The power of a good story

Hiya, peeps!

I saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Thursday night. Technically Friday was opening day, but anymore, you can catch premieres the night before and that’s what I did. I had the idea that if I went to a later show on a Thursday, I might be able to avoid the crowds of ‘tweens and teens.


You can laugh now.

So I saw this movie in a theater full of ‘tweens and teens, many in large groups (i.e. they came together in groups). Stuffed with ’em. and I think I was probably the oldest person in there (shut up) and the only person who had come alone. And, as expected, before anything got started, everybody was yakking and texting and Facebooking and whatever the hell else people do these days because god forbid you actually stop using your smartphone for a few seconds (don’t get me started) and engage with the people SITTING RIGHT NEXT TO YOU.

They continued to talk (albeit more quietly) during the previews, which were geared toward this Hunger Games crowd. Young, hip, beautiful people in movies like the forthcoming Vampire Academy (okay, so I want to see it and yes, it’s based on a book) and what looks like a cool dystopic take on Frankenstein.

And then the movie began. I was kind of dreading it at this point, because I was young, once, and I remember being an asshat every now and again at the movies, so I braced myself to try to ignore whatever asshattery would erupt from the surrounding crowd of moviegoers in which the average age was probably fifteen.

Surprise, surprise. Every single person in that theater was thoroughly engaged by this movie. We laughed at the humor, exclaimed at the things that were awful to watch, and at the end we applauded. All those ‘tweens and teens then set to work talking to each other about the movie and the book on which it was based. And, I’m sure, texting all their friends to tell them to totally see the movie.

And it got me thinking about stories.

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The Hunger Games and other dystopian ruminations

Hey, kids–

Some of you may be sitting in line right now to get into the next showing of the movie The Hunger Games. Some of you may have read the trilogy already, by Suzanne Collins.

Some of you may have been under a rock for the past…well, a while. Collins’ book The Hunger Games was first released in 2008, and started making a lot of buzz in YA circles, though it’s found a much larger audience with whom its themes resonate.
Want to know more about why that might be and what that’s about? Read on!

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Mars, baby.

Hi, kids–

As some of you may know, I cut my spec fic teeth back in the day reading everything I could get my hands on that was written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. ERB was doing most of his writing from about 1912 to the mid-1940s. He wrote classic pulp fiction, which is what I try to model my space opera series, the Far Seek Chronicles, after. That is, in terms of his spec fic, high adventure, high drama, and amazing settings.

And c’mon. You know who this guy is. He’s the creator of Tarzan. But he’s also the creator of myriad other worlds, including a vision of Mars that his Earthling character, John Carter, had the opportunity to visit and make part of his life.

I also want to be clear. ERB was writing at a time when it was okay and even expected to be racist and sexist. ERB himself leaned toward eugenics, as author John Taliaferro notes in his biography of the writer. (read chapter one here) So yes, these books are racist and sexist, some more blatantly than others. But they’re also highly imaginative, with amazing creatures, characters, and settings. ERB was definitely a product of his time and background, which certainly doesn’t excuse some of the things in his books, but hopefully, it explains it to you, people who may not be familiar with his work. As much as we don’t like to admit it, writers are products of their times and contexts, too, and yes, that can and does get reflected in our writing.

There’ve been tons of Tarzan movies over the years, but here, at long last, is a movie version of what I’m guessing is the first book in ERB’s Mars series, though the title’s wrong. The first book in the Mars series is A Princess of Mars, and it was published in 1912. This was the first novel ERB wrote. So though he’s known more for the Tarzan series, he was writing the Mars series as well.

The premise of the Mars series is John Carter, a veteran of the Civil War (who fought for the Confederacy). After the war, he goes prospecting in Arizona and ends up in trouble with some Apaches. He hides in a sacred cave and there’s something hinky/freaky in there, because BOOM he’s transported to Mars (Barsoom), which is a dying world ravaged by war (and awesome characters and creatures). Because he’s from Earth, he has amazing powers in the low gravity of Mars. He gets caught up in the battles for justice, and there’s all kinds of adventure and some romance, too.

The title of the movie is John Carter, and I’m thinking that probably it’s an amalgam of several of the books, though I could be wrong and it could be based on the first book in the series. Princess of Mars celebrates its 100th birthday this year, and Library of America will be releasing a special commemorative hardcover edition. Kinda cool. And kinda neat that this movie will be released March 9th. ERB fans, rejoice! Let’s hope this one does the pulp fiction master proud.


Don’t stop for baby carriages

Hi, all!

Or, if you’re not in the US, don’t stop for prams. Happy New Year’s Eve y’all, and Foster the People will demonstrate precisely why, in a post-apocalyptic situation, do NOT stop driving until you’re dang sure it’s a reasonably safe place. Do not stop. Even if there’s a pram in the road. In this case, ESPECIALLY if there’s a pram in the road. (sorry–this is Vevo, so there’s an ad before the vid)


This is one of Spotify’s top 100 listened-to tunes of 2011 in the US. Here’s the link to see the others. Because everything is just better with music, including post-apocalyptic driving and hostage-taking. And let’s all thank Foster the People for the Road Warrior shout-out!


Hope your New Year’s Eve rocks! Be safe out there.

Little break for the new year…

Hi, folks–

Whew. It’s been crazy with all the holiday stuff. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, whether you get into the holidays this time of year or not. Even if you don’t, the frenetic energy in the air kinda sucks you in anyway.

All right, so I’m just dropping by quickly to wish everyone a happy week and to tell you all to go catch some movies if you can. I highly recommend Sherlock Holmes Game of Shadows if you haven’t already seen it and the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was all right (Rooney Mara’s performance was quite good), as well, though I haven’t seen the Swedish version yet, so I could be wrong.

And though Netflix was kinda doofusy this year, I still do get the streaming flicks, so I’ll be catching up on some films there. Just finally saw Ironman 2 and I’ll probably watch The Fighter, though that’s kind of a gritty downer film and I’m not sure I’m in the mood for it.

Anyway, hope you can get some relaxing in before we start the crazy new year!


Random Friday goofiness

I was thinking about the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure tonight. No, I have no idea why. But this scene in particular has been in my head:

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure clip

That was my fave saying for at least three months after I saw that movie for the first time. “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.”


So, go. Be randomly goofy with me.

Happy Friday.


Hi, peeps–

Last night I watched (on DVD) Battle: Los Angeles. It’s one of several “alien apocalypse” movies that has come out in the last few years, and I’m into various types of apocalypses (apocalypsi?), so I watched it. Apocalyptic, dark flicks seem to emanate from Hollywood when social and cultural shifts and upheaval are plaguing America. Bad economic times contribute to that, so in a movie like this, with a clearly defined enemy, watchers can get a cathartic release of triumphing, when outside the theater, not so much.

ANYWAY! Want to know more? Clickie!

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Cheesy action movie tip

Just saw one of my fave action flicks again–and probably one that most of you have never heard of: The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), starring Geena Davis. Samuel L. Jackson plays the awesome sidekick. Some of you might remember her. Thelma and Louise, anyone? Beetlejuice?


“Kiss” is the story of Samantha Caine, a teacher in a small PA town with a nice husband, nice daughter, nice life. Some kind of accident left her with amnesia, so she doesn’t remember who she might have been prior to all of this. Until one day, she’s slicing veggies and some muscle memory kicks in and she goes all kinds of ninja with the veggies. So she thinks that maybe she was a chef. But then some other stuff happens, some nightmares, and then it all comes back. She was a super-trained spy, super bad-ass. And sure enough, her past is trying to catch up to her. She enlists the help of low-rent detective Mitch Hennessey (Jackson), and the two of them make a great pair.

This is a rollicking, action-packed (and yes, violent) ride. It’s in the spirit and tradition of Bruce Willis’ Die Hard movies, and Davis and Jackson basically get the crap kicked out of them and still keep on going, like the Energizer Bunny.

Tell you what, Geena Davis makes a seriously awesome action hero. The dialogue in this is snappy, funny, and the rapport between Jackson and Davis is great. I wish those two had made more movies together. So yeah, this is from 1996. I know, it’s kind of dated. But it’s a heck of a fun film if you like action.


Happy watching, and happy Fourth!

Memorial Day

Hi, folks–

If you’re hanging out at home (maybe it got a little hot to do much on this Monday off), I recommend this book by Sebastian Junger:



The book accompanies a documentary called Restrepo, but if you’re not familiar with Junger’s writing, read this book. He is a master with phrasing, narrative, and sparse, gritty language that puts you right into the heart of whatever he’s describing. Here, Junger spent months shadowing an American infantry platoon in Afghanistan. Here’s a quote from a New York Times book review:

The best way to describe Junger’s book is to say what it is not. “War” does not attempt to explain the strategy behind the American war in Afghanistan, or the politics of Afghanistan, or even the people of the Korangal Valley. As the action unfolds, Junger makes no attempt to connect it to anything else happening inside the country.

Instead, he uses the platoon (the second of Battle Company, part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade) as a kind of laboratory to examine the human condition as it evolved under the extraordinary circumstances in which these soldiers fought and lived.
source, New York Times Review of Books, review by Dexter Filkins

Here’s a trailer from the documentary Restrepo, which won the 2010 Grand Jury Prize for documentaries at Sundance. My point? There is a reason we commemorate Memorial Day, regardless of your beliefs about war.

The language in this trailer is NSFW.


Freaky Friday!

Hey, folks–

Before I get into this, head on over to Women and Words and discuss the Lambda winners. Congrats to all!


So I’m doing a “staycation” for Memorial Day, and I thought I’d let those of you who are doing the same know that if you’ve got cable, the SyFy channel is running monster movies, most of which are so horrendously bad that you have to watch the heinosity unfold, like some kind of slow-motion train wreck. Must…look…away…but I can’t! How about this fabulous 2010 gem, MEGA PIRANHA!!!!

Giant mutant piranha eat their way from the Amazon toward Florida. OMG, is that Greg Brady? As the news guy? Holy crap. Anyway, here’s one of the more twistedly hilarious scenes from the movie, where our hero has to fend a bunch of these flying giant piranhas off:


And yesterday’s gem was the 2007 Ice Spiders, where mutant spiders invade the Colorado Rockies and end up hanging out on ski lifts jumping onto skiers. BIG spiders. Wild colors. Seriously. I am not making that up. And they make crazy noises, too, like chirps:


Anyway, Happy Memorial Day and while you’re having fun and hanging out with friends and relatives, maybe take some time to remember what the holiday is really about, and think about those who have died in service to the nation.