Wednesday, September 26, 2012

National Sibling Day

Today is National Sibling Day.

I have a sibling. An older sister.

We don’t really talk.

In all honesty, the most recent interaction we’ve had has been on Facebook. Lately, I’ve been sending her extra lives in Sugar Rush.

We don’t phone or e-mail or exchange texts.

However, we are not estranged or anything like that. Our lives have just taken very different paths.

My sister is a wife and mother with a successful career involving math.

I am single, child-free and am trying to make a go of it as a writer.

She’s more of an extrovert.

I’ve always been more of an introvert.

She’s country-rock.

I’m more indie-pop.

Finding things that we have in common is sort of a challenge.

In a way, we’re sort of like The Odd Couple. I’ll leave it to the people who know us both to decide which is Felix Unger and which is Oscar Madison.

Our relationship, I think, works for us. It’s comfortable and worn in, like a pair of favorite tennis shoes.

Today is National Sibling Day.

I have a sister and, even though we don’t talk that often, I love her.

Even if she is a math weirdo. :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Review of The Odd Life of Timothy Green

The Odd Life of Timothy Green was released to theaters a few weeks ago, but I’m just getting around to seeing it today. I have to admit that before seeing this film, I had read other reviews of it. The majority of the professional reviews were negative and the amateur reviews were mostly lukewarm, so going into this film without any preconceived expectations was difficult. I’m not sure that I succeeded.

The plot is pretty straightforward. An infertile couple, as part of their process of moving on with their lives, spends a night writing down all the qualities they would have wanted in their child. They put these slips of paper in a wooden box and then bury the box in their rear garden. A magical thunderstorm appears, drenching the earth in magic rain and, presto! There’s Timothy, an affable young boy with leaves growing out of his ankles.

The most popular complaint regarding this movie is that it is saccharine and thinly scripted. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a Disney movie aimed at a family audience. What on Earth were you expecting? Shakespeare? Quintin Tarantino? Stanley-freaking-Kubrick?

This Odd Life of Timothy Green is the cinematic equivalent of macaroni-and-cheese. It’s like comfort food. It’s the sort of movie someone’s grandparent would take them to see as a nice outing when its raining outside.

Is the plot predictable? Oh yes. Definitely. Every adult in the audience and older kids will know what’s going to happen. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Is the movie saccharine? Yes. Again, it’s a Disney movie! What? You were expecting Reservoir Dogs?

Would I recommend this movie to people? It depends.

If you have older elementary school kids and you’re looking for a movie to take them to see, then I’d give The Odd Life of Timothy Green a 4 out of 10 on my Media Scale of Movie Love. Catch the matinee, but don’t pay full price.

Otherwise, I’d give it a 2 out of 10 on my Media Scale of Movie Love. Wait for it to come out on cable, if you want to see it at all.  Even then, you'll probably wind up channel surfing in the first fifteen minutes.

A Review of Dredd

I’ll admit, I went into Dredd curious to see what Hollywood would do with this remake. Would they move closer to the source material than the 1995 version starring Sylvester Stallone, or would they go in an entirely different direction? In all honesty, I think that the people behind this movie had a better sense of the world Judge Dredd inhabits than their predecessors.

The casting in the movie is surprisingly good. Karl Urban does a fine job as Joe Dredd. Lena Headey gives a fairly straightforward performance as gang leader, Ma-Ma. Olivia Thirlby, however, steals the show with her performance as Anderson.

However, despite the performances and the good intentions, Dredd feels flat to me. I think part of the disconnect is the fact that the world it’s set in is too contemporary. The costuming and sets don’t make me think this is set in the future, after a nuclear war. They look more like a really bad section of Los Angeles on a smoggy day. Honestly, the set production and costuming of this movie just feel lazy.

The plot is fairly straightforward. There are no real surprises. You pretty much know who’s going to live and who’s going to die fifteen minutes into the movie.

All in all, I’d have to give Dredd 3 out of 10 on the Media Scale of Movie Love. I would not go see this film in the theaters, but I would rent it on Pay-Per-View or from Redbox.


Welcome to Autumn!

Shirley, a very dear friend, often remarked that autumn was her favorite time of the year. It was perfect for bike rides, a seasonal speedbump between hot Summer and bitter Winter.

I’m rather fond of Autumn myself. When I think of Autumn, I think of crisp mornings, trees ablaze with fire-colored leaves, the scent of woodsmoke on the air. I also happily associate the season with children trudging back to school, quiet Friday afternoon matinees at the films, and the slow buildup of holiday stress in other people.

Of course, there is Halloween. However, I never think of Halloween as a ‘stressful’ holiday. It’s always been fun to me. Every year I look forward to Halloween, even if I don’t do anything for it other than hand out candy.

Yes, Autumn is here and we’re past the equinox so we’re losing light. The days grow shorter, the nights grow longer and the impulse to write darker stories grows stronger.

I’m not a huge horror fan, but at this time of year, I find myself thinking of murder and mayhem. This time of the year, it seems natural to think about serial killers and ghosts.

Sadly, I am utter rubbish at writing horror stories. Thankfully, I am very much aware of this fault and so do not indulge the impulse very often.

The closest I’ve come lately has been the short story posted here, Anathemass. However, the impulse remains, even if I don’t give in to it. Standing in the checkout line at Wal-Mart the other night, I looked at the folks around me and thought, What if one of these people was a serial killer? (Granted, these were Wal-Mart shoppers, so it was easy to picture one of them going berserk.) That was all it took, that single thought, and my brain was off and racing.

I don’t know if I’ll write the story that thought inspired. Honestly, I don’t think I could do it justice. However, it’s there, tucked away in the pink folds of my brain. Lurking. Waiting.

Autumn. A season of lengthening shadows and dying lights, when the monsters inside ourselves start to rouse and rise.

Maybe, just maybe, you should give in to those dark impulses. Perhaps, when your monsters and maniacs hammer at the door, you should invite them in for a cup of mulled apple cider. Sit with them. Listen to what they have to say.

Just make sure, ladies and gentlemen, that afterwards, you can send them home.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Ballad of the Mary McNair


‘Twas a fine clear day
On I-26!
I was heading eastbound,
When I got in this fix.

Because looming behind me,
From out of nowhere,
Hove the great pirate auto,
the Mary McNair!

She raced down the road
On a dozen black wheels!
A gigantic, fantastic
dread automobile!

Loaded with pirates
And armed to the teeth!
She rolled over cars,
Crushing them underneath!

I saw her approaching,
And uttered a prayer,
That I wouldn’t be killed,
By the Mary McNair!

I took the next exit,
Intending to flee,
But the Mary McNair
turned off after me!

Terror did seize me,
Right then and right there!
That was the moment,
snow-white turned my hair!

Flooring the gas,
I turned left and turned right!
But that dread pirate vehicle
Stayed in my sights!

I began to lose hope,
I began to despair,
Knowing I could not shake
the Mary McNair!

In a moment of gloom,
resigned to my fate,
I drove off the road,
put my foot on the brake.

I sat in my car,
Convinced I was done.
Wondering where are the cops
When you really need one?

The Mary McNair,
She screeched to a stop,
And her hatches popped open,
from bottom to top.

When the pirates emerged,
I could do nothing but stare,
Every one was a woman
All pretty and fair!

Brandishing cutlasses,
pistols and pins,
They forced me to their vessel,
And pushed me within.

Stripped to my socks,
I was tied to a bed
Where I started to think,
I might not end up dead.

"We’ll use you, then loose you,"
the pirate-ladies did say.
"But if you can please us,
we might let you stay!"

I can honestly tell
It was my pleasure and joy
To serve all those ladies
As their cabin boy toy.

True to their word,
They loosed me the next day,
In spite of my pleading
to please let me stay!

So gather round laddies,
Pay heed to my tale,
If you see that black auto
Be hardy and hale!

And if they pursue you,
No need to beware,
You won’t regret being boarded
by the Mary McNair!

It’s a fine clear day
on I-26...

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Review of Resident Evil: Retribution

How bad a movie is Resident Evil: Retribution?
So bad that, when I left the theater, my right eye was bleeding.
All right, maybe the bloody red eye didn’t have anything to do with the movie, but that doesn’t mean that Resident Evil: Retribution isn’t so bad it couldn’t cause someone to hemorrhage.
Of course, I knew this movie wasn’t going to be Shakespear when I bought my ticket. The RE franchise has pretty much become brain candy. They’re an excuse to sit in a dark theater, eating popcorn and watching Milla Jovovich perform slow-motion, wire-enhanced martial arts maneuvers.
At this point, about the only saving grace that the Resident Evil movie franchise has, is that Uwe Boll hasn’t been slated to direct any of the films. And after this movie, I’m not sure Boll’s involvement in the franchise would be a positive or a negative.
I’m not going to worry too much about giving spoilers for this movie. If you’ve seen any of the previous RE movies, you know what to expect. Alice wakes up and has to fight her way through undead monsters. The ending is a setup for the next movie in the franchise.
So what makes this movie so bad?
It’s not the acting or the special effects. Those are pretty par for the course.
Partly, it’s the logical inconsistencies within the movie itself.
Why the hell is Ada Wong, played by Bingbing Li, walking around in a cocktail dress slit up to the thigh? For that matter, why is she wearing those impractical shoes? In a post-apocalyptic world, you’d expect her to be dressed more practically.
Then there’s the scene where one of the zombie soldiers is killed by the rescue team. One guy grabs it from behind in a headlock while another unloads a full clip from his gun into dead guy’s chest. While the other guy is still holding it. The guy behind the zombie should have been perforated.
Mostly, though, it’s the fact that Resident Evil: Retribution is a very dull film. There is absolutely no sense of drama or tension within the story. Alice survives. Secondary characters die, but we don’t care about them. We’re never given the chance because they’re never developed. This movie is all about explosions, fights and car chases.
That’s it.
It is utterly and completely forgettable. That is why, on my movie love scale, I give Resident Evil: Retribution zero out of 10. This movie is so lame, I couldn’t even justify watching it on network television at three in the morning. Avoid it, people. Avoid it like a zombie plague carrier. You’ll be glad you did.

Here's Blood in Your Eye!

Hello, gentle readers. How is everyone doing today? Feeling hail and hardy? Ready to leap out of bed and beat the day into submission? Hurrah for you.
I, alas, am a little under the weather.
My old football injury is acting up.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have a football injury.
In my eye.
Some of you are, no doubt, saying, "How on Earth did that happen?"
I’m sure a fair number of you are also wondering, "What on Earth were you doing playing football?"
Well, it happened when I got hit in the face with a football and I had to play because it was during Physical Education in the grim days of middle school.
Physical Education, in my personal opinion, is one of the stupidest damn classes they make people take in school. In theory, it is supposed to promote healthy exercise, but the only people who ever seem to enjoy it are those persons already possessed of a natural athleticism. Even the people teaching the coarse don’t seem to enjoy it.
However, getting back to my eye.
The injury was not severe. I had to have a cream rubbed into my eye and wear an eye-patch for a few days, but that was it. My vision was unaffected. After a few days, I was pretty much back to normal, although I was a bit reluctant to have anything thrown at me.
Every few years, though, the old injury acts up. The white of my right eye turns an unwholesome shade of red. An optometrist I consulted years ago, when I first went red-eye, couldn’t find any sign of permanent vision damage and suggested that the redness was caused by eyestrain. He prescribed resting the eye, gave me an eyepatch, and told me to wear it for a while.
I did and, within a day or two, the eye was back to normal.
Over the years, I’ve had other bouts of red-eye. During these flare-ups, I get to walk around for a few days wearing an eye-patch. People express their shock when they see the patch and want to know what happened. I trot out the football story, but that seems to leave most of them disappointed.
I can’t say that I blame them. It’s a bloody dull story and anything that makes a fellow walk around wearing an eye-patch shouldn’t be dull.
So, I get creative.
In other words, I tell those solicitous individuals an entertaining and highly improbably story that they may choose to believe or disbelieve, as they prefer.
One time, I told a fellow I was wearing the patch as part of my initiation into the Pirates, which was like the Freemasons only more secret and with much more gruesome initiation rituals.
"Really?" said the fellow.
"Oh yes," I said, solemnly. "I had to give up an eye, a hand or a leg to join and I chose my eye."
For a second, I think he actually believed me.
This year, I have given it some thought and have a fabulous story to tell. Utterly improbably, but highly entertaining.
I’m not going to give it away here, because that would be like spoiling Christmas. However, if you run into me on the street in the next day or so, and I’m wearing the patch, go ahead and ask. You won’t regret it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Poem: The Warning of the Pine


Down by the river,
the river so deep,
I saw a fair maiden,
soundly asleep.

She was lovely, this lady,
in a red velvet gown,
and around her fair face,
ebon locks did fall down.

Her lips, they were red,
red as a rose.
Her face it was lovely,
in her soft repose.

For a time I just stood
admiring this view,
I had nowhere to go,
nothing better to do.

Then, with a sigh,
and a soft, plaintive moan,
the lovely lady awoke,
saw me and groaned:

"Impetuous youth!
You dare look on me?
For such effrontery,
Spend your days as a tree!"

With a crackle of brimstone,
a flicker of flame,
my body reshaped,
and was never the same.

The beauteous witch-woman,
lovely and fair,
threw back her head,
tossing her hair.

Her beauty it faded.
Her firm flesh, it sagged.
Revealing her truth,
a wicked old hag!

She turned on her heel,
spinning around,
and vanished, like that,
down into the ground.

Ever since then,
by this river I’ve stood,
a lonesome old pine,
all needles and wood.

I work on this verse,
I sing to the wind,
praying no other youth,
meets a similar end.

Monday, September 3, 2012

I go nuts!

Hello, gentle readers!
I hope everyone is having a great Monday. Here in the U.S. it’s a holiday so a lot of people have the day off.
I have decided to join them.
Today I am not going to write for ‘work’ but for my own pleasure. I think this is an important thing for writers to do.
Even though I love writing, I must admit that some days it can be a slog. This may come as a surprise to some, who think that writing is an easy vocation.
It isn’t.
Lord knows it isn’t.
It’s my job.
Granted, it’s the best job that I have ever had, but it’s still a job. Every day I have to work on the story. At the moment, I’ve got two in progress. The sequel to Dawnwind: Last Man Standing and The Other Story.
I’m still looking for a name for The Other Story. I thought I had one, but it turns out it’s already been used by the excellent Susan Cooper. So, until one presents itself, it is simply The Other Story. Much the way I refer to the follow-up to Dawnwind as The Sequel.
But the point is, I work on those stories every day. I have an eight-hour work day just like the lady at the bank and the guy at the insurance company. Just like most of you, gentle readers.
No matter how much you may love what you do, it’s sometimes good to get away from it. To take a kind of psychic vacation and just go nuts.
That’s what I’m going to do today.
I am going to have fun.
I’m going to put my fingers on the keyboard and just go nuts.
So, until next time, ladies and gentlemen, I hope you have a wonderful day.

p.s. I’ve noticed that I’m getting a fair amount of site traffic from Russia. So just let me take a moment to say, "Hello, lovely Russian people! Welcome to my blog and thanks for visiting!"