Dad the Writer 2

Father, husband, writer...
Father, husband, writer…

July 22, 2015

In continuing last week’s “Dad the Writer,” I need to point out that keeping mentally active is not the only thing needed in order to be an artist and a parent. Yes, you need to keep sharp, but your body can suffer if you neglect it.

While many of us would be happy living on a diet of tea or coffee and whatever we can throw in the microwave, very few of us have the Kryptonian physiology to not die after a few years of this. Luckily, my wife and I have some experience making do with small budgets and trying to eat healthy, so these habits very much informed our current situation.

I’ll be the first to admit it: I dropped the ball when it came to taking care of myself. After the baby was born, and even about a year before, I focused so much on work and taking care of my then-pregnant wife that I did gain weight and neglect my exercise. Now, with the Little One more or less in a stable schedule, my wife and I are getting back to a routine to better ourselves.

I’m by no means a nutritionist, but I have found a few things that work for me to eat healthier and not go on some fad diet, and I’m not a personal trainer, so take my advice with a grain of salt. Just because it works for me, doesn’t mean it can work for you.


Writer by claire-eyhe on DeviantArt

Learn to Cook

Most of us are more than satisfied with just opening a bag and mixing in water or simply putting a plate into the microwave. That might do in a pinch, but I discovered many years ago, long before I’d even met my wife, that learning to cook means having control over what you consume. Diet sodas and even “healthy” meal options often pack in the sugar to mask the fact that they’re basically cardboard.

It takes a little time, but you can choose exactly what you put in your body, and cooking is a good way to de-stress or at least step away from work long enough to refresh your mind.

Our diet right now is almost vegetarian and focused on greens like kale, collard greens, spinach, and other goodies. We add plenty of garlic, lentils, brown rice, and couscous into the mix and some turkey when we want meat. Once in a while, we’ll go for actual red meat, but this is a treat, both for nutrition’s sake and for health’s sake. Sodas and anything processed is also right out.

Alcohol? Well, in reality, we should cut that out to a drink a week, but a little bourbon once the Little One goes down once in a while is a good way to help the day just melt away. Suffice to say, though, that any sort of mixed drink goes right out the window due to the sugar.


Cooking by pianorei on DeviantArt

Works Out for the Meek

You want to know how I lost twenty pounds in a few weeks once? I walked. A lot. At least an hour a day, five days a week. Yes, I did also cut back on sugars and soda, but the main thing is to keep moving. That sounds easy enough when you’re taking care of a tiny human learning to walk, but you need to combine it with something else.

Given that time is more precious than gold right now, I had to find some way to keep in shape that didn’t eat up the clock. I’m not talking about getting on the cover of Men’s Fitness. I mean doing something to keep flexible and strong and even have some energy and keep my metabolism up. I chose to do tabata workouts because they’re easy, require no equipment (mostly), and they can be done in less than fifteen minutes.

The short version is that you pick a small number of exercises (jumping jacks, squats, push-ups, sit-ups, etc) and do them, one at a time for twenty seconds with a ten second break in between. You do as many reps as possible in those twenty seconds. After you do four exercises, you repeat the cycle once and then rest for thirty seconds or a minute before you start again. Doing two sets takes no more than ten minutes and kicks your butt if you’re not ready for it.


Yoga I by Studio4496 on DeviantArt

Sleep When You’re Dead

I used to joke that sleep was for the week. Well, I’m weak. And tired. And Mattie woke up at 3 AM today and figured it was time to play. A lot.

Sleep is SO important. I didn’t realize until becoming a father just how much I didn’t appreciate it. I’ve been tired before, either studying for tests or staying up grading tests. The difference, I finally realized, was that I could step away from my work. I could just tell myself to go take a nap and come back to it in a few hours.

You can’t do that with a baby.

This is where the focus from the last article comes in. Yes, do the work you need and push yourself to sit and actually write or create something in the precious few minutes you can spare, but if you need to rest and have the chance, TAKE IT. You don’t know when that opportunity will come again. And really sleep. Don’t just lay there.

Seriously. I need a week-long vacation after every tooth comes out.

That’s it for today. Stay tuned for more goodies and, in the meantime, enjoy this trailer for Clown, a movie that was surprisingly creepy, if not silly.

Specter Spectacular Review

If you read horror with more than one light one, you don’t DESERVE HORROR!

October 30, 2012

While horror movies are all fine and good for this time of the year, nothing really tops a good book in a dark room while you’re wrapped in a blanket. To that end, I picked up a copy of Specter Spectacular and read through it to get my ghost story fix on.

The Good

The stories range from the witty to the macabre, so there’s something for everyone. Those stories that go for creeps certainly deliver on this promise. “Alabaster” has a suitably atmospheric cabin in the woods and a mysterious location, as does “The Little House at Bull Run Creek” with its abandoned Southern manor and mysterious noises. The beginning story, “My Rest a Stone,” has a suitably creepy child narrating the events on a life boat as everyone loses his or her mind.

The stories that really handled description well were my favorites. Horror is all about putting yourself in the characters’ situation, empathizing to the point where you actually

Perhaps my favorite story, however, was “Death and Taxes,” about a ghost desperate to be scary. The very British humor would not have been out of place in a Monty Python sketch, and while I may have been thinking Harry Potter, I could very much picture John Cleese as Jeck, the hapless ghost. On the other end of things, “Wendigo” was very subtle and had wonderful characters to latch on to, as well as a story that was equal parts unsettling and sad.

The Bad

As far as ghost stories and scary tales go, few of the entries in the anthology actually gave me chills. Then again, I’ve been pretty desensitized to those sorts of things and it takes a lot to scare or creep me out. That’s not to say, though, that this is a terrible thing.

Some stories also felt forced. “The Haunts of Albert Einstein,” for example, felt like more of an overtly-long description instead of a story. There were other missed opportunities for great stories. For example, “The Secret of Echo Cottage” was all about a World War II site that was now a home to a pregnant couple. The final twist in the end was obvious, at least to me, but by playing with those expectations, each story could have easily been something different and much more subtle.

The Final Word

While it didn’t give me nightmares, it certainly was fun to read. I enjoyed the patchwork of stories and styles and many of the stories, especially the funny ones, were a good change of pace. If there’s a sequel, I’m defiantly buying it.

Overall, a good read. 8 out of 10.

You can pick up a copy here and see what others have said.

And speaking of ghost stories, let’s see if the remake of Evil Dead is any good. It has all the players behind the camera, but I still think it needs Ash. Tell me what you think in the comments below.

Horror Movies for the Squeamish

For your viewing pleasure.

October 16, 2012

It’s Halloween season again! It’s like Christmas, but watching movies about idiots getting butchered is not frowned upon, so I’m good.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been helping students from several classes, but one class in particular is making students write their review essays on a horror movie. You can imagine my excitement. However, not everyone is willing to just sit down and watch a good dismemberment. And that’s fine. Here are a few films to watch this Halloween season if you don’t want to see blood and gore but would like to see what all the hoopla is about.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

An old manor somewhere in New England has a dark secret, and a father and his daughter, along with Daddy’s new girlfriend, are moving in while the happy couple restores the home to its former glory. However, something has been let loose in the basement, something small and with teeth.

The story has a bit of violence, mostly with one unfortunate victim of the creatures in the basement, and aside from a brief moment in the beginning and the hint of blood, it relies more on suspense and character development. It definitely looks like a Guillermo del Toro movie, too, which is just icing on the cake.

The Last Exorcism

A pastor who specializes in performing exorcisms hires a camera crew to follow him around so he can show them just how the game is played. He’s tired of conning people in the name of God and wishes to show what exorcists actually do. A worried father writes him a letter saying his daughter is possessed, but as soon as our intrepid preacher arrives, he thinks this case is different. This one might be real.

While not the greatest exorcism movie out there, it’s light enough on the blood and gore to still meet expectations. What blood there is mostly shows after the fact and the camera moves away from anything too graphic. The primary horror comes from the mystery of whether or to this young woman really is possessed or if she’s playing an elaborate trick on everyone.

Fair warning, though. The ending really divides people.

Mimic

Another Guillermo del Toro flick, this one has his trade-mark bugs and slime. As a plague seemingly moves to kill every child in New York City, a group of scientists identity common roaches as the problem. Using some slightly unethical genetic engineering, they create the Judas breed, a new insect whose only mission is to destroy the roaches… And it works.

Fast forward a few years and something’s hunting people in New York City. It’s big, strong, and looks oddly bug-like.

Being a horror movie with a monster, of course there are plenty of deaths and eviscerations, but they’re off-camera and mostly in the shadows. There’s blood, but nothing you wouldn’t see in an episode of CSI. It also has plenty of creepy crawlies.

Bubba Ho-Tepp

This is perhaps the best example of a weird idea that just works. Elvis is in a retirement home after having faked his “retirement.” The man in the home is an impersonator, or so everyone thinks. The man in the unassuming room really is the King of Rock after he paid an impersonator to take over his life.

But now, something is stalking the halls of the retirement home, and it’s up to Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy, also in hiding, and now black, to save the day.

The movie is pretty light on horror at first, being more of a character study, but when it gets going, it gets going. This may not be the best “party” movie, but it’s certainly great once you get a few drinks in you and you want the kind of movie that just screams “acid trip.”

Lo

Man loses girl. Man summons demon to find out what happened to girl. Demon proceeds to give man the It’s a Wonderful Life treatment with a theater set that seems to break the universe’s fourth wall with everything from poorly-staged productions to dance numbers. It’s equally sappy, narmy, and disturbing, but it has a sense of humor about itself hat just oozes class.

It’s fairly trippy and very dialogue-heavy. Watch at your own risk. Honestly, I can see people getting bored with it early on, but if you stick with it, the payoff is worth it.

So there you go. Some nice, non-gory horror. And now, for those of us that remember good, old horror, let’s see if the first teaser for the Carrie remake lives up to its source material.

Also, all the previous movies are currently available for streaming on Netflix.

The Snark Knight Sensationalizes

One of these is a megalomaniac who ingests drugs to give him the power to keep going in a tough fight. The other one fought Batman.

July 19, 2012

Ladies and gentlemen, I know I am known for my verbosity. I have a love of words and sometimes that takes the better of me. I think my YouTube videos should attest to that. However, please record the time and place. As of right now, I am speechless.

Behold.

There are so many things wrong with that speech that it would be easier to list the things that are correct. Let’s start.

“Bane” and “Bain” are homophones. That means they sound the same.

There. We’re done. That’s all that was the same.

No, really.

Bane was introduced to Batman comics in 1993. He was a formidable foe, just as smart as the Bat but more ruthless. In fact, Bane figured out Batman’s secret identity within a year and put together a plan to finally defeat him. It ended with Bane fighting an exhausted Batman in Wayne Manor, then snapping Bruce’s back like a toothpick. The event was mentally and physically traumatic and it was only through sheer will that Batman eventually recovered. Over the years, Bane has been a recurring villain, and sometimes ally, of Batman.

For The Dark Knight Rises, Bane is re-imagined as a terrorist of sorts. I haven’t seen the movie, but from interviews and promos, it seems he is just as cunning and fearsome as his comic book counterpart and not the movie we will all pretend never happened.

Oh, and did I mention Dark Knight Rises was drafted back in 2008?


The Dark Knight Rises by ~RyanLuckoo on deviantART

That’s right. Four years ago. WAY before this election cycle. Does Rush honestly believe this was planned out on the off-chance that Romney ran for president? Did Nolan magically intuit that Romney would be the presidential nominee and that the Bain Capital would be ammunition from both Republicans and Democrats? And before someone says, “Well, Romney ran in 2008, too, so this must have been relevant back then,” let me remind you of something…

ROMNEY WASN’T CRITIQUED FOR BAIN CAPITAL LAST TIME.

Did I mention the sheer divination powers needed in order for this to make sense? Seeing a conspiracy where none exists with a character that’s been around for 19 years is a sure sign of lunacy. Let’s apply this kind of Right Wing logic to other comic book characters. Here are a few more conspiracy theories…

  • Batman is some rich guy who takes his own money to help others out of charity. He even gives jobs to people in low-income areas. This is obviously a dig at rich people who know how the market really works. Batman is an attack on capitalism.
  • Captain America embodies the ideals and spirit of the Greatest Generation, but he’s not the strongest or fastest superhero. In fact, he’s just a man. This is clearly an attack on American exceptionalism.
  • Superman is an illegal alien who fights for the American way. He’s also the most powerful being in the comics. Whenever he is gone, things go badly. This is obviously a metaphor for illegal aliens being the backbone of this country, even though they’re not here legally.
  • Wonder Woman comes from an island populated by women, and you know what THAT means. Making her super-strong is obviously meant to imply that women don’t need men in their lives. This is obviously an attack on the family.
  • Green Lantern is an obvious propaganda film for the United Nations and usurping control from local governments. An American gets drafted in a galactic police force and does THEIR will on Earth? And he saves the day when Earth can’t? This is obviously an attack on American sovereignty.


Not-turnal by *Tragic-Ballerina on deviantART

So, no, Rush, Bane is not a stealth smack against Romney. And the Bain debacle? It’s not a made-up conspiracy. It’s real. Romney keeps running on his supposed economic intelligence and ability to fix the economy.

He sent jobs overseas. He SLASHED jobs to make money for executives. John Stewart said it best, so I won’t rehash it too much. The point is that Romney is getting hammered from all sides, Right and Left, because he’s a job-killing ape who couldn’t fix a bendy straw if he tried. It has nothing with him being rich and more with him not realizing his success and wealth came at the expense of others.

Leave Nolan and Batman out of it, Rush! If you were a Batman villain, you’d be the current Penguin. You’re not TECHNICALLY a criminal, but damn if you’re not asking for it.

Sure, Rush. We obviously have a time machine that let us do this. First, we planted the birth announcement. Now, we modified the third in a film franchise that’s made over a billion dollars JUST to poke fun at Romney. If liberals really had a time machine, we would have made George Bush Senior pull out.

Duh.

Let us now enjoy something far more entertaining: the final trailer for Dark Knight Rises. And if ANYONE spoils this movie for me, I will hunt you down like the dog you are and turn you into barely-recognizable human play-doh.

Corn Syrup vs. Computer

Ah, horror movies. At one point, they were entertaining. When did we stop trying?

July 6, 2012

I miss old movies.

It’s how I know I’m getting old. I don’t miss them for the usual reasons, though. It’s not that we aren’t making good movies nowadays. I thoroughly enjoyed Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. The Dark Knight was a blast. 28 Days Later was awesome. In general, it’s not so much the old plots and conventions that I miss, but rather the special effects, and this goes mostly for horror movies.

Can we please stop using CGI for EVERYTHING?

I realize it’s easier for a lot of studios to make a CG monster and it grants the opportunity to make effects for nearly any budget level, but that doesn’t mean the effects look good. Or real. Take a look at these two short clips. Tell me which one looks better, more real, and strikes a better cord with the audience in terms of suspension of disbelief.

And now, Exhibit B:

Okay, I know. I’m comparing one of the classic 90’s movies, and one of the pioneers of the modern special effects movement, to a SyFy channel original movie starring Edward “Wanna Pay to Watch Me Poop on a Plate” Furlong. It’s not a fair comparison.

But I’m really only focusing on the effects. Even a movie like Terminator 3, which should have had effects ten times better and more realistic than T2, actually looked worse. The news is even worse for horror movies. With CG, you can create all the gory little cuts you want, add squibs, or show us the insides of your hapless victims. It’s good to have these tools, but like overeager writing students who think they can write a sonnet and not worry about meter because rules are meant to be broken, moviemakers have gone overboard.

Even Rob Zombie, a man who is an avowed fan of horror movies, couldn’t resist going CG with his own movies despite making them as an homage to 70’s horror and exploitation flicks. While I’m not one who thinks gore equals horror, it does add a level of realism to have actual props, blood, and monsters on camera. We’re not at the point where CG can totally recreate reality, at least not on the levels some studios think it can.

Maybe some day it will look as good, but we’re not there yet. I actually miss watching behind-the-scenes videos that showed the ingenuity needed to make shots occur. Now, behind-the-scenes videos are just information on how many terabytes certain things took up.

All I’m saying is… take the time to make it look good. Or at least make an effort. If it feels like it was too easy, it probably was.

And now, I leave you with a trailer for a movie that, despite using CG, seems to rely more on actual plot. Time will tell, though.

“Bait 3D” Trailer Review

Incoming bomb!

May 23, 2012

I just saw… something. I’m not sure I can adequately describe what it was, so I’ll just let you watch the video. Warning, though. It’s a red band trailer and includes some gore.

From the movie description:

Torn apart by a tragic accident, former couple Josh (Xavier Samuel) and Tina (Sharni Vinson) come face to face in a supermarket for the first time since their break up a year earlier. The awkward encounter comes moments before a robbery takes place; and then the unimaginable occurs, a tsunami swallows the sleepy beach community.

Josh and Tina find themselves in a desperate situation, trapped in the underground supermarket along with other survivors from the store with no escape. Rushing water quickly floods the supermarket threatening to entomb them in a watery grave. Before long the survivors discover they are not alone, the tsunami has brought unwanted visitors from the depths. The survivors quickly realise their battle is not only to overcome the threat of drowning and the predator within their midst, but a threat far more sinister — hungry great white sharks.

Okay… just what the hell were they trying to sell? It started off like some romance movie right out of Nicholas Sparks. We start off with a couple in some sort of trouble that’s trying to get their lives in order? Okay. Sounds pretty standard. Then we get a robbery complete with scary-looking masks. Okay… so is it now a crime drama? A thriller? Then we get the tsunami that levels the town and now it’s turned into a disaster survival film. And of course, it doesn’t end there.

Bring on the sharks.


Shark by ~firest0rm22 on deviantART

Any one of those set-ups would have been good for a movie. I don’t watch romantic movies, but I’m sure many of you might have been interested in the story of a couple trying to stay together after a tragedy. Then things go downright weird. It makes me think people just really don’t care about the movies that get put out. As much as I’m waiting to see The Avengers, The Hobbit, and The Dark Knight Rises, those are all derivative from older works or sequels. I can’t really recall the last original movie I saw that really gave me a thrill.

Mary and I just saw Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, though, a GREAT horror thriller with zero gore for all you horror newbies out there, and that was a really good time.

Bait, though?


The Slender man Movie Poster by ~TinyButDeadly on deviantART

If this movie actually makes good money at the box office, I’m going to start pitching my own ideas until one of them sticks and I get a movie deal.

A jaded Iraqi war veteran returns home to start his life over. But the town mayor, his old high school rival, has stolen his woman. Then, they decide to settle it once and for all with a table hockey match, the country’s leading sport. That’s when the zombies attack. I’m thinking Will Ferrell as our veteran.

No? Okay, how about this?

A bumbling IT guy tries to get a promotion at work by installing new servers in one night, accidently creating an AI that help him in life and love. However, his father has recently died and willed him a mansion purported to be haunted and he must spend the night to receive the rest of his inheritance. However, the house is filled with teens having a wild weekend party while being stalked by a mysterious psycho-killer.

Oh! Even better! High school sweethearts get invited to a raucous party in the middle of the woods. When they get there, everyone is missing and a mysterious figure is stalking them. It turns out to be an adorable alien stranded on Earth who needs their help. The catch is that they’re also being hunted by government agents. Who are also aliens. From the future.

Trailers and movie descriptions are not above making a movie sound different than it really is, so I’m sure this is mostly a monster movie of some sort, but it really irks me with the way five different plots were seemingly strung together. At best, Bait looks like a hastily-put-together monster movie. At worst, it’ll be thirty minutes of watching these idiots go through their lives before something interesting happens.

I’ll skip this one.

Instead, I think I’ll watch these other idiots hurt themselves through sheer stupidity.

Gaming, the Writer, and the Great Mirror

Mary plays a dragonborn. Manny, our new player, gave her a little Charizard toy. Said toy is now her marker on the board. Here's Mary's dragonborn encased in a block of ice because she failed tow saving throws. Any questions?

May 1, 2012

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about tabletop gaming. It’s no surprise, seeing as how “Elves with Shotguns” is just about ready to hit RPGNow. However, I’ve also been thinking about my experience in RPGs. In a way, I can chronicle my journey through gaming the same way I chronicle my journey through writing.

My first character was a runethane named Seth. He was curious about everything (much like me since I was new to the game), and used words to cast his magic. Writing and runes were his power source. This echoes my own mentality that writing was an important, if not vital, aspect of everyday life. However, Seth was also a very squishy mage. Two or three hits and Seth went down faster than Lindsay Lohan trying to get into a nightclub.

Seth was a reflection of how I saw myself. I was fairly new, and while I was proud of my early accomplishments, I knew I could do better.


Ancient rune magic. by ~KypcaHT on deviantART

My next character had no name. He was simply called the Envoy, a warrior with a purpose. He was a soldier through and through, flexible enough to fling razor-tipped darts before unsheathing a sword and going to town on the enemy or either beat a prisoner into submission or scare the information out of him. He even got the kill-shot on an elemental after having been poisoned for much of the fight. All in all, a good sophomore try, but he was tough and boisterous and lacked the subtlety of Seth.

Likewise, my early forays into writing left me with a bruised ego, so I overcompensated in some ways. I wanted the writing to be tougher, grittier, but it only lost the little elements that I enjoyed inserting into my work.

Next came Jareth, a half-elf rogue who could do a lot of things… he just wasn’t that great at any of them. One running gag with my group was that it was better to have me try and lock something than to try and open it. Because I rolled so low, it was just assumed that instead of unlocking treasure chests, I had somehow just put an extra lock on it. Yeah. That bad.

Jareth represents the evolution from enthusiastic to hard-headed and then to jack-of-all-trades, master of none. I had to find the right balance…

Next came Pommel, my warforged fighter. Resolute to not fall into the trap of the meat shield again, I built him to fit the world: this was an evil campaign. He was strong and tough but had some smarts. He wasn’t reckless… except for that level of barbarian that let him rage. Pommel was controlled chaos. He was simple but effective in what he did, and he could be versatile if the need arose.

After realizing I couldn’t do everything as a writer, I did something similar. I started specializing, but I never forgot to pick bits and pieces from here and there to supplement my work. Every writer needs to read poetry, news, and memoirs even if he or she only writes novels. Likewise, a fighter could always benefit from a level of wizard and barbarian.


warforged by ~monkesso on deviantART

Finally, we get to my latest character: Wren the warlock. Wren was very much a hard-hitter. He was a striker. He did the most with the least. He also had that bit of versatility I’d come to embrace in Pommel. He could cast ritual magic aside from blasting things at long range. He was also personable and could handle himself in social situations if need be, but there was nothing that said he wouldn’t pick a pocket if it got him.

Wren embodies my most current attitude towards writing. I write short articles like this, but I also have learned to say the most with the least in everything from Charcoal Streets to the upcoming gaming book. I read news, journals, poetry, and anything else that seems interesting if only to be exposed to new writing styles and keep mine from getting stale. Of course, I don’t doubt my writing and gaming will change. It’s just interesting to me how each stage can get represented by a character form that time period.

And now, back to making prints and proofreading the final chapters.

See you soon. Oh, and feel free to share your own gaming stories below. How do your characters represent you? Or are they reflections of what you wish you could be?

While you ponder that, please enjoy two and a half minutes of sheer nergasmic joy.

Tim Burton’s Greatest Mistake?

Johnny here is trying to figure out how to get his soul back from Burton.

March 19, 2012

I was excited when I heard Dark Shadows was going to get a movie adaptation. First of all, it was being directed by Tim Burton. Second of all, it starred Johnny Depp, though that’s kind of a given at this point. Burton and Depp did a great job adapting Sleepy Hollow, one of the great horror comedies of all time as far as I’m concerned. Burton has a good track record (even considering Alice in Wonderland) and he has a style that would lend itself to the campy soap opera.

And then I saw the trailer. If you missed it in the last article, here it is. Keep a tissue handy. You may cry like I did.

Yeah…

I’ll admit I’ve never seen Dark Shadows. I wish I had. It was one of those shows that had a good amount of camp to it but managed to hold its own despite a hectic schedule and soap opera storylines. The fact that it’s still watched and talked about today makes me think it’s something to put on my Netflix queue. In fact, two of my favorite shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel could be seen as spiritual successors to some of the things Dark Shadows started, namely using supernatural themes

But this?

I’m getting flashbacks to Alice in Wonderland. I love Burton’s style. It’s like a child’s fantasy on acid. My on artwork was influenced by the darks and playfulness and the way something cute might become something horrific at any moment. Lots of black, lots of white, a little gray, and let the creepiness do the rest. Burton, though, seems to be forgetting the lesson he learned from Sleep Hollow.

If you change something, it better be to make the end product superior.


Sleepy Hollow by ~Mize-meow on deviantART

Sure, the old series was full of little mistakes and the production could have used some polishing, but at least it tried. Now, instead of a drama, we’ve got what looks like a fish out of temporal water story. We’ve already got the same tired joke of the visitor from the past getting freaked out by television and the very unfunny mix-ups with modern slang. So far, I haven’t seen anything that tells me this will build on the original series’ legacy or form. There’s nothing groundbreaking about it.

Maybe I’m wrong. I hope so. Alice in Wonderland was an atrocity. This looks no better. Next thing you know, someone will take Quantum Leap and make it into a zany buddy comedy starring Ashton Kutcher and Jack Black. Ooh! How about we bring back Law and Order but make it a musical comedy starring Zac Effron as Lennie Briscoe?

Hollywood, cut it out before we, the fans, decide to pool our resources and invest in a neutron bomb.

And to clean out the broken dreams, here is every episode of Itchy and Scratchy, all in one place.

Mass Effect 3.5: The Crowd Buster

Shown here? The WORST THING TO EVER HAPPEN TO VIDEO GAMES! At least, according to players.

March 16, 2012

I don’t really play video games. The last video game console I owned was a Super Nintendo. That doesn’t mean I don’t play Wii or Xbox games when possible, and don’t think I won’t snipe you from across the map if I get the chance. It’s just not something I invest a lot of time on these days.

Others, however, do, and that’s fine. I have my entertainment, they have theirs. Nothing wrong with that. I do, however, have a few questions for people who are furiously up in arms about the Mass Effect 3 ending.

I haven’t played Mass Effect. In any way shape or form. The last modern game I played was Arkham Asylum almost a year and a half ago. I’m asking this as a storyteller and a writer.

Was the ending so bad that players needed to start a campaign to change the ending?

I’m no stranger to franchises that have spiraled into the crapper. Star Trek Nemesis and the Star Wars prequels left me feeling hollow, like their writers had abandoned me for a round of masturbatory filmmaking that left me feeling sticky and alone. Sliders left such a foul taste in my mouth that I almost gave up on science fiction television. I almost wanted to pretend the first season and a half contained the only episodes. I know what its’ like to have something you’ve cared for turned into crap.


Mass Effect 3 Reactions *non-spoilery* by *ghostfire on deviantART

I understand all that, but is there really any point to having the designers and writer change the ending?

Think about it. What would that accomplish? They made an ending you didn’t like and you’ve made your anger known. To keep going, just stop buying games from the company. They’ll be forced to listen. That’s the standard procedure whenever someone makes a bad product, right? Of course, I understand games have changed. It’s not a matter of looking for your princess in this castle or just getting to the end. Today’s games have a story. They are immersive in a way my generation couldn’t have seen twenty years ago. That changes things. You’re part of the story now. You have a personal interest in things.

Unlike watching a show, you’re knee-deep in alien guts… but are there really that many different options available to you? How many possible endings can there be in a game? This is one reason I love tabletop games more than video games. Last night’s game, for instance, I could make things up on the fly to keep the story going and still keep my players happy. A game designer, whether in print or a video game, has to come up with as many combinations as possible to keep the players interested. There’s no improvisation.


Mass Effect 3 WLiiA? by ~soren7550 on deviantART

Like I said, I haven’t played the game. Based on some of the reviews, I’m sure players feel cheated. It’s entirely possible. You should be angry. But a call to change the ending? That means you would have to return your games and wait for new ones and play the whole thing again and see the new ending. Or you would have to watch the new ending on YouTube or elsewhere anytime you finished the game and wanted the “better” ending. Maybe you could download it, but going from complaining to demanding a better ending from the designers seems like a waste of time.

If Super Mario Brothers had ended badly, I would have just not bought future games. But maybe that’s me. I wasn’t invested in the gripping story of a plumber and his lost love as much as gamers today are invested in stories of alien invasion.

And now, let’s cringe at another bad idea: Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows.

Warm Bodies and Cold Plot Points

Yes, this is real. Yes, I threw up a little.

January 17, 2012

Hollywood, come here. We need to talk.

You need to cut the crap. Right now. You’re going to make a film version of the novel Warm Bodies, a romance wherein a zombie finds love with a human girl in a post-apocalyptic world. I’ll give the book some credit. I read the first few pages, and while it acknowledges some of the squickier aspects of zombie lore with the literary equivalent of a gore discretion shot, it does a decent job of showing that life as an undead is not pleasant or even clean. The writing is fairly clean and tight and I wouldn’t mind reading the whole thing out of morbid curiosity, but we have a problem.

Hollywood, you will NOT turn zombies into teen heartthrobs.

Okay, Hollywood, go away. I need to talk to my readers.


pride and predudice and zombies painted by `Bakanekonei on deviantART

Readers, hi. Welcome back. Did you see what Hollywood is going to do?

Just from reading the first few pages of the book in question, it sounds like it would work well as literature. Maybe not. I’m willing to at least read it to find out. Here’s the first problem, though. In the book, our main character is clearly identified as having a suit and being a 20-something. In the stills from the upcoming movie, the main character, R, looks like a teen. I already know where this is headed.

It’s Twilight with zombies.

It’s even the same studio.

They’re going to do it. Don’t think they won’t. I’ve been waiting for this. The trend was strong with vampires. The entire teen literature section, currently the teen vampire romance section, is filled to the brim with this crap, and now zombies are in the mix. Zombie romance stories are not new. Aaah! Zombies and Boy Eats Girl both did it in film years ago, but those stories were told for laughs. Night of the Living Dead 3 played it as a horror film since the protagonist was a woman slowly turning undead as her boyfriend was forced to watch. After all, how could love exist between a mortal woman trying to survive the zombie apocalypse and an undead, barely sentient creature with a hunger for human flesh and tasty, tasty brain meats?

It can’t. Willing suspension of disbelief will take you so far. Like I said, though, I haven’t read the whole novel, and from R’s narration, at least author Isaac Marion has played with the concept to the “mindless zombie” and made his undead closer to apathetic amnesia victims. They eat because they’re hungry. They lack complex motor functions to do things like talk or quickly move.


when zombies attack by ~teamlattie on deviantART

I am, however, having trouble accepting that this prose is being uttered by a creature with no memory of his past life. The writing’s not bad, like I said, but it takes skill to speak, let alone write like this. It’s the problem of Twilight supposedly being narrated by a world-weary 16-year-old who was well-read and yet could not grasp basic emotionally mature concepts such as empathy.

There’s also the fact that zombie fiction tends to be… squishier than vampire fiction. Vampires can get away with not actually showing too much blood since they only need to make two neat little holes and suck the blood away. Zombies actually need to dismember a living person and eat the brains. This involves the kind of graphic scenes best left to R-rated movies.

Then again, I’ve been wrong before. Best prediction? The movie will suck as it’s softened to appeal to the teen girl market and give them a new Edward. We’ll have a deluge of zombie romance (what is it with undead boyfriends?) and the genre will have to wait at least five years before being taken seriously again.

Fear Hollywood.

And now, let us bask in the glory of a real zombie movie. Warning! Gore aplenty ahead.