Saturday, May 31, 2008

Wizard World

Went to Wizard World, a comic book convention, in Philadelphia today. I've been going to this show for years and it's a great chance for people in the comic book industry to meet their fans and for the fans to sample exclusive releases. I picked up some stuff: "Return to Wonderland", a deranged and gory look at Alice in Wonderland by Zenescope; Athena Voltire a pulpy adventure set in the 1930s by Ape Entertainment and the Doctor's pocket watch from Doctor Who. I also talked to some people from Philcon and chatted with a game designer and comic book writer about his projects. I also helped my buddy Big Rick of the In Between Diapers Radio Hour record his show. Rick interviewed people in the show, including wrestlers the Iron Sheik and Dawn Marie and other oddballs. I did some camerawork while Timmy handled the audio. Can't wait to see the final product. It was a really good show this year and a great geeky time was had by all!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

More Writin'

This week I queried six literary agents about my novel. Writer's Digest's Guide to Literary Agents is one cool book.
I spent some time writing the query letter to get everything just right. I didn't want to make the mistake of being too wordy; I think I have a right balance, so it should be fine. I'm prepared for rejections, so I'm making a list of the agents I queried and checking them off after mailing the letters. Every book I've read and every professional writer I've talked to said rejection is inevitable. It's all part of the writing process.

On other writing news, I've been corresponding with the guys at Pinnacle Entertainment about my role-playing game. For the last month, I've been developing a wiki with them showcasing the game. We've targeted next Tuesday for the worldwide launch with a direct link from Pinnacle's website! Very good, considering the game was considered dead in March. More further developments as they become available.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Saw an early showing of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull today. I’m a big Indy fanboy. I own an official Indy fedora and have the theme to Raiders of the Lost Ark as my telephone’s ringtone. Indy is pulp adventure personified on the big screen and Harrison Ford plays the role that is both exciting and iconic.
Five years ago I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and thought, "It's a shame they didn't make any more of these movies."
My prayers were answered with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Unlike the previous trilogy, which were set during the 1930s, Indy 4 is set in 1957. The main antagonists aren’t the Nazis but the Soviets led by a scientist Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), a telepath who wants to exploit the power of a mysterious crystal skull to read minds and influence thoughts. Indy finds himself sparring with the Russians at Area 51, a secret government warehouse we last saw at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Joining Indy on this clusterfuck through the Amazon are Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf), Marian Ravenwood (Karen Allen), Mac (Ray Winstone) and Harold Oxley (John Hurt).
When I walked out of the theater, I thought, “Wow! A film that made Temple of Doom seem great.” Indy geeks hate Temple of Doom, but I think that film captures more of the spirit of old Republic serials than KOTCS, which is more like a B-movie and harmless popcorn flick.
Here's what I liked about it: the scenes of Area 51 (and the brief shot of the Ark), Doomtown with Indy climbing inside a lead-lined refrigerator to survive an atomic blast, the motorcycle chase scene through the college campus, the airplane soaring over the Nazca Lines, the scene in the graveyard where Indy finds the alien crystal skull and having Indy climb out of quicksand by using a snake and his comical and horrified reaction, Blanchett's character was a great villain, and LaBeouf's portrayal of a tough but intelligent loner is the worthy heir to Indiana Jones.
Some critical nitpicking shit: Allen and Hurt were underutilized in the film. I expected Marian to be feisty like she was in Raiders, but she just stared vacantly into space. She should have had more screen time. Why was Winstone in the film? His character turned on Indy multiple times and he was a total profiteer, but other than that, he was useless. The scene where Shia swung from the vines with the monkeys just made a long car chase scene even longer and ruined the pacing.
Regarding the science fiction elements of the film, which many people online have had trouble with: There's a theory out there that extraterrestrials had contact with Pre-Columbian peoples like in Erich Von Daniken book “Chariots of the Gods?”. Knowing this, it makes finding alien influence in the primitive culture somewhat plausible.
The whole alien angle dovetails nicely into the explanation of a UFO crash in 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico and extraterrestrial contact with a primitive tribe.
I remember reading somewhere George Lucas had an idea for a film called “Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men From Mars”. This current Indy film takes the alien thing to the fullest.
I just think Lucas must be like Howard Hughes, once brilliant and now on the verge of madness. His ideas now are over the top and insane. Remember those awful Star Wars prequels? I think the problem with it is he’s lost how to tell a competant and entertaining story and it’s all about how to make a movie into a themepark and milk it for a summer.
But the movies that claim to be for the fans are really made for mass consumption. Is KOTCS the next big film, a masterpiece like Citizen Kane? No, it's not. What it is is a celebration of action-filled American cinema, a two-fisted, white-knuckled joyride where good triumphs over evil. People could pick the film apart and compare it to its predecessors, but it doesn't do it justice. KOTCS is what it is: an Indiana Jones film. He may be a little grayer and older, but he's still got it - fedora, bullwhip and moxie.
This time, like in all the other movies, Indiana Jones doesn't wind up with the treasure in the end, but a special relationship with people close to him. That might be the greatest treasure of all: not mystical religious or alien relics - but the treasure of love and friendship.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I paid to have my novel professionally edited. The editor sent me the edited manuscript and I finished making all the appropriate grammar and style changes and printed it out. The final manuscript clocks in at just over 94,000 words and 400 pages. It is by far the longest thing I've written and could very well be my magnum opus.
I'm reading up on literary agents and drafted a query letter.
This will be really challenging, getting this manuscript read. The query letter is your foot in the door to an agent. Without a good query letter, the agent will just ignore a writer's work. I'm absorbing all of the advice in the 2008 Guide to Literary Agents I picked up. This will be my first serious attempt to have my work read by an agent, so I'm researching and reading everything I can about publishing and literary agents.
On a positive note, the editor who proofread and edited my manuscript said she enjoyed it and that I had "some seriously funny shit in there." That's very reassuring.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Leave It To California

The California Supreme Court ruled to overturn a law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman on May 15. Yes, leave it to those liberals in California to not make marriage about procreation but about love.
Sheesh! Will they ever learn?
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (it's still wicked cool he's governor!) said the decision should be left to voters or the court and not the legislature. Opponents of gay marriage petitioned for a an amendment banning gay marriage that will appear this November on the ballot.
Is making marriage between homos, lezbos and trannies destroying the very fabric of our God-fearing, red-meat eating society?
Is marriage as an institution dying a slow death even if the wife doesn't complain "Not tonight; I have a headache?"
Can Steve and Bill finally agree on a china pattern that is both tasteful and practical?
Gays and lesbians getting hitched won't ruin marriage - marriage has always been a trainwreck. Men and women get together, they think they're in love and they commit and the next step is popping out a few kids and raising those kids. But along the way, people change. Pressures with jobs, pressures with families. Things don't always work out the way you envisioned. There's not a Hallmark card that reads "Sorry, but you're just not the person I married. Fuck, what was I thinking?"
Today, about 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. According to sociologists, childlessness is a leading factor in divorce. With no children to raise, couples grow lonely and drift apart.
That's why I think to save marriage in America we should make it possible for couples to automatically have kids. The government will provide newly-married couples babies especially birthed from industrial baby farms. These government-issued babies (one per couple) will occupy the couple's time, allowing them to adjust to family life immediately after their honeymoons. Instead of experiencing the stress of conception, the government-issued babies will make sure couples stay together via the stress of child-rearing.
Now, to make sure gay couples in California won't spend their time hogging up the Astroglide for nights of sodomania, the government will issue babies for them, so they can experience the joys of instant parenting and stay together. From the wussiest urban homosexual couple to the grittiest Harley-riding leather dykes, all gay couples must have these government-issued babies. Then maybe they can realize marriage isn't about love but sacrifice and a slow numbing spiral into insanity.
On the plus side, California allowing gay marriage means gay celebrities are lining up for their weddings. Ellen DeGeneres and Portia DeRossi will tie the knot, as will George Takei and his partner Brad Altman.
If you think the latest Hollywood blockbuster has good production values, wait till you see these gay celebrity weddings!
The opponents of gay marriage cite the Bible as a measurement of how society should be. Well, when I get my slaves, multiple wives and fatted calf to sacrifice to a vengeful God, then we'll talk. Do you know how many rules the Bible outlines in the Old Testament alone? Do you like lobster and other shellfish? Well, you're a sinner. When your wife has her period, do you sleep with her? You're a sinner! Do you like porkchops? Guess what? Sinner! Homosexuality is repugnant in many religions. It's extremely offensive and punishments befall those who practice "unnatural sexual acts".
Some opponents say that letting gays marry will open the door to other "unnatural acts", like the desire to legalize beastiality.
I'm sorry, dude, but if you want to fuck livestock, you've got problems. At least gays stick with their own species.
But Europe, which is extremely liberal in the whole "let's treat gays like they're humans department" gay marriage is so, well, so last season.
In the Netherlands, the issue isn't an issue. In fact, the first gay divorces made their way through the court a few years ago. In 1989, Denmark allowed civil unions. France and Germany have civil unions, along with England and Spain.
Disney World will have to change the "It's A Small World" ride to "It's a Gay World" if this keeps up. Why does the rest of the world appease gay couples while in the United States favors a more Middle Eastern approach, that is, if you're queer, you're killed?
I think it's because Europe is very progressive. European society is an engine for innovative and experimental ideas and philosophies. They're not afraid to try the untested. Their society is many decades ahead of ours. In Europe, they had fascism during the 1930s, and America is just arriving at its fascism now so we're a bit behind.
So letting the rump rangers marry is something passe to Europeans, while it apparently offends the shit out of us.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Great Flood

Today the newspaper closed early because winds and high tides caused serious flooding in Ocean City. The parking lot at the paper filled with water, as did the neighborhood's streets. The police closed the bridges leading into town. Streets near the bay filled with water and cars sloshed through streets that appeared like rivers. Combine this with cold winds and rain and you get the ultimate in miserable weather.
I moved my car to an adjoining food store parking lot, which sits on higher ground. I reasoned it would be safe, but I had to drive through rising water and hope it didn't damage my car. I went into the food store, picked up some provisions, and slogged through flooded streets on foot. The water rose almost waist high down 10th Street and the gale force winds didn't make the journey easier. By the time I got home, my shoes and jeans were drenched.
High tide will last a few hours, and emergency vehicles patrolled the streets, which otherwise remained eerily empty. I've never experienced flooding like this before.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Fucking Fourth Estate

I’ve had it with journalism. I can’t stand writing in a town full of morally corrupt zombies whose only goal is to slather the world in their brand of bullshit. Today I talked to a city official about a capital improvement project and found him very hostile and rude. I hate dealing with hostile people. They paint you like you’re some muckraker unfamiliar and unknowledgeable with things. It was a jarring and uncomfortable conversation; he accused me of having an agenda and not asking the right questions. He said reporters should deal with the facts and not ask such accusatory or investigative questions. After he abruptly hung up, he called back 20 minutes later and said he spoke to a policeman I knew who vouched for my character.
“He said you were a good guy so the next time we speak, it will be different,” the official said.
I hate Cape May County. This place is the pus-filled boil on the anus of New Jersey. It’s demonstrably corrupt and governed by stupid men who adhere to the status quo with an unconscionable resilience.
What I hate more than the idiots in office are the idiots in the newsroom. The local media is comatose; unwilling to poke or prod or make a real difference. That’s got to be the lure of journalism – to report the crusty underbelly and expose what others want hidden. The public can’t see the things I see.
When I started out in 1994, I thought journalistic techniques were regurgitating facts and getting all sides of a story. I’ve maintained this throughout my career, even though some of my colleagues have not. Lately, I think the journalist’s mission has changed from not just writing the outward facts, but the information that is hidden. Investigative reporting is all but a lost art in the modern newsroom. Media outlets focus on the superficial and ridiculous – celebrity news, personality news and shallow news (think American flag lapel pins and why a certain candidate won’t wear them).
Without investigating reporting, there’d be no Watergate. There’d be no Iran-Contra. There’d be no articles about Clinton’s inappropriate relationship with a White House intern or Bush’s ties to big oil and the push for war in Iraq. There’d be bullshit, ready-made for consumption. Positive fluff of no substance meant to distract a jaded and addled population.
Cable news is the largest purveyor of this anti-news. It’s all about public opinion, punditry and celebrity news in a 24/7 cycle. All Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly and photos of Britney’s exposed vagina.
How is this informing people? How’s it increasing civilized dialog or thought?
As the role of journalism decreases, so does the work journalists perform. Once society’s watchdogs who held public officials accountable and under a microscope, journalists are now lapdogs comfortable with their own laziness. Instead of digging deep, they’re low-rent public relations professionals, spewing information provided and lobbing softball questions.
Lately, I’ve been doing variations on the same story. It’s about how the city’s administration hasn’t been forthright with providing information to the council, even if council asks for the information for months. A group of citizens is pushing council to be more aggressive in asking for this information. They're also pushing me to write stories about all of their concerns.
After a while, it gets tiresome. It gets stale. The activists are unrelenting and some people in the administration won’t return my calls. It’s disenchanting. I’m not the bad guy here. I’m not the Grand Inquisitor. I’m just trying to take my job seriously.
I guess that’s my problem. Maybe I should just give up and abandon my standards. Be a whore for the Lords of Darkness and trash the liberal media. Print opinionated tripe designed to inflame and confuse and sacrifice the facts at the altar of convenient subterfuge.
I became a journalist because I have a gift for writing. It makes no money, garners no respect and makes one an outcast.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day

Today's my annual May Day viewing of The Wicker Man. The 1973 film is one of my favorites and I've seen it about 20 times over the last eight years. It's one film I find new things each time I view it, but this year I noticed something. On previous viewings, I felt sorry for Sgt. Neil Howie, a pious and judgmental character played by Edward Woodward. This year, however, it struck me that Sgt. Howie is a real dick. He's investigating a disappearance of a girl on Summerisle, a small island off the western coast of Scotland, an island that happens to be home to a pagan community.
Instead of accepting or merely tolerating their religion, the uber-Christian Howie is very condescending and rude to everyone he meets. Watching this in the past, I thought it was just a character flaw and that Howie was just ignorant, but this year I couldn't help but realize he's just a dick, calling the inhabitants "heathens" and expressing astonishment at their beliefs.
"Haven't these children ever heard of Jesus?" he expresses to Lord Summerisle after witnessing a fertility rite where young girls jumped over fire.
So when they stick him in the gigantic wicker man and sacrifice him, I really wasn't sad. I was rooting for the murderous pagans for snuffing out this holier-than-thou douchebag. Problem with the world now is there are a lot of Sgt. Howies out there, professing that their faith is the only true one and all others are inferior fables and superstitious mythologies.