Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Is the J.J. Abrams novel S a rip-off of Whimsical Doctor Shoe?

The answer to the incendiary and crackpotty question in the title of this post is, "Probably not. I'd be shocked if it was."

But. From the Mulholland Books website:
At the core of this multilayered literary puzzle of love and adventure is a book of mysterious provenance. In the margins, another tale unfolds—through the hand-scribbled notes, questions, and confrontations of two readers. Between the pages, online, and in the real world, you’ll find evidence of their interaction, ephemera that bring this tale vividly to life.
Sounds an awful lot like Whimsical Doctor Shoe to me. Kinda. I mean, the book of mysterious provenance, literary puzzle, hand scribbled notes in margins, confrontations of two readers, ephemera, evidence searching, etc. All of that's in Doctor Shoe.

Even the title of the book, S, could be a reference to the Spitnode twins in Doctor Shoe. Or it could be a reference to Shoe himself.

I'm just wondering.

Just like this guy, who suggests Mr. Abrams ripped off Star Trek II in making his latest Star Trek film. Also, this guy. This guy, too. And this guy. You can find all kinds of stuff with Google.

So, if Mr. Abrams's latest film is just a big rip-off, why not his first foray into publishing?

J.J. Abrams, probably thinking "What can I rip off next?"

Obviously, J.J. Abrams isn't ripping me off. But if the next Star Wars movie has a bounty hunter who murders by enema, I'm going to be really suspicious.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

New story in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine!

A story I wrote with Big Ed Gorman, "Real Life, Real Death," is in the current (double-sized!) issue of the renowned Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Please pick it up now!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My first attempt at a mashup

Featuring the Michael Zager Band's song "Let's All Chant," and the "We Accept Her/One of Us/Gooble Gobble" scene from "Freaks." It was really hard to do.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Will "Man of Steel" be the superhero movie that finally wins a Best Picture Academy Oscar? 6 reasons why this movie will break the streak of superhero movies not winning Academy Oscars

Even though the best movies are superhero movies, and everyone knows it (which is why they're so successful, see "Captain America," "Amazing Spider-Man," "Avengers"), superhero movies have yet to experience the thrill and prestige that comes from winning the coveted Best Picture Academy Oscar.

That may be about to change, and the upcoming "Man of Steel" Superman movie is the movie that will do it, finally bringing artistic legitimacy to the superhero genre, which has propped up the ailing movie business. Here is why I believe that "Man of Steel" will win the Best Picture Academy Oscar:

First of all, it is about Superman. Superman is the first superhero of all time. His first movie, "Superman," was the first superhero movie that many people ever saw, from the 1970s. Today it is an acknowledged classic, and all superhero fans love it, including many Academy voters.

Second of all, my first inkling that I am right in my theory has come lately, as the first reviews of the movie are starting to come in. And the reviews are awesome, perhaps even as awesome as the film itself:
So, to summarize...awesome! Now, it's a bold claim to call it the "best movie of the year," especially this early on, but everything else is golden. To me, having tons of action was the biggest requirement, because we haven't really seen Big Blue do some serious damage since the 1970's and that's with some seriously antiquated effects. The CGI cape hasn't really been a secret and we can see as much in the trailers already. Personally, I'm totally down with it and have no qualms.
Positive reviews are important to ensure that everyone understands just how good a movie is, that is why people get so upset when some troll posts a negative review and ruins a movie's perfect Rotten Tomatoes score. And the reviews have been almost all positive, except for one negative review:
However, there was one negative response. Twitter user Jenn Murphy was adamant about her dislike and wrote, "There's a reason why they told us not to tweet about the movie we just saw: IT'S TERRIBLE!!! Also it definitely fails the Bechdel Test. Seriously can big budget movies create a decent role for a woman? It's getting pretty ridiculous."
I don't know what the "Bechdel Test" is, but it's funny that a person would wonder why can't movies have "a decent role for a woman," when the very movie she's talking about has Lois Lane in it, the best woman character in all of Superman comics and therefore a great role for a woman! So, the one negative review is just someone trolling.

If it's not a good role for a woman, then why is she standing in front of Superman in this picture? 

Third, the romance between Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane is one of the great love stories in all of popular culture, and love stories win big at the Academy Oscars (*ahem* "Titanic" *cough*). 

Fourth, currently at Rotten Tomatoes, 97% want to see it. That is almost 100% (3% are obviously trolls).

Fifth, the movie is produced by Christopher Nolan, the greatest filmmaker of the modern era. Despite his greatness, he has not yet won a Best Picture Academy Oscar, and until he does, the Best Picture Academy Oscar will be a joke, and everyone will know it. Everyone knows that the Academy is embarrassed that they didn't reward his Dark Knight Batman movie with even a nomination, and not even his last Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," was nominated, even though it's the third best comic book movie of all time, and everyone knew it even a couple of weeks after it had been released. The Academy will be anxious to reward Nolan, who is a producer of "Man of Steel," so look for it to win big.

Sixth, Superman is the first superhero of all time, and superhero movies are the only movies that make any money anymore. The Academy knows this, and they have to reward superhero movies by giving one of them this coveted prize. Not even the latest Will Smith movie could make any money, because he wasn't playing a comic book character ("Men in Black"), or was he playing a superhero ("Hancock").

One of the biggest problems right now is that no superhero movie has ever won the Best Picture Academy Oscar. Rectifying this injustice clearly "Looks like a job for Superman!" And it will be, too, when "Man of Steel" wins the Best Picture Academy Oscar next year!

This is kind of what it's going to look like when Superman walks down the Academy aisle to pick up his Best Picture Academy Oscar.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Max Allan Collins Seduction of the Innocent review

I wrote a review of Max Allan Collins's new novel, Seduction of the Innocence, which can be read over at Unleash the Fanboy. Here's a sample:

As the superheroes that commanded so much of the market during the late 1930s- late 40s lost their appeal to readers, comic book publishers shifted their focus toward other genres. Romance, westerns, science fiction, crime and horror all rose up to supplant the superheroes as sales leaders.

The comics, which had seen record sales, especially during World War II, became an easy target for crusaders of the political right and left, and those same readers who enjoyed consuming stories of Superman, Batman, and Captain Marvel suddenly came to realize that they'd narrowly avoided being nefariously influenced to commit the extreme acts of violence and sodomy portrayed within their pages. They also realized that their own children might not be so lucky.

At the forefront of the crusade against the comics' despicable influence was a venal glory hound called Frederic Wertham. In 1953, Wertham published a hilariously ill-written, alarmist, and dishonest book called Seduction of the Innocent, in which he claimed the juvenile delinquents with whom he supposedly worked, and with whom he'd supposedly spoken, were avid comics readers, inspired to commit criminal acts by the lurid images and stories they read in comics.


Sneaky Frederic Wertham, looking for naughty pictures.

Wertham's book has long been considered a failure as scholarship. But as it turns out, new evidence has just emerged that shows that Wertham wasn't just a sloppy researcher who mangled the interpretation of his work to prove his own hypothesis: He was a fundamentally dishonest charlatan who lied about his research:
Wertham’s personal archives, however, show that the doctor revised children’s ages, distorted their quotes, omitted other causal factors and in general “played fast and loose with the data he gathered on comics,” according to an article by Carol Tilley, published in a recent issue of Information and Culture: A Journal of History. “Lots of people have suspected for years that Wertham fudged his so-called clinical evidence in arguing against comics, but there’s been no proof,” Tilley said. “My research is the first definitive indication that he misrepresented and altered children’s own words about comics.”
In the interest of equal time, here's Michael Chabon, author of the novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, on Wertham:
"No one who does even the most rudimentary research into Wertham's career and accomplishments can fail to admire him for his compassion, his intelligence, his desire to help children, and his fairly snappy prose style.... [but] It was Wertham's boneheaded inferences about the direct causal connection between...comics and 'deviance' in children, [and] the hysteria his inferences helped to foster (along with a counter-hysteria among comics fans) that have tarnished his admirable legacy."
(That quote was taken from this website, which is where I got the hilarious photo of Wertham "reading" a comic book.) The problem with Wertham is that, as we now know, it wasn't just that he made "boneheaded inferences." It's that he flat-out lied about his work. His entire character-- his so-called "compassion" and "intelligence" and "desire to help children"-- are called into question.

For the rest, go here.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Why Taylor Swift is one of my top 20 favorite current celebrities

Taylor Swift is a "country" singer -- I put the word "country" in quotes (ironic quotes) because first of all I don't know if she's still pretending to be a "country" singer and second of all, her music always sounded more "pop" to me (or at least "soccer mom country," a term I put in sneer quotes as opposed to ironic quotes) -- whose music I do not care for. Her song "Mean," for instance, a whining and petulant "anti-bullying" song (please note the platitudinous quotes) made me root for the bully, and her song about the "Kanye West MTV Awards incident" (a term I've chosen to surround with melodramatic quotes) led me to believe that Mr. West didn't go nearly far enough in interrupting her.

But Ms. Swift is one of my favorite celebrities. She is a young, attractive, wealthy and famous person. She has opportunities that the vast majority of people can only dream of. And she takes advantage of them. She does what young people should do, which is date lots of different people. She travels. She seeks out new experiences. She attends fabulous events. She wears fabulous clothes. She does these things on a scale that is worthy of her position as a young, attractive, wealthy and famous person.

Young people are supposed to take full advantage of their youth. It's a time to date around, to make spectacular mistakes, to be overly emotional. Ms. Swift does this.

In his essay "Writing as an Art," the great Charles Willeford wrote
The novel is the case history of the writer. Look Homeward, Angel, Ulysses, The Trial, A Farewell to Arms are great novels. They are also case histories of the men that wrote them, and they are written with the heart. Each is an account of what happened to the writer and also what might have happened to him. Fact and fiction cunningly combined.
Even though I don't personally care for what she creates, Ms. Swift is an "artist" (those are sincere quotes), and as such she draws upon her own personal experiences in her creative process. Often this includes writing about her ex boyfriends. For some reason, this seems to bother some people.

Maybe it's that Ms. Swift's personal life is so much on display. Sure, we expect artists to use their own lives as inspiration, but do we expect to know so much about those lives? It turns us all into annotators -- we can't just appreciate and relate to the art in question, we have to (or, if you prefer, "get to" [optimistic quotes]) interpret the art, thereby creating an almost scholarly buffer between us and the art we consume:
When Taylor Swift releases a new single it's inevitably an opportunity to carefully dissect the lyrics and determine just which of her past romances left her jilted, heartbroken, and full of seemingly endless material for her hit songs. 
The fact that we know so much about Ms. Swift's private life is perhaps off-putting to some people. And it probably doesn't help that Ms. Swift can afford to hire a private jet to fly her boyfriends to her when she misses them so much. We can all relate to the pain of a long distance relationship. But how many of us can actually fly our romantic partner to us when that pain gets to be too much?

Whatever the reason(s), some people don't approve of Ms. Swift's mining her own life for artistic material. One of those people is the actor Michael J. Fox:
"But Taylor Swift writes songs about everybody she goes out with, right?" Right! "What a way to build a career."
Mr. Fox was asked about Ms. Swift in the context of an alleged "joke" (critical quotes) told by Golden Globes host Tina Fey, something about keeping Ms. Swift away from Mr. Fox's son, who was this year's Mr. Golden Globe, or something, who cares, the point of the "joke" (grumpy quotes) was that Ms. Swift is a little tramp who dares to use her own life as fodder for her art.

Mr. Fox's implication is that somehow the ex-boyfriend of Ms. Swift is victimized by her act of creation, presumably because Ms. Swift is so famous and her private life is so well-known and covered that there's no anonymity for the ex boyfriends who gave her material. But if that's the case, then no art should be created, ever. Especially today, when everyone with a Facebook profile is famous.

Would Mr. Fox tell Michaelangelo to "back off" from Biagio da Cesena? Or tell Victor Hugo to leave poor Henry Sibson alone?

The Charles Willeford quote is taken from the book Writing and Other Blood Sports, which is well worth your time.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

When will Vice President Joe Biden start investigating the influence of the novel on our society?

Over at Unleash the Fanboy, I've got a new post up about the current anti-video game wave. A sample:

On April 21 and 22, and June 4, 1954, the US Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency held public hearings at which certain experts in juvenile crime were invited to testify along with artists and publishers of comic strips and comic books. Comic books as a medium did not fare well in the proceedings, as this Reductio ad Hitlerum testimony by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham suggests:
“It is my opinion,” Wertham told the senators and the cameras, “without any reasonable doubt and without any reservation, that comic books are an important contributing factor in many cases of juvenile delinquency.” The child most likely to be influenced by comic books, he said, is the normal child; morbid children are less affected, “because they are wrapped up in their own fantasies.” Comic books taught children racism and sadism—“Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic book industry,” he said. In his book, he said that “Batman” comics were homoerotic and that “Wonder Woman” was about sadomasochism. He was even critical of “Superman” comics: “They arouse in children fantasies of sadistic joy in seeing other people punished over and over again while you yourself remain immune,” he testified. “We have called it the Superman complex.”
Note that the above quote, from a New Yorker review of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, says that Dr. Wertham was speaking to senators and cameras. That's because these hearings, set up to discover the causes of the epidemic of juvenile delinquency, were televised. Today, of course, we've evolved beyond such nonsense. Today, when elected officials hold investigations into how the media is responsible for horrific crime, those hearings take place in secret.
Vice President Joe Biden said on Friday he was “shooting for Tuesday” to get President Barack Obama his recommendations on how to battle an epidemic of gun violence and warned “there’s no silver bullet” to stop the killing. Biden was meeting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House with executives from video game companies whose products have often been blamed for making players insensitive to real-world violence.
Just like the comic books of the 1950s, when Superman "arouse[d] in children fantasies of sadistic joy in seeing other people punished over and over again while [readers remained] immune," the video games of today have "often been blamed" for making players "insensitive to real-world violence." And the federal government is on the case.

Read it all here if you want.