending Twilight (VERY Reluctantly)

This hurts. A lot.

November 7, 2011

Don’t make me do this. I don’t… I don’t want to defend Twilight. I really don’t. I don’t… I just don’t have it in me. It’s like asking me to like McDonald’s. The taste it leaves in my mouth would make it impossible for me to like food again.

Crap. Here we go…

Well… frack.

This gentleman went through the Wal-Mart book shelves and picked out all the witchcraft and evil influences on the shelves. He went so far as to point out to the rest of us heathens where to find the Bibles. And these were the real Bibles, the King James Version, not any of the other pagan versions. Seeing as how this fine Youtuber also believes in chem-trails and the government somehow squeezing the life out of him through roadside speedometers, I’m going to guess he’s not the most balanced of folks, but, alas, I will answer his concerns.

– BrainWash – by ~NeonThingy on deviantART

0:24-0:32 “My young daughter is already brainwashed to say ‘Elmo’ when she sees that stupid ass…”

Dude! The kids are right there. For a guy who is trying to raise his kids right, you seem to swear a bit when trying to show your kids the Christian path. Not that there’s anything wrong with swearing but, if I may… you’re going after Elmo.

I happen to like Sesame Street. Tread carefully, my friend.

0:36-0:52 – “Got the stupid cheesy stuff: Sponge-Bob, queer stuff… and of course you get to this section. Yup, it’s still all Wiccan vampire stuff.”

Wiccan vampire stuff? I’m sorry, but I think I missed the part where faerie-like vampires engaged in a story of love and romance went anywhere near Wiccan territory. First of all, the vamps in Twilight have nothing to do with the European concept of vampirism. In fact, they’re closer to faeries.

Second of all, a close reading of the text actually shows Mormon influence, not Wiccan. I’m not sure how many Wiccans would be romanced by the strong male figure who pretty much demands he control every aspect of the female’s life as the female is nothing but a passive force in the universe. But moving on…

Twilight: Scholastic Edition by *otherwise on deviantART

1:01-1:04 – “I should buy this just to burn it… Other books by the same pervert. What’s that triangle object right there?!”

Here, our intrepid investigator is referring to a number of novels by the same author and a strange triangle symbol on the bar code. What could it mean?! Is the government monitoring your reading habits?!

Actually, the triangle is just an aid so the barcode has an easier time scanning the code.

Moving on to the main point, though, what would buying, then burning the book, get you? You bought it, gave money to the author, and you put this video out claiming you burned it. You’ve just given cash and free publicity to the author. Do you know what happens when parents and adults say something should not be read and burned instead?

Kids want to do it. Good luck with that. Oh, and I’m sure when your kids rebel and want to piss you off, that little Bible-burning picnic they set up based on your example will go over really nicely-like.

1:29-1:35 – “This is what is given for kids to read these days.”

Were libraries outlawed in the time it took me to watch this video?

Sir, these are not the only choices kids have. I know you think the government is a socialistic Anti-Christ hell-bent on brainwashing your kids, but we have these things called libraries that have thousands of books for them to read. Since you have access to Youtube, I’m going to assume you also have access to Amazon and can order books. Even used books only cost a few cents if you shop right.

Wal-Mart sells what is popular, not the only things out on the market. I know some books are out of print, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t find them if you took more than five minutes out of your busy day of identifying chem-trails to look for suitable reading material for your kids.

It’s called being a parent. Wal-Mart is not known as a literary destination for a reason. It sells romance novels and pop vampire romance novels right now because that’s what sells. Don’t like it? Don’t buy it. It’s called capitalism. Anyone who wants to read actual literature or something not written and published without editing will look further than the shelves at Wal-Mart.

GAY PRIDE by =AngelXKairi on deviantART

2:00 -2:04 – “Oh, it’s still got Twilight, which is really gay.”

This will be the second “gay” reference you make this video. Is “gay” a bad thing? Seeing as how you seem to be the kind of guy who would beat up a teen just because he likes choir, let me let you in on a secret.

Using “gay” as a derogatory tells me volumes of your mind-set. It’s like saying, “Oh my god, that’s so black and ghetto,” or “That is such a Jew line.” You’re a bigot. You’re intolerant of others. You have none of the so-called love of Christ in your heart.


2:14-2:30 – “This is the garbage… this is the choice for your thirteen year old here at Wal-Mart. And then when they grow up they can read all these other useless novels.”

Again, if you’re looking to Wal-Mart to provide literary stimulation, you’re out of luck. There is this wonderful thing called the internet. I know you think it’s full of porn and federal agents trying to suck your soul out of the magic computer box, but there’s this thing called Project Guttenberg. They have thousands of free books. I know that sounds kind of socialist, but they’re classic tales.

If you want quality reading for your teens, pick up a good collection of poetry or some classic literature. If Wal-Mart dictates your reading choices, I’d hate to think what it does to your diet.

3:00-3:31 – Opens package with King James Bible to “inspect it.”

…Did you just ask your daughter to open a package in a store? That’s stealing, isn’t it? Well, it’s against the evil Satanic store selling vampire novels, so it’s okay, right? You couldn’t put the camera down for five seconds and do it yourself? You had to teach your daughter it was okay to tamper with products that aren’t yours?

MINECRAFT IS EVIL by *TomPreston on deviantART

4:10-4:14 – He quotes a Bible verse instructing the faithful to “put down” those who worship differently.

And this is the scary part of the video. It’s righteous to “put down” those who worship differently?

People wonder why Christians get such a bad rep. If I may quote the poet Marilyn Manson, “I never really hated a one true god, but the god of the people that I hated.”

You’re going out there and advocating book burning, killing those who believe in things you don’t, showing your daughter that it’s okay to steal and hate those who are different, and you think Wal-Mart offers the only choices when it comes to your reading list.

Well, I hope those kids learn to become productive members of society despite your lessons. You’re a paranoid fundamentalist who probably votes based on what the little voice in your head tells you. You most likely think Fox is too liberal and you own six types of guns on the off-chance someone tries to correct you.

Liberals and free-thinkers are “target practice” where you live, aren’t they?

And once more, in case I didn’t make myself clear…

You’re an asshole.

And now, a look at a real conservative for America.

Halloween 2011 Short Stories

It's Dia de los Muertos themed... not Halloween. You should know how I feel about mixing those two by now.

Today, let me share two pieces of flash fiction. Enjoy, and have a safe and fun Halloween!

“We Do It For You”

Whenever I feel like doing something silly, I wait until I’m standing in front of a mirror and make faces. I stick out my tongue or roll my eyes. Sometimes I just smirk. It takes effort, but it’s very relaxing to do something unexpected. The rest of my day is just spent waiting for my next task. I beg you. Be silly. Show the faces other people don’t know. You really should lighten up. Every time you look in a mirror, it’s always to make sure you look good. It’s to make sure you show the face people want to see.

That’s why I make those faces. You’re too uptight. I’m just trying to lighten the mood. All I ever do is the things you do, copy all your movements.

One day, I’m going to make you grab a pen and shove it in your eye.

Just smile.

Bloody Mary by ~darkshadowmagus on deviantART

“The Sound of the Fight”

My uncle is an exorcist. We were talking one day and I happened to mention my friends and I were going to see a horror movie later. He looked at me with all seriousness and said he never watches horror movies. It’s not that he’s scared. He’s insulted. They’ve never gotten it right.

An exorcism isn’t some ritual performed on some teen girl wearing a white nightgown. An exorcism is a fight. He told me he once went to a house in a poor section of the city. One of the man’s daughters was possessed, and my uncle went in to do battle. He wasn’t a priest. He wasn’t a man who studied theology in all its forms. He was a man of faith. If The Exorcist showed the tactical game of wits between good and evil, my uncle was a street fighter who walked up to demons and ghosts and sent them out with a sucker punch.

He never really told me what the exorcism looked like. I didn’t want to press him since he had the kind of look a soldier gives if you ask if he ever had to shoot someone.


My uncle did tell me one thing, a small detail I’ve never been able to forget. While an exorcist fights demons, the demons will fight back and make sounds like dogs. They howl and bark and sound like animals in pain.

How many howling dogs in the middle of the night are demons trying to stay on Earth?

The War on Halloween

Yeah, that's me in Joker make-up. I made the paper, too! For non-criminal reasons!

October 25, 2011

As if the stupid War on Christmas wasn’t enough, Fox now thinks there’s a War against Halloween. I guess pulling out of Iraq left them wanting combat of some sort, so let me indulge them.

The Fox story goes something like this. Schools are banning Halloween celebrations because they don’t want kids eating candy and they want to not exclude anyone who doesn’t believe in the celebration, i.e. immigrants. But allow me to let Ren and Stimpy here to say it far more stupidly than I ever could.

This, of course, ignores various points. Let me go over them rapid-fire style.

The schools are banning candy to help kids eat healthier.

The celebrations are not being banned. They’re being moved to after-school so the parties won’t disrupt classes.

Likewise, kids can still wear costumes, but so as not to distract from valuable class time, the kids may wear the costumes after school.

Some of the kids cannot afford costumes because of tough economic situations, and this led to hurt feelings and isolation. Worrying about other people’s feelings is NOT a liberal conspiracy. It’s called basic human decency.

Now let me get to the one major point of contention for me.

Dia De Los Muertos by ~Mastowka on deviantART

Immigrants are offended by Halloween? If anything, I think Halloween is TAME by the standards of most immigrants. Take me for instance. I come from a culture that doesn’t celebrate Halloween, but instead has a holiday where we lay out altars dressed in food, flowers, and booze so the spirits of our dead relatives can visit us. We INVITE the ghosts in. Little Timmy in his Situation costume? Lame. We deal with real ghosts.


The only reason I can assume an immigrant would be offended or feel left out by Halloween is if he or she did not know what it was. Seeing things like spirits and magic treated like a kid’s game might be offensive to some who hold on to beliefs that treat them as real, and I’m sure a lot of pagans and Wiccans take offense to things like the portrayal of witches. The celebration’s spread around the world, though it’s only here in the States that it seems to have attained the kind of holy reverence once reserved for Christmas. Halloween is not some sacred rite here. It’s a fully commercialized day where kids get hopped up on sugar, get to play dress-up, and women are made to dress like pseudo-hookers.

cute halloween by *pronouncedyou on deviantART

War on Halloween? Please. If we immigrants are somehow tainting the purity of this Americanized pagan harvest observance, it’s only because we know what the season is really about.

And now, in an effort to make you think nothing but good thoughts, here’s Michael Winslow doing Led Zeppelin with only his sound effects and a guitar. This is the sound of pure, distilled awesome.

Kristen Stewart’s Teacher Problem

If you take a shot whenever she bites her lip in a movie, you'd be dead from alcohol poisoning by the second reel.

October 19, 2011

Aside from starring as one half of an abusive relationship based on sparkles, Kristen Stewart has also helped to turn vampire fiction into something slightly less tame than a Lisa Frank trapper keeper. Now, though, she’s gone and taken a swipe at her teachers.

All of them. They failed her! When she was young and acting, she did not receive the support she should have received! In a recent interview, Stewart claims she had to drop out of traditional school because her teachers would not accommodate her life. When she was away on shoots, her teachers did not send her work and they counted her as absent when she was gone. This, she says, made it impossible for her to continue a regular education.

Yeah, those teachers really dropped the ball. How dare they do THEIR JOB?

school is fhuuuunn by ~Free-Hugz-4-Tobi on deviantART

See, Kristen, here’s what you fail to realize. A teacher has to keep watch over many students. Teacher gives out work. Students take work. Students study and use the tools given to them. Teacher continues to teach and build upon previous lessons, accommodating the lesson as needed for special cases.

Special cases might include things like ESL students, students who do not have a solid grasp of English yet. For example, I will give a full lesson in English. If, after the lesson, an ESL student has questions, I will be more than happy to review with them and, if needed, go over it in Spanish. That’s a reasonable accommodation.

Having a teacher mail work to a location so a student can finish it on her own schedule as she works? Not so much. If a student is sick or has to leave for a family emergency, that’s a situation beyond the student’s control. A compassionate teacher would probably mail or email work out to the student.

EDUCATE by ~Not-A-Tree-225 on deviantART

But acting was a choice on your part, Kristen. You chose to pursue an acting career at eight. You chose to go to jobs that required you to miss school. If you wanted to do this, fine. Get homeschooled. Nothing wrong with that choice.

Just don’t blame your teachers for not catering to your particular needs. They have a job to do, as do the students. Students need to put forth the effort. If I decided to become a blogger in high school and wanted to spend all my time researching and writing and not going to school, I wouldn’t expect a teacher to not count me absent or send me work.

Kristen, you already starred in a (shamefully) hit film series. You’re set for life. Stop whining that American educators did not serve your wishes (not needs) and hand you your education. You made your choice. Now shut up.

And now, let’s look at someone DUMBER than Kristen Stewart.

A Review of The Thing

AKA Ramona Flowers vs Aliens. Oh yeah!

October 18, 2011

The Thing is one of those classic films that really changed the genre. The special effects showed a graphic representation of alien invasion on a biological level. The sense of paranoia created by not knowing and actually caring who had been infected by the Thing made it not only deeply disturbing, but also unleaded nightmare fuel.

So how did the prequel/remake stack up?

I’m going to try and not give away any spoilers, but here’s the lowdown on the original 1982 film.

An American research station in Antarctica finds out that a nearby Norwegian outpost has been decimated by… something. They investigate and find evidence of an ancient starship buried in the ice. However, as a coming storm threatens to cut the Americans off from all contact with the rest of the world, they slowly realize that something from the Norwegian camp made it to the American outpost. It can perfectly mimic whatever it consumes. And not everyone is human anymore.

The prequel actually starts days before in the Norwegian camp. After finding the alien ship, they call in a paleontologist, Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). When she arrives, the team removes an alien corpse from the ice and begins to study it, but soon things take a turn when the alien wakes up and escapes. Soon, the team can’t be sure who is still human or not.

The Thing by ~PurityOfEssence on deviantART

The Good

The movie is FUN, and I mean that in the best way. One thing I liked compared to the 1982 film is that the prequel actually has happy, likable characters. Kurt Russell is dour and jaded and shell-shocked, and everyone else is pretty much just as dark. The Norwegian team, though, is actually having fun with their work, making it more jarring when the bodies start piling up. Winstead is actually really good in her role as an archeologist-turned-Amazon and she adds some heart to the film.

Because of the changes in special effects technology, the monster is much faster and interacts with the victims much more prominently. We get to see some very freaky transformations that don’t have to cut back and forth between different models. Plus, we FINALLY get to see how the thing absorbs someone and changes them, and it’s the kind of thing that would make the Marquis de Sade gag.

Best of all, whoever wrote the script actually paid attention to a little something called continuity. We get to find out what the hell the creature the American team found was and we got to see why the Norwegian camp was such a warzone, including finally explaining the corpse that apparently killed itself in the radio room.

Once the action gets going, it gets going, too. While it starts with the same kind of paranoia as the original, it soon turns into a chase to stop the creature, and it’s much faster than the original film.

The Thing by ~FritoSparrow on deviantART

The Bad

Let’s face it: it’s a foregone conclusion than pretty much every character you see is going to die by the end of the film. They have to. There are only so many ways to tell this story, too, and if anyone is smart enough, they do what the characters do to try and weed out the alien. This unfortunately means that the general plot is a dead giveaway. You know the broad strokes of what will happen.

By having the creature take a center stage in the action and featuring all sorts of close-ups and extended transformations, the film obviously needed to step the game up. While early reports said that the film was going to use as little CGI as needed, the final version is FULL of CGI. Not only that, but it’s not revolutionary in any way. It looks okay. It’s not a bad computer effect, but it’s the same thing that’s been done over and over again.

The Thing by *tarrzan on deviantART

The Final Word

Does the 2011 film stack up to the remake? Yes and no.

It was a really fun movie overall. I enjoyed the action scenes and was concerned with the welfare of every character. I thought Winstead and the rest of the cast were very good at their roles.

However, I do want to address something else. As io9 pointed out, a lot of viewers are complaining that the Thing in the prequel doesn’t seem to have any plan, unlike the original film where it was trying to leave Antarctica and infect the rest of the world. True, but I actually thought it made sense. In the prequel, the monster’s just woken up. It’s weak. Even if it infects other humans, it’s still an alien to our culture and our ways. It’s probably more scared than anything.

By the time we get to the sequel, it’s had time to adapt and it makes the great escape plan of looking like a dog so others will take it in. Even at the end of this film, it finally wised up and decided to try to blend in to get rescued as a human.

Would I watch it again? Probably. It’s not a terrible film by any means, but it does have the added weight of having to live up to one of the standards of the genre, so that hurts it.

Go watch it. If you saw the 1982 version and loved it, this is a nice addition to the mythology. If you’ve never seen the Kurt Russell version, do yourself a favor and do so now before seeing this one.

Or watch it on Netflix without having to pay.

Bordertown Laredo: Like a Fox News Documentary on Civil Rights

You will never find a more wretched hived of scum and villainy... If you believe the show.

October 14, 2011

I watched Bordertown: Laredo last night. It was the premier and they showed two back-to-back episodes. I was curious to see how this show would portray the city I live in, and was a little scared because Laredo is the influence for Via Rosa, the semi-fictional setting of Charcoal Streets. I know I don’t exactly paint a rosy picture in my stories, but I made it a fictional city with elements from various cities for a reason.

Now, I realize it’s only the first two episodes, but I have a few complaints about what I’m seeing. And yes, I know the Laredo Narcotics Team is a local organization of law enforcement essentially fighting a NATIONAL cartel organization in Mexico. Their job is difficult and they put themselves in very real danger just by appearing in this show…

But this isn’t about whether or not drugs should be legal, the ethics of the war on drugs, or anything like that. I need to talk to the producers of this show. Aside from the fact that the cops don’t even wear gloves during part of the evidence collection process, the fact that everyone of them is in terrible shape for the kind of physical activity they engage in, or that one of them seemed to have pink handcuffs for no apparent reason, there are a few things that just bothered the hell out of me last night.

It’s MexiNoir!

Nothing screams “Hispanic” and “edge of nowhere” like using fake film scratch in your opening text superimposed with images of the downtown. Seriously, though, the images used in the title sequence were all seemingly taken within three blocks of the river. Yes, we have a massive Mexican population and a lot of sections in town have signs in Spanish. Yes, a lot of buildings downtown are in a state of disrepair.

But if you travel not three blocks further inland, you find I-35, McDonald’s, and this little view.

Worse, the music sounds more Spanish than actually Mexican, which isn’t unexpected since we were under Spanish rule at one point, but if they were trying to go with a Wild West theme, they failed. It sounds more flamenco than anything else.

Oh, and to whoever actually took the time to edit in images of the Beer Run stores, shame on you. Nothing says “class” like drive-through liquor stores with exploited female workers.

We Took a Wrong Turn at North America

This is really a jab at the editor. In one scene, the police are following a car. Anyone who lives here can recognize the intersection as McPherson and Saunders. The cops then chase the guy and say they are passing a church. A shot of the San Augustin Cathedral is shown. Then the cops reach the guy’s house somewhere in what looks like Zapata Highway or somewhere else in the deep southeastern part of the city based on the landscape.

These three locations are nowhere close to each other. The church is more than two miles away to the west, then to get to Zapata Highway, it’s another seven miles in the opposite direction.

Granted, the Cathedral looks nice, a lot nicer than other churches, but would it have killed the editor to use the REAL church they passed? Instead, we get a set of detours that amounts to something out The Family Circus.

Mexico by ~TornadoGirl108 on deviantART


Welcome to the United States of Aztlan

All of these gripes are about the way the show was put together. However, when you actually sit down and watch the show, there are more than a few problems with the way the city and its residents are portrayed.

And before I get to that, let it be known I have no shortage of complaints about this town. We are undereducated and have networks of ties that make any legitimate business difficult. Like one friend in DC once told me, “Dealing with Laredo is like dealing with the mob 20 years ago.”

In just the first two episodes, we’ve had the cops bust several storehouses filled with thousands of pounds of drugs. It’s an impressive set of hauls, sure, but the show hasn’t shown much past a mile or so from the border, and if you think the drug trafficking is confined the “Mexican” or “poor” parts of the city, you are sadly mistaken. I know going to suburbia and busting some high schoolers isn’t glamorous, but the drug trade is EVERYWHERE in town. And it’s not that hard to find someone to sell you drugs.

If you want to find a drug dealer, talk to three people. Those three people will, in short time, name someone who buys or sells or uses. Then follow it to the source. It’s easier to find a drug dealer in Laredo than it is to find a Starbucks in any major American city.

This show is going to be hell for this town. I don’t like it here that much, but I’d prefer if they at least got their portrayals right.

To clean out all this dumb, let’s get a Spanish lesson from Dora. Can you say, “Sniper, no sniping?”

The Fed in Your Head

Smile for the fascists!

October 12, 2011

The awesome thing about science fiction is that it can show us a world of possibilities both mundane and extraordinary. The scary thing about science fiction is when a part of it actually comes true, but it’s not a part we really wanted.

Remember in Minority Report when the cops used a machine connected to psychics in order to predict when murders would occur? Seemed all fantastic and futurey, right?

As it turns out, not so much.

Minority Report by ~inkedartist on deviantART

Our government has mined the internet for data for some time. Think Eagle Eye sans Julianne Moore and insane computers. Looking for key words and patterns in social media is not that outrageous, although Big Brother looking over your shoulder and flagging you because you were talking about the news and happened to mention “bomb,” “President,” and “kill” probably got on some peoples’ nerves. However, the Department of Homeland Security is moving on the road to complete thought police by testing out a new piece of technology.

It’s called Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST), and boy is it neat-o. It does the same thing as mining the internet for data, but hey! This one goes right to the source and looks at things such as video, audio, heart rate, breathing, and even facial expressions. Homeland Security claims its non-intrusive, but it doesn’t get more intrusive that having a piece of government hardware looking at my pores and trying to guess if that twitch is because I’m nervous for hiding something or because I had a bean burrito and I’m holding a fart in.

Proponents of the new technology cite the well-worn scenario of a bomber entering a stadium, or a terrorist getting through airport security. Would you want little Billy and Susie to die because we didn’t catch this guy? Of course not, but if the government had the ability to monitor our physiological signs and try to guess if we would commit a crime, would you really want that technology applied to you? And don’t say that it’ll be only for terrorists, because as soon as the government can monitor someone, EVERYONE is up for grabs.

Here’s a fun game. If you’re on a phone and you hear a light click, that’s Homeland Security tapping the line. I’m not making that up. I’ve got friends in the department that can validate that. They even get THEIR calls tapped once in a while.

homeland security? by ~Satansgoalie on deviantART

Look, I get it. It’s a scary world. There are people out there who have no qualms about killing themselves or women and children and puppies. I’m not blind to that, but if FAST works, it will give the government a tool to try and guess who will commit a crime.

And what will they do then?

Let’s say we do use this to catch a guy with a Semtex vest trying to sneak into a ballpark. Law enforcement gets him, saves the day, and the game resumes. Wonderful. Now let’s say little Johnny has a bad day because he burned his mouth on his Starbucks double mocha venti latte alfredo sauce coffee, and he’s in a bad mood. He walks into work not the least bit ready to deal with anyone’s crap, and the system flags him for harboring violent thoughts.

thought police by ~Satansgoalie on deviantART

What then? Hold him until we find out what he was GOING to do? There are any number of ethical concerns with punishing someone who has done nothing. By simply predicting the future, we change it. If you told me that I was going to give a really bad presentation because I didn’t get enough sleep or I would be crabby because I would then lock my keys in my car, I would take steps to prevent those things from happening.

When you predict, you alter the series of events leading up to the prophesized moment. How can you possibly punish someone for future deeds? Granted, if I was driving around with a trunk-load of pipe bombs, the cops might have something to charge me with, but you cannot prosecute people who have done nothing. It’s a violation of privacy and an insane idea.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to wait for the nice men in black SUVs to get here. I hear Guantanamo is lovely this time of year. In the meantime, please enjoy this video of the first trailer for The Avengers. Get excited!