A Desire to Critique

Lately, I’ve entertained the idea of writing movie reviews again.  It’s not the first time I’ve pondered this idea…  In fact, I’ve pursued this avenue of review series once or twice.

First off: yeah, I know, blind guy wants to be a film critic.  It’s like a deaf guy wanting to be a music critic.  But that was always a dream of mine when I was younger.  Also, back when I had both my eyes.

I never really went to film school, I didn’t take any college courses in cinematic history…  Hell, the closest thing to writing classes I took in regards to being a cyndicated film critic was “intro to journalism” in high school.  And if creative writing counts towards that, I took a shit ton of creative writing.

I’d dabbled in filmreviews in my very first blog, but I didn’t really take it all that seriously.  I didn’t really hand out scores (as far as I remember, anyway), and the writing style…  Well…  Let’s just say it’s not what most would call professional.  Between the spelling errors, and my filthy fucking mouth, you weren’t about to see these reviews in The Kansas City Star anytime soon.

I wouldn’t actually build an actual film review website till 2005.  It was a little something I messed with over the summer of that year: a little project I called The Vampire Cowboy From Hell.  No seriously, that was the name I went with.  STOP LAUGHING!

Okay, that actually was kind of funny.  It’s probably no wonder nobody ever read that site apart from my parents.  And maybe a classmate of mine.  I was taking English comp that summer, and I distinctly remember showing her a review I’d written for the first Saw movie with the intention of getting some notes on how I could make it better.

The Vampire Cowboy From Hell, in the grand scheme of things, was less of a serious effort to get into film review, and more of an effort to teach myself HTML.  I’d actually been teaching myself off and on for the better part of both my senior years of high school (I repeated twelth grade for the record).  My dad sent me tutorials through email, and I taught myself from there.  I never did get the hang of tables, and I still need a guide to remember what hex codes turn the text what color, but The Vampire Cowboy From Hell was, in the longrun, the ultimate test of everything I’d learned from those tutorials.

On a technical level, Vampire Cowboy From Hell…  Was nothing special.  The design was so bare boned, you’d swear to god the source code was plagiarized from Maddox or something.  Fairly large yellow text against a black background, no tables, no columns, no pictures, no flashy gimmics.  Just yellow text that detailed my overall opinions of movies old and new that I’d seen recently, graded on a 5-star system.  Occasionally, I’d turn the text light blue if I was pulling a quote directly from the movie itself, or from other sources, but for the most part, that was it.

I ended up shutting down the website later in the summer.  I can’t remember why, though.

I uploaded other movie reviews to a Yahoo360 page I’d made.  I can’t remember what it was called, but I want to say it was something like “The Critic of Everything”.  Much like VampireCowboy From Hell, it was less about seeking out my passions, and more about playing with the platform.  And considering it was Yahoo360, the platform was fucking garbage on rye.

In 2010, I started the blog Egyptians Like Triangles.  I have a nack for picking stupid titles, don’t I?  Interesting fact: I came super close to calling that website “Frank Miller Likes Pizza”, but decided against it.  Even if it’s true, odds are the man who gave us such disasterpieces as Holy Terror and All Star Batman and Robin probably wouldn’t have a sense of humor about a joke that only I and one other guy thought was funny.  Egyptians Like Triangles was ALSO a joke that I and only one person thought was funny, mostly made at the expense of that dumdum who hosts Ancient Aliens.

“Did it ever occur to you conspiracy nuts that maybe ancient Egyptians just really liked triangles?”

Egyptians Like Triangles was my first real attempt at making a serious review page.  For music.

I’d come to the conclusion after diving face first into the community that’d soon become known as Channel Awesome that movie reviews were a bit of an oversaturated market.  Sure, I didn’t have to be a snarky bastard like Spoony, or The Cinema Snob, or Blockbuster Buster, or Count Jackula, or Obscuris Lupa…  Or Brows Held High…  Or…  Jesus Christ there were a lot of these guys!  No wonder I went with music reviews!  I mean hell, the only guy I knew of who did rock and metal reviews was the review series super creatively titled “Rocked”.  And maybe Spectrum Pulse.

So yeah, the blog that proudly announced that the people of Egypt had a bit of an obsession with all things three-sided…  Posted music reviews.  Upon Retrospect, I don’t know what’s more baffling: the fact I never changed the name of that blog, or the fact it had a reader base.

I had two review series.

A. What’s in Thomas’ CD player: a series where I reviewed an album track-by-track, assigning letter grades to each individual song.  At the end of the review, I’d give a grade to the overall album, and finish off with some final thoughts.  If the track was a poem, or a comedy sketch, or random nonsense, I didn’t grade it.  Towards the end of that series, I just talked about the album in its entirety, because I found I was assigning the same letter grade to a lot of the tracks overall.

B. Songs I’m Sick of Hearing: less of a review series, and more of a way of venting my frustration at songs I fucking hated.  Most of which were seeing an obnoxious amount of radio play.

I got compliments, and I got angry hatemail alike throughout that blog’s lifespan.  Suffice to say, my absolute hatred of Halestorm was a bit of a hot button topic.

Had the blog REMAINED a music review site, it probably would’ve kept the reader base.  Unfortunately, I also decided to commentate on certain issues, whore out an attempt at an MMA podcast I was doing throughout 2011, and maybe venting my frustrations with the publishing industry for refusing to pick up my books, but gladly publishing hot literary garbage like 50 Shades of Gray.  Oh, and I’d occasionally review other things.  Like movies.  The movie reviews were few and far between, what with me trying to keep things focused primarily on rock music, and the few movie reviews I DID post had no grades or any professional touches.

ELT lasted for about five years.  In 2015, the reader base was pretty much gone (most likely I made one jab at Halestorm too many), and I couldn’t afford to pay the hosting fees anymore, so I discontinued it.

Now, I run this blog.

Recently, I’ve found myself with the review itch again.  Throughout this year, I dabbled with Youtube…  Only to find it’s become a much bigger headache than it was in 2007.  While the software ITSELF isn’t a glitchy piece of shit that rarely fucking works, the management is a different story.  You’d have to not be all that deep into any given YouTube community if you aren’t aware “Advertiser friendly” is its longest running meme.

Also, I don’t have a camcorder anymore.  As much as I love the In Bob We Trust style of slideshow video, those things are a bitch to assemble.  Almost MORE than sitting in front of a camera, talking, then editing out your various flub-ups.  So yeah, I think I’ll stick to text.

I know for sure I can host multiple blogs on one WordPress.com account.  Hell, I have no problem with even going by TJB on that blog.  Yeah, I apparently can’t post under a different name if I have multiple blogs on one account…  Which is kind of a bummer, since Thomas J. Black is the name I planned on associating with my efforts as an indie author.  Although I post movie reviews on THIS blog all the time, and have no qualms with my initials being there.

Really, my only MAJOR concern going in is an obvious one: will anyone read it?  There’s already a shit ton of film critics out there.  Never mind some of them are super elite film academy graduates, and others have been doing this shit since Livejournal was considered a credible platform.  Hell, most of those Channel Awesome critics are like me dudes with nothing better to do with their free time than talk about movies they love/hate on camera.  What the hell could Blindo MacIntyr over here contribute that other people haven’t already?

And I swear to god, if you’re going to tell me to play up the whole blind guy angle, we may have words.  While I’m not ashamed of my vision impairment, I’m not about to use it as a gimmick.  Partly because there’s other dudes who probably do that already, and also because I don’t WANT a fucking gimmick.

I think in the longrun, I’m just stuck.  My writing projects, while progress is being made, are moving at a snail’s pace.  I’m bored, I’ve been watching a lot of DVDs by myself as well as with my current girlfriend…

Oh yeah, did I mention I have a girlfriend now?

Yeah, anyway, I’m bored, my writing projects are moving slow at best, I’m watching a lot of DVDs and Netflix, and I’m really just in the mood to start something new.  Also, I’ve been watching a lot of that old show The Critic on YouTube lately, and I can’t help but think maybe this is what’s motivating me to try my hand at reviewing movies again.

All of this is just me kicking ideas around at about midnight.  If I go through with it, believe me, I’ll keep you in the loop.  If nothing comes of it, this’ll probably be the last you hear of it.  In turn, you got yourself a bit of a history lesson about your favorite indie author, so hey, at least there’s that.

 

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The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell: My Thoughts

It could just be my specific little corner of the internet, but it seems like everybody and their fucking mom is in love with this show.  I’ve seen several people tweeting about it on Twitter, I’m pretty sure a coworker or two have brought it up in conversation…  Basically, there’s a considerable amount of hype involved here  And that’s usually what turns me away from shows.

I’ll own up to being a bit of a contrarian when it comes to stuff the mainstream loves.  I think I’ve made it clear at least once how I feel about Orange is the New Black and Moonrise Kingdom.

Also, we’re talking about the internet here.  Outside of shopping, pornography, and shopping for pornography, the internet is a wasteland of pop culture references, horrendous spelling errors, and constant negativity.  Oh, and I guess ASMR, too, but mostly the other stuff.

The internet at large tends to be fond of a lot of things that make me hang my head in shame and regret spending so much time here.  It’s thanks to the internet that My Little Pony, a show intended for seven-year-old girls, has a fanbase consisting almost entirely of thirty-year-old men.  It’s thanks to the internet anybody actually remembers who Rick Astley even is.  And while it’s a bit of a jump from point-A to point-B, I have to point out that it was the internet that showed me the definition of “voreraphilia”.  I am never looking at that episode of Mighty Morphing Power Rangers featuring The Terror Toad the same way ever again.  But I digress.

So naturally, when the internet decides it loves something to death…  I generally avoid it.  Easier said than done, considering that when the internet loves something, they meme the shit out of it.  The same way they decided to meme the shit out of something they HATE.  Which really makes things confusing in the grand scheme of things…  But again, I digress.

I resisted as long as I could, but in the end, I caved, and I checked out a few episodes of The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell.  And…

*sigh

Okay, internet, you win.

This show, in short, is what I imagine it would look like if Mortisha Addams had her own cooking show.  And that cooking show was written by the same people who wrote Food Party.  By the way, if you’ve never seen Food Party, you totally should.  True, Curious Creations isn’t NEARLY as twisted as Food Party.  Whether or not that’s a GOOD thing or not is probably up for interpretation.

I’m usually not all that fond of shows that play up the creepy and the spooky for camp value…  Well, okay, I proudly admit to liking The Addams Family, but aside from that, I usually think shows that go for that angle tend to be more tacky than anything else.

Curious Creations isn’t without its cheese, but the balance between dumb jokes and fascinating crafts is very well done.  I do think they abused the “who is she talking to?” joke a little bit in the first couple of episodes, but even then, it’s still amusing.

Christine McConnell herself is a terrible actress…  But I’m a bit convinced she’s reading her lines the way she does on purpose.  Not to mention that this is a cooking and crafts show at heart.  A high budget cooking and crafts show featuring muppets, but a cooking and crafts show all the same.  So maybe as far as line reads go, maybe set your standards a little lower.

It’s a pretty episodic show (something unusual for Netflix originals), so there’s really no insentive to bingewatch it.  On the other hand, I don’t mind that at all.  Lord knows the last thing I need right now is ANOTHER show to bingewatch after work.

I’ll own up to not being much of a cook outside of flipping burgers and boiling pasta…  And there’s no chance in hell I’ll ever get gutsy enough to try some of the recipes Christine McConnell shows us on her show.  But it’s still pretty fascinating to watch her make things like gingerbread haunted houses, or shortbread Ouija boards.

Overall, I say give it a watch.  Even the internet is allowed to get one right every now and then, I guess.

Nevernight: My Thoughts

“It’s like Harry Potter, but with assassins instead of wizards,” was how a member of my book club described The Nevernight Chronicles.  Why not?  They sold me Space Opera by telling me it was basically that episode of Rick and Morty with the giant head shouting “SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT!”.  So I burned an audible.com credit, and bought myself a copy.

I’ll admit, I was keeping my expectations fairly low when I went into this book.  Primarily, because I’m pretty sure this same member of the book club recommended another book for the club, and I don’t think I liked it.

Also, I’m fairly certain this book is young adult, and if there’s anything I find more tiresome in the 2010s, other than Dubstep, using high tech state of the art gaming consoles to make 8-byt Metroidvanias, “trap” music, the rise of memberberry culture, the Trump presidency…  Huh.  You know, this entire decade seems to be pissing me off, come to think of it.  But another bulletpoint on the list is the young adult genre.  Not DEMOGRAPHIC, but GENRE.

The young adult genre anymore can easily be defined as “Oh boy!  I can’t wait to see how the pink-haired protagonist escapes their dystopian situation while simultaneously juggling a love triangle for an entire fucking trilogy while writing in the present tense this time!”.  Although in more recent entries, I’m noticing the whole “writing in the present tense” thing is dying out.  And thank god.

Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight has hints of young adult cliché within it…  And yet, I ended up loving this book.

Nevernight takes place in a universe with three suns, no moon, and the actual concept of night (IE, true dark) is a rare occurance.

There’s a lot of lingo to learn in this book, but it rarely fills like an infodump.  Even when the author himself is going out of his way to infodump.

Half the time, though, I have to wonder if the new lingo is all that necessary.  True dark and nevernight make perfect sense, but then you get into words like justikis, and emperitor.  Oh, and I’m making educated guesses on those spellings on the grounds I had the audiobook.  But seriously, what was wrong with emperor?  What was wrong with justice?  I can’t tell if we’re trying for pseudo Lattin, real lattin, or if Kristoff felt like he had to make this world as alien as possible.  In the case of the third…  Fair enough, but there’s something to be said for “keep it simple, stupid”.

The balance between humor and dead seriousness…  Could’ve probably used some tweeking in spots.  I understand the need to explain certain elements of the universe (IE, what is a “sand kracken”), but a lot of the time, I feel like someone REALLY wanted to be Douglas Addams.

There are a couple clichés that made me sigh in annoyance.  IE, the FRIangle: my most hated of tropes.  I didn’t predict right away that Tric was going to be the forced romantic interest, but it reached a point where the writing was on the wall a few chapters before the the main character and her FRI are forced to boink.

And can I just say: holy fucking hell the sex was graphic in this!  Believe me, I’m no prude.  If anything, I probably included WEIRDER shit in my fiction (my inner critic still insists I have a foot fetish after The Gael Saga).  At the same time, though, the last time I encountered a sex scene this graphic, I was still reading fan fiction.

Five bucks says he probably included the pairing of Tric and Mia boinking so the fanfic writers wouldn’t feel obligated to ship them themselves.  Then again, there’s probably that one weird group of writers who think Mia and Jezemin (again, I’m guessing because audiobook) should be a couple.  Trust me, they’re almost definitely out there.  And they vote.

It sounds like I’m giving this book shit, but trust me, I actually liked this book a lot, despite these complaints.

Also, as far as cliché goes, the book goes way out of its way to swerve you.  There’s really no way to explain this without giving away a spoiler like “don’t get used to Tric”, or the old cliché of the bitchy rival character stealing the main character’s notes after fooling her into thinking Tric wants to spend the evening boinking…  Only to find out that the notes they’d stolen weren’t the right ones, and they end up dying in poisons class as a result.  That one actually made me very happy: partly because I just wanted to see that asshole get his come-uppins, but also because I actually didn’t see that one coming for a change.  I’d say more, but I fear I already spoiled too much.

The audiobook is read by Holter Graham.  I feel like I’ve heard that name before.  For sure, he sounds like the kid with the pop-collar shirt in Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil.  In any case, he does a pretty good job.

If not for the beginning and ending of the book, though, I’d have found it surprising they picked a male reader to read a book from a female protagonist’s perspective.  It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve encountered this, but it’s a pretty rare occurance these days.  Hell, even in the dark days of four-sided cassette tapes, I rarely encountered this.

All and all, the book isn’t perfect, but I still enjoyed the ride from start to finish, and I still recommend you check it out.  Apparently, book 3 doesn’t come out till 2019, which, if nothing else, gives me yet another thing to look forward to in 2019.  In the meantime, I think I’ll give book 2 a try.

In Defense of Richard La Ruina

2018 is many things to me.  I’ll save about 99% of those things for around new year’s week, when everybody and their mom is talking about their 2018, but for now, I’ll let you in on this much.  2018 was the year I discovered Richard La Ruina existed.

For those out of the loop, Richard La Ruina is a “pickup artist”.  This raises red flags for a lot of people right out the gate.  He talks a lot about how he went from awkward spaz to one of, if not THE greatest pickup artist of our generation.  I can’t verify any of that, since all I have is his personal testimony, but I went into this a lot more open minded than a lot of people seem to be.

in 2018, Richard La Ruina put out Super Seducer: a game for STEAM, and possibly PlayStation4 (last I checked, it wasn’t out yet), where in you try to seduce hot women.  Based on your choices, La Ruina explains why your choice is either a bad idea, or a good idea.  Some choices are so obviously wrong that La Ruina himself basically looks at you, and says something along the lines of “Admit it, you picked that one on purpose just to see what’d happen, didn’t you?”  Based on what little I’ve seen of the game (I’m entertaining possibilities of streaming it for my YouTube audience of, like, three people if and when it hits PS4 and I have the money for it), it plays less like a video game, and more like an edutainment game for adults.  If you get a question wrong, it kicks you back to the choices, and you try again.  Hell, they even cross out the choice you previously made that ends up being wrong.  There’s really no consequences for getting a question wrong, near as I can tell.

Naturally, the Let’s Play community of YouTube got a hold of this game.  Hell, how do you think I saw it?  And…  Yeah, the reaction has been pretty outright negative.  Not just to the game, but to La Ruina himself.

Based on what little I’ve seen, I’ll grant you the production values of the game aren’t exactly going to give Ubisoft or Electronic Arts  a run for their money.  Also, while La Ruina is an expert at seducing women (apparently), film is clearly a different story.  But hey, I’m not picking up an adult edutainment game like Super Seducer to be blown away by blockbuster film editing, triple-A gameplay, and mindblowing experiences that make me think there might be something to this “video games as art” concept.

Also, to the LP community…  Are you really this surprised?  Really?  He’s a fucking pickup artist!  Sorry you decided to spend your own money on a game called Super Seducer and didn’t get fifty hours of third wave feminism lectures.

Knowing that it was going to be a while before I could play this for myself, and knowing that a Super Seducer 2 is in the works as of this writing, I looked into Richard La Ruina.  Yeah, instead of hiveminding with the cool kids, I decided to go gonzo, deviate from the norm, and actually formulate my own fucking opinion based on what I myself have observed.  What a foreign concept in this age of Twitter.  But I digress.

Along with the Super Seducer series, La Ruina has also written a couple books.  One of which was available on Audible.com.  Meaning that my blind ass doesn’t have to recruit friends, or pay a dude on Craigslist to read it to me.  Always a plus.

I picked up The Natural a month or two ago, and I’ve been reading it off and on.  I usually stop for a while when I get to the assignments: partly because I’m reading something for book club, partly because I’m brushing up on Egyptian history for a project that might or might not be happening anymore, but mostly because educational books like this (even if the education itself is of a dubious nature) requires me to take breaks and digest what I’ve learned.  I’m up to assignment 4 as of this writing, and I got to say…  This isn’t the worst advice I’ve ever heard.

Taking a lot of his advice out of its intended context of “use these tricks, and hot chicks will want to bob on your knob”, a lot of this stuff is actually good advice.  IE, project confidence, be assertive, don’t fidget, etc.  I’ve been dating off and on since college, and these are all lessons I’ve learned for myself in one way or another.  Though the intent may seem dubious for some, it’s really not bad advice.

The assignments in the book are usually confidence builder exercises like “develop affirmations” or “take an improv class to work on your improvisation skills”.  These are all pretty good ideas!

So far, if there’s only one fault with the audiobook, it’s that La Ruina himself doesn’t read it.  I’ve expressed before that this is a bit of a downer when reading someone’s biographical account.  However, the guy reading the book, Steve West, isn’t a bad reader by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard him before.  In any case, it’s a minor bummer at absolute worst, and I eventually got over it.

I’m actually liking this book.  I don’t think I’d have ever picked it up if I hadn’t seen those Super Seducer videos on Pro Jared Plays, weird as that sounds.

That being said, I can definitely see why the internet has decided to pick on La Ruina.  Not necessarily for his advice, or the fact that his Super Seducer video games aren’t really video games so much as they’re FMV quizzes.

As it turns out, La Ruina is apparently not the best at taking criticism, constructive or otherwise.  Taking advantage of YouTube’s broken copyright claim system, he’s done what many famous YouTube trolls have done over the years, and filed false copyright claims in order to take down any negative reviews people have made.  And believe me, the reception to the game is pretty negative.  This is the kind of dick move that kills any respect you may have generated dead right here.  If it had just been a pickup artist putting out a lackluster gaming experience with ideaology that offends everybody’s neoliberal sensabilities, and nothing else came of it, I’m sure the community would probably think higher of the guy.  Not MUCH higher, but Super Seducer probably wouldn’t be as infamous otherwise.

Furthermore, I’ve heard that in the upcoming Super Seducer 2, there are ways you can deviate from the task of picking up chicks altogether to seek revenge against the more popular YouTubers who have criticized La Ruina.  I’ve heard you can supposedly launch a nuclear missile at Jim Sterling.  I’ve heard Pro Jared is in there too somewhere.

This right here is the sort of passive-aggressive bullshit that does NOT win people over to your side.  If anything, it only stirs the pot even further, and recruits people over to THEIR side.  I get it that a pickup artist is too busy getting laid on a weekly basis to pay attention to internet culture, and thus hasn’t learned the extremely valuable rule of “don’t feed the trolls”, but even then, you’d think a guy who specializes in this sort of thing would be used to rejection by now.

of course, as of this writing, a lot of it is just hearsay that I picked up from Jim sterling’s Twitter.  I don’t know how accurate it is, but Jim tends to be pretty straight forward, so I’m not going to be all that surprised.

So after all of this, where do I stand on La Ruina?  Well, honestly, I’m mixed.

On one hand, it’s not hard to see why the internet has decided they hate him.  He comes from a world where the end game is one-night-stands, and things like equal rights and what not are a bit of a nonissue.  Also, as I said earlier, the guy clearly doesn’t take criticism well.

On the other hand…  I can’t bring myself to hate the guy.  Yeah, he’s a sleezy, passive-aggressive fuckboy…  But in the grand scheme of things, he’s mostly harmless.  It’s not like he’s running for congress or anything.  [INSERT DONALD TRUMP JOKE HERE]  Also, if you calm your inner PC bruh the fuck down, and actually give the guy’s book a chance, you might be surprised.

Then again, this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been part of a fringe minority, so I won’t be surprised in the slightest if I’m officially the third most hated person on the internet after posting this.  I say third because Bret Cavanaugh, and Linsey Lohan (believe it or not) have apparently set the bar pretty high as of this writing.

King of the Hill Needs to STAY Dead

The title sounds brutal, I know, but I assure you, I’m a fan.  I love King of the Hill.  Granted, I’m kind of a minority within my circle of friends, and even family when it comes to this, but all the same, I love this show.

In recent months, there’s been talk of giving it the ol’ reboot treatment.  I say this as both a fan of the show who saw how it ended and was legitimately content with this being the last episode, and as someone who’s sick and tired of memberberry culture’s stranglehold on entertainment.  King of the Hill needs to STAY dead.

It hasn’t even been dead for all that long compared to most of the corpses being dug up for nostalgic puppet shows.  If they hadn’t made Jigsaw (AKA, Saw 8), King of the Hill would probably even hold a record for how shortly it’d been resting in its grave before the entertainment industry came wandering into that graveyard with its shovels and marionette strings.

I’ve heard tale that the new King of the Hill isn’t really going to be a full fledge reboot, nor will it be a straight up “picking up where we left off” concept.  Rather, it’s going the “years later” concept seen in such reboots as Fuller House, and Girl Meets World.  The rumor I heard was that Bobby would be college aged, and his parents would be older.  In core concept, this sounds like a fun little novelty episode at absolute best, and like something I’d read on Fanfiction.net at absolute worst.  And I suppose fanfiction made into legit canon can work.  It worked for Adventure Time (though god only knows why).  Unfortunately, fanfiction is also the reason 50 Shades of Gray exists, so…

I see nothing but disaster for this reboot.  Largely because, like I’ve said, it’s a reboot.  It’s starting to get to a point where even the people who WANTED to see the Ghostbusters strap on the packs one more time, or the Power Rangers to morph one more time, or whatever their favorite nostalgic property did one more time, don’t want to see it anymore.  Too little too late, according to my Twitter.  Unless you WANTED to see Predator go on a human hunt one more time.  Or The Usual Suspects do its thing one more time.  Or possibly Highlander endure the quickening one more time.

That much is probably just my personal bias, coupled with the fact that I’m sick of memberberry culture in the modern day.  Seriously, if I knew the stuff I used to watch as a kid was going to still be here as an adult in his thirties…  I don’t know what I’d say.

The thing about King of the Hill in particular, though, is that it ended on season thirteen.  THIRTEEN!  Usually when a show makes it to season SIX, the fanbase is starting to contemplate  maybe moving on to greener pastures, and the creaters start to get lazy.  To put it another way, somewhere around season 6 and season 7 is when a show encounters the problem of seasonal decay.

Seasonal decay is when a show with a lot of power, a lot of influence, and a lot of popularity behind it begins to lose all that power, all the influence, and all that popularity in a very slow, barely noticeable fashion.  It’s more or less the opposite of jumping the shark, where in a show makes a change so drastic and irrational that the fans leave almost instantly.  With seasonal decay, the fans drop out of the fandom at a slower, barely noticeable rate.  You never really notice WHEN the show starts to feel meh…  Unless you’re one of those obsessive idiots who memorizes things in the background of every scene of every episode for no reason other than to prove to your fellow nerds your dick is bigger because you noticed it, of course.  You just sit there, watching your favorite show, but notice that suddenly, everything that used to be funny, cool, and overall interesting about the show is just falling flat lately.

King of the Hill, as much as I love this show, definitely fell victim to seasonal decay.  The Powerpuff Girls is another example of a show that entered seasonal decay, and while I myself didn’t even bother watching it, it’s basically all over the internet that rebooting it definitely didn’t help.  I mean yeah, it didn’t help The Powerpuff Girls any that the reboot looked nothing like the original, and felt more like an episode of Adventure Time as written by the Teen Titans Go staff than a legit Powerpuff Girls series…  But yeah, rebooting it didn’t remedy the decay at all.

And of course, you can’t talk about rebooting King of the Hill without addressing the ginormous elephant in the room: Tom Petty and Britney Murphy are no longer with us, and therefore, can’t reprise their roles as Luanne and Lucky respectively.

I’m not sure how much that’ll bother people.  I’m a bit of a minority within the KOTH fandom in that I actually didn’t mind Lucky becoming a main character marrying Luanne, and getting her knocked up with…  I think they eventually named their baby Grace, but it would’ve been funnier to me if they stuck with Lasagna.  Hell, they could’ve called her Liz for short.  But I digress.

People HATED Lucky.  Him becoming a regular character was considered the closest thing to a jumping the shark moment that show had.  Hell, I distinctly remember a petition circulating through the internet demanding that Lucky be removed from the show entirely!  And you wonder why congress doesn’t take petitions seriously?

I can see that complaint, but at the same time, Lucky was pretty harmless.  He seemed like the kind of guy who, if nothing else, was a product of his environment.  And that environment, for better or worse, was the trailer park.

I suppose it’s an irrelevant observation now, considering Tom Petty’s gone now, and can’t reprise the role anymore.  Sure, you COULD possibly make a claim like “Oh, somewhere in the time skip, Lucky and Luanne moved to Georgia because shut up.”  Still, I have a hard time imagining King of the Hill without Luanne at this point.  And recasting Luanne and/or Lucky would be a bit of a grave disservice just to give some random schlubs in a dormitory their memberberry fix.

Admittedly, at the time of this blogging, the talks between Mike Judge and the network are just that: talks.  Maybe nothing will come of these talks, or maybe we’ll get the reboot after all.  I’m not certain at this point, but all I can say for sure is that the prospect of a reboot doesn’t fill me with a whole lot of confidence, I tell you what.

Announcements, cancelations, and speculations

I’ve had several thoughts, announcements, and the like regarding my writing all bouncing around in my head that I’ve had to hold off on due to having to promote Realm of the War Pigs.  It’s been a week, and for the most part, and I think enough time has passed to talk about something OTHER than what I published recently.  If I’m wrong…  Well, that’s probably another reason I have to self publish.

My announcements are as follows.

First off, the next book in The Highway Men is already under way.  As of this writing, I already have three chapters and a prologue.

In my blueprint, I had originally planned on book 2 simply being called Unfinished Business.  According to that blueprint, it’d be another story from the perspective of Kaitlin Klein, and it’d follow up on any loose threads book 1 left behind.  Somewhere around the second draft of Realm of the War Pigs, though, those plans changed drastically.

As of this blogging, book 2 of my series is titled Realm of the Mushroomheads.  Kaitlin does appear in the book, but now, the story changes over to a different character.

I’d alluded to a Cousin Bailey in Realm of the War Pigs, but never really went into detail on her.  Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler.  Nor is anything I’m about to talk about for the most part.

Funny thing is that Cousin Bailey and Cousin Sasha were just random characters that weren’t really meant for anything but to expand on Kaitlin’s background.  Hell, their NAMES were place holder names.  I looked over at my TV while I was writing (this was back when I had cable), saw Bayley and Sasha Banx were about to have a segment on WWE Raw, and just wrote those names down in the manuscript, thinking that if nothing else, I’d change them later.  I never did, I realize, and now it’s too late to change it.  Whatever, I’m rambling.

Realm of the Mushroomheads is told from the perspective of Bailey Boxberger (last name subject to change): Kaitlin’s cousin, and a native of Nevel, Kansas.  Unlike her older cousin, she’s never left town, and, in my opinion anyway, is more in touch with what the locals have to say about all these newcomers moving into town, and going over to that mansion.

So far, that’s all I can say about Realm of the Mushroomheads without spoiling things.

I have no idea when this project will be finished, but I can say with certainty that it’s probably going to be 2019 before you see it.  WHEN in 2019, I don’t know, but I doubt highly I’ll be able to finish this, get another glorious book cover from Cartoonist Mark himself, and get this out by 2018.

Especially because of item number 2 on my list of things to talk about.

I’ve been keeping this mostly to myself, largely because I have no idea if this is actually going to happen or not.  All I can really say for sure is I’ve been recruited to write the script for a potential graphic novel.  So far, all I can say about this project is about ninety-nine percent of my time on this project has consisted of researching a psychotic amount of obscure mythology, and the other one percent has been dedicated to trying to remember what comic book pages look like.

Yeah, somewhere around 2007-2009, I thought my blind ass could get into the comic book industry with all my ingenious ideas.  Perhaps Marvel or DC, or even Image (assuming that’s even around anymore) would be a longshot, but I was looking into smaller, but equally noteable publishers like Darkhorse, or Antarctic Press at the time.  Those plans went to the wayside.  Partly because I realized I was a lot better at pros.

Also, in recent years…  Well, a lot of this is basically third-hand information at best, but I’ve generally gotten the impression PC culture has the comic book industry in a stranglehold.  Things like diversity are more important to the big boys than actually telling a halfway decent story.  Or at least that’s the case with Marvel.  I couldn’t tell you anything about DC anymore, other than they eventually abandoned New52, and at one point, there were apparently three different jokers all running around like they do.

Basically, I’m having to learn, and relearn the ropes of comic book writing in order to make a halfway decent graphic novel.

As a result of this graphic novel project getting dumped in my lap, I have to manage my writing time, and shelf some potential projects.  The most prominent of which, unfortunately, is The Helen Tamzarian Papers.

Truth be told, I haven’t given up on The Helen Tamzarian Papers as a book just yet.  As a SERIES…  I’m suddenly a little less interested in pursuing that idea.  Really, if anything, Helen Tamzarian IN GENERAL is an idea I’m not quite as enthusiastic about these days.

I’m putting this project on the shelf for the time being.  I’m not really abandoning it like past projects, but I’m not necessarily going to be picking this up any time soon, either.

Another project that ended up getting shelved before I could even start it was another Novella of Highfill, Kansas.  Yeah, I know.  Just when I’ve convinced myself this one’s the last one, I come up with a new idea.

The thing is, though, I only ever write out Highfill, Kansas novels when I’m in the deepest depths of the backward dark: that horrible void where the voices assure me that life is meaningless, the universe is apathetic to my existence, and everybody around you is a selfish fucking prick who wishes you’d just hurry up and kill yourself already and spare us all the pathetic fucking sadboy posts on Facebook/Twitter.  Except I generally keep my Twitter professional, outside of some sports commentary and a couple dumb observations.

Thing is, life is actually pretty generous to me lately.  I mean yeah, I’m dirt poor at the moment and scraping by on rent and bills, but honestly, a change of scenery was probably what I needed.  New place, new part of KC, new challenges…  It might be too early to make this declaration, but I’m pretty sure I can add new girlfriend to the list as well.  The only real downside so far has been having to rehome my cat, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s for the better.  Both for me, and for the cat, but mostly for the cat.It’s a long story.

So yeah, that’s basically all the news that’s fit to dish for the time being.  Sink your teeth into that, and I’ll see yall next time.

 

Realm of the War Pigs Now Available!

WARPIGS

 

Kaitlin Klein receives word that her grandfather has passed away, and makes the long trip back home to Nevel, Kansas for the funeral.  Unfortunately, along the way, she’s kidnapped by a cult of demon worshippers.  Before she can be sacrificed, though, she is rescued by The Highway Men: a group of demon hunters dedicated to keeping the American Midwest from falling into darkness.  After rescuing her, they give her a ride back home…  Only to find that something is horribly wrong.  Kaitlin and crew quickly discover that her grandfather might not be the man she’d thought he was.  They find tomes full of black magic and dark rituals, a zombie in the basement, and perhaps the most damning of all, a portal to a habitat full of half-man-half-pig monsters known as “war pigs”.  Can The Highway Men clean up this mess once and for all?  Will they even survive the attempt?

 


 

Not going to lie, The Highway Men has been a project I’ve been wanting to do for the better part of two years now.  I’ve had the blueprint in my head since at least book 2 of The Gael Saga, and I’ve been itching to get other ideas either out of my system, or on the shelf after hitting writer’s block so I could start this one.

Now it’s finally out and available for people to read.  And now I can start the next book in the series.

Get your copy here.

 

 

 

Space Opera: My Thoughts

Boy, someone REALLY wants to be Douglas Addams.  I suppose in the grand scheme of things, you could do significantly worse than Douglas Addams (Elron Hubbard comes to mind almost immediately), but there’s showing influence, and then there’s outright ripping off.

The concept of influenced by Vs. ripping off has been a topic of debate on the internet forever.  There was a time when making game reviews on the internet meant thousands of idiots would accuse you of ripping off The Angry Video Game Nerd, even if your style was nowhere near the loud, profane, fecalphiliac style of AVGN.  If you wanted to be a ranting raving lunatic with his own website designed in the most basic HTML, you were accused by thousands of ripping off The Best Page in the Universe, even if you didn’t copy his misogynistic, egocentric style.  Those are just two examples of this debate that I’m VERY familiar with.  I’m sure it goes on to other platforms, other mediums, and other creaters.

And a book like Space Opera gets me thinking more or less two chapters in that the comparisons to Douglas Addams are inescapable at best.  So is Space Opera a ripoff, or is it just heavily inspired.

Honestly, I’d go with the heavily inspired route.  Largely because while Catherynne M. Valente clearly goes out of her way to incorporate Douglas Addams esque narration about outer space and its various residents, the plot doesn’t even come close.

Space Opera has been described in one of two ways to me:

A. Eurovision in space.

B. That episode of Rick and Morty with the giant head demanding “SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT!”.

I’m not especially familiar with Eurovision, but I’m assured by friends within my book club that it’s a glorious trainwreck.  B was what ended up selling me on it.

Aliens gather far and wide to perform on the grandest stage of them all.  A stage so grand, Vince McMahon’s WrestleMania looks like a Podunk house show in a stinky old armory out in rural Kansas by comparison.  A stage so grand, various species have been known to convert entire planets into musical instruments just to stand a chance.  And every grand prix, new species are brought to the stage to determine whether or not they’re worth keeping around or not.  New contestants don’t have to win in order to avoid absolute annihilation, but survival depends entirely on avoiding last place.

Naturally, Earth eventually gets discovered, and is invited.  And after learning that all of Earth’s greatest musicians are dead (my favorite being The Insane Clown Possy ending up killing themselves as a result of something to do with magnets), Earth’s only hope ends up being Decibell Jones and The Absolute Zeroes.

Comparisons to Douglas Addams aside, this is an interesting challenge.  How the hell does one write about music?  Music is purely an audible experience, while reading is visual.  I’m going to take a wild guess and say Valente didn’t include sheet music in the print copy.

The story mentions several hybrid genres like barber shop quartet death metal, and symphonic dubstep just to name a possible few.  I would legitimately like to hear how all of these sound.  Even if dubstep is for pussies, integrating it into several other genres would be interesting to see.  The whole concept of mishmashing genres was really what made nu-metal so appealing to me.  True, every third band in the subgenre ended up being a collective of whiney bitches in hindsight, but that aside, combinations and mashups have always fascinated me, and I’d love to hear some of these genres.  It’s too bad that this is a BOOK, or else someone would probably try.

And no, there’s no attempt at replicating what these genres MIGHT sound like in the audiobook.  in fact, Valente really kind of just glances over the genres, or just mentions them off-handedly more than anything else.  Sure, they’re good for shits and giggles, but I’m that guy who has to actually ask out loud, “I wonder what that would sound like?”

Speaking of the audiobook, the audiobook is read by Heath Miller.  He does a pretty good job with the source material, reading it in that sort of dry style that makes British humor so great.

Any downsides to the story has less to do with the performance, and more to do with the source material itself.  I understand that it’s important to get a history of The Glactic Grand Prix, but this seemed to be the part of the book that got exceptionally old in a hurry for me.  There had to be a better way of emplamenting all this instead of making every even numbered chapter a brief history of this alien race or that alien race.  Surely!  It reached a point where these chapters felt like the single most elaborate form of padding I’d ever seen.  For all the impact the “knifeosaurus” people, or the 321, or ninety percent of the other aliens had on the overall story, I found myself wondering at the end just how necessary this information was.  Then I came to the conclusion that the book would’ve been, like, ten chapters if they weren’t in there.  Nothing necessarily wrong with ten chapter long books (Simon R. Green’s Nightside novellas almost never make it past ten from what I remember of them), but I remember trying to get for-real published means having to meet a very specific wordcount.

The book overall…  Is okay.  It had parts I liked, it had parts I could’ve done without.  The worst I can say about it is that it’s harmless.  The best thing I can say is that I’m glad I read it…  But I don’t see myself picking it up again in the distant future.  It killed about a week’s worth of boredom, but that’s about it.

That being said, I’d still recommend checking it out.

Greg Orman isn’t Selfish, You Are

DISCLAIMER: at the time I originally wrote the rough draft of this, Kobach was slated to win.  Somewhere over the weekend, I heard he and Colyer were having to recount the vote due to some rule I just now heard about.  So forgive me if I assume Kobach won the primary in this article, only for the committee doing the recount to decide Colyer won.  Anyway, back to the article.

“Oh my god!  I can’t believe Greg Orman is so selfish!  Running in a race where we can’t afford to let Kris Kobach win!  What is he thinking!?”

This is the attitude I’ve been seeing from people lately revolving around independent candidate Greg Orman’s campaign for Kansas Governor.  I told myself I wasn’t going to talk politics this year, but stuff like this leaves me no choice.  I must purge!

This attitude is both sickening, and sadly unsurprising.  I find it interesting that we live in a society where everything from cell phones, to soda corporations, to fucking GENDER isn’t binary, but politics still is .  This is like someone getting yelled at because they had the audacity to buy an RC cola, knowing full well it’d take sales away from Pepsi.  Or for buying a Windows phone because it takes sales away from Android.  This is a highly irrational thought process everywhere else…  But in the battle between democrats and republicans, the moment someone decides they like an independent like Greg Orman, they’ve committed a sin.

Greg Orman has just as much right to run in the election as anybody else.  He shouldn’t have to bow before your democratic or republican overlords in order to get approval.  Dude wants to run, I say let him run!

Does he stand a chance?  That question is irrelevant.  He still deserves to run.

“But he’s taking votes away from Laura Kelly by running!”

First of all, I’m sick and tired of hearing this “a vote for X is a vote for Y” mentality.  Ross Perot ran in 1992, and republicans like to complain about how he stole votes from Bush Sr.  Meanwhile, surveys that were conducted in that time, where in voters ranked their choices from favorite to least favorite, it was actually Bill Clinton who suffered the most losses due to Perot’s involvement.  And Clinton still managed to win.

Also, telling people that the only reason your candidate lost was because a third party candidate was running…  Well, that really speaks volumes of how anemic your candidate was in the longrun, doesn’t it?  If your candidate’s success depends entirely on running unopposed, then that’s probably not a good candidate.

I have a question: who the hell is Laura Kelly?  This isn’t a lead into something clever like “Here’s who Laura Kelly is.”  This is a legit question.  Because lord knows I’ve never even heard of her until just now.  I had no idea she won the primary.  I had no idea she was even IN the primary.  I didn’t even know she existed till now.  Hell, I’m not even sure I’m spelling her name right, that’s how little I know about her as a candidate.

True, the local media has been a bit hyperfocused on how good ol’ Cowboy Kobach is trying to juggle a court case AND a campaign for governor (it’s like Milton Wolf all over again), but at the same time, this doesn’t look good when your entire primary is an afterthought before the candidates have even been named.

Also, candidates like Greg Orman exist not to ruin everybody’s fun, or to intentionally screw over your favorite team.  Rather, they exist because the two party system can’t possibly cater to every single group on the planet.  And lately, the democrats have been terrible at this.  I’ve seen more democrats turn independent because rather than give us the candidate WE WANTED, they gave us the candidate THEY wanted.  Hillary Clinton is a conservative in democrat’s clothing.  Her husband signed NAFTA into law.  Her husband supported The Defense of Marriage Act: a law that delt a blow to same-sex couples who wanted to get married.  As a senator, she supported the war in Iraq, as well as  a potential war in Iran.  She preached all about transparency, but not once did she ever make her speeches to Goldman Sacks public.  She DID change her mind on The Transpacific Partnership Act: an act so secretive that nothing good could’ve possibly come from it getting passed into law.  However, it took people like Bernie Sanders, The Justice Party, and dozens of paranoid individuals from the other side of the aisle to force that opinion change.  And if she got elected, five bucks says she would’ve flipflopped, and signed that law into effect anyway.  Of course she’d probably focus more on open and outright war with Russia first, because America definitely needs to have another one of those right now…  But I digress.

The overall point is that Hillary Clinton was a terrible democrat, and never should’ve won the primary.  Yet she did, and I was supposed to just swallow my pride and vote for her.  Because the alternative was just too terrible to comprehend, and because there’s no other choice.  Either vote for Hilldawg in 2016, or you’re a bigot-ass racist who masturbates to pictures of Pepe the Frog.  Isn’t that right, Hillary?

It’s this exact mentality of “Vote Hillary or you’re a racist” that made people like me second guess being registered democrats, and start looking into third parties.  In my case, I admit to eyeing the exit since about 2008, but while I felt like Obama was SOOOO not ready for this job when he ran, I stuck with it.  It wasn’t until Hillary started her march for the white house when I realized that there was no way this two party system was going to benefit me this go-around.

Two years later, we have a race for the governor’s office.  Based on Twitter, the democrats haven’t changed their strategy even a little bit.  Furthermore, we’re living in a generation where republican candidates can be brick fucking stupid mongos who just say every stupid little thing that comes into their heads, all the while juggling campaigns and criminal charges for white collar crime or whatever, and still win.  And they win because the other side is insisting I have to vote for them, or I’m racist.  I’m not racist, and I’m sick and tired of you idiots telling me otherwise.

Furthermore, as I’ve said before, I have no idea who Laura Kelly is.  Probably nothing a quick Ecosia search wouldn’t fix (yeah, I abandoned Google years ago), but even then, if this is the situation, I’m not going in to her campaign positively.

I can’t remember her name, but she ran against Kevin Yoder in 2014.  And she lost.  Not because of third party interference, but because she was quite literally a nonentity the entire time.  Sure, she probably got on the debate stage, but I saw NO presence from her and her campaign outside that.  Hell, I couldn’t even remember her name when the 2014 midterms were going on!  This is unfortunately looking like the fate of Laura Kelly.

By comparison, I know who Greg Orman is.  Setting aside his defeat in the 2014 senate election, I know who he is because he’s making his presence felt.  He was all over Facebook, and I guess all over Twitter as well (I only got my twitter a month ago, so I don’t know).  He has comercials that pop up on YouTube before my videos.  I knew before primary season even started that he was going to be running.

Does this mean Orman is going to win?  Who can say, really?  All I know for sure is that he has a better chance than Laura fucking Kelly.  And I have a feeling that was going to be the case even if Orman DIDN’T run.

Greg Orman exists because the other two candidates aren’t giving me what I want.  That’s not selfish, that’s an alternative.  If anything, YOU’RE the selfish one.

People around here are talking about the governor’s race the same way they talk about a football game between The Chiefs and The Raiders.  I don’t even think it’s about making Kansas better to some of these guys.  I think they just want to see their team win.  And that’s a shitty reason to support a candidate.  The republican party have been a collective of syckophants for as long as I’ve been following politics (thou shalt not criticize a fellow republican).  The more recent “vote blue no matter who” slogan of the democratic party doesn’t make them a better alternative.  For guys like me, this is like a Chiefs Vs Raiders game where both teams are The Raiders!  We need an alternative!  And YOU need to improve your fucking attitude, mister.

So yeah, my mind’s made up.  And if you don’t like that…  Well, the unfollow button is right there.  No one will miss you.