Monday, August 31, 2009

My Rock-tism!

Here's something you might not know about me:

I grew up music deprived.

Well, I should say radio deprived, actually. We did have music in the house, but only the Motown 45s my mother would play, or the odd country or Christmas LP at my grandmother's home. For some reason, I never ever had the desire to find my own music. It honestly never seemed like I was missing anything.

It should go without saying that I was a strange kid.

Anyway, growing up in the South Bronx I was of course exposed to hip-hop all around me. In the 5th grade, my best friend Bobby introduced me to Run DMC, The Fat Boys, Grand Master Flash, Slick Rick, and eventually Rob Base (among others). And for a while there, I thought rap was where I would end up. It didn't own me the way it did everyone else in the Bronx, but I thought I could sort of get into it with enough time. In junior high I got into house rap, and in high school started listening to the more hardcore stuff that preceded "gangsta rap."

But by then I started to hate that kind of music. It just didn't speak to me. It didn't feel like "real" music. Oddly enough, I had never really listened to much rock. It wasn't until another best friend, Tarrell, introduced me to the band who's logo is pictured above -- Queen!

And the song that did it for me? Why Bohemian Rhapsody, of course! This was my very first Queen song, and also my introduction to rock as well. I was 15 at the time, and imagine what must have been going through my head when I heard what is considered by many to be the greatest rock ballad ever written.

Watch the music video below and tell me this is not AWESOME!

Coincidentally, Wayne's World came to theaters shortly thereafter and I was treated to the song once again! Surely a sign that I was not the only one that had discovered the magic that is Queen. Of course, by that time I was heavily into this band. I couldn't get enough! Highlander: The Series hit tv in 1992 and--lo and behold!--another Queen song was being used. This time, Princes of the Universe.

Surely the whole world had gone Queen crazy, no? I was floored by the fact that the band had such a huge following. Up until then, the only time I'd heard the name was when WPIX would air Flash Gordon on tv. My naivete was soon quashed as I realized just how popular they really were. And, even though I'd come to party late, I was from that moment onward a die hard Queen fan!

This band open the door for me to venturing out to other bands and musical styles within the broader rock genre. Looking back I totally credit Tarrell for opening my eyes and broadening my anemic musical horizons. I have eclectic tastes to this day, sure, but without him I'd probably never had explored rock precursors like Jazz, R&B, and Classical, to name a few.

So, what was your baptismal into rock 'n' roll?

And to leave you off with something extra--mainly because I couldn't decide between which version to pick--here is the re-released music video of Bohemian Rhapsody inspired by the Wayne's World flick. For most people, this *was* their introduction to the song. It certainly is a "worthy" homage, I concur. Check it out for yourself:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Day For Milestones--1 Year, 300 Blog Posts Later

Whoops. I almost let the occasion come and go without nary a mention. But, nope, I caught it just in time. For one year ago today, The Bimillennial Man opened for business!

Has it really been that long? This calls for a celebration!

Yup, just like this! Oh, except that I'm not giving away free money. And I don't wear clown makeup. Not in public, anyway.

But the big 200 on the Joker's float should read "300," in fact, since that's the exact number of posts I typed on this page since that fateful day one year ago. Pretty big number, eh? Not as big as others, but I'm proud of it. Didn't think I'd have so much to say when I first started, but guess I was wrong.

And by the way, if you want a stroll down memory lane, here is my very first blog entry. Oiy, what a DORK! (haha)

Well, here's hoping for many more entries and years to come. Thanks to all my friends and visitors for stopping by and maybe leaving a polite comment or two. I really appreciate it. I wish many more of you would stop hiding in the shadows and say hi every now and then. I have a visitor tracker built in -- I know who you are!

But in the meantime, adieu for now. I'm off to enjoy my private celebration with some cupcakes from Billy's Bakery here in NYC, and maybe a little wine later on.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In My Hand, I Hold . . .

Just finished beating the excellent and entertaining Dead Space tonight (check the sidebar), and lookie what I've got here.

Yup, Batman: Arkham Asylum just arrived in the mail! It's here, in my house, on my desk. Too bad I don't have the time tonight to start it up . . . but I have patience. Soon I shall don the cape and cowl and start busting the heads of some of Gotham's looniest. Should be a blast, oh yes!

Once I get through the basics, I'll update the Now Playing sidebar to keep ya'll abreast of my progress.

Be Sure And Tell 'Em, Large Marge Sent Ya!

Having HBO growing up, I would watch movies over and over ad infinitum thanks to their policy of showing the same handful of films 30 times or more in one month, before moving on to a different handful of movies the following month. They probably still do the same thing nowadays, I'm sure.

Anyway, this was a perennial favorite that seemed to have permanent rotation in the Home Box Office's lineup. My brother and I could not get enough, though. To the point that we soon knew each line by heart!

And I remember this scene scaring the sweet bejeebus out of us! But, LOL, it was so damn hilarious, too.

Anyone else seen this? To be honest, it's hard picking just one scene to show, as the film is just chock full of iconic hilarity from start to finish. Tim Burton is DA MAN!!!

Movie news tidbits . . .

After writing about the trailer for the upcoming James Cameron sci-fi movie, Avatar, here, I started to notice a curious thing on these interwebs. A huge cluster fuck of dumbasses clogging the message boards and writing the film off already.

From what I can tell, it seems to be an en masse counter-reaction to all the gushing, unabashed praise the flick's been garnishing from those who saw some footage during ComicCon. I guess it makes you cool these days to knock something that's receiving advanced buzz.

Personally, I think all the hooplah is damaging the film's chances. Too many people are making such a big deal about the 3D aspects, and the special effects, and what-not, that it's rather anticlimactic to some when they see the actual footage.

The film's star, Sam Worthington, discusses the surprising furor in rather candid fashion over at Coming Soon. I recommend you check it out if you're interested in reading what all the commotion is about.

In other news . . .

Seems the huge unexpected box office haul of the Will Smith-starring hero flick, Hancock, has got Hollywood scrambling to fast-track a sequel . . . despite neither the star nor the director particularly free in the foreseeable future to work on one. I think this is delicious revenge on all the people who bitched and moaned about a superhero movie starring a black man (because let's be honest, that's what all the pre-release badmouthing *was* all about), who now have to admit the movie was actually GOOD. I mean, it had its problems, but I thoroughly liked it.

Check out to read more.

The idea of there being another "god" out there could be rather interesting, if done right. That's always the rub, eh? If it's done right . . .

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ugh! It's Been One Of Those Days . . .

You know the type of day I'm talking about. Nothing specific to lay a finger on, but you know *something's* bugging you. Work, personal life--it could be anything. All you know is, your day just feels like shit.

That was my day.

As a consequence, I never did get around to seeing Inglourious Basterds. Just wasn't in the mood, despite knowing I will totally love this flick. *sigh* Will I ever get to watch it this week?

I think I will tomorrow. *fingers crossed*

Definitely by the end of this coming weekend, although I hope I don't have to wait that long.

Anyway, I'm going to get ready for bed and curl up with a good book. I'm reading The Steel Remains by one of my favorite SF authors, Richard Morgan. The book is his first "fantasy." I have that in quotes because I get the suspicious feeling that this is really a sci-fi book in disguise. Which would just be too COOL if my hunch plays out. I like what he's doing so far. He turns a lot of the well worn fantasy tropes on their ears.

What do I mean? Well, I'll leave you with this tidbit: the main swashbuckling, brawny hero is homosexual. Oh, and he says "fuck" a lot. In other words, typical Morgan bad-ass . . . but with a twist. He does this so well!

I want to be Richard Morgan when I grow up. (heh, heh)

Um, Yes Please!

I'll take this car now, thank you. What's that? Oh no, gift wrapping won't be necessary.

The 2010 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500. I'd prefer a darker blue, but of course beggars can't be choosers.

Ah, now that's . . . vary, vary nice!!!

Is District 9 Racist?

I haven't spoken much about it here, but I have updated on Facebook a few times about how much I really, really liked the latest sci-fi sleeper hit, District 9. Mostly because I just didn't feel like writing yet another movie review where I gush and gush about how great a film it is.

It's come to my surprise, however, that there's a little bit of backlash over what many feel to be highly racists overtones to the film. Not to mention some little discrepancies that may or may not be plot holes.

Which completely knocked me for a loop. Well, okay, not completely. Some of the concerns I do happen to agree with, but the biggest complaint I happen to TOTALLY disagree with. I'll get to that in a minute.

Super cool and wonderful SF writer, Nnendi Okorafor, wrote an interesting opinion piece over on her FB account detailing her own disappointment with the movie, and she even listed ten specific bullet points revealing her concerns. Most, though not all, of the points dealt with the sensitive race issue, and whether or not the director, Neill Blomkamp, was ignorant or deliberate in his portrayal of South Africa and its denizens.

I was going to link to the piece, but then I realized that Ms. Okorafor's FB account is private, so I don't feel comfortable linking or even copying & pasting her excellent views here. I'll just generalize some of her concerns, which also happen to be shared by a few other SF writers I admire, like Tobias Buckell for one.

In other words, I'm going to address four of the more common complaints directed at the movie, some of which I honestly feel the offended are being a little unfair in their attacks over, and others which I think are missing the mark. Suffice to say there are major *SPOILERS* in effect down below. So don't read if you haven't seen the film yet. And definitely don't comment. There's nothing I hate more than people commenting on a movie they haven't even seen for themselves.

Cool? Okay.

1. The Prawns are too stupid and clumsy to be an advanced alien race. Are they stand-ins for negative stereotypes aimed at blacks?

In my opinion: No! Now, yes, I'm not black so obviously I can't possibly see the issue from a black man's (or woman's) perspective. But I think a lot of critics are missing a key point about the plot. To wit, the Prawns are worker bees. Or ants. Or whatever insect comparison you want to use. While not specifically mentioned in the movie, I myself had already formed the conclusion that these aliens obviously work on the hive mind conceit. Which is to say, a higher intelligent "queen" directs the movements and the work flow of the worker and soldier entities under her command. In the insect world, these entities are almost entirely male, and they are generally considered to be one-track minded and in complete service to the queen. When the queen dies, the workers go into frenzy and run about directionless and misguided until another queen can replace the missing or dead one.

In science-fiction, this conceit is often taken further to the point of giving the "queen" telepathic control over her subjects, which is what Blomkamp was doing with his aliens.

How do I know? Because he said so himself on the District 9 panel at ComicCon. I can't remember his words verbatim, but it was something to the point that the ship which comes to rest above JoBurg was a mining ship that ran into trouble when the queen Prawn died and left the worker Prawns with no way of operating the technology on the ship. The fact that the one Prawn, Chris, was intelligent is due to happenstance of Prawn physiology which, in the absence of the Queen for an extended period of time, grants one worker Prawn sufficient intelligence over time to assume temporary leadership until a new Queen can take over.

This is how I remember hearing the explanation go. I could be wrong. There were a lot of vidcasts I watched coming out of ComicCon, and at the time I was trying to keep the details of District 9 from being spoiled to me. But even without this I got the impression from the movie that the Prawns were like worker ants who had lost their direction and "leader." Except, I thought that Chris was part of the "royal family", so to speak, and that this was why he and his son alone were intelligent. I kinda like my version better, as the assisted intelligence route kinda weakens his heroism, I feel. I'd rather Chris was naturally that intelligent, and that it was due to his genetic relationship to the actual Queen.

Either way, the Prawns are imbeciles for a reason. With a Queen, they are guided, purposeful, and able to use their technology. Without the Queen, they apparently can't tell their asses from their elbows!

2. If this takes place in South Africa, why are all the main human roles white?

First of all, not all the roles were given to white people. I personally really liked the guy that was supposed to be Wikus's replacement. I forget his name, but he was the poor sap that couldn't find a flak vest. He not only survives District 9, but in fact does take over Wikus's position. You see him being interviewed later on in the mockumentary within the movie. There's also the MNU merc/enforcer who escorts Wikus when he goes to serve eviction notices. I also liked this guy, and would have liked to see more of him in action.

But, that being said: Yes, I agree with this statement. D9 really *is* shockingly devoid of, you know, black people. It was indeed one of my chief complaints with the film.

But here's the thing: this is the way movies are sold these days. I'm not trying to make excuses here. I place the blame for this squarely at Blomkamp's feet, for he is the director after all. A sci-fi movie taking place in South Africa really shouldn't be so pasty white. It's embarrassing!

But let's not pretend we don't know that this goes on in Hollywood. According to the big wigs, NOBODY wants to see movies with primarily black people in them. Not unless the movies are gangsta movies, or hood-related in some way. It's sad, and it makes me very angry. I hate it! I hate when they pull out the box office numbers as proof, yet conveniently fail to point out that the reason movies with strong black casts do so poorly at the B.O. is because Hollywood never gives the big blockbuster movies over to this kind of casting. This is a vicious circle that looks to have no end in sight. Will Smith can only do so much, and even then they pair him with a white chick just to be on the safe side.

All this is to say that I can see why District 9 has so many white people in it, even while disagreeing with the decision. Again, this does not excuse the filmmaker(s). It's a legitimate beef, but one I've been having for years now, especially in sci-fi movies.

3. The vial of black goo can change a human to an alien? What a ridiculous plot hole!

I admit, this is a bit hard to swallow. But such is the nature of plot devices also known as "maguffins." They don't always make a lot of sense, maguffins, and are really there to serve as linchpins to the plot. To give the story something to revolve around, in other words.

And that's what this is.

But, actually--and to my surprise--there is, in fact, a quasi explanation for this in the movie. It was established fairly early on that the Prawns' technology revolves around a much different basic concept than our own human technology. And that is, that their tech is all operated on a biological level. Specifically the genetic level. Knowing this, is it really such a stretch that the *FUEL* to power this tech should be bio-genetically based as well? And not just any genes, but native Prawn genes at that? After all, it did take 20 years just to produce one vial. Sounds rather complicated, as befitting something that can rewrite an organism's genetic code.

While I do snicker at the extent of change such a substance can realistically wrought inside a human body (I mean, Wikus tuned into an EXACT copy of a Prawn, for crying out loud!), the bad science in this respect was at least built upon the established conceit that the alien tech is almost close to being alive. And so, therefore, if a human were to be contaminated by said tech, its probably going to do some nasty damage to him/her on the genetic level.

In a sci-fi novel, you would have to have a scene where this is explained in more detail of course. But in an action movie, we're lucky we got *any* set-up at all.

4. The Nigerian Factor.

Okay, this is the big bad of all the complaints levelled at this film. And the one which I disagree the most with the complainers over. Here's my rather long take:

The Nigerian gangsters in the movie are barbaric, superstitious, idiotic, and backwards.

And I say to this: no duh?

These are fucking GANGSTERS, people! WTF? Never once did I sit there and think: well, damn, those Nigerians sure are a stupid bunch of people.


What I said was: damn, gangsters are so damn ignorant! They think they can solve everything with guns and violence.

And I would wager that no other intelligent people watching this movie left thinking that they better hide their children from their Nigerian neighbors. Not unless those neighbors just happen to be gang members, too.

I understand why some people (and not all of them black) are quick to take offense to this. But my thing is, you better then take offense at EVERY movie out there not specifically about gangsters but where gangs are secondary or supporting villains. How many movies have you seen depicting Italian, Irish, Mexican, or African American gangsters as ridiculously base and superstitious? I mean, to the point of caricature? I'm not going to sit here and list them all, but whenever a gang or ganglord is the petty villain, you're guaranteed to have them depicted as ultimate losers.

The exceptions to these are films specifically about gangsters. The ones where the gang leader IS the hero. Like the Godfather movies, or Gangs of New York, or Scarface, or New Jack City. In these movies, the gangsters are shown as successful and intelligent. Sometimes more intelligent than the cops, even. But in every other movie where gangs are not the focus, they are always portrayed in broad strokes, often taking in the very worst stereotypes of a particular ethnic group. Not because the movie makers are being racists (okay, not always), but because some stereotypes are based on reality perpetuated by a very, very small minority within said group.

So take the Nigerian gangsters in District 9. Clearly the scum of the earth, and guided by the most ignorant superstitions. But, hey, guess what? Ritual dismemberment DOES go on in sub-Saharan Africa. Every once in a blue moon I'll read an article in the New York Times about how some little boy or girl was kidnapped, or a man killed, so that bush doctors could grind their bones into a tea to help cure everything from a common cold to AIDS. It doesn't happen every day, no. But it does happen. From my own reading, it seems to happen in Nigeria, Tanzania and the Congo region, or pretty much any place where lawlessness runs rampant in Africa and the government is not in control of the regional warlords.

So why shouldn't this ONE man in District 9 who happens to lead a piss-poor ragtag group of imbeciles in his gang NOT be superstitious? Especially when that superstition fuels his own irrational greed and belief that he will become some super-powerful warlord and take over the world? This guys is not Vito Corleone--he's fucking BONKERS! He's not some criminal mastermind. Why do you think he's holed up in District 9 leeching off a bunch of dumb alien refugees? Probably because he was too ass backwards to survive among the *real* criminal elements in JoBurg.

Being that she's Nigerian, I understand why Nnendi Okorafor and her sisters were the most offended by this. If I were Nigerian, I would be too! But offended in the same way I would be if I read the newspaper about a real life Nigerian gangster raping and dismembering a 4 year old girl so that her body parts could be used in a recipe for curing Malaria. Hint: do a Google search of "Ritual Child Killing in Nigeria," and see what comes up. But be forewarned.

Now, does this prove that all Nigerians are child-killers and cannibals? Hell no! Anyone who would think that needs to be smacked. All countries have elements within the populace that are fringe and criminal, and who operate under practices abhorred by the good law-abiding citizens of that country.

When I saw this in District 9, I thought to myself: Oh, looks like Neill Blomkamp was reading the newspaper. Because, this is exactly where I learned about this practice. Just because it's abhorrent does not mean it's not true, somewhere someplace. And not practiced by the majority--or not even the minority--but by a very select few deranged individuals at that.

And that's what this gang leader was in the movie. A deranged INDIVIDUAL with his own pet witch doctor and who's followers are too scared to oppose him. The portrayal was overdone a tad, sure, for dramatic effect . . . but I strongly believe that it was not the director's attempt to disparage an entire nationality here. If not Nigerians, then who? South Africans? Botswanians? Sudanese? If the gang leader, Obasanjo, were any one of these nationalities (albeit with a different personal name), would his portrayal be any less offensive?

The movie needed a dumb villain cannibal to counter the somewhat smarter (or at least, better financed) *real* villain cannibal in the movie-- the MNU. You know, the organization that was pretending to help the Prawns, but was in fact herding them into pens and dissecting them back in underground labs to steal their secret "power." Oh yeah, that group.

This is why I give Neill Blomkamp credit. He portrayed a very select group of Nigerian fringe elements as superstitious cannibals, yes. But the message was that the *real* evil is in the form of white-bread "humanitarian" groups that are really in Africa to exploit and bleed the victims dry before moving on to another location.

And I don't hear anyone protesting this portrayal, do you?

Anyway, this blog entry has gone on long enough. I thought that the movie was great, when I don't read too much into it. Which is what I keep reminding myself not to do when it comes to action movies, sci-fi themed or otherwise. I'm sure I'll make some people angry, but I've said my peace and so -- have at me!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Because I Was In The Mood To Rock Out To AWESOME!!!

Every day is a good day for some Princes of the Universe:

You can thank me later.

Awesome Weekend Box Office Haul!

I'm so happy to see that Quentin Tarantino's new movie, Inglourious Basterds, cleaned up the box office this weekend. But even more amazing is that it's poised to have earned $37.6 million for it's debut 3 days, according to this AP article. That's QT's best opening ever! Even better than Kill Bill, which I find surprising.

Hmm, I'm gonna have to really check this one out. I had planned to catch it this past Friday, but things came up. Then I was supposed to watch it today, but that never happened. Now I've *got* to see this sometime after work this week. I love everything this man has put out, most especially Death Proof, which a lot of people dog for no good reason. So I'm already sold on the "Basterds," heh heh.

The other piece of good news is that last weekend's winner, District 9, slipped to 2nd place with an additional $18.9 million, yet is still ahead of G.I. Joe. Hows that for amazing? A cheap, relatively low-budget film beating the pants off of a bloated, over self-indulgent summer action "blockbuster"? Just goes to show you what a great story, solid directing, and excellent acting can get you.

Rock on!

Tarantino Must Be Creaming His Shorts Over This Game

Like I've mentioned once or twice before, I don't usually like to talk about upcoming games until just when they are about to hit stores, so I've been keeping this little gem to myself. But since the September 15 release date is fast approaching, I finally get to let loose!

The game is called WET, and it is a kick-ass, gun-for-hire, 'splosions and potty-mouth type of title that you all know I luv so much! Developed by A2M and published by Bethesda, WET stars Ruby, a no-nonsense, dual pistol-wielding, sword brandishing hired merc who looks like she eats glass for breakfast and craps chandeliers before lunch. In other words, someone Quentin Tarantino would base a series of movies around.

In fact, this game looks to be borrowing quite heavily from Tarantino's cherished brand of 70s grindhouse and exploitation gangster movies, much in the same vein as Kill Bill. One level in the game is almost a direct ripoff of the House of Blue Leaves sequence in that movie, in fact.

The story, from what I could gather, revolves around a job gone wrong for Rubi (voiced by tv's Eliza Dushku), in which her employer betrays her and leaves her for dead. What follows, naturally, is a blood-soaked quest for revenge. Cuz, you know, that's like the unspoken rule among these badass types after all.

The art direction is very frenetic and quirky, as befitting the game's B-movie action inspirations. And one red-and-white tinged sequence in particular even strongly evokes Robert Rodriguez's Sin City film from a few years back, which I just absolutely ADORE! The gameplay looks to match the visuals, with blistering fast gun battles, insane acrobatics, and intense sword duels just to name a few elements.

Anyway, you don't have to take my word for it, see the trailer for yourself:

Nice, right? I particularly enjoy the doctoring of the footage to resemble the Grindhouse trailers from a few years back. You can definitely feel the QT touch at work. And while you're at it, I'm posting up a little behind the scenes footage from IGN's website:

Enjoy! Since I'm going to be busy with Batman: Arkham Asylum, I don't know if I'll get around to playing this game. I guess I'll wait to read the reviews and judge gamer reactions before I decide. But as of right now, this game is looking like THE SHIT!

Hope it lives up to expectations.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Weekend For Old Movies

At a loss for titles to add to my Netflix queue recently, I decided to catch some classics that I've always been meaning to watch. I don't know why, but suddenly I was in the mood for sword-and-sandal epics, so I rented Ben-Hur and Spartacus. I've heard these two films mentioned a lot by film historians, so thought I'd finally check 'em out.

Ugh, why did I bother?

I know I'm going to be criticized for judging these works with a contemporary eye, but trust me, I tried really hard to watch both films in the spirit of the times in which they were made. And I'm sorry, but I guess I just prefer plots with a little more sophistication. Stuffy, old film critics would call it blasphemy to place a movie like, say, Gladiator, in the same consideration as Ben-Hur and Spartacus, but despite its popular appeal with the action crowd, Gladiator has a far more mature and complicated script than this pair of nearly 50-year old films.

I guess movie-goers were not as jaded back then as they are now. I realize that it is precisely because of films like Spartacus that Gladiator even exists, but its an interesting study in filmic evolution to watch both works side by side.

My critique notwithstanding, however, I will say that Kirk Douglas did an amazing job as the Thracian slave turned gladiator turned rebel leader. It's also eerie how much Michael Douglas takes after his father. Although, whereas the son always strikes me as sleezy and smarmy in the roles he portrays, the elder Douglas comes across as humble yet stately at the same time. I might have to check out his other films.

Growing up in my household, The Ten Commandments was an annual rite of passage. We would watch that long ass movie without fail every year on Easter Sunday. But, honestly, I can never get enough of it! Don't know why, but TTC never ceases to fascinate me with its epic, decades-spanning plot and insightful examination of the human condition. Which is why I thought I was primed to receive Ben-Hur in a positive light. After all, it hails from the same time period of Hollywood extravagance and Golden Age filmmaking. And it, too, stars Charlton Heston, who I actually like as an actor.

So where did it go wrong for me? Well, it's not to say the movie is bad, actually. It's very well-made and acted. But, like with Spartacus, the story is not very creative. At times it tries a little too hard to leech off on the Jesus mythos, with Judah Ben-Hur poised to be the second-coming of the messiah himself. Luckily, things scale back by the third act and, by the end of the movie, Ben-Hur is just a modest man content to live out his days in privacy with his family. Unfortunately, this gives the film a sense of going nowhere, and which is why I found it ultimately BORING!!!

Hmm, guess I struck out 0 for 2 with my picks.

But fear not! While not in the same genre or category as the former two, the third title from my Netflix queue was much better received. I'm talking about the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli classic, Romeo and Juliet.

I confess to having watched this one already back when I was just a freshman in high school--which, I didn't realize until tonight, placed me at exactly the same age range as the titular star-crossed lovers. How surreal! At the time, I could barely follow the film as Shakespeare was quite a difficult read for a kid from the South Bronx to wrap his head around. But even back then I recognized the film as something quite special. Or perhaps it was the mad crush I had on Olivia Hussey! :)

Suffice to say, rewatching it again now was quite a different experience. Having read virtually all of good Mr. Shakespeare's works in college, following the lines in the film was a much easier affair this time around. It's amazing what a little book learning and maturity can do for one's viewpoint, eh? :)

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. What a true masterpiece, and well-deserved of all the praise it received at the time of its release. And, even though I feel like a lecherous old perv now in saying this . . . but, damn, that Olivia Hussey is quite the beauty! Of course, she's pushing 60 these days, but like another big-time crush of mine, Madeline Stowe, she makes great use of her mixed Latin American and Anglo heritage. Whoo boy!

So, what's next up on my list of old classics to purview? I don't know, but I was thinking of popping in Lawrence of Arabia at some point. I own the re-mastered DVD version released a few years back, but for one reason or another never did get around to watching the film. So maybe that.

Unless someone out there can recommend me another? I don't really have a preference. Just that it be somewhere around 30 to 50 years old and can be considered by most movie buffs to be a genuine classic, if not a masterpiece.

Any suggestions?

Meet The Newly Casted Jaime Lannister

I've mentioned here before about the masterpiece fantasy series written by George R. R. Martin--called A Song of Ice and Fire--and how the opening book, "A Game of Thrones," is being produced as the first season of a new HBO series. Remember? I also wrote last month about the high likelihood of Sean Bean being cast as one of the main characters, Eddard Stark. Which has since been confirmed as definite now, so you can remove that bit of news from the rumor mill.

Anyway, over the last few days a whole slew of casting choices have been announced. Chief among them is this guy pictured to the left, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who has been awarded the plum role of Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer and twin brother to Queen Cersei. I've seen Coster-Waldau in a few things, and really liked him in the excellent, but short-lived, "Highlander" rip-off tv show, "New Amsterdam." Can't wait to see him get down and dirty the way we all know Jaime can!

If you want to read about the rest of the casting choices revealed thus far (all of whom I personally think are EXCELLENT picks), check out the wonderful Winter Is Coming blog for more details. For fans of the book series, I highly recommend this site for all your news regarding HBO's highly anticipated show, which begins filming this Fall in Ireland.

Now They Gone And Done It!

Remember about a month ago when I was gushing over the upcoming Batman: Arkham Asylum video game?

Well my oft-visited fount of all things gaming,, has just issued their review of the PS3 version, in which they scored the game a 9.3 out of 10!!! Greg Miller calls it: ". . . the greatest comic book game of all time." A few of the other editors at the site agree.

Fuck YEAH!!!!

You can read the full review for yourself here:

After reading the review, be sure to check out the video review as well, which shows you the actual game in motion.

The little niggling issues they had with it aside, I'm loving everything I'm hearing so far. The combat system looks like fun, and thank god you can switch up between straight-out brawling and stealthy takedowns. Because having all of just one or the other element would have been tiring.

This game comes out next week, and I can't wait!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Top 10 Ways In Which Zombies Are Misunderstood

Face it, the shuffling undead get a bad rap these days. In Hollywood, they're either abysmally slow or freakishly fast, but ALWAYS jonesing for a good meal. Is Tinsel Town implying that these poor people are smoking the wacky tabacky?

In video games, zombies are the endless fodder for gleeful trigger-happy teens racking up points to make up for that hollow feeling left behind by mommy and daddy's neglect. Is that all they are to us, lumps of meat for hormone-fueled target practice?

And what do the zombies have to say to this? Like with all ethnic groups portrayed in lump-sum fashion by the media, zombies are a misunderstood race. They have feelings, too. And some of the stereotypes propagated by pop culture today can be hurtful, not to mention downright debilitating, to a humble zombie's self-esteem.

I aim to get to the bottom of this by dispelling 10 of the most egregious generalizations aimed at our hard-working zombie brothers and sisters (and pets).

Here we go:

10. Zombies constantly try to keep a good civilization down.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Zombies are not to blame when the government decides to collapse and anarchy reigns supreme. If the living masses are dumb enough to go screaming their fool heads off in the streets, the least any good, god-fearing zombie citizen can do is to catch up to their frightful neighbors, arms stretched out wide, and say: "Hey, Seth! Bro, you don't have to run from your shame. We can pull out of this tragedy together!"

9. Zombies disturb the peace with their incessant moaning.
This one I lay completely at the feet of the ignorant "fleshies." If the living would simply pick up a decent Zombie-English dictionary (Webster sells an abridged one for just $15.99!), you'd figure out that our undead friends are simply asking you about your day. Or when you last had a good meal. 99% of all zombie-human altercations could be avoided if we all just learned to COMMUNICATE with each other. Love begins with listening, people!

8. Zombies are angry ALL the time.
I place the blame for this stereotype squarely on the shoulders of smarmy, fleshy movie directors. Many of whom have never even bothered to understand zombies, let alone invite one into their home. If they had, they would have noticed that zombies approach their food with thoughtful consideration and--dare I say it--a gourmet's sensibility. They don't snarl and jump on their meals with barbaric abandon as the movies will have you believe. When was the last time you lashed out at a hamburger or steak dinner? Exactly. Don't assume other cultures are less evolved than your own, and you won't find yourself the main ingredient in an ass and pickles sandwich.

7. A pack of zombies are dumber than a sackful of hammers thrown down a rubber chimney.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Again, Hollywood's continuing campaign to disparage our zombie neighbors is truly shameless. Why in the films do zombies *always* get tricked by the sly and fast human fleshies? Seriously, do you honestly think a ladder or a dynamited bridge is going to stop a group of intelligent, well-meaning individuals just wanting to wish your family a "how-dee" and good night? And people say the undead are antisocial!

6. Zombies take a half clip, or two or three shotgun blasts, to bring down.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I see this mostly in video game land. Hello? How is this even legal? You're giving kids bad ideas, game designers! You're telling our impressionable youth that it's okay to empty 6 or 8 rounds into their undead buddies, and that Zed will simply pop right back up EVERY time when they do. No, stop this! It's spreading misinformation and, more importantly, is downright criminal. Zombies are fragile beings. Their arms and legs are not strong enough to withstand even 4 rounds, let alone an entire barrage from a policeman's special. They are not conducive to target practice. Populate your games with rightful fodder: aliens, Nazis, and of course . . . virginal elf princesses!

5. Zombies smell like the grave.
Correction: the *DEAD* smell like the grave. If you'd paid attention in your social sciences class, you would've learned that zombies are the "un" dead. Offensive body odor is just the by-product of your wasteful caste persecution of the livingly-challenged. What you're really smelling is the odoriferous guilt of your own fleshy bourgeois lifestyle. Zombies do the jobs you are too self-important to take. They toil in your garbage, slog through your sewers, and slay your livestock so that you can live high and mighty in your gleaming castles on well-manicured hilltops, feeling safe and secure. Just remember that the next time you bite into your nice filet mignon, madam! Chances are, a zombie had to procure that meat for you.

4. Zombies are not suitable to take on dates. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Let's not even touch on the collective apathy living folk seem to feel towards human-zombie interracial relationships. That's a regrettably touchy subject in this day and age. Still, when a music video comes along depicting an innocent looking zombie schoolboy going all freakazoid on his fleshy date, it kinda stings. Zombies don't go to the expense of paying for two movie tickets, PLUS a large tub of popcorn and drinks, only to bring their would-be paramours into the woods afterwards and scare the bejeebus out of her with dated, awkward dance moves. I mean, pulleeze, Mr. John Landis! Like any yellow-blooded American zombie boy, he'd want a little action first.

3. Zombies have nothing better to do than to scare fleshy.
Contrary to popular belief, zombies don't get their kicks from terrorizing the living. The next time you see a shuffling group of moaners heading your way: relax. Don't panic. Pull out your trusty English-Zombie dictionary, raise one hand in greeting, and welcome your rapidly approaching new acquaintances. Before you know it, you're making fast friends for life (however much of it you have left, anyway). And you know what they say: once you go undead, you'll never eat bread. Yeah, think about it.

2. Zombies just want to get close enough to eat your brains.
I'm sure you don't need me to point out the ridiculousness of this shopworn trope. I mean, serious? Brains? As if! No self-respecting zombie would be caught alive eating such bland grey matter. Who do you think they are, the British? Show me a hungry zombie and I'll show you a fellow who enjoys a nice, succulent rump like any other hot-blooded American. Just make sure you don't turn around, or--HEY!

1. Zombies are out to convert us all.
This is perhaps the most hurtful stereotype of them all. It lumps our undead friends in the same sorry group as Seventh-Day Adventists, or worse--the Scientologists! But this is a blatant misdirect by the media. Zombies don't need to do anything silly like bite you on the arm or suck your brains out to swell their ranks. How gauche! No my friend, the zombie conversion is quite simple: sooner or later, all us fleshies must meet our end. Be it in bed through natural causes, or a friendly down-home rampant apocalypse to spur things along, the undead know that it's only a matter a time before we're all of us zombies, one and for all!

I hope this little tutorial has taught you the difference between the real world and that which you see on the dumb box. Zombies have rights like the rest of us, and it's high time society took notice and welcomed them into our midst. Take heed and keep an eye out for our undead pals. Chances are there's one walking right up to your door as you read this.

Is that a curious scratching you hear?

Have I Mentioned How Much I LUVS My iPhone?

There's simply no limit to what Apple's phone can do, as evidenced by yet another "must have" app now available through its iTunes store. Case in point, the "Story Tracker" app.

Aspiring speculative fiction writer and part-time apps creator, Andrew Nicolle, designed this program to keep track of his short story submissions. As someone who's in the same bind as Andrew, I know all too well how confusing and time-consuming the process can become. All I have to say is: God bless you, Mr. Nicolle! :)

Story Tracker allows the budding writer to input the titles of completed works, the markets they're being submitted to, the date of submission, whether or not the MS was rejected, and a ton of other useful tracking info. When you have more than one story out to different magazine publishers, this is a vital tool for making sure you don't get your wires crossed, so to speak.

I already have a rudimentary Word doc which I use to keep track of my submissions, but this is light-years better! And anything that gives me another excuse to whip out my iPhone and make good use of the exorbitant service bill I willingly pay each month is a bonus point in my book.

I've only just purchased the full app, so I haven't had a chance yet to put it through its paces. But from the little I did try out, this is going to be a lifesaver I can tell.

If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, and you're finding it troublesome keeping track of all your story submissions, I'd wager to say you'll find Andrew's program a godsend as well. Click on the link to his website above, or go to the iTunes Apps store and check out the app for yourself. If you don't want to plunk down the full $9.99, Andrew has a "lite" version available for free that you can pitter around with and judge on your own terms.

When I get home from work tonight, I think I'll be devoting an hour or so to imputing all my relevant info. As I'm just on the verge of sending out 4 or 5 brand new and polished stories of my own, I can't wait to try this out "in the field." :)

I'll let you know how it goes.

Things Are Getting Surreal In Dead Space Land (Even More Than Usual)

So last night I made it to chapter 10 in my ongoing playthrough of the PS3 game, Dead Space. In this chapter, Isaac must find a spare space shuttle that's hiding out in the vicinity of the crew quarters in order to escape the nightmare aboard the USG Ishimura. Except, all the control cards to navigate the vessel have been removed by some unknown saboteur (although I have a pretty good idea who it is).

Anyway, on my search for the cards, I discovered the Zero-g basketball court. As the name implies, this is a simple game of basketball turned on its head--with the gravity removed. There are 4 "hoops" and, apparently, players would launch themselves from surface to wall and ceiling pads in this free-floating environment, and attempt to rocket the ball into one of these 4 holes in the wall at the end of the court. Take a close look at the picture above to get an idea of what I'm talking about.

Of course, all the players are now dead. So when I show up, the court's deserted. Or, at least, it's *supposed* to be. As soon as I stepped in and the weightlessness kicked in, 4 Lurkers immediately launched themselves out of each hoop and proceeded to "swim" in my direction, throwing acidy spit at me from all angles. I had to jump to each pad, constantly on the move, and attack each enemy individually while magnetically rooted to the surface. Whenever two or more would gang up, I'd immediately re-launch myself to another hardwood patch of floor on the other side of the room--sometimes sideways, sometimes upside down. Finally, when I had dessicated all enemy combatants, I stood in the center of the court huffing and puffing and admiring all the eviscerated body parts floating around in zero-g above me.


I think this game is finally getting to me. But, being the glutton for punishment that I am, this of course only makes Dead Space that much awesome!!!

I wonder what's next in store for me . . .

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cameron Out To Take Over The Film Industry--Again!

Director James Cameron has been working on this idea for nearly 14 years and, this year, December might prove to be another "titanic" month for him as "Avatar" is finally set to release.

What is Avatar? Your guess is as good as mine. This project has been kept tightly under wraps, but recently at ComicCon a lot more info was revealed to audiences.

The gist of it is that this is a sci-fi tale set in the future, in which a wounded war vet gets picked to participate in a weird experiment to help humans take over an alien rain forest moon. The native intelligence on this moon live a seemingly simple and enchanted life, but are in fact far more evolved than us. When Earth forces try to encroach on the world, the natives fight back. Through the "Avatar" program, soldiers can bind their minds to alien clones and thus survive on the moon which is otherwise fatal to human bodies.

The main character is played by Sam Worthington, with supporting roles by Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, and Zoe Saldana, to name a few. Saldana will provide the voice and likeness of a fully CGI-created native female, and has signed on to do sequels as well.

After seeing Sam Worthington in Terminator: Salvation earlier this year, I'm a believer that this Australian actor has a bright movie career ahead of him. And the other cast members are icing on the cake, so to speak.

The movie will be a blend of live-action and CGI, and was shot using cutting-edge HD 3-D cameras. As a result, the film will be best viewed in theaters equipped with 3-D projectors, although a 2-D version will be extracted via the CinemaScope format for normal projectors. Naturally, the film will lend itself particularly well to IMAX.

Oh, and if you want me to shut my trap now and actually show some footage, follow the link below. It'll take you to the official teaser trailer, which is only available right now through Apple's Quicktime website. You may need to download a plugin when the site asks you to.

The visuals are absolutely breathtaking! You gotta see this to believe it.

Oh, Right Down My Alley!

I absolutely *LOVE* the Castlevania video game franchise. It was one of the first games I got for the Nintendo back in the mid-80s, and I've been hooked ever since. Although over the last few years the various and numerous iterations have soured me a bit, it looks like my favorite game designer--Hideo Kojima (of Metal Gear fame)--will try his hand at remaking this cherished series. I couldn't think of a better guy to hand over the reins!

The name of the game is Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and stars some impressive Hollywood talent providing the voices.

Check out the trailer below and see the new look of Castlevania for yourself:

Hmm, kinda reminds one of God of War, doesn't it? This of course is not a bad thing, and might in fact be just the element needed to bring Castlevania back to the heights of seriousness it once enjoyed. I'm definitely loving the story presentation so far. I'll be keeping an eye on this one in the months to come.

Subway Pet Peeve

Today's annoyance is: health care workers who wear their scrubs on the subway when going to and from work.

Actually, this is Lisa's pet peeve, but it's one which I now share too! These people--usually lab techs and nurse's aides--want everyone to think that they're big shot doctors or other medical professionals, looking like they just stepped off the set of Grey's Anatomy.

Or maybe it's just more convenient for them.

Being the cynic that I am, I'm inclined to believe the former. Anyway, they're supposed to know better. The NYC subways are vile, disgusting cesspools of germs and airborne viruses. And yet, you're going to wear clothing that will soon be in contact with patients that are at their weakest and most health-compromised states of their lives?

Yeah, that makes a LOT of sense.

Lisa actually goes to the trouble of putting her scrubs in a plastic covering and carrying them in her bag when she goes to work. All hospitals have lockers for a reason. Workers should change out of their street clothes and into their scrubs AT work.

To not do so is lazy and negligent, and I can't believe more isn't being done to stop this practice.

What do you think? Take a look the next time you ride the subway (especially in the morning) and count how many people you see wearing scrubs. Now imagine you're in the hospital--god forbid--going through chemo or some other immune-weakening procedure and one of these people is attending to you.

Scary, huh?

Mr. Ugly Man

Blast from the past. For those who remember 1992, this is why In Living Color was so damn very good! Check out Marlon Wayans parody "Mr. Lover Man" in this video:

LOL! The Wayans brothers ain't got no sense!

God, remember Shabba Ranks? You don't understand how much I *hated* this song! Never did see what the appeal was with this fool.

**Thanks to my friend, Geo, for passing this on to me.**

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

PS3 Gets A Facelift, And A New Price!

I hope none of you have gone out and purchased a PS3 in the last couple of months, for at this year's Gamescom conference in Germany, Sony just announced the newly redesigned console (as pictured above).

This new PS3 design is a bit shorter, slightly less thick, and about the same width as the old model. The surface is not the shiny new car material that the previous design sports, but still looks cool nonetheless.

Inside, things have changed to allow the PS3 to run roughly 33% more efficiently in terms of power usage and heat exhaust. The new console is about 1/3 lighter as well. It comes with a 120GB hard disk drive, and the same everything else as the previous design. So it won't play games any differently; the changes were mostly cosmetic.

Of even more important news, however, is that the system will release to stores on September 1 of this year. And to coincide with that launch, Sony has announced a price cut from $399 to $299 on both the new and old designs. In fact, if you find an old-design model PS3 in stores right this minute, the price cut should have already taken effect.

*Note: I've heard from various sources that stores are still not reflecting the price drop, but expect this to change any day now. Sony made it clear that the price drop was supposed to happen immediately*

So, if you were thinking about getting a PS3, I'd wait two weeks and pick up this new design. Imagine: you get a PS3 game console, a built-in Blu-ray disc player, a 120GB HDD, built-in WiFi, and Sony's free online games network -- all for just $299!

By comparison, to get a Microsoft 360 for the same price, you'd have to settle for their "Pro" model, which only comes with a 60GB HDD, absolutely NO high-definition disc player (like Blu-ray), NO built-in WiFi, and an online service you have to PAY for.

Hmm, WTF is wrong with you, Microsoft? For $299, Sony's PS3 is way and above the better bargain!

Although I should point out that fans are expecting the 360 "Elite" model to drop in price from $399 to $299 in response to Sony's move. The "Elite" *does* have a 120GB HDD and is a sleek, sexy black too boot! But I don't think it has built-in WiFi (someone correct me if I'm wrong), and still no Blu-ray player. Oh, and Xbox Live network access is still not free. What it does have is an included HDMI cable, which the PS3, sadly, does not come with.

If the Elite model does drop to $299, the speculation is that the Pro will drop to $249, or be discontinued altogether. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I think you know which of the two consoles I'm endorsing. :)

Overheard Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

My cute little nephew, Chandler, just turned 2 last month and has been speaking up a storm. I mean complete sentences that are surprisingly clear and to the point -- LOL! I guess he gets it from watching that kiddie cable channel, Noggin, of which I know nothing about. But some of the phrases he clearly gets from listening to his mommie and daddie.

The other night his mother (Lisa's sister) called from the other room and asked him: what are you doing?

To which Chandler replied: "Don't worry about it!"

Haha, how funny is that? He definitely got that from his father, who uses the phrase often enough.

I've also heard him call both his parents by their respective pet names for each other, which is a trip and a half! "Hey, babe" he said to his mother, tapping her on her elbow to get her attention. She quickly got him to drop that habit. Could you imagine if that happened in public? Awww . . .

When his great aunt came over one day and wanted to pick him up, Chandler held up his hand and shook his head, saying: "Don't touch me!"

We all shook our heads and wondered where he picked up *that* one.

I tell you, it's so much fun watching kids' little minds develop. Actually, it's a little scary just how quickly they absorb things. He's definitely 2 going on 20!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Health Update, Or My Very Cool Wife Hacks Into The Hospital And Tells Me My Results

Actually, Lisa runs the Coumadin clinic inside the same hospital where I see my doctor, so she was able to log onto the network and tell me my results of the blood work I get done roughly every six months. I'd probably have gotten the results over the phone from my doc in a few days anyway, but this way is oh so much cooler! :)

Anyway, I kicked ass. Not that I was worried. For those who don't know, click here to read the VERY long story of my journey.

It's been exactly 4 years now that I've been hale, and I'm still kicking ass. Good to know, that.

Cholesterol levels were excellent.

Blood glucose levels, better than excellent.

And everything else reported back normal. But the above two are always the most important. I work hard to keep myself in peak condition, so I'm glad the blood work confirms my efforts.

It's good to be healthy, ain't it?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Aw, Hell NAW!!!

I like Bryan Singer, but this time he's gone too far! He wants to do a Battlestar Galactica movie which ignores the most recent tv series and, instead, hearkens back to the older series. WTF?

"It's not clear whether Ronald Moore, exec producer of the recent series, will be invited to write the screenplay, but Singer will clearly put his own creative stamp on the project, as the studio indicates that the film will be "a complete reimagination."

I suspect Glen Larson is the mastermind behind this decision, since he has never been happy with the updated sci-fi channel version, which pretty much chucks the entire story of his original tv show straight out the nearest airlock.

But, really? Are execs in tv land really so clueless as to think people WANT to see yet another re-imagining of this property?

We just got one! And it was pretty frakkin GOOD, if you ask me!

*mumble, mumble*

Sometimes . . .

Don't know why, but over the weekend I started to think on morbid things. More specifically, why I've gone to so many funerals of people very close to me, while my friends and acquaintances have gone to so few (if any)?

It hardly seems fair.

And I know it varies from person to person, but honestly I'm just so tired of worrying about who close to me is going to go next. It's been a constant fear ever since my mother was so tragically taken away from me as a kid, but goes back even further. Back to when my baby brother fell out of our 6th story window. I've been to too many funerals to count. The spectre of loved ones dying has hung over me ever since I was a boy, and has shaped me into the serious and too-cautious person I am today.

Sometimes, though . . .

Sometimes I look at other people like they are aliens. They have their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. They have never experienced death. They are my age or older, and yet have never been to the funeral of an immediate relative or very close friend.

Sometimes I am so scared to love, for fear that that person will be taken away from me. It's a wonder I married at all. My single most debilitating fear is something happening to Lisa.

Sometimes the thought of losing Lisa drives me to the point of breaking out into a cold sweat late at night while I'm supposed to be sleeping.

Sometimes, even after 23 years, the memory of that day the police came to the door to tell us about my mother makes me curl up into a ball and cry.

Sometimes, the thought of having children scares me into panic. I can't understand how others can procreate so wantonly when eventually--due to the law of averages--something tragic is bound to happen to one of your children. Or yourself. It's a sad thought, but that doesn't make it less true.

Sometimes, others telling me they're sorry for my loss makes me want to scream and yell. As a result, I never say these words to others.

Sometimes I'm told that it gets easier over time. But it doesn't. It never does. It gets worse, much worse. With every loss death does not become easier to face, but more frightening to me. This is something people who haven't been through it don't seem to understand.

Sometimes I see others who have been through much worse, and I wonder: how are they still sane? What is the breaking point of human fortitude?

Sometimes I want to punch religious people who say it was part of God's plan. Or that God works in mysterious ways. No, He does not. God does not care who lives or dies. If He does exist, this is not His purpose.

Sometimes I dwell on death too much.

But in the end, it passes and I'm normal again. Because I am, in fact, an optimist, I don't dwell on these thoughts for too long. I process them and explore my feelings, but I continue to enjoy life.

I love living, being alive . . . but sometimes, deep down inside, the aching hole of loss is a tearing pain that cannot be ignored.

Such is the burden I bear. And I'm not the only one.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Someone Needs Glasses (And It Ain't Me)

So apparently, according to some people, my wife and I look like we're related. As in, by blood.

Yeah, I'll just let that sink in for a moment.

Say WHAT???? Okay, now someone first made this retarded observation back when Lisa and I first started seeing each other and I was visiting her at her college freshmen year. Some girl was standing on the porch to her dorm and said: "Are your two related? Because you look like brother and sister."

I was so completely bowled over by the ridiculousness of this statement that I think my brain warped to another dimension. I mean, I just stood there drawing a blank. It was the single most unbelievable thing anyone had said to me at the time, and I just didn't know how to respond. Eventually we just laughed and walked away. I told Lisa that I think that girl was jealous of us, that's the only explanation I could come up with. She did have kind of a stank attitude when she said it--and she was black, too--so maybe she didn't like seeing a white/hispanic dude hooking up with a black woman. I don't know. Seems kind of stupid, no? Especially because of our obviously different ethnicities.

So, chalk it up to some chick hating on us. Or maybe she was on the crack, I don't know. But certainly it was no cause for worry on my part.

But, here's the rub. We've since heard that remark on more than a few occasions, the latest being on our most recent trip. One of the locals told us that we looked alike, like as if we were brother and sister.


Exsqueeze me? Bakin' powder? What the hell are you on, I had to wonder.

But now, you see, this time I'm mad! How on god's green Earth can you possibly think we look related? My new theory is that maybe these people are unwittingly tuning into the close bond my wife and I share. I know there's a myth that married couples start to look like each other, but come on! We're not talking about matching outfits and personalized fanny packs here! There's no way in hell you can look at a white guy and a black woman and say they must be related. You just can't do it. It violates the space-time continuum!

Anyway, just so you can see what I'm talking about, I'm posting up a few pics of Lisa and I through the years. Judge for yourself: do we look like brother and sister? (hint: you're going to get a personally hand-delivered punch to the face if you answer yes)

EDIT: Added two extra pics for more examples, the first and last ones.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Missing Our Lady

Today I started strongly reminiscing about Paris for no reason. I guess I miss it that much! I'm even researching the beginnings of another trip there, probably next year in the summer time. I would love to go this year in December, but Lisa is adamant about wanting to be in the City of Love when there are actually, you know, FLOWERS in bloom. So right now I'm aiming for mid to late June. We'll see if it happens (I hope so).

I'm beginning to find that I have an addiction to visiting places with HISTORY. The whole time I was in Paris, I just had this perpetual buzz about me. And, no, it wasn't all the wine I was drinking. Okay, not *just* the wine. But, yeah, I can't describe it adequately. It's like this giddiness comes over me at the thought of being on land that has been developed for over two thousand years with constant human habitation. Just imagining all the rich history that took place right under my feet is a head rush like no other!

What is it about old, richly historical sites that does this to me? It adds a whole other level to travelling, I think, beyond just the obvious touristy stuff. I close my eyes and imagine I am in another time, back when the rules of the world were much different than what they are today. It's very romantic in its own way.

Do you feel the same? What was the most historical and satisfying location you've been to? Did it leave you buzzing like me?

(the pic was taken on the left bank, along Quai de Montebello, near Pont Archeveche)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Update On My Writing.

A little under six months ago, I wrote here about two of my short stories being published, and how I'd planned on submitting more stuff before the end of the year.

Fast forward to now, and I'm afraid I've been slacking off from that plan. Instead of polishing already existing works and sending those out, I went ahead and wrote 5 brand new stories.

But now the time has come for me to put a stop to the new stuff and focus on what's already been written. I mentioned in the linked entry above that I wanted to sell a few more stories before next year, but since it is already August, I'm afraid this won't be happening. Even if one of these 5 new stories get picked up, chances are it won't see publication until next year.

Ah, such is life in the publishing world.

However, I have spent the weekend tweaking and polishing one of the five, and am now working on the second. Since I like to send stories out in batches to various publishers, I'm waiting until the 4th story before I start e-mailing or dropping manuscripts in the mail. Before all that, though, I have to do some research to see which markets are open to the types of stories I've written.

It's a process, but one which I've done before and so I'm not as anxious as the very first time. And although I'm burning up with ideas for other short stories, I might just take a little hiatus to get my bearings and re-think my writing approach.

What I mean is, I need to figure out why my stories don't sell. Actually, the real question is: why is it that the finished products almost never resemble my original intent in terms of theme and even (scarily) plot? Somewhere along the way I always seem to loose the guiding light that got me excited to start said tale in the first place.

Very strange, and will require more navel-gazing on my part.

In the meantime, I've been toying with the idea of starting a novel. This would be my very first attempt, as I've never had the audacity before to think I was ready to write anything longer than a novelette.

To be fair, this won't be a "true" novel. I see it more as a practice mission. I have good ideas for novels, but the problem is I'm not experienced enough to write them yet. And, the way I figure it: why waste my good ideas on shoddy writing?

So, the remedy I hit on is to do a mock novel. A brief book of around 60,000 words that will be more a practice run in terms of plotting, blocking, research, and flow. I'm basing it on an old-school Nintendo video game that shall remain nameless at the moment. The reason being is that I already know the story and general background details, and will thus be able to focus on the mechanics of actually churning a novel out. Because of copyright issues the novel won't ever see the light of day. Or, rather, I should say it won't ever be sold, or published, or have money made off of it in any way.

Which is fine by me. This is all just an exercise. I need to see how it feels to write a much longer work than what I've been doing thus far. True, if you took every short story I've written and combined them, the total word count would comfortably fill up two novels, if not more. But this is different. This is a single cohesive work that requires proper pacing and plotting, among other elements. While there will certainly be a level of frustration in knowing that what I'm writing will never see recognition, at least I'll gain valuable experience that should help when I start a "real" novel eventually.

And, because this is me, I plan to expand the source material and add a lot more nuance and humanity to the story than what the game offers. Games from back in the day were rather anemic in this department, which is great for me! It means I can have some fun with the characters while still adhering to the game script. When you think about it, this might just be a fun experiment after all.

I'm only in the beginning stages of the research for this project, but will be working on it in my head for the next few weeks. Maybe I'll write another short story or two in the meantime, but that's not a promise. If I do continue with this project, it will most likely start at the end of September or the beginning of October.

So, there you have it. 5 recent short stories being polished right now to eventually send out to magazines (both online and off); and 1 pseudo-novel being worked on in the wings.

Little by little, I'm making progress on this writing career thing. :)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Random Thought Of The Day

Someone needs to open up a legal non-profit conjugal service center for adult males over the age of 30. Where they come in, get petted by beautiful ladies who coo at them, and are told that their manly manliness is too overpowering for mere mortal women, and which is why they're not able to score meaningful dates with the opposite sex or get past the "friend zone." Because, you know, they're just too MANLY. Yeah. That's right.

Because, honestly, if more 40 year-old virgins would get laid, then maybe less mass murder-suicides will take place.

Just saying.

Also, reducing gun access privileges might help. Not that I'm against guns (I'm not). I just think it should be MUCH harder to get one in this country. Much harder.


EDIT: In case it wasn't already obvious, the above is satire. I do think that what most of these disassociated lose . . . I mean, loners . . . have in common is the objectifying of women and treating relationships as status symbols of one's success in life. And, in that regard, society and the media is every much to blame as these sad sacks of sexual angst are.

Do Movie Posters Plagiarize, Too?

Somehow this escaped my notice, but seeing as how I'm such a big fan of HBO's True Blood vampire series (based on the Charlaine Harris novels), I should have spotted it sooner. Has anyone seen the movie poster for Megan Fox's latest flick, Jennifer's Body? It's a complete, straight up, jacked rip-off of the Season 1 True Blood poster. Seeing as how the latter was pasted up on every single corner you turned leading up to the show's September 7th premiere last summer, it's kind of hard not to think this was done intentionally by the movie's marketing team. But why be so obvious? The two have absolutely no connection, and True Blood's poster is still very fresh in the minds of fans. Not the least of which is because the just released DVD box set of the first season uses the very same image on the box art.

Anyway, see for yourself:



Wow, that took like no ounce of imagination whatsoever. The only thing removed is the fangs. And of course, the tongue is on the opposite side. Yeah, no one will notice NOW.

Of course, some people might not know this, but both posters are actually paying homage to the original Angelina Jolie cover story photo in an issue of Entertainment Weekly back in 2003, famously shot by Martin Schoeller:

Hmmm, are there copyrights on photographic material? How much are you allowed to get away with? I feel the True Blood poster--when it came out last year--was a cool little nod to the Jolie pic. But this Jennifer's Body poster is a blatant ripoff of the True Blood art. As much as I want to see the movie (almost only because it's Megan Fox--hey!), this type of unoriginality has me thinking twice.

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cash For Clunkers

So lemme see here:

Program instituted to get Americans to turn in their old, inefficient gas-guzzling road tanks and get credit towards purchasing a new, "greener" car. Check.

Billions of dollars set aside to back the program, and hopefully spur the economy. Check.

Money estimated to last three months, based on fiscally conservative projections. Check.

Republicans scoff; call Democrats naive for thinking such an ill-thought out scheme can pull a change in the lagging auto industry. Check.

Program begins. People go ape shit. Car dealers are raking in the new sales like gangbusters. Money runs out in days rather than months. Check.

Democrats proclaim unprecedented success. Economy stimulated, car owners ecstatic, more environmentally-friendly vehicles are on the road. Ask for more money to continue program. Check.

Republicans (and Fox news) cry foul; blame Democrats for mismanagement of funds; proclaim entire program an unmitigated failure. Label Obama a commie.



Same old song, same old dance. And the band plays on . . .

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Hairy Subject . . .

I gotta see this simply because it's a Chris Rock documentary by his own entertainment shingle, but it seems rather interesting, too.

It's a heated subject in certain circles, actually--this concept of "good hair." Of course I have my own opinion, which can be summed up as: everybody has a right to prescribe to and maintain their own definition of beauty. Whether that definition is informed by the media or not is inconsequential, given that both men and women adhere to certain other cosmetic ideals that are influenced by outside factors anyway.

But to put it more flippantly: relaxing one's hair or adding extensions is no different than fake lashes, hair coloring, high heels, or mascara. All of these are items used to "enhance" the natural feminine form and present a package that is not what one was born with, but fits within society's concept of what is attractive. You can't criticize the one and then practice the other. So, keep this in mind black women out there. Hell, white women too!

On a personal note, long dark hair is my definition of beauty on a woman. Whether it comes natural or through chemicals, I don't care. It would be nice if women didn't have to use chemicals in their hair--even if it means *gasp* using a weave--but until the day comes when ALL cosmetics are banned outright (yeah, right!), critics of this practice should enjoy a steaming hot cup of STFU and go about their own business. Unless your personal definition of beauty is to go au naturale, in which case: I applaud you.

And this also applies to men as well. Some men use makeup and hair products. Not yours truly, of course *ahem*. But I'm sure my deodorant, cologne, and contact lenses loosely qualify as aesthetic enhancements--i.e., cosmetics.

Anyway, check out the trailer above for "Good Hair," which was co-written and produced by Rock. It's even won an award at this year's Sundance Film Festival, and was nominated for another. It has HBO attached to it, so I'm sure I'll be seeing it on my cable channel in the near future.

New Month, New Game

I was going to play through inFamous for a second time, but honestly I hate playing games over when I have so little time to play the ones which I haven't gotten around to yet. So even though I wanted to unlock some more bonus trophies, I had to move on. Plus, I just wasn't having any fun since I had already seen all the missions before, albeit as a bad guy now and on a higher difficulty setting.

So, what am I playing now, you might ask? Well, first off, thanks for asking! And to answer your wonderfully prescient inquiry, all you have to do is glance rightward at my "Now Playing" sidebar.

Yup, after much, much delay, I've *finally* got around to starting up Dead Space. It's been out since October, so that should give you an idea of how full my gaming plate has been these past few months. And lets not even get into the the next 9 months coming up.

Anyway, Dead Space is a fun little game. It's sci-fi and horror mixed into one, sorta like the movies Alien and Dawn of the Dead combined. Or, as some gamers have put it: Resident Evil in space! But in actuality it reminds me a lot of Bioshock, at least in terms of the thrills and spills. While not quite as creepily atmospheric as the latter title, Dead Space *does* have its moments. And I've only just started! I can only shudder to think what's in store for me later.

The cool part of this game is that it is not your typical shooter. You're an engineer named Isaac. Isaac is pining away for a girl named Nicole who is trapped aboard the deep-space mining vessel Isaac and his team are investigating. His only clue is a distress message Nicole sent a few days earlier. Because Isaac is not some bad-ass soldierly type, when the shit eventually hits the fan (and boy does it ever!), he's left to using the tools of his trade to keep ahead of being some mutated miner's lunch. This means metal slicers, bolt cutters, mining drills, flamethrowers, that sort of thing. True, these so-called "blue-collar" tools are designed more like guns in the game, but it's the novelty of the approach that I appreciate.

Last Fall I had originally wrote off Dead Space as just another Resident Evil ripoff, and with RE5 coming out a few months later, I decided to wait around for that instead. But now that I'm playing the title, I can see I was wrong to dismiss it. It really is an exciting experience. I'm loving all the intricate details of the level designs, and also the abilities Isaac can upgrade his RIG suit to perform. And the way you kill enemies is new, too. Instead of shooting them in the trunk or head the way most shooters train you to do, the only real way to take down enemies here is to slice off their limbs first. So if a big, hulking brute is barreling towards you down a long, narrow corridor, slice it off at the knees first to cause the creature to fall flat on his face. Then, as he tries to claw his way towards you, adjust you plasma cutter and take out each of his arms. After that, curb stomp the head for a truly gruesome finish.

Sounds good to you? Because that's about damn fucking AWESOME in my book!

Anyway, I've only just begun, so keep checking the sidebar for continued updates. I've already finished chapter 1, and am just a tiny ways into chapter 2. I'm moving pretty quickly because I want to finish this up by August 25th, just in time for Batman: Arkham Asylum, which I gush about exactly one post down.

Oh, and here's a trailer for Dead Space if you want an idea of what I'm dealing with:

Panama Trip - Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime. A trip to Panama's steamy tropical province, Bocas del Toro. Now, before 2017 ...