Nov 052012
 

I’m going to listen to the Dresden Dolls until the pain goes away…

November 6, 2012

Politics, religion, and sex are the three most taboo topics in the world. That might explain some of the weird searches people use to get to this site…

I’d be lying if I said I felt really terrible for not posting as much the last two months, but the truth is that the website has really take its toll on me. Yes, it kept me writing. Yes, it’s been a blast hearing from all my readers, your wonderful comments on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, everywhere. At the same time, it’s exhausting. The research, the cross-checking, everything.

I was in Washington during the last presidential election. I remember receiving the first batch of “Obama is from Kenya” emails at the office. I remember walking into the chief of staff’s office and asking if he’d seen this. The “WTF” look on his face as he realized these people were serious is something I’ll never forget. I asked, half-in-jest, if it was acceptable to write an email to send back to these concerned citizens and call them the frakin’ morons they rightfully should be called.

I was told to be as polite as possible. And I was.

But I never forgot how I had to sit there and write a letter that was the equivalent of telling a charging rhino to sit. The whole time, I just sat there and thought of what I really wanted and needed to say:

I’m sorry, I agree that you have concerns, but I can’t really say that you’re the biggest fucking idiot I’ve ever met since my job depends upon my boss making everyone happy at the expense of not showing any spine or actual conviction. However, I understand you like to believe reality is a big conspiracy against you and the scary black man is going to take away Jesus and apple pie, and while such a scenario is about as likely as me gaining the powers of the Q Continuum just because I’m bored, I have to hold your hand and tell you that you’re right. Why? Because while liberals may have mistakenly latched on to the idea of relativism, the Right took it even further and declared that reality itself is so subjective that tangible, verifiable facts do not matter if you believe strongly enough. They believe that they can change reality by simply stating a bald-faced lie. Sure, I’ve been working in this office for only a few months, but even I know that both sides stretch the truth, exaggerate, and so on. However, I would present to you the following analogy.

Both of us are asked how to better move a couch up the stairs. My side suggests getting a bunch of people together to lift it, move it over the railings, and getting a few people inside to maneuver it through the door. Unwieldy, sure, and perhaps inefficient, but at least it worked. Your solution? Empty a gun into the sofa and hope God pulls it up.

I’m sorry. I’m supposed to be tactful, right? Positive? Okay.

Dear sir and/or madam, I am quite positive you have a massive learning disability, possibly self-inflicted from years of watching Fox and listening to Limbaugh. But just because you’re offended, you’re not right. Just because ten thousand people say it, it doesn’t make it true. Dismissing science, logic, and maturity does not make you quaint and homey. It makes you a child.

But I’ll be nice to you. Because it’s mean to be mean to children. Unless they’re idiots and refuse to learn from their mistakes. You know what? Forget it. You’re an idiot.

I’m pretty sure that was the moment I decided to try to reach out and educate people, maybe get a discussion going. I know some people will never be swayed by facts and experience, but I’m thankful for the things I’ve taught and for the things I myself have learned.

But frankly, the last year has been exhausting. I’ll be glad when the election is over. I’ll be more glad when I can finally tell myself I’ve edited Charcoal Streets as much as it’s going to get edited.

Good night. See you tomorrow, and remember…

Stories don’t tell children dragons exist. Stories tell children the dragon can be beaten.

Jun 262012
 
 June 26, 2012  Posted by at 12:01 am Gaming, June, Truth, Writing Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »

Wisdom… of the gods!

June 26, 2012

Mary and I have coined a new term: the “muffin plan.”

Follow me on this. Perhaps you and your friends want to accomplish some sort of short-term goal. This can range from getting cash for a night out to finding your way across town. Maybe you lack the resources to make this work. Maybe there are obstacles in your way. Whatever the case, a muffin plan hinges on your apathy as to whether or not the plan actually succeeds.

You see… a muffin plan is a plan wherein the mere execution of the plan is so fun that it doesn’t matter whether or not the original goal is met.


Bad Planning by *merrak on deviantART

In order to find your way across town, maybe you decide to hop on buses and talk to people and see where you end up. To get cash, perhaps your friends put on a show at a park and work your supper for one afternoon.

There is, in fact, a story behind the term “muffin plan.”

Several months ago, my D&D players were trying to find out who in a small village was afflicted with lycanthropy. They managed to find some wolfsbane, which was rare because the local baron WANTED the werewolf to remain hidden. They also discovered that, even in their human form, werewolves were very much averse to this plant, so they decided they needed to get close enough to see if their suspects had any reaction.

However, each of their suspects would instantly recognize the plant and try to act nonchalant if he or she really was the werewolf…

So the team baked the wolfsbane into some muffins and, through a series of performances that would make Jersey Shore look like Masterpiece Theater, got close enough for all their suspects to get a whiff of the muffins. And yes, they found the culprit. The most fun part, though, was seeing them act out how they were going to get these muffins to a doctor, a priest, a guard, etc.


planning by *longerpigs on deviantART

That’s a muffin plan. You have so much fun trying that you don’t really care if the plan works. It’s part of what I love about writing. Drafting an idea can go in seventeen different directions. My notes for Charcoal Streets are probably longer than the book itself, but all that learning and planning has actually been enjoyable.

I still want to sell a million copies, though, so tell your friends.

Whatever you’re doing, have fun. If nothing else, if the plan falls apart, at least enjoy the process.

And now, I’d like you to share your own muffin plan stories below. When have you ever done something so fun that it didn’t matter if it worked or not?


Muffin by ~ChaosEmeraldHunter on deviantART

Mar 162012
 

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.

Jan 112012
 

She's perfect, and I get to marry her. Envy me.

January 11, 2012

Ladies, please stay. Guys, you can leave. Actually, guys, stay for this one. This is our fault. All of us. Yes, even the ones who are single right now. Actually, especially the ones who are single right now.

The Daily Mail recently put out a picture it claims is a composite of the most beautiful celebrities. Apparently, based on a poll of most attractive features on various celebrities, the final composite should be the most beautiful woman in the world, a Venus of perfection, the genetic offspring of a billion wet dreams.

In truth, it looks like a mutant reject from Victoria’s Secret.


The Perfect face by ~327588 on deviantART

Is this what we’ve come to? It’s not bad enough that we’ve Photoshopped the hell out of perfectly good-looking women. It’s not enough that we’ve agreed on some perfect weight and figure everyone woman must achieve. It’s not enough that “young and blond and cocaine-chic” is standard for any actress who wants to break into Hollywood or stay there. You have to have the same facial structure and body type. The more plastic, the better, eventually.

What happened, people? Look at older actresses. They have their slight imperfections, every one of them. Jennifer Connelly, for example, has those big ol’ eyebrows that would make Robert Pattinson envious. Even someone like Marilyn Monroe, despite actually being quite thin yet well-rounded, is not a sexual icon because everything fit together perfectly or she had no imperfections. It was the way she carried herself.

It’s those little imperfections that make a woman beautiful. It’s everything. Mind, body, and heart. My fiancée is a beautiful. Everything about her is gorgeous. I love the little beauty mark above her lip. I love the way she looks just as she wakes up and smiles. It’s not just her looks, either. I love when she, as she puts it, “gets girly,” and giggles when she’s normally very sarcastic and blunt about things. I love hearing her laugh.


Mi amor… by *dagger3000 on deviantART

Ladies, young women, and girls, you’ve been done a disservice. You’ve been told you’re not young enough, thin enough, white enough, dark enough, any number of things. You’ve been told to get liposuction or get your stomach stapled. You’ve been told to dye your hair to match some unnatural hue. You’ve been broken and beaten and made to feel like crap. Now, someone took the time to show everyone what “beauty” is based on a series of polls and bad photomanipulation.

You’re beautiful. You don’t have to look like Kim Kardashian. In fact, even looking like Kim Kardashain can’t hide the sheer ugliness inside. If there is any ugliness in you, it’s personality-based. No matter how much you hate your hair, your stomach, your breasts, your legs, or anything else, a body that’s been splayed over every magazine cover on Earth won’t help you.

It’s been said every woman has her own special beauty. Don’t be ashamed of what you perceive to be your imperfections. They may be part of what makes you unique.

Guys, don’t forget to tell someone close to you she’s beautiful. Every day. Don’t let them forget. Ever.

And now, so we can all just feel a little better, here are some people getting hurt because of stupidity. Their own.

Oct 102011
 

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.

Aug 252011
 

August 25, 2011

As I read through my Star Wars books and look for inspiration for this RPG we’re playing on Saturday, I can’t help but notice that the world continues to turn. Behold, the joys of internet surfing, wasting time, and everything you need to know!

  • You want something truly American? Joe the Plumber and Steven Segal. Granted, one’s a loon who made his mark with the Tea Party and the other is a washed-up action star with an ego the size of a small Pacific island, but still… It’s like pizza and beer.
  • Carrie Fisher has lost for than fifty months in the last nine months? Her goal? Getting back into the metal bikini. Seriously, though, she’s going it to help herself and she looks great. May the Force be her!
  • As I type this, Glenn Beck is in the Holy Land doing the Lord’s work… selling himself and his brand. No, really. If you’re a Christian and still think this whacko has ANY point on anything, please watch him hawk HIMSELF at his Jerusalem rally. He claims it doesn’t take a prophet to see the things he sees. Frankly, it takes brain damage to see the things he sees.
  • And finally, this has to be THE best commercial I’ve seen all year. Just watch it and try to guess what it’s selling.

Dirt Devil-The Exorcist from MrPrice2U on Vimeo.

Jun 302011
 

June 30, 2011

Holy crap! A new Divine by Zero? Really?

Yeah. See, time’s going to get really tight in the next few weeks, and I have to be a lot more conscious of the time I have to write. I’m going to start teaching a middle school writing course over the next few weeks, so there goes a lot of my time. Combined with moving and a lot of other things, and I get maybe an hour a day to do these posts, so these Divine by Zero articles will be the place to go for the weird and the things I just don’t have the time to write about in the regular articles.

Let’s get started with today’s batch.

  • What would happen if the Beatles got signed today? The results are… terrifying.
  • Chihuahuas are the tiny snacks of the animal kingdom. They’re uppity and serve no purposes… until I saw this little guy working as a sheep dog. A chihuahua sheep dog. let that sink in for a moment.
  • And yes, I know that was a meme within a meme about memes. Let’s pay homage to the original guy, shall we?
  • If you watch science fiction or horror in any way shape or form, you’ve probably seen Brian Thompson. You may not know his name, but you’ve seen him. He’s one of those guys you just know from his voice, and aside from starring in a lot of cheesy movies (Mortal Kombat sequel, anyone?) he has a lot more going for him. Check out the last paragraph in this bio.
  • If anybody out there reads Japanese, could they please tell me the context of this nifty little English phrase in this book? I have a feeling that knowing the answer may be worse than not knowing, but I’m willing to give it a shot.
  • On the other hand, Pat Robertson was not amused. he goes on an warn us about raping angels and that no civilization that has accepted homosexuality has survived. Well, NO civilization has survived intact.
  • And finally, this is for the gaming geeks out there. I always had a problem with the whole concept of “the chainmail bikini,” not only because it objectified women and made it hard to invite girls to games, but because in a world of dragons and magic, I actually found THAT to be the least believable thing in the world. That being said, how would you average adventuring female react to actually having to wear this? And who thought it would be a good idea?

Jun 082011
 

Behold! You've made apples.

June 8, 2011

Cooking is an art. It’s like writing in many ways. You can add a dozen spices and spend hours working on something like Indian food, a dish that has more plants in it than a greenhouse, and get something that mixes flavors in unique ways to create new sensations. On the other hand, you could use five or six ingredients and make pico de gallo, slow-roast some pork, and you have dinner. Likewise, writing can involve in-depth research and Alan Moore-like layers of meaning and reference, or writing can involve a simple poem on a greeting card that will nevertheless move a person to tears.

Everyone should know how to cook, and you don’t have to make anything fancy. In fact, some of the best meals are the ones made from scratch with only a few ingredients, and if you’re on a tight budget (what artist isn’t?) allow me to share a few of my favorite recipes and some tips for artists who wish to stretch that food dollar.

Keep in mind that I’m assuming you know how to boil water, cut vegetables, and otherwise not murder yourself with a fork.


Mini Cooking Table by ~vesssper on deviantART

Buy in Bulk

If you have a Sam’s Club or something similar nearby, get membership and go shopping. Trust me. The bill may seem huge, but remember that you’re buying olive oil, spices, and canned goods to last at least several months. Don’t buy fresh fruits and veggies here, though, since you’ll likely not go through them before they expire. Instead, stock up on the following:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Minced garlic
  • Carlo Rossi wine, either burgundy or chardonnay
  • Assorted spices

It really depends on what kind of cooking you want to do, but I find that almost everything I make ends up using sweet leaf basil, cumin, dill weed, crushed red peppers, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. If you prefer, you can also get Lawry’s Salt since it’s already a combo of several spices.

I also highly recommend stainless steel pots and pans. Stuff with Teflon tends to chip and wear away if you use it a lot.


Food by ~yimin94 on deviantART

Think Like a Camper

While it might be tempting to just buy instant meals since they’re so darn quick, think about all the sodium and other crap you’re going to be putting into your system. While we may have been brought up with the image of mom slaving away over a hot stove for hours to make a great home-cooked meal, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes of preparation for quick dishes, and even things that take hours usually just require you check in on them every once in a while. Also, do the math on how much it costs to make your food from scratch versus buying ready-made meals.

It’s a HUGE difference.

For a budget, chicken and fish are king. Think fresh veggies or, if you know you won’t use them for a while, canned. In general, avoid things with ingredients you can’t pronounce.

You’ll even find that eating healthy isn’t some yuppie dream. It’s affordable and preferable.


HEALTHY-FOOD2 by ~JackBeretta on deviantART

The Three Basic Food Groups

My dad and I both cook using the dump method. You take the meat, you put it in a pan, and dump a bunch of spices, veggies, whatever.

Done. You made dinner.

Let’s be more specific.

Get a batch of fish fillets. Tilapia works just fine, although Mary and I have also used catfish. I’ll use lime juice, dill weed, minced garlic, and a touch of butter for fish, and then fry them in olive oil. You could also poach them in the pan with a bit of white wine on low heat, reduce the wine and fish oil, and you end up with a thick sauce for your freshly cooked fish.

Chicken? That’s easy. Mix a cup of white wine and two cups of orange juice, then add a dash of olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and a little rosemary. Let the whole thing simmer on low heat for two to three hours. All you have to do is stir it to make sure it doesn’t stick, and when the whole thing is reduced to about a cup or less, you end up with an amazing orange glaze you can use on chicken. Now cook the chicken and add the glaze before it’s cooked all the way.

Beef usually calls for a marinade of beer (cheap 40’s will do), sea salt, pepper, marjoram, lime juice, cumin, and a bay leaf. Let it marinade for an hour or so, or overnight if you can, then cook the meat on its own, reduce the mixture the meat was soaking in, and you’ve just made beer gravy.


Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner by ~gracefuliamnot on deviantART

One Recipe To Rule Them All

You may notice a pattern here. Pretty much everything involves liquid, preferably booze, being simmered down into a thicker sauce for the meat itself. The process is slow, but worth it. It does take between two to three hours depending on how much liquid you have (sometimes minutes for really small amounts like with the beef), but the end result is the same. It’s quick to put together and requires little preparation beyond just getting to know the ingredients and knowing what goes good with what.

You can even make your own tomato sauce by mashing a handful of tomatoes, some wine, and adding basil, oregano, olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Add some water, let the whole thing boil until it’s reduced to a thick paste, and you’ve got the best pasta sauce you’ve ever tried.

Once you’re comfortable with a few dishes, start adding things like pasta and mess with different techniques like baking, frying, poaching, etc.

Being an artist means sacrifice. Unfortunately, part of that sacrifice translates as a tight budget. I’ve found, time and time again, that just following a few simple rules and taking the time to learn how to cook is one of the best things anyone can do to not only

Plus, the girls dig it when you can whip up beef burgundy with a side of garlic-vinegar French fries.


One Great Dinner by ~BuddhaRocks on deviantART

Let’s get to some links to get you ready for the end of the week.

  • My old professor, Tom Chiarella, wrote this wonderful article on how to be a good boss. It’s so, so true.
  • If you’re going to throw a party and you want to advertise on Facebook, please make sure you set the settings to “private.” Otherwise, you might end up with 1500 guests.
  • And finally, if you need more proof that it doesn’t take much to make wonderful art, check out this video. One woman. One looper. One voice. That’s it. See you Friday! Also, let me know if you try anything on this article.
  • The internet is now classified as a human right. Can I stop paying now?

 

Mar 302011
 

It's so cool, it's blue!

March 30, 2011

Let’s lighten things up a bit.

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

This does not, unfortunately, translate as quality.

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

Aaah! Zombies

Tim: I don’t feel like a zombie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trick ‘r Treat

Billy: Charlie Brown’s an asshole!

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

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

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

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

RoboCop: Prime Directives

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

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

The sequels? Not so much…

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

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

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

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

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

Mother Maiden

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

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

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

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

And now on to the links!

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