Star Trek: How Heroes Fall

Readings indicate a “Braga” did this.

September 10, 2012

Last week marked the 46th anniversary of Star Trek. That short-lived series spawned an entire culture, but for me, Star Trek was about more that cool ships, ham and cheese, and cool effects.

Star Trek taught me how hard heroes can fall.

It was 1996. I walked into a movie theater and saw the trailer for Star Trek: First Contact. Soon afterward, I tracked down where I could watch Next Generation and, within three years, I’d tracked down stations showing Deep Space 9, Voyager, and the original series. I rented the movies at Blockbuster and read about the making of the show, bought books on the artwork, technology, everything. I couldn’t ingest Star Trek fast enough.

As I grew up and new movies and series got off the ground, something felt off. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it. As I re-watched old episodes, I didn’t feel the same excitement. Yes, I enjoyed the episodes, but there was something missing, and it was the same feeling I was getting from the newer episodes of Enterprise and the later movies like Insurrection and Nemesis.


Spock, Star Trek by ~Hanger-18-shirts on deviantART

By the time Enterprise was cancelled and Nemesis flopped, I finally figured out what it was that had bothered me for so long. Part of it, I think, was the fact that Star Trek was no longer about analogues to real-world problems or philosophy. Episodes like “City on the Edge of Forever,” “The Measure of a Man,” and “In the Pale Moonlight” are classics that asked big questions about ethics, the nature of sentience, and the morality of war.

By the time Insurrection, Nemesis, and Enterprise came around, Star Trek was about Star Trek. Voyager was probably the worst offender. Every other word was made up and made sense if you knew the internal science on the show and had a complete disregard for actual physics and engineering. Characters were there to function as set pieces. The biggest slap came with Enterprise’s final episode, a supposed grand finale to the story that was really nothing more than a chance to do a B-story to a Next Generation episode.

I was crestfallen.


Star Trek Abbey Road by ~Rabittooth on deviantART

Don’t get me wrong. I do still love Star Trek, warts and all. My friends and I made it a game to pick out the production errors or blatantly wrong scientific terminology. I still think it made a huge impact on my love of science and speculative fiction, and I have fond memories of finding out my mother was a Trekkie in her youth, watching the redeeming 2009 movie with my now-fiancé, and the shared geekness that links me with millions of people around the world.

But Star Trek did force me to admit that even that which we love can betray us. Oh well. We’ll always have Vulcan.

Oh, wait…

The Blight of the Superman

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… a character type that stifles creativity and turns your story into a railroad plot!

June 18, 2012

Mary and I had an idea for an RPG. In a few weeks, when we need a break from D&D, we’re going to run a superhero game. As much as I would love to learn Mutants and Masterminds, I’m going to use the ever-flexible Cortex system and my players will become super-powered heroes. Well, the “heroes” part might be a stretch.

In figuring out how to make their powers balanced and work within the context of the rules, a few writing troubles arouse that made me conscious of a few flaws and doubts about my own writing. For example, in making a game about superheroes, the inevitable flying brick will appear. You know the type. Super-strong, super-tough, flight, and will be nigh-invulnerable unless you manage to find yourself some tanks or a really big nuclear missile. How would a super-powered but otherwise normal vigilante stand up to something that can tear through buildings with its bare hands? Angels, and Carmen, in Charcoal Streets offer a similar dilemma for me.


Superman by *DazTibbles on deviantART
They’re very strong, very tough, and have a small suite of powers that make them demigods compared to normal humans. In the as-yet-unfinished story “Eternal Love and Other Lies,” for example, Carmen has to contend with another of the nephilim, a half-angel, who is just as strong as her and maybe more crafty. Not to spoil much, but Carmen has to think outside the box to take care of this…

But that’s one solution. I do have story reasons for angels not just exposing themselves and ruling as god-emperors. I just have to make sure it makes sense.

Just like it should make sense that Superman doesn’t just go rogue and take over the world.

There are reasons in the story that prevent this immortal from taking over. He’s the new nuclear option. Angels in my stories are powerful enough to level a city if they tried. Carmen had to resort to mystical means to kill a demon, and even then it was hinted that killing a demon is a very rare event.

What does any of this have to do with the RPG I mentioned in the beginning? What does it have to do with writing?

If you characters have skills, make sure the threats they deal with are comparable to those skills. This is the reason Superman Returns sucked. You have one of the most powerful beings in the universe return to Earth and he has to deal with… being an absentee father? At least in Smallville they had the good sense to depower Supes for a while so he could deal with more down-to-Earth problems and still make it plausible for him to have a life.


False Clark Kent II by ~kahwe on deviantART

In effect, this is the danger of the Mary Sue, the superman in writing, the intrepid archeologist adventurer that has a solution to everything and just happens to know the right bit of information to solve the puzzle at the last minute. This is why proper background planning is essential for characters. Give them some sort of reasonable flaw, their kryptonite, if you will. Don’t make them invincible men and women who can do everything. I actually edited a manuscript once that included dog groomers who were trained commandoes and could quickly quit their day-jobs and head to South America for a black ops mission after being recruited by a retired soldier who had just won the lottery and was putting together a team.

And if that sounds like it might be awesome, let me burst your bubble right now.

It sucked a bag of donkey dong.

If your characters are gods in a world of mortals, why even include the mortals?

“It’s a remarkable dichotomy. In many ways, Clark is the most human of us all. Then… he shoots fire from the skies, and it is difficult not to think of him as a god. And how fortunate we all are that it does not occur to him.”

-Batman, Superman/Batman #3

And now, let’s look at a man who is crazy-prepared… but it makes sense.

When Dan Brown Will Rewrite the Bible

On second thought, let me bring the shotgun.

January 6, 2012

This isn’t about the string of remakes that have come out in the last several years. Those are merely the symptom of a sick culture. And we are a sick culture. We may not know it, but we have a disease that’s festered and finally made manifest in the need to make everything in high definition and CG. We need fresh faces. We’re tired of Sissy Spacek as Carrie. Let’s remake it. Maybe we’ll cast Selena Gomez as the telekinetic powerhouse. Hell, let’s just rewrite the setting and get a Kardashian.

Why not? We’re already remaking damn near everything. It was bad enough when he just cribbed horror movies from Asia, then sanitized them for Western audiences. If you watch any of the originals (A Tale of Two Sisters, Shutter, Ringu, Ju-On) you’ll notice something. These films actually try and create suspense. They don’t use jump scares as much. It’s about atmosphere and feeling.

To top it off, it seems American Psycho is also going to get remade.  And they’re updating it to the 2010’s instead of the awesome 80’s.

Let me school the younger readings on why this is bad. Why all of this is bad.

This disease stems from wanting something shiny and new. We want the latest and the best. We want it factory-wrapped and still smelling like the inside of an Apple store. I’ve got news for you. Old things are awesome. Old things lasted and fought a war against the boy bands and crap books of their time. Jimi Hendrix wasn’t anywhere near the sales powerhouse of Justin Beiber, but we still remember and listen to Hendrix. No one will listen to Beiber in ten years, much like no one listens to N*Sync or the Backstreet Boys. Oh, they have their fans, but the bands flared up and died. They had no real staying power. It’s always been a race for pop to keep catching up. Something real, though, doesn’t need to do anything but just exist.


Blitzkrieg Rock and Roll by ~phoenix138 on deviantART

Now we have the disease of the remake. We’re updating and repackaging. If it’s not new, it’s not good. The urge to verbally and physically assault the students who have blatantly told me this point of view went away after I reminded myself that they would lead empty lives looking for the next new thing instead of appreciating the good things, the good art. I’m not saying we don’t have good books or new movies, and every generation has its crap music, but it feels like there’s less of an incentive to actually do a good job.

In a world where Twilight can bring the masses to the bookstore and the Kardashains rake in millions just getting recorded at every hour of the day, why make something new? Why make something great? We’re going to remake everything anyway. Just be rich and famous then get more rich and famous when you get followed around. Don’t bother making anything. The studios will research the market and tell you what to write. The studios will ask for the scripts.

Hey, we don’t even need to bother with special effects. The Expendables showed you don’t even need to bu8y blood anymore. Apparently, all you need is a cartoonist with red paint.

The sad thing is that the effects in a modern war movie look WORSE than a fantasy movie that’s ten years old.

Enough with the remakes. If you want to see a ghostly girl on a tape, watch the original with subtitles. If you want to see Norman Bateman slice up hookers, see the Christian Bale version. We haven’t moved on to adapting and remaking books yet. Stephanie Meyers’ American Gods? Dan Brown’s “The Heart of Darkness?” Danielle Steele’s The Bible?

It will happen. Mark my words. One day, Shakespeare will be too old for students and the masses and we’ll get someone to rewrite it and update it.

No amount of bladed implements will suffice when that happens and I feel the urge to get stabby with a market researcher.


a writer … by ~OrazioFlacco on deviantART

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.

Schmucks.

FM


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.

Halloween Aftermath 2011

Or IS he?!

November 2, 2011

Why is Halloween so much fun?

If you’re a kid, you get free candy and get to dress up and essentially play all day and night. You get to watch horror movies and act out in the darkest way possible without getting arrested (for the most part).

But as an adult?

I’m going to warn you right now. I’m about to get all philosophical up in this post.

At some point, we stopped enjoying life. We go to work, cash a paycheck, and go about our routine. We’ll watch a television show or learn a hobby to pass the time, but we seem to have lost the spark of being able to play and enjoy life. This has to do with work and time as much as anything, and it’s not like we couldn’t make an extra hour in the day if we really wanted it. It’s just inconvenient. We work and act professional, and for most people this “professionalism” bleeds over into everyday life.

We become the suit we wear. The formality becomes normal.

And then Halloween comes around and we can wear a mask or a costume that, ironically, usually tells us more about us than anything else. Mary wanted to dress up like a bloody clown because she likes to creep people out. I dressed up like a calaca because I enjoy the mythology and symbolism of Dia de los Muertos.


+ Halloween+ by ~OMiyukixO on deviantART

It’s odd, but a lot of people get to be themselves more on Halloween than any other day. They let loose. It’s like they’re drunk without the hassle of drinking. There’s a general feeling that you can do anything on Halloween and it doesn’t count, so you get to see who is reserved, who is really a freak, and who likes to show off.

Maybe I’m over-analyzing it, but I think more adults need to just loosen up and have fun. Do something childish. My dad is a consummate professional in everything he does, but get him to a car museum and he turns into a little boy in a candy shop. I’m almost thirty and I work as an educator and freelance writer, but yesterday, my fiancée and I watched Tom and Jerry yesterday for a good hour.

Grow old. Just don’t grow up too much.


halloween yin by *Apofiss on deviantART

And now, to make up for the lack of articles in the last two weeks, here are some links made of awesome. Enjoy!

  • However, the best costume has to be Princess Vader. It’s so cute and epic it’s on a level on its own.
  • Here are some other epic costumes that also deserve honorable mention.
  • The airwaves are full of scary things. Like Jersey Shore. These broadcasts, however, are much scarier for other reasons.
  • I loved watching the Treehouse of Horror specials, but they seem to have gotten kind of lame lately. When I read this ranking, I was glad I wasn’t the only one who thought so.
  • I said everyone needs to calm down and just have fun with Halloween. It seems even Planned Parenthood got in on it. They released a very important memo about the dangers of vampire sex. And yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.
  • You think Halloween is creepy and scary movies are gory and unnerving? Try Halloween a hundred years ago. The costumes back then were pure, unleaded nightmare fuel.
  • These guys pulled the perfect prank. It’s creepy, unnerving, they caught it on tape, and they managed to not break any laws. Behold the horror of Timmy!
  • And finally, let’s get over Hump Day with a little metal. And Halloween. Halloween metal!

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?”

Queen Gaga?

What? Wait. No! Well, maybe. WHAT? NO! Well...

October 10, 2011

She’s a pop culture darling. They’re legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. Together, they fight crime.

I mean… together, they might make a new legendary sound.

It seems Brian May has been courting Lady Gaga to become Queen’s new frontwoman. The band never dissolved. It just stopped playing after Freddy Mercury passed away. I’ve had a lot to say about Lady Gaga, most of it unpleasant. I think she’s too much show. She has a lot of heart and is very talented, but I never really got into her sound. She knows how to get her fans going, though.

On the other hand, Queen is legendary. They created some of the most enduring songs of the last thirty years and sort of fell off the pop culture radar since Freddy left us. Freddy Mercury, though, was his generation’s Lady Gaga: flashy, talented, and passionate.

Could this actually work for anyone? Would a Lady Gaga-led Queen be a good thing?


Queen – Till the End of Time by ~Tabascofanatikerin on deviantART

I see two major obstacles here.

First of all, Lady Gaga is doing fine just the way she is. She’s got hit songs, tours, the whole nine years. There is no reason for her to join a band that hasn’t released anything since the 80’s. Becoming part of a group also means sharing the spotlight, and while Gaga HAS collaborated with other artists, it would set her back.

Second of all, Queen fans might not react well to Gaga as the new voice of Queen. She’s (rightfully so) a very modern, very sugary performer who relies more on shock value than anything else. It’s not that she’s not talented. She can sing and she explores various personal themes with her music, but I, and I think a lot of Queen fans will agree, am afraid that this won’t be so much a collaboration as it will be Queen becoming Gaga’s backup band.


Lady GaGa by *Auri3 on deviantART

…But let’s say that Gaga decides to put aside questions of money and fame and does this for the sake of the music.

Suppose this isn’t Gaga just doing Queen songs or Queen adding some rock to Gaga covers. Suppose we actually get a blend of styles and genres, and actual artists collaboration between today’s queen of pop and yesterdays kings of rock. Suppose Gaga puts aside the meat dress, takes her thorazine, and actually mellows out to create coherent music that doesn’t need to use shock to sell. She’s done it with Tony Bennett already, and she sounds great!

Could it really work? Maybe, and I hate to say it, but I’d be very curious as to what comes out of it.


Notes series – F. Mercury by ~Galathrandir on deviantART

This really could go one of two ways. If Gaga ss business-savvy, she might play it safe and stay away. If she’s really serious about collaborating and not just doing this for a gimmick, she and Queen could make something really unique. She did, after all name herself after a Queen song (though I’m not sure she understood what the song meant).

Well, to perhaps preview what such a super-group might sound like, here is a Lady Gaga/ Queen mix. If you prefer metal, here is an (amazingly good) metal cover of “Bad Romance.” If you prefer something a little harder, try out Lady Gaga meets Judas Priest.

Steve Jobs and the Legacy of Marketing

Don't get teary-eyed until you read this... Then you'll hate me.

October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs passed away yesterday. A lot of my friends have already expressed their gratitude for Apple products, and while I know that Jobs did indeed change the market and helped usher the computer revolution, I’m still a PC man.

This is not a slam on Jobs, people. I’ve used Apple products before. I had to while I was working with He Who Shall Not Be Named. I even own an iPod I like a lot. I can appreciate the simplicity of selling a product that anyone could use right out of the box, and I think Apple does a lot of things very well. However, I have one huge gripe with Apple products.

That would be Apple product users.


Apple Power by *theprodiqy on deviantART

Guys, Steve Jobs was a businessman and a nerd. He made and sold computers. Owning said computers does not make you part of the Apple community, some Borg-like collective of innovation. Using a Mac does not make you a genius. A Mac is not akin to the monolith in 2001. It is not a mysterious source of power that will grant you God-like abilities. Sure, an iPhone is handy, and there are many things it lets you do.

But it’s a phone.

I understand that a Mac is quite powerful and a handy tool if you want to work in film or graphic design. But it’s not THE tool. Back when I worked with HWSNBN, he had the latest, top-of-the-line Apple products. He could make gorgeous graphic designs and covers. He had the latest version of Photoshop and iMovie.

I could do the same kind of design on a four-year-old computer with a cheap Photoshop knock-off that was eight versions out of date. It took a few seconds for the filters and effects to render, but it was the same thing. I wish I could show the images, but Texas deer ranchers are VERY protective of people using images of their deer.


rainbow apple iphone wallpaper by ~MelissaReneePohl on deviantART

Look, Jobs was a very influential man. He was a very smart man who knew how to sell a product by making it more than a product and instead a part of the consumer’s identity.

So, with all the respect I DO hold for him, Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs.

And to the rest of you, stop trying to push your Apple products on me like you were cheap drug dealers. I’ve dealt with cheap drug dealers. Your pitches are no better.


Steve Jobs Potrait by gadgets by ~viruskuman on deviantART