Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Commentaries

I write. I am not a writer, but I write. And while I enjoy the virtual vanity of accumulating comments on this blog, I essentially follow Caffeinated Joe's philosophy and write for myself. I think it's great that other people read my crap, and I wouldn't change that for the world.

That stated, I (and many of my blogging companions) have noticed that many, many, many commenters seem, well, disingenuous.  Over the past few months we've identified many laughable habits and have even come up with terms describing these particular blog "readers." And I figured I'd share them with you.
  • Alpha-Omegas - these are the people who, usually when dealing with admittedly lengthy blog entries, only read the first and last paragraphs of that entry, and leave comments in the hopes that you won't notice. These "readers" fancy themselves as extremely clever, though often their comments provide glaring evidence leading to the conclusion that they have no idea what your piece is about.
  • Charlie Tunas - simply put, these are people who leave "canned comments." Often painfully obvious (as many tend to be members of writing groups or memes), one can safely surmise that they actually cut and paste certain comments, changing a word here or there in order to tailor it to your entry.
  • Fanboys - not necessarily non-readers, but their commenting practices reveal a certain... lack of discerning ability? Have you ever come across a blog that is clearly full of talentless or otherwise bad "writing," but somehow has hundreds of followers? And those followers ALWAYS "love" the work and never have anything constructive or specific to say.  Yeah... those people.
  • Follower Fishers - people who only comment in the hopes of attracting followers to their own blogs. They come in many forms, utilizing the non-reading technique of others in vain (as in vanity) attempts to get us to read their crap.
  • Moles - not bad in and of themselves, but they do tend to be a tad condescending by linking their own blog or blog entry in a comment they leave for you. Sure, it can be a thoughtful thing to do when the link leads to something the commenter feels might be related to what you wrote, but more often a mole is simply follower-fishing. If not, they're doing a pretty good job of implying that you're too stupid to follow their profile back to their blog. Which, you know, is what most of us do when we're curious enough to see who left a comment.
  • Missionaries - these make me want to puke most of the time. You know who they are. Someone who came across your blog, read something they didn't like or disagreed with, and offered to show you their own work in order to "correct your opinion" or "belief set" so you can be saved. I don't know about you, but I write fiction a lot, and I don't need to be saved. My characters might, but I don't. And even if I did, I don't want to be. And even if I wanted to be, I doubt I'd let a blogger or a viral marketer try to do it.
  • Skimmers - though these "readers" don't feel they are as clever as Alpha-Omegas, they are actually far better at not reading your blog than most other pretend-readers. They'll scroll through, looking for keywords that repeat or otherwise stand out, then leave a cautiously formulated comment reflecting the fact that they noticed those words or phrases. Harder to catch, these ones, but their comments also hint at not knowing what your piece is actually about.
There are more, but I'll let you come up with funny monikers for those people.

At any rate, I'm just asking for commenters to provide the courtesy of actually having read what they have commented on. Is that fair? Or am I just being anal?

While I may leave a short, confusing, or otherwise sarcastically brief and/or bereft comment, I can assure you that if a comment was left by me, it means that I read your post... from the first word to the last word. Anything less would be hypocritical.

Can't we all just get along?

Oh, wait... never mind. Getting along would make my life boring.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

VVG IDK

*This was supposed to be an entry in Magpie Tales a couple of weeks back (the image of the hand), but I wasn't in the mindset to "get it right." I was trying to be competently funny. As a result, it's languished in limbo for a while. I still haven't worked on it, but given my travels, I'm posting it anyway in order to make my writing life a bit easier. So there.

Dear Sir,
We aren't friends.
You don't understand
proper means to ends.
Not what I meant...
to lend me your ear;
something on my mind
I wanted you to hear.
You are far too insane,
craziest of man.
Thank goodness
you didn't lend a hand.

My dearest Vincent,
please work on your verbal comprehension.
And don't give body parts to prostitutes
in vain attempts to alleviate tension.

-Paul Gauguin

Monday, March 29, 2010

Notions from Northern Nevada

Yeah, so there I was... or am, rather. In Northern Nevada. A beautiful place full of not-so-beautiful people. The climate leathers people here, but that's not why they're not-so-beautiful. Attitudes here are just kinda blah. You know those bumper stickers that read "Mean People Suck?" There's a lot of that around here. A lot of Mormons, too. I'm not making a correlation, I'm just mentioning that for posterity's sake.

Anyway, my travels are proceeding fairly smoothly. Spent about a week in Texas. Never had a chance to make it down to Austin, but I will be there at some point. Texas is another one of those places that I love to hate and I hate to love. Dallas, even more so than San Diego, is my favorite city to party in. And I'm not a huge partier. I just love the atmosphere in Dallas.

Drove through a snowstorm in New Mexico and another in Nevada. Gotta love desert snowstorms. I know I do. I just hate desert slush after it all melts. Screws up the back roads, which I drive a lot in search of large expanses of land for the three dogs to go running in. Did I mention I blew a tire between Dallas and Amarillo? Yeah, it knocked over the cat litter box in the bed of the truck, which mixed with the water bowls I set out for the pets, which formed this weird sort of quasi-cement paste that got all over my German Shepherd's coat. I still haven't cleaned it out yet. I'll get on that.

Now I'm in limbo. The plan was to head to Seattle as soon as possible, but between a scheduling conflict and a possible gig back in Las Vegas I'm forced to wait where I am. Not that it's a bad thing. Got family here. Got tons of friends here. I just miss the ocean. I suppose the mountains make up for that a bit. I really should head up to Lake Tahoe while I'm here. That's one of the most beautiful places in the country, if you're unfamiliar. Fallen Leaf Lake is gorgeous (I think that's what it's called... been a while)(yep, just Googled it... Fallen Leaf Lake)(is "Googled" supposed to be capitalized?).

So here I am... or there I was. I really need to quit rambling and start writing something decent again. I must apologize for the general lack of quality these past couple of weeks, but whenever I get a chance to write it's usually very brief and forces some really quick and shallow "just type, dammit" exercises.

I'll work on that. In the meantime... eat me.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shadow and Sign

* a continuation of The Blinking Moon

Typically, a Beretta 391 makes its wielder feel powerful and safe. Typically, however, the wielder is the hunter. Not tonight.

The sun set over an hour ago and now twilight is fading into black. There's no moon tonight and he curses his timing. He had noticed the new moon symbol on the calendar before he left to come here, but was incensed from the local sheriff's decision to stop the search for his sister and her boyfriend. Even if he weren't, he's not sure if he'd have noticed the significance, anyway. But now, with three of his four rounds already fired from his 12-gauge and his ammunition box floating somewhere down a river - along with the rest of his pack - he's more than aware that he can't see. He can occasionally make out the silhouettes of the top of the trees, but most of the forest is too thick to navigate reliably via the stars. There was a brief consideration of staying put and walking out in the morning, but whatever is hunting him is clearly maneuvering him deeper into the woods.

Had he more ammunition, he'd fight such a manipulation. But he doesn't. And now he can't see.

He can, however, hear it growling. It seems to know the forest well, so well that it knows when sounds will bounce off of slight elevations in the terrain, almost random rock formations, and thickenings in the woods, making tracking by ear impossible. This is no surprise to him. Why wouldn't it, after all? This is its home. The old cliché applies here: the man is alien and intruder.

The river, he knows, is somewhere behind him. That he can barely hear the rushing water is good news. Without the ability to safely cross the rapids, the river is nothing more than a wall to be backed in to, and with one round left, being cornered is not something that appeals.

An owl somewhere reminds him that he's going to die.

***

All Hunting Permits Are Revoked Until Further Notice. The sign was hastily scrawled, probably by some young deputy whose usual job is answering telephones at the sheriff's station. It was placed underneath a professional sign that read No Hunting. One of those flip signs that forest rangers would drive around and open up when the season started.

His sister and her boyfriend had gone camping the week before hunting season would officially open. She was a bit of a nature lover and it was theorized that she might have confronted an early hunter, and such confrontation had turned ugly. But the blood and tissue that was found at her campsite suggested something else. A bear, maybe, or a mountain lion. Still, though local law enforcement has yet to release their findings publicly, something about the way they tried to describe the scene to him hinted that this was no animal, either.

He felt that they were being honest with him and was fine - as fine as he could have been - with letting the sheriff handle the search. But their cancellation of it changed his mind.

***

Sneaking past the rangers and the deputies was easy. There is just way too much land for a small sheriff's department and an even smaller forestry service detachment to cordon off. Finding the camp site had been easy, too. Investigators and rescuers had tramped their way to the tent and back out again. Plenty of foliage had been broken and stomped through. Indeed, finding the trail of the animal that might not be an animal was just as easy. Easier, probably. It had left sign everywhere.

It never even occurred to him that whatever it is had done so on purpose.

***

Its growl is terrifying. He's heard similar creatures, including wolves, but one can typically follow a wolf growl as it encircles a position. This one goes silent and reappears elsewhere, often behind him. There's been a few times that he swears he heard it coming from the trees above. Only a few hours ago, such a notion would have been silly to him, but now he's not so sure. He's not sure of anything. Including the wind.

Is it moving branches? Or is that a gentle breeze?

Were there more light he could've seen the shadow move, as innocuous or malicious at it is, but he's blind. There's only the sound of the shotgun blast. Then nothing, save an owl. The same one?

Another hoot again reminds him that he's going to die. He can only hope that the thing doesn't know his gun is empty.

***

Had he not succumbed to a heart attack in the middle of the night, he'd have discovered that he hit it. And that it isn't the only one out there. Had he made it back to his truck and checked his voicemail, he'd have learned that his other sister is on her way out to the woods. And is unarmed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Horizons

You've been there. That place that doesn't want to keep you around, but doesn't want to let you go. Options are formulated, decisions are made, then reality sets in. Nothing you've thought of is going to work. Of course, nothing you've not thought of is going to work, either. So you just wait and see.

Hopefully the future is bright and your eyes are open. Not too bright, though, because then you'll have to squint when you try to see off into the distance. That's when the mirages show up... that nasty heat signature that makes you think there's a watering hole up ahead, when it's actually just more desert. Mirages are a good thing to follow, however, when you think about it. They do have a tendency to keep you moving. Is false hope better than no hope? Not sure that question gets answered until after you die. And even then you probably won't understand the explanation.

Perhaps the future is dark and you can't see anyway. Eyes closed, eyes open, it's all the same in the absence of light. One method just happens to protect you from dust. Goggles probably would, too, but they're uncomfortable and leave silly tan lines, not that tan lines are something you should be worrying about in such a situation. But you will. Humanity has long descended into superficial esteem. There you are, dying of hunger and thirst, and all you care about is a fucking tan line. Does a dead body tan? Or does it just bake? I'm sure the coyotes prefer it when it bakes.

Stagnant, but not stuck. Blind, but not blind. Certain that a change should be made, but uncertain what change that is. People pull you in different directions, including where you currently are and where you just left. If you're lucky, there's someone or something pulling you where you want to go. And, if you're the luckiest, where you want to go is where you need to be. There's no way to know unless you go there.

Leave it to luck. Fate is nothing more than a romantic notion. Play the dart board again, only this time keep your eyes closed. Triple 12. What's it mean? You don't know, and there's no fucking way you should know, so you make up a reason.

Hit the road. The sun's bound to come up at some point. Just don't let it burn your eyes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Kiss of the Blind

She remembers what he smelled like the day he took her to get coffee. She's never been much of a coffee drinker and couldn't tell anyone the difference between a Colombian or an Ethiopian blend, but she's familiar enough with the smell. Her father had coffee-stained teeth (and now that she thinks of it... cigarette-stained, as well) and the aroma always since reminds her of home.

It was their second date, so to speak. More like a quick meet between classes. He wanted to skip school altogether, but she has always been far too studious for such a concept. Still, she's one to be "a little late," as long as attendance remains a technicality. He was fast convincing her that there were other things to life... things that could withstand a little game of hooky.

There was a thunderstorm like that only the American South can produce and the sun had been all but blocked out from view. Other than the ambiance of luminescence struggling to penetrate gathered cumulonimbi, the only sources of light were electrical. Because of the rain and her date's love of his dog, he took her to his house under the auspices of letting his drenched mutt enjoy the comfort of a living room. She hadn't let on that she thought his dog was a bit ugly, as friendly as it was, but she giddily let it get her a little muddy. This was, of course, the phase in which people hide behind masks, masks only revealed long after one determines that another can be changed.

She listened to him speak about things that interested him, though she hadn't really listened. He was well aware of this, however, and she fully appreciated his attempts at giving her the floor. She hadn't wanted it, she only wanted to listen to the sound of his voice. There was an impression of a singer and, despite no mention of it, she chose to believe the notion. After all, he had a piano tucked away in a corner of a den. Surely he sang while playing a deceptively easy John Lennon tune.

She remembers it all. Even what happened when the power went out. A dangerous moment. A monumental risk. An action executed without thought.

All he remembers is being kissed in the dark.

Monday, March 22, 2010

State of the Irre(x2) Address

So, a few of you might have noticed that I didn't adhere to my posting schedule last week. Fewer of you might have even wondered why. Well, it's simple, I'm in transition from one side of the country to the other. While I'm undoubtedly continuing to develop stories and such in my head, moving around isn't really conducive to the actual typing of said stories... which means you're stuck with rants for the time being.

That stated, I'd just like to point out some things that have changed around here.

1. I've found out a way to implement a MySpace mirror again. It's not exactly what I had in mind, but it does provide a way for people to find me via my preferred social networking site.

2. The Navbar located at the top of the page has been updated (and is still being updated) with bona fide "Tables of Contents" of the various subjects that I post. There will be more to come, but I invited you to check it out and let me know what you think.

3. The Genwi mirror is still down. This has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the notion that Genwi is undergoing an upgrade. Personally, I think the service went under, but I will keep the mirror link up until that becomes official.

4. There has been a concern that this blog takes some time to load on some PCs, browsers, and Internet connections. I've fixed what I can, so the rest is up to you if you still have problems. One thing you can try is to open a "Snapshot" window (found on most of the links here), click the settings menu, and turn off Snapshots for this site. That might help.

And that's all I got. Pathetic of me, I know.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Irrewind, 20100320: DC Comics

I haven't written about comic books in a long time, but I assure you that I am a comic book nut. Marvel, Image, Dark Horse... Hell, even Archie... I love my stapled pages of silly little drawings and bad dialog. That stated, out of all the established "comic book universes" out there, my favorite (by faaaaaar) is the DC Universe (DCU, for those in the know).

I suppose I haven't written about them frequently because I haven't been reading them as of late, but I aim to rectify that. In any case, if you're a DCU fan like I am, check out these old pieces I've written:

"DC Comics Returns... or Relapses -  Part 1"
DC Comics, for a long time, has been infamous for its failure to keep continuity clear and not confusing, and equally infamous for its money-making yet ultimately futile attempts at "cleansing" continuity. Once upon a time, DC Comics was (supposedly) totally and completely consumed with telling a good story, continuity be damned. The... Read More

"DC Comics Returns... or Relapses - Part 2"
See, in an attempt to diversify the DC Universe, the editors at DC decided that more minority superheroes were needed. Now, I'm not just talking about race, I'm talking about gender and sexual preference, too. While it's hard to disagree with the fact that true-to-life demographics aren't accurately represented in most comic books, it's easy... Read More 

"DC Comics Returns... or Relapses - The End"
Has anybody noticed a pattern? If not, let me spell it out for your limited mental capacities... character switches and dramatic changes almost always seem to happen at around the same time and almost always subsequently never work. You see, DC gets these itches to "update" and "modernize" their characters quite frequently. The... Read More 

"Why DC Should Revive Adventure Comics"
There are several ways to solve this, the most obvious of which is to grant these characters the A-list writer and illustrators they deserve, but as the talent pool isn't as large as comic fans would like, it is unlikely that DC would sacrifice Batman or Superman for the likes of Green Arrow or Aquaman. They could, however, simply release a ton... Read More

"Justice League Unlimited: A Review and a Prayer"
Which brings me to the glorious standard of animated superheroes: the DC animated universe (DCAU). In it, we were given the absolutely phenomenal Batman: The Animated Series, the consistent Superman: The Animated Series, a couple of still-good but more obscure cartoons (such as Static Shock), and the pinnacle of superhero... Read More  

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Internet Writers - Quick Blog Reviews III

It's been a couple of months since I gave shout-outs to fellow bloggers, so I figured I'd give it another go. I'm still a bit exhausted from February's writing challenge, and these are relatively easy for me to write. In a rather strange twist (for me, anyway), each of this edition's recommendations are of female bloggers.

Also, I've lifted the self-imposed restriction of only reviewing blogs with a small following. I will, however, emphasize smaller followings as much as possible.

Harnett-Hargrove - an artist who delves in the emotion of surrealism. Perhaps she doesn't agree with that description, but that's how I interpret her absolutely fantastic and engaging work. Often matching her art with snippets from pop-culture history (usually literature and/or famous quotes), the result is wholly interpretative, yet exhibits a clear and specific message (though I admit, my limited brain does not always grasp what that message is). Brilliant stuff.

Kind Of That Girl - a young aspiring writer learning her craft in plain sight of the viewing public. Well, she claims she's "learning," but there's an existing talent that betrays more experience than she lets on. Those interested in contemporary drama, particularly drama written about young women and by a young woman, should definitely check this one out. She's still finding her own balance in storytelling, but each work is better than the last.

Platypuss-in-Boots - a ridiculously cute place to read about the whimsical tales of a group of personified stuffed animals finding their way through an imaginary world. Yes, it's cute. And it's very good. The author makes the occasional foray into the real world, but the sheer magic of Big Bed Land (as she calls it) draws you in like few storytelling blogs do. I hesitated to read the tales for a while (I do have a jerk reputation to maintain, after all), but I ultimately succumbed to their overwhelming charm. You should, too.

She Writes - a prolific blogger who should already be published, but for whatever reason... isn't. Her style is quite professional and more than a little artistic. While her older works are limited (both in openness and in scope), her recent work is astoundingly straightforward, blunt, and more emotionally profound than almost every other blog that I happen to read. As with "Kind of That Girl," it's a treat to see the progression of quality with each piece.

Stephanie says - a blog rife with the author's personal biography, history, and anecdotes, I go there to read a pretty damned good writer. I've not been reading long, but this one has a skill with the word that I admire. It seems to be mainly creative non-fiction, but who knows? Good writers know how to hide reality in fiction and vice versa. This one knows how.

Pay 'em a visit! Tell 'em I sent ya.

Check out the previous reviews here:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irreviews, 2010: Issue VI

Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Director: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Writer(s): Tab Murphy, Gary Trousdale (story), Joss Whedon (treatment), Kirk Wise (story), Bryce Zabel (story), Jackie Zabel (story)
Starring: Michael J. Fox, James Garner, John Mahoney, Leonard Nimoy
-----
The legend of Atlantis and the animated powerhouse of Disney... unbeatable combination, right? Er... no. What should have been one of the great animated films of the early 21st century was little more than a muddled, jumbled, confusing mess. Given the number of "writers" involved, it's no accident that the plot was all over the place. The set up was too fast (and way too reminiscent of Stargate), the characters were too cliché, the coherent portion of the plot (which wasn't much) was too predictable, and... well, I could go on, but it pains me to to do so.
Verdict: SKIP it. I hate writing that for a Disney Animated Feature, but I must.

Daybreakers (2009)
Director: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Writer(s): Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Willem DaFoe, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan
-----
The world is run by vampires and humans are farmed for blood. Slight problem: there aren't enough humans left to sustain the population. Worse problem: starving vampires devolve into even stranger creatures. No problem: there's a cure for vampirism. Admittedly, I find the concept of the film rather interesting, though the film itself isn't, really. Sure, it's well-acted, and everyone seems to have fun with it, but it's ultimately just another example of Hollywood writers concocting a great premise and slapping it on a relatively shallow action film. All that aside, I enjoyed it.
Verdict: SEE it. It's not overly good, but it's an interesting twist in vampire lore.

Labyrinth (1986)
Director: Jim Henson
Writer(s): Terry Jones, Dennis Lee (story), Jim Henson (story)
Starring: David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly
-----
Because I recently watched The Dark Crystal again, I felt the need to rewatch Labyrinth. One of the great fantasy films, and certainly one of the best genre films of the 80s (which so painfully lacked quality fantasy), this one holds up well. The result of an unprecedented gathering of talent (Jim Henson from Muppets fame directing, George Lucas executive producing, Terry Jones of Monty Python writing, Brian Froud designing, and David Bowie composing and performing), all that was missing is uber-wonder puppet master Frank Oz. Oh, wait... he contributed, as well. I won't explain the plot because, chances are, you've already seen it yourself. If you haven't, you should.
Verdict: SEE it.

Ninja Assassin (2009)
Director: James McTeigue
Writer(s): Matthew Sand, J. Michael Straczynski
Starring: Rain, Naomie Harris
-----
Take every connotation Americans attribute to ninjas in pop culture, then write a movie about it. For some, such a movie will sound ridiculously cool. For others, such a movie will sound... well, ridiculous. This is, unfortunately, the latter. A by-the-numbers action movie with a banal rendition of an across-the-tracks love story, you've all seen this garbage before. The last big movie like this was Romeo Must Die, and despite that film's ridiculousness, it was much, much better. Not that I really mind, but why is there a propensity in Hollywood to match hip-hop culture with Asian culture? At any rate, the effects were pretty lame, and the combat skills of the protagonists and antagonists changed depending on whether or not the scene required them to win or lose. I could say more about Ninja Assassin, but it's all bad, so why bother?
Verdict: SKIP it. Bleh.

Spriggan (1998)
Director: Hirotsugu Kawasaki
Writer(s): Yasutaka Itô, Hirotsugu Kawasaki
Starring: A bunch of Japanese voice actors you've never heard of.
-----
A "spriggan," according to Wikipedia, is some sort of mischievous faerie from Cornish myth. They often serve as bodyguards, which I'm assuming is where the title of this Japanese animated film comes from. Because, you know, the main character is a 17-year-old product of American military development and is a bad ass. The Japanese are obsessed with Western myth and religion, and this particular story centers around the discover of Noah's Ark. Part science fiction, part fantasy, and all action film, you get what you expect with this one. Certainly not one of the great examples of Japanese animation, but definitely better than most of the crap that fat kids wearing DragonballZ t-shirts convince American companies to import.
Verdict: SEE it, if you're a genre fan.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On Writing: An Opinion

I've been noticing some readers taking offense at certain things I write about, be it due to content or to an expressed opinion. Because of this, I figure I'll clarify what I think about "morality" in writing and censorship in general: as George Carlin approached comedy (to paraphrase: "comedians can joke about anything they want"), so I approach writing.

Every situation (from sex to violence to drugs to crime) and every perspective (from left to right to theist to atheist), no matter how heinous, nefarious, inspirational, or wonderful, can lend itself to a good story. And good stories deserve to be written, regardless of whether an author is presenting rape as humor (again, using an old Carlin staple), oral sex as despicably evil, racism as no big deal, suicide as acceptable, Mohammed as a cartoon, the Pope as the Antichrist, Superman and Wonder Woman as homosexuals, Hitler as a nice guy, white tube socks as incredibly sexy, or infanticide as a sporting event. Whether or not I'm good enough to write those stories tactfully and effectively is another matter entirely (I'm probably not... but I guarantee that somebody out there can do it).

On top of that, I personally find everything I wrote above to be some degree of repulsive, and this is both my point and not my point... which brings me to my next point (if I've lost you... oh, well):

Just because a plot, a character, or an idea presents itself doesn't mean that its authors or creators believe or espouse what's been presented (I certainly don't believe all the crap I write, nor even "like" all of the characters and situations I've written). The answer to the age-old question of whether life imitates art or art imitates life is easy: both. Welcome to the tautological existence of thought.

And I happily stand within that continuous cycle.

To quote Carlin one last time: "If you don't like it, change the channel."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Drifting... Again...

So, I'm on the move again. On the road again... or am I? Who knows, at this point. I'm writing this from a different location than my last, I dunno, 100 writings, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm anywhere different. Of course, I could be. Hell, I should be. Regardless, where I am while you read this is likely not where I was when I wrote this. Or writing this. Or something like that. Ah, screw it... I'll worry about tenses another time.

Anyway, for those who care, I'm out and about in the world. Which, for those who may not know, is how I like it. I wander while I wonder and I wonder while I wander (actually, I usually wonder why I'm not wandering, when it is that I'm not wandering).

My ultimate destination is California, the all-too-elusive place that I've been trying to get to for the past, say, 21 years. Why it's elusive, I'll never really know... I mean, it's land. It doesn't really move, right? Except during the occasional earthquake (okay, okay... it's California... the frequent earthquake).

Though I've enjoyed my time writing over the past year or so, it's time for me to reenter the workforce. Honestly, I can't wait. Sitting still, even if it's due to writing, gets to me. I like motion. Movement is good. Some movements are better than others, but I'll leave it to your imaginations to determine what the Hell I mean by that.

So I'm on my way. Finally. I was supposed to be on my way last October, but two of my dogs decided to run away and completely destroy my entire schedule. And then, I must admit, I got a little complacent. I probably need to stop doing that, but it's oh, so easy. Need someone to whip me into action. Preferably young, brunette, rich, smart, and willing to settle on someone beneath her stature.

I should wrap this up. I need to decide if I'm taking I-40 or I-20 to I-10. Decisions, decisions.

*This also means no creative writing for a while... expect nothing but superficial rants and raves until I get settled again.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

River of Mnemosyne, 2010

In case you missed it, I supervised a writing challenge of sorts over at The Tenth Daughter of Memory this past February. Basically, participants had three weeks to write or create a nine-chapter story, of which the chapter "themes" (we call them Muses) are dictated by others, and I can safely state that it kicked my ass. If you're interested in how it was set up, you can find the rules in the first February post at the site, and if you're interested in my philosophy behind the challenge, you can read the following: The "River of Mnemosyne" Challenge.

Anyway, for those intrigued, the entire "Imagination Machines" epic is linked below (no, "Imagination Machines" is most certainly not what it's called, as I've yet to settle on a title).

Enjoy! Maybe...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Halos

"You scared, Jimmy? It's okay. If you're scared, say you're scared."

"I ain't scared."

Point of fact is that I was scared. Still am, really, and probably even more so. Though I never told my parents what I did while they were alive, they most certainly know now. I've done a lot of wicked and cruel things in my life, but what I did that day is the only thing that is... unforgivable.

Mrs. Taylor kept to herself. She was not an old woman. Early 50s at the time it happened, she might have looked 60 or so, but that's what happens when life gets too stressful or, in her case, too depressing. Of course, I didn't know that then. All I knew about her was that she had money and how her smile looked when she bothered to say hello as people walked by on the street. Other than that, she didn't interact very often with anybody. My mother was the only person who - to my knowledge - had ever been in her house. Mrs. Taylor hadn't even owned a car, preferring to ride a bicycle to wherever she needed to go.

All the really young kids thought that she might be a witch. Those slightly older imagined her as a cannibal, preying on unsuspecting children, despite the complete lack of kidnappings and disappearances in our neighborhood. By the time one reached high school, she ceased to be much of a curiosity to anybody. But I hadn't been in high school yet.

Whenever she rode by, everyone took notice of a floppy red hat that either stuck out of her oversized purse or was otherwise attached to her clothing. Perhaps tucked away under a belt or shoved into a pocket. No matter what she wore or what she was doing, she had that floppy red hat with her. But never, and I am not exaggerating, did she ever have it on her head. She never wore it. She simply kept it with her.

I, and my friends, were at the age when the witch stories were fading and the cannibal stories were brightening. You could say that, at the time, we viewed her as a spell-casting eater of human flesh.

"Well, are you going to do it?" John was, by and large, the leader of our little group. It wasn't because he was the biggest - which he was - but that he had the strange ability to manipulate everyone around him. Well, everyone his age, anyway.

"Yeah, I'm going to do it." I knew then that I shouldn't, but peer pressure is ridiculously powerful at that age, especially when Sally Foster happened to be there staring at me. Maybe I should mention that Sally Foster became my first wife, but then again, that might just make this story worse.

"I hear she sleeps with it." Billy always had a propensity to exaggerate - still does - and even then I assumed that he was just embellishing the tale. In retrospect, however, I now vaguely recall my mother talking to my father about the hat one night, and she had mentioned that Mrs. Taylor had indeed slept with it. Heck, now that I think about it, I think my mother might have known why Mrs. Taylor carried it around. Should have asked her. Hindsight, you know?

But the truth was she didn't sleep with it. Not on the bed, anyway. When I had broken into the house and sneaked up to the second floor, I spotted that floppy red hat on her nightstand, placed carefully next to a black and white photo of an older man - her husband - and a color photo of a younger - her son. At the time, I thought nothing of it; merely relished in the fact that I could walk so silently. I remember that the clock on her other nightstand read 3:13 AM. I remember the slight red hue to the room from both the clock and a decorative nightlight on the other wall. I remember everything about it.

And, yes, I took the hat.

Before I could tell everyone the next day that I retrieved it, Mrs. Taylor was at my front door, frantically explaining something to my mother. I knew immediately that whatever was going on was about the hat. And I knew, probably even prior to that, that I was in a world of trouble. So I did the sensible thing that all sensible children do: I hid the hat and kept my mouth shut.

Mrs. Taylor killed herself three days later.

Years later, when I returned from a tour of duty overseas, I found the red hat still tucked away in my closet. It wasn't red at all, but maroon. Made of wool; a leather sweatband; a drawstring cut and burned, obviously sized for a specific head. A beret. When I first joined the Army, I wore a black one. Maroon was reserved for the Airborne. Those crazy bastards who somehow thought jumping out of airplanes was the best way to attack an enemy. I didn't know any of this when I took... no, when I stole the hat.

It was upon my decision to research how Mrs. Taylor acquired the beret that I finally learned the truth.

***

Local Hero Buried With Full Military Honors
By Stephanie Jenkins
Wilmington, NC (AP) - Kyle Taylor, graduate of New Hanover High School, was buried amid a 21-gun salute and a military funeral detail on Saturday. A paratrooper of the vaunted 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg and a two-time recipient of the Silver Star, Taylor was killed during an unspecified operation last Monday. Known locally for wearing the maroon beret of his father, Kevin Taylor, who was killed in action 17 years ago this July. Kyle's squad leader personally ensured that the beret made its way safely to Kyle's sole-surviving relative, his mother Genevieve.

***

I was arrested for digging up her grave in an ill-advised attempt to place the beret in her casket. Mrs. Taylor's sister, then herself on her deathbed, gave permission to exhume the grave in order for the beret to be reunited with its rightful owner.

Though all chargers were dropped - thanks to the sister - and my chain of command declined to pursue a military investigation, I know I await final judgment. St. Michael, the patron saint of warriors and paratroopers, cannot possibly bless a man who has desecrated the memory of two of his chosen. Still, needing to face - and, maybe, hasten - my punishment, I am now a paratrooper, at the whim of the wings and the sword of an angel so powerful. I'm not sure I've slept a full night in years.

May Mrs. Taylor forgive me. Even if St. Michael never does.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Notes On the 82nd Oscars

Yes, I should have posted this on Monday (when it was written), back when everybody actually cared. But I didn't. And, lo, you're stuck reading ramblings about the 82nd Academy Awards a few days after they mattered. Or you've already quit reading by this point, and aren't stuck at all.

Unlike most of the press, I personally think the opening number to the 82nd Academy Awards was lame. Since when do the Oscars have to riff on the Emmys? Neil Patrick Harris was a delight hosting last year's television awards, but he was off... way off... at the Oscars. Seemed overly nervous, too.

Question: If Best Picture goes to the producers, how come Best Animated Film goes to the directors?

Advice to Miley Cyrus: Pick better dresses and learn to stand up straight. You look like Lurch.

Crazy Heart won Best Music (Original Song). Even with the presence of Disney's obligatory nominations, this one was really no contest. In fact, out of all the categories, this was the only no-brainer.

Experimenting with a return to ten Best Picture nominations was both a success and a failure. It was a success in that it undoubtedly provided much-needed exposure to films that would not have otherwise garnered that exposure (and allowed Up to be nominated!), but it was a failure in that it provided nothing to help the telecast's ratings. Sure, you'll point out the overnights, but wait a few years. Ratings will drop. Again.

Gotta love that Kanye-moment for the winner of Best Documentary Short. It's even better if you know that the two recipients are suing each other.

So... The Hurt Locker: 6; Avatar: 3. Something tells me this will go over like Gandhi winning over E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.

Best acceptance speech: Sandra Bullock. A close second was Geoffrey Fletcher (Adapted Screenplay).

Can someone tell me what the Hell was wrong with George Clooney?

Yes, I'm upset that The Hurt Locker won Best Picture. I was rooting for Inglourious Basterds, but it never had a chance. Other than that, I have no issue with the other five Oscars The Hurt Locker took home (I take that back... I have an issue with Best Original Screenplay).

And that, my friends, is that.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Judicial Contempt

"Your book is stolen, you know? That you have convinced yourself that it is some sort of original Word is not my problem, but yours. There are, in fact, older stories. Rough drafts of what you call Logos, logic, the Truth, but they are in themselves nothing more than Fable. Some would call them Lies, but I don't claim - as you do - to know anything.

"Did you write it? Of course not. Were you there when it was written? Of course not. Are you so irresponsible that you believe everything you're told because of who tells it? This is again, not my problem. What sort of fruit grew there? What sort of fruit grows there now? True logic - that of independent thought, borne of experience - dictates that your facts are incorrect and, hence, not facts at all. Where did the first woman go? Are we truly all the product of incest? And why are there equal bars on the cage? From one did not come the other. Surely a mistake was made, but you cannot admit that. You will not. Persecution is far easier.

"The days change on a whim, though not since the Age of Enlightenment. Coincidence, I think not. Control is everything to you and yours, which is why your children are accosted so easily. Perfection? Such a subjective term. Some view marriage as perfection, and yet there is an absence of such in one so important. Love is a Myth, so easily swayed and difficultly proven. That you created rules for it is evidence of its fiction. Lust is a Truth, so difficultly swayed and easily proven. That you created rules against it is evidence of its fact.

"Tell me, then... have you ever thought for yourself? Or is your basic programming like that of a computer's? Easy to modify, but only if the basic language remains. By true logic - that which is at ease with its lack of a capital - you are an automaton. Your children never had a chance to discover the World for themselves. A pity you call this Faith. A pity you feel you need to be saved. Why do you disregard your free will so readily? The choices are yours. Books can be edited, and the one you read is constantly so. Which edition do you Believe? And why did you choose it? Forgive me for assuming, but it was likely chosen for you.

"Thought is a survival skill. Our bodies are weak in the face of Nature. Tools gave us the ability to live, to proliferate, to kill, and to disappear. Where we are is where we should be. It's a beautiful place, even with the presence of the Cavalry. That you believe all four preexisted humanity is proof of the wickedness of your Truth. No... quite obviously, Humanity created one of them. That it exists is a stain our History will never live down. But we also created its opposite: Peace.

"And that's all we know. In this life, that's all we can know. Everything in between is a story to tell. For you to claim otherwise is perjury in the face of Death."

Uriah stands, proud of his statement, ready to face his punishment. But there is nothing there.

"Guilty," he mutters, grinning widely.

One day, he may very well serve his sentence. Until then, however, there is a life to be lived. And, perhaps, time to write his own book.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Irreviews, 2010: Issue V

The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009)
Director: Troy Duffy
Writer(s): Troy Duffy, Taylor Duffy (story)
Starring: Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, Billy Connolly
-----
The long-awaited, oft-delayed sequel to the overrated (but enjoyable) direct-to-DVD "hit," The Boondock Saints. Though ostensibly a continuation of the first film, it's actually a bit of a remake... and, boy, are its tricks old. Everything that was "cool" or "nifty" in the first film is redone here in the hopes that it's as "cool" or "nifty" the second time. Unfortunately, it is not. Troy Duffy is a hack, and this film proves it. Quite literally, the only good part of the movie is Julie Benz, extraordinarily gorgeous as always. Other than that... lame.
Verdict: SKIP it. Let this franchise die... or, at least, help take it away from Troy Duffy.

Ladyhawke (1985)
Director: Richard Donner
Writer(s): Edward Khmara, Michael Thomas, Tom Mankiewicz, David Webb Peoples
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer
-----
I never knew Richard Donner tried his hand at fantasy until I perused a friend's DVD collection. Though he claims the movie stinks (why it's in his collection, I'll never know), as a fan of Donner and fantasy film, I gave it a shot. And, you know what? It wasn't that bad. The premise follows a warrior who, by night, is a wolf. His lover, by day, is a hawk. As a result, neither gets to spend much time with the other as people. Because, you know, that's what curses do. A bit heavy on its modern feel, the film is nevertheless enjoyable, if short of being great. I can see this being remade.
Verdict: SEE it.

Legion (2010)
Director: Scott Stewart
Writer(s): Peter Schink, Scott Stewart
Starring: Paul Bettany, Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson
-----
Hollywood loves its religious thrillers (I believe I've stated this before... many times), but it rarely ever digs deeply into the histories of those religions. As a result, we're often left disappointed in what could have been powerful films, even within the action genre. All that aside, Legion is a very, very interesting concept, if executed rather poorly. Parts of the film are great, while other parts are ridiculous. Often, the shift from great to ridiculous happens sequentially. The religiosity is superficial and the story misses out on any great commentary or analysis. One can reach the conclusion that this was meant to be the Christian version of The Matrix (something that Constantine tried to be, but failed), but Legion lacks even the accidental depth of that particular film.
Verdict: depends on how much you like the genre and lame interpretations of Western religion.

The Lovely Bones (2009)
Director: Peter Jackson
Writer(s): Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Alice Sebold (novel)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci
-----
Peter Jackson wants to garner some long-lost "indie cred." So Peter Jackson creates a film based upon the novel The Lovely Bones and tries to copy the tone of his breakout work, Heavenly Creatures (a great film, by the way). But Peter Jackson fails. What he gives us is a beautiful-looking film, but beautiful in the way that glamor models are beautiful: all makeup and no substance. Despite its disturbing subject matter (serial murder, child murder, and hints of pedophilia), Jackson chooses to film this as a "happy" movie, and the result is horribly irritating. The subtext of the film did not match nor complement its context. I guess you could even say that Jackson did such a good job of portraying limbo (or whatever it was), you don't even care that the characters inhabiting it are dead. In fact, you want to go there yourself. The acting is decent, with Stanley Tucci filling his role with twisted zeal. Rachel Weisz is solid while Mark Wahlberg is over-the-top. Oddly enough, Wahlberg's style is a much better fit for this annoying movie.
Verdict: SKIP it. It's an irritating film (I may have mentioned that already).

Quigley Down Under (1990)
Director: Simon Wincer
Writer(s): John Hill
Starring: Tom Selleck, Laura San Giacomo, Alan Rickman
-----
For whatever reason, Tom Selleck has never made his mark on the big screen (probably his fault for backing out of Raiders of the Lost Ark). Still, his occasional forays tend to be rather entertaining (his recent work notwithstanding). An American Western that takes place in Australia, where the American protagonist falls in love with a crazy American woman who somehow wound up in Australia, there's a lot to like about this film. The story is a bit run of the mill, but the characters themselves make this movie. Laura San Giacomo's subplot provides a nice emotional piece, while Alan Rickman plays a delicious villain (but what else is new?). Selleck just fills the screen as a macho cowboy. And, I guess, that's all the movie needs.
Verdict: SEE it. Not great, but entertaining enough.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Irrewind, 20100306: The Military

I am fascinated by warfare and armies in general, so it is natural for me to write about such things. And I do. Suffice it to say, I am quite opinionated about a great many things military.

Some of these were written a while ago, and one or two were probably written as knee-jerk reactions to current events of the time and probably aren't accurate anyway (I'm working on eliminating such reactions), so there may be changes to some of my opinions that I have yet to address.

But, if you're interested, here you are:

"The Army Corps of... Marines?"
A few years ago, a Pentagon brain decided to analyze the current makeup of the US Armed Forces. His name was David Dyche and his conclusions in 1990 showed that, not only was the military wasting money on what everyone already knew that the military was wasting money on, but that the military was wasting money simply by existing in its current model... Read More

"The United States Air Force: A Parasite Organization"
First point: simply analyze our air power in our various armed forces. The Army has the largest "air presence" of any service. The Navy has their own air superiority, airlift, and strike capabilities. The Marine Corps has their own airlift, strike, and close air-support capabilities. The Air Force has all of that, plus strategic air. All this means that the people of... Read More

"An Army of More Than One"
Everyone who has been in the military knows of the utter chaos involved in running a unit, much less a full-scale operation. Hell, most people who haven't been in the military have heard the stories, as well. There's even a popular saying attributed to several foreign generals (none of whom probably actually said it): "War is chaos. The reason the Americans... Read More

"Military Development: The Lost Art"
The procurement and development budget Department of Defense is under fire; this is no secret. The incoming administration wants to increase that amount of fire; this is also no secret. Experts are expecting several projects, such as the F-22, the Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS), and most of the Navy's new surface combatant programs to be cut... Read More

"Mountain Warfare: An American Oversight"
As a superpower with global reach and concerns, our military is trained, equipped, and prepared to go anywhere anytime the need arises. Almost. While we are no doubt prepared for desert-based conflicts and have increased our urban warfare capabilities exponentially since the 1990s, we lack a particular capability that is particularly important today, given our... Read More

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Window Blinks When the Mirror Sees

*In a feeble attempt to overcome a lack of writer's mood, I started this story for the current Muse at The Tenth Daughter of Memory. Obviously, due to length, I'll have to finish it another time.

"Nobody but you knows what happened." A male's voice. Inquisitive, interrogative. It wants to get to the bottom of things.

"I know." A female's voice. Evasive, rebellious. She's having fun. Or is scared out of her mind. It's hard to know.

"So why won't you tell us?"

"Maybe because it's all part of the plan."

***

It was an unusual safety switch for an unusual weapon. A simple push-button. Though she had no military, law enforcement, or any other type of weapons-oriented training, she knew that most safeties were levers. Well, most on readily-available common firearms, anyway. This was no common firearm. The whole thing weighed about 20 pounds and was over 3-feet long. The stranger who handed it to her called it a "saw," she thought she heard. Prior to hearing the term, she mused that it might have been what her father often lovingly referred to as a pig, but thought better of it. How long ago would that have been? Using a firearm her father used before she was born would have unsettled her.

Why was she here again?

***

A click. An inhalation. A quick prayer even more quickly disregarded. God should not watch this. Explaining this to the Almighty might be a tough sell.

***

Despite the all-too-frequent examples of slow response times, the Los Angeles Police Department is a competent institution and its cops usually get to where they need to get as rapidly as possible. That the shooting began in Magnolia Park was the only factor in tonight's hesitation. Machine gun fire was expected in North Hollywood - a hangover from the infamous bank robbery - but not in Burbank. Still, the bureaucracy was sorted out before anybody even reached the scene. An Aston Martin V12 Vantage riddled with over one hundred rounds of 5.56 millimeter ammunition. Two blood types splattered all over the interior. But no bodies.

***

She had been over-thinking things in an attempt to alleviate her panic. Running in high heels was never a good idea, this much was obvious. But stopping to break off the heels was an even worse idea. Too many movies viewed in the place where movies are made.

She'll never forget the police officer. Over six-feet tall, black, eyes that never see anything surprising. His voice was soft, cautious, and like his eyes... unsurprised.

"Next time," he started, "just kick off the shoes."

At least he hadn't put the cuffs on too tightly.

***

The Detective stares at her through the one-way mirror. Her prints are all over the machine gun, but the forensics team found no carbon residue on her fingers. Gloves are the obvious answer, but her hands were covered in dirt and oil, as if she had been changing the oil in her car. A witness had seen her bolt from the yard where the gun was found, and there was only an estimated four or five seconds between the witness losing sight of her and the officer locating her. Sure, a lot can happen in four or five seconds. But how did she get her hands dirty? There were no fibers or powder caught in the soot, and her hands weren't smudged. Near as anyone could tell, she hadn't been wearing anything on her hands.

***

"Where are the bodies?"

She smiles. Very attractive smile - it almost lights up the room - on a very attractive woman. 5'7", athletic yet curved body. And green eyes. Wicked green eyes. "What bodies?"

***

The Forensics officer smiles at the approaching woman. Most of the patrol units - both LAPD and BPD's - have already left, and he was used to curious neighbors coming up to ask questions. He couldn't stand the CSI shows on television, but they at least gave the viewing public more respect for forensic departments.

"Excuse me, officer?" She's an elderly woman, at least 70. His mother, an uptight English woman, would have called this one a blue-hair.

"Yes, ma'am?"

"Has anyone checked on Phyllis and Henry?"

The question confuses him, but on a night like this, with a crime like this, it isn't an alarming state of mind. "I'm sorry, who?"

She points to a residence three houses down the street. It looks like every other house on the block. Built in the 40s, serene under its trees. Except... its lights are off.

He glances up and down the neighborhood. Every single house with lights on. Hard to sleep through a war zone, after all.

"The lights are off."

***

The Patrolman pukes. A lot. The smell didn't get to him; it rarely ever does. But the scene is the most disturbing he's ever bore witness to.

A bathtub full of lye. Two chemically burned - indeed, partially dissolved - bodies thrown together. Evidence of dismemberment. No blood anywhere else in the house. Stranger still, no shell casings or slugs.

They now had two bodies. And, perhaps, a new crime.

***

"Burbank taking this one?"

The Detective's partner shrugs. "They want to know what we want to do. This isn't exactly run of the mill."

Staring again through the mirror, a single thought races through his mind. Wicked green eyes.

*To be continued...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

World Peace Through Irreverent Invention

Most people want world peace. Or at least pretend to want it, anyway. Sadly, as sentient, free-thinking, and imaginative as the human race is, it'll never happen. Well, not without a sole dictatorship in which everyone else is a mindless slave, anyway.

"Love thy neighbor" ain't gonna work - once you start loving his or her spouse a little too much, it's gonna start a fight. The United Nations ain't gonna work - but that's sort of what happens when the UN Security Council is comprised of sworn enemies. Family values ain't gonna work - they're subjective and, personally, I think most of them are pretty lame. Liberalism ain't gonna work - liberty is lopsided in favor of intelligent people. Conservatism ain't gonna work - the status quo tends to piss off people with more than half a brain.

So, how do we accomplish world peace? Well, I say by creating things that are fun to use and usefully fun.

Like what, you ask? Like these!
  • Cigarettes with fluoride. Brush your teeth while destroying your lungs!
  • Hustler and Penthouse versions of religious texts! Learn about all things holy while having orgasms!
  • Bullets loaded with plant seeds! Kill someone and start a forest!
  • Lawnmowers with leashes! Walk your dogs while cleaning up your yard!
  • Cell phones with condom dispensers! Text me to sex me!
  • Mattresses with toilets! Why get up to use the bathroom? Just go!
  • Mop handles with knives! Commit murder and clean it right up!
  • Newspaper toilet paper! Read about current events before cleaning your ass!
  • Taxi cab/escort services! Get laid while you get where you're going!
  • Enema-capable bidets! Don't just spray... rinse!
Okay, so none of those would foster world peace, but it's all I got.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Weight

apathy's laughing
at your selfish collection
crushed by an earthquake
gadgets, gizmos, and toys
staring in disbelief
hoping the insurance covers
while your neighbor bleeds

sympathy's laughing
at your selfish reflection
the visage of a mistake
pollution, air and noise
Atlas' shoulders in relief
the weight of the sky smothers
while your hypocrisy breathes

Monday, March 1, 2010

Irreviews, 2010: Issue IV

Antichrist (2009)
Director: Lars von Trier
Writer(s): Lars von Trier
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg
-----
That Lars von Trier is a film director who creates controversial films is no secret. That Lars von Trier is a film director who tells stories that are raw, in-your-face, disturbing, and exhausting to watch is also no secret. That Lars von Trier attempts to outdo himself with every film he releases is, yet again, no secret. That he's a skilled director, a master at handling his narratives, and a filmmaker whom I regret exists... well, that might be a secret. Antichrist is part-horror, part-psychological analysis, and part-mindfuck. A couple's young son dies from falling out of a window while the couple was having sex, and the mother begins a slow descent into insanity. The husband, a practicing therapist, tries to help her confront her demons (almost literally), and the two escape to a cabin to assist in the wife's recovery. As of this writing, I've seen the first 80 minutes and have watched no more. Perhaps I'll be brave enough to finish my viewing, but I doubt it.
Verdict: I, personally, cannot recommend this movie. I hate the fact that it exists. Other than that, it's up to you.

The Dark Crystal (1982)
Director: Jim Henson, Frank Oz
Writer(s): Jim Henson (story), David Odell
Starring: A bunch of Brian Froud-designed muppets
-----
A cult-ish classic that I've seen many times before, though the last time was probably around 10 years ago. A brilliant and well-conceived fantasy world, brought to life by the magic of Jim Henson and Frank Oz, combined with the cliché-defining era of 80s films, gives us a film that those who grew up it will always cherish. All that stated, though it remains enjoyable, it is certainly a valid argument that the film does not hold up as well as others of its kind (particularly its sister-film, Labrynth). Still, I'm sure I'll be watching it again sometime soon.
Verdict: SEE it. If you haven't, you aren't allowed to claim that you're a "child of the 80s."

The Informant! (2009)
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer(s): Scott Z. Burns, Kurt Eichenwald (book)
Starring: Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale
-----
Based upon events that exposed the ADM Company's price-fixing conspiracy in the early 1990s, this is a film that is to be taken seriously, but not taken seriously. It is presented as a true comedy by a director (Soderbergh) who has already done the "big evil corporation" movie as a drama (the great Erin Brockovich).  Soderbergh takes what he's already mastered with Erin Brockovich and Traffic, and mixed it the fun of Ocean's Eleven and its sequels. And, strangely enough, it works. Matt Damon, channeling his inner nut-job, has so much fun with his role, it's hard to say anything bad about the film.
Verdict: SEE it. Damon's portrayal rocks.

The Mist (2007)
Director: Frank Darabont
Writer(s): Frank Darabont, Stephen King (novella)
Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher
-----
Frank Darabont has given us two outstanding adaptations of King works: The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, but he falls oh, so short with his third attempt. A more typical King narrative, The Mist is a horror film through and through, with King's usual pop culture analysis of religious and folklore beliefs. Unfortunately, as we all know, King's heyday was over two decades ago. The suspense in The Mist is relegated to bumps in the dark and the horror is nearly destroyed by one-too-many clichés and ridiculously unconvincing computer-animated "monsters." And the "shock ending" seems completely dishonest and more than a little ridiculous.
Verdict: SKIP it. No hat-trick for King-Darabont.

Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writer(s): Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg, Lionel Wigram (story), Arthur Conan Doyle (characters)
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong
-----
A long-awaited silver screen return of the world's favorite detective (no, not Batman), Guy Ritchie retools both the mythology of the Arthur Conan Doyle's legacy and the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson themselves. Here, both Holmes and Watson are quasi-action heroes and are presented on relatively equal ground. They are a team, but unique and archetypal, and the result is a film that reintroduces the residents of 221B Baker Street to the masses with a thoroughly enjoyable bang. Downey and Law are perfect, and Mark Strong again makes his presence felt in a supporting role. Where's Moriarty in all of this? Well, while the movie clearly answers that question, you probably won't much care.
Verdict: SEE it. Warner Bros. has a hit franchise in their hands.