What One Year Can Do to Your Opinion

A year ago (give or take), my friends and I went to see Suicide Squad in theaters.  At the time, I remembered liking it.  Only to find I was in an extreme minority of people.

Believe me, that’s far from the first time that’s ever happened.  Like I said yesterday, I think I’m the only human being on Earth who LIKED Apollo 18.  Inversely, I’m used to hating movies everybody likes.  I’m of the opinion Moonrise Kingdom sucked like a hoover, and I’m puzzled that there are people who actually liked this fucking movie.

I’m no stranger to being the contrarian.  At the same time, though, I’m no stranger to opinions changing.  My opinion on Suicide Squad was one that started out really positive…  Until I saw it a second time, and really thought about what I was watching.  It also helped…  Or maybe hindered, that I wasn’t spending most of the final battle thinking “Christ I got to pee!”.  All that said, the second viewing really changed my mind on this movie, and…  Yeah, it sucks.

I’m nos tranger to this phenomenon.  I personally referred to it as “The Transformers Effect”.

In 2007, the internet was abuzz with talk of an upcoming Transformers movie.  People were super fucking stoked their childhood was coming back.  Finally, the movie came out, and everybody absolutely loved it.  At first.

As time went on, the movie made its rounds, and eventually got put on DVD, bluray, and probably HD-DVD (I think that was still a thing in 07), people’s opinion of the movie soured.  By that time a year later, a lot of people actually ended up hating it.

It didn’t help that a couple years later, the sequel movie would come out, and foretell the ominous future of the franchise, but that first movie…

At the time, it was hard to believe that a movie with that much hype behind it would suddenly decline in popularity so rapidly.  But I know what the problem was.

Transformers was, from what I can tell, the very beginning of the Hollywood trend I have long-since come to call “Generation: Nostalgia”.  Sure, seventies and eighties crap had been getting remakes long before the mid-to-late 2000s, but it wasn’t until some time around 2009-2010 when the reboot machine went nuclear.

Transformers got away with the nostalgia factor because people weren’t conditioned to see through the bullshit just yet.  They saw their favorite childhood franchise get pulled out of the grave after it lived a good hardy life (including that weird Beast Wars phase it went through in the middle), and they were expecting something great.  They were even willing to look past the fact Michael Bay was on board (assuming more than the snobbiest of movie goers even know who Michael Bay even is), all so they could relive their fucking childhood for an hour and a half or so.  But once the hype died, the nostalgia factor became a nonentity, and the smoke cleared, what we had was a CGI movie that promised more than it could ever hope to live up to.

Unfortunately, because of that success, Generation: Nostalgia is now the norm in hollywoo right now.  In the last seven years, I’ve seen reboots of Karate Kid (sucked), Robocop (REALLY sucked), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (it was okay), Get Smart (not terrible, but not great), Mighty Morphing Power Rangers (haven’t seen it yet and don’t plan on it), Chips (I hear it sucked), and I’ve HEARD Back to the Future might be up next on the chopping block.  If they’re not remaking old franchises, they’re gender-swopping the shit out of them like they did for Ghostbusters 2016, and gender swopping is, hands down, the laziest form of reimaging out there.  Or maybe it’s not a matter of reimagining, and it’s a matter of the neoliberal, Antifa, “fuck white people” mentality that ultimately led to Donald fucking Trump to become president in the first place.  Who can say?  All I know is I’m fucking sick and tired of this nostalgia trip, and I want something NEW.

As an author, I know there’s only so many stories out there.  At the same time, though, I’m sick of seeing these remakes, reboots, reimaginings…  Just give me something new.  If you have to MARKET it as Back to the Future with chicks, fine.  But if you’re actually going to MAKE Back to the Future with chicks, you can guarantee that I’m not going to see it.  Which according to your neoliberal, social justice warrior, “Kamala Harris 2020” logic, that makes me sexist.  No, it makes me FUCKING BORED!

“Ooh, I wonder what would happen if Doc and Marty were girls?”

I don’t know, maybe the same fucking thing that would happen if they were guys?  They’re still traveling back to when Marty’s parents are kids, fucking up everything, and threatening to erase themselves from time and space in an effort to accidentally become their own grandparent.  The fact Marty’s a girl now doesn’t add shit to the plot, except for an opportunity for period jokes or something.

You know, I’m pretty sure I was talking about something else a minute ago.

Oh yeah, I saw Suicide Squad a second time a year later, and yeah, I agree.  That movie actually kind of sucks now.

Tommy Wiseau: An Exercise in Rewarding Failure?

Tommy Wiseau isn’t funny.  Tommy Wiseau isn’t brilliant.  Tommy Wiseau doesn’t deserve the cult status you people give him.  Even if it’s crappy “hur hur memes r the lulz” cult status, because even when you’re laughing at the fail on such a widespread level, you’re still acknowledging that Tommy Wiseau exists, and you really shouldn’t encourage this level of failure.

For the three people who probably don’t know who this guy is, Tommy Wiseau wrote, directed, starred in, produced, and probably catered for a movie simply known as The Room.  While saying this out loud isn’t exactly new, thought-provoking discussion, it still needs to be said: The Room is garbage.  I’ve literally seen TROMA movies that had more effort put into them, and you’d be amazed how often Uncle Loyd recycles some of those shots of people driving cars.

Tommy Wiseau HIMSELF…  A lot of people are convinced he’s trolling us, and that his persona, coupled with his shit movie, is the single greatest act of trolling ever.  Somehow, I’m not buying it.  I genuinely believe this guy thinks he’s a lot better at what he does than he actually is.

It’s one thing to be proud of your work.  Hell, I’ve written a dud or two in my time (cough Family Reunion), but even I feel good about having a story out there in public.

It’s one thing to feel proud about your project, though, and it’s another thing to delude yourself into thinking you’re good at what you do.  I’m not really sure what Wiseau thinks he’s doing.  I’ve theorized that the man is either an anticomedian, a space alien, or one of THOSE artists.  Neither of which are positives that justify his movie, but all the same, it gives me something to anchor to.

If it was just a bad movie made by a guy whose first language CLEARLY isn’t English, that’d be fine.  Worst case scenario, it drifts around the ether of Amazon.com or wherever, we never hear from it again outside “art” circles, and the world is a beautiful place.  Except I remembered that I live in the version of Earth where Donald fucking Trump is president, Tim Heidecker gets as many TV shows as he wants, and “I Miss the Misery” by Halestorm is considered a party song.  So of course a movie that sucks this much gets elevated to cult status.

I personally subscribe to the Kevin Murphy philosophy that was briefly mentioned in his book, A Year at the Movies.  I believe that failure shouldn’t be rewarded.  Bad movies don’t deserve to be talked about.  The Razzies, while fun, and possibly even cathartic to some, is ultimately the spirit award of cinema.

“Hey, buddy, how’s it going?  How about that movie you made that bombed at the box office and nobody liked.  Sure was a piece of shit, wasn’t it?  Here, have a trophy.”

Failure shouldn’t be rewarded.  At absolute most, failure is something you should keep in the ole disappointments room, and kept around only as a reminder of how yall done fucked up.  Take that failure, and learn from it.  Remember that this right here is how NOT to make a movie.

I grew up between the generation that buried hundreds of thousands of unsold E.T. cartridges, and the generation that says “Wow, Bee Movie sure did suck.  Let’s spend an entire spring break polluting the internet with Bee Movie memes and convince the internet it’s worth remembering despite the fact it clearly isn’t.”  Which basically means I received a spirit award or two (they were called fourth place ribbons when I ran track in high school), but I was encouraged to not put them on the same level as a medal or an actual trophy.  They were a way of saying “Hey, you suck too much to get a medal, but at least you didn’t come in last.”

The fact people make The Room memes, or do parodies of popular movies on YouTube in the style of The Room is more recognition than this movie deserves, and more recognition than Wiseau HIMSELF deserves.  With all due respect to the author, I don’t plan on reading The Disaster Artist out of fear it’ll only fuel the machine.

Now I’ll own up to liking a few bad movies in my time.  I’m literally the only human being on Earth who seems to have actually LIKED Apollo 18, for example.  I am a loud and proud fan of The Purge movies (though I really need to see the third one).  Hell, I even liked Tusk.  These movies are also bad…  But unlike The Room, or anything else Wiseau has put out, these movies looked like someone actually put FUCKING EFFORT into them.  There was a good idea here.  There was a sequence of events that, at least in context of the universe, made perfect sense.  Go ahead and disagree with the possibility The Purge could happen one day, or believe all you want that The Lost Cosmonaut Theory is bunk, but surely you can at least agree that there was some thought put into all this.

The Room…  Ugh, The Room.  I’ve seen honest to god Skinemax flicks that had better acting than this.  Better set design, too.  Hell, even the plot was more coherent and not repetitive.  And have you actually WATCHED sex?  Take your dick out of your hand, take all the anticipation and excitement out of it, and just watched it from an analytical level?  It’s probably the most repetitive, monotonous activity out there!

Just because a movie is funny for all the wrong reasons doesn’t instantly make it good.  Or even redeemable.  It’s admirable that you managed to find a way to enjoy cinematic torture, but if I’m supposed to be taking this dead serious, yet all I do is laugh the entire time, yall done fucked up, son.

And I know memes don’t usually pick on good movies, but at the same time, the fact we’re even acknowledging this movie and this man even exist in the first place seems like we’re only encouraging him to keep existing.  Hell, I’ve written, like, three pages or so of text at this point, and I’m already trying to justify posting this incoherent ramblefest outside the fact I’m fucking sick of seeing Wiseau memes on my Facebook feed.

I probably make it sound like I’m furious, but really, I’m not.  Hell, at this point, I’m barely annoyed at absolute best.  After years of being taught that failure isn’t something I should be proud of (not necessarily ASHAMED of, but not proud of either), I’m suddenly finding that we’re reveling in it.

“This movie sucks!  Let’s give it ridiculous amounts of attention!  Let’s have special viewings, and make dumb parody videos and put them up for everyone else to see!”

I just don’t get that mentality.  Then again, I also don’t get why it’s suddenly okay for thirty-year-old men to admit out loud they watch cartoons for seven-year-old girls, or why after years and years of developing technology to where video games are practically fully rendered movies, the most popular things to play are the same fucking 8-byt “metroidvania” games we played in the days of the NES.  Believe me, I could, and on occasion, HAVE ranted on those topics individually.

I just feel like all this time we’re spending giggling at Tommy Wiseau is doing two things:

First off, it’s not helping the guy.  If anything, it’s only encouraging him to be as horrible at his job as humanly possible.  By portraying The Room as “a spectacle”, and celebrating its horridness, you’re only telling Wiseau, and future generations (maybe) that this is okay.

Secondly, I feel like all this energy we’re putting into this clearly could be spent on better things.  There are great things on Netflix right now that we could be watching.  Sure maybe everything on Netflix’s original category isn’t for everyone, but surely there’s something there that’s more worth investing time in than the same fucking garbage cinema you’ve been meming, parodying, and overall inflicting on all of us for the last decade now.

A Taste of Things to Come: The Hood and The Heroine Sample Chapter!

With the release of The Hood and the Heroine mere weeks away, I figured I would further tease the shit out of my audience, and give you guys a bit of a taste of what’s to come.  Enjoy your sample chapter.  Fragment.  Thing.

NOTE: this is the third draft version of the chapter.  If there are any noticeable spelling errors in the text, please keep in mind that this is still being worked on.  Although knowing my process, the third draft is where all the blatantly obvious spelling errors are fixed.  Still, try to keep in mind this might not be the final version of the chapter.

 

 

THE HOOD AND THE HEROINE: BOOK 3 OF THE GAEL SAGA

COPYRIGHT 2017 BY THOMAS J. BLACK

 

 

5: ROISIN

Our first mission was that night. I was legitimately surprised how quickly I was able to assemble a group. I thought for sure there were only going to be about two other people. Instead, I ended up with ten people who wanted to take part! Technically nine other people, since it was a guarantee Jennifer was going to come along.

In hindsight, I probably would’ve given them something a little lower profile than an arms deal on the docks. Sure, these were girls who were taking down muggers, and maybe the occasional independent crack dealer in Aventurine Cove. And I suppose even those gigs had all the potential in the world to go south. According to Jennifer, a few of them did.

It was the first time I had to lead an entire team. I wasn’t used to leading anything. I was on teams before, but the only reason gymnasts are on teams is because they represent a school, or a town, or a country. The only time it’s actually a team sport is if you have some sort of two-woman synchronized routine or something. And I’m pretty sure that sort of thing is reserved for swimming, or cheerleading. It’s basically just you throwing shapes on the balance beam, the uneven bars, or even just on the floor.

We got there before the deal took place, and I pointed out the places I used to hide when this was just a solo act. Before Adelson started making this more complicated, and had people meet with other people, who’d then meet with more people, and so on. We hid, and we cast our glamours to blend in with the scenery.

The dealer and his clients showed up a few minutes later. We watched as the dealer (a Russian guy) talked business with a group of men. I counted about five. We had the numbers advantage for sure… But I was having doubts ten girls on their first mission could beat six guys who’d probably done this a bunch of times before, and knew how to deal with trespassers.

The plan was going smoothly… Right up until Jennifer’s phone went off. It was set on vibrate, but even vibrating cell phones make noise. And the sound of the vibrating was enough to shatter her glamour. Worse than that, the damn eejit thought she could sneak up on the guy, and… Well, who knows? Guess we never will now.

Somehow, she avoided becoming a casualty. Hell, the worst she got was a black eye! We all dispelled our glamours, and went into action. I don’t like to throw shapes outside of gymnastics, but at the same time, this wasn’t my first fight. I knew how to dodge, I knew how to disarm, and I knew how to work in an occasional vault, or side flip in between. The other girls, meanwhile, stuck to weaving and dodging the old fashioned way, and for the most part, it worked.

At the end of the melee, all six of the men involved were disarmed, and secured for police pickup. Unfortunately, three of the Gaels were injured. I was no doctor, but I was pretty sure one of them was going to need a miracle, or a day and a half with the Earth to recover from those bullet wounds. All and all, it wasn’t quite how I wanted to end the first mission of the night, but I suppose someone more military minded than I would say the important thing is that the mission was a success.

And then he showed up. Right in the middle of our interrogation, I heard something. A couple of the girls panicked… And I can’t blame them too much. Again, it’s their first mission. Also, my plans for the mission hadn’t counted on him showing up.

I looked over, and saw one of the six men we’ve apprehended was now dead. A ninja star was lodged into his throat, and blood was fountaining out of him as he lay there on the ground.

Just as I was calming the girls down, I saw another ninja star come out of the shadows! I dodged… Only to realize the star wasn’t intended for me in the first place. The dealer I was interrogating got hit right between the eyes, and fell to the ground screaming in agony.

“Show yourself!” I shouted.

“Get out while you can!” a voice shouted back. It was clear he was using some sort of voice changer to hide his identity, but it was a little unsettling how deep he’d set it. It sounded like feckin’ Satan had just told me to get out.

To my annoyance, a few of the girls decided to take his advice, and bail. Before I could convince them to get back here, another ninja star came out of the shadows, and killed another of the dealers. Then another. And another. By the time I could get some semblance of order, only one guy was left standing. Before he could throw one more star, I got in front of the last target.

“This one lives!” I shouted.

“Why?” the demon voice demanded.

I thought it over for a second, and replied, “This is clearly an Adelson operation. If we can’t figure out where Adelson is hiding, he can at least forward a message for me.”

There was silence for a moment. Most likely, he was contemplating a possibility that hadn’t occurred to him. Then, he responded.

“You won’t get anything out of these guys,” he said. “But if you really want to advertise yourself to Dan Adelson that badly…”

Rather than finish his sentence, I guess he decided to take his exit.

The police eventually came, and apprehended the surviving dealer. I made it a point to glamour myself and go into hiding, letting Jennifer and The Gael Army take all the credit for it. And to be honest, they deserved it. Cell phone mishap notwithstanding, they handled themselves a lot better than I was expecting, and were able to improv just fine when our cover was blown. Considering ole Starman was another little variable we hadn’t counted on, they could’ve done a lot worse.

The man was apprehended, and taken to jail (I assume). The rest of the girls were also taken down to the station, but compared to the survivor, it was more for testimony than for any counts of vigilante justice.

I was able to sneak my way past the officers as they put up the tape, and began their investigation. The next morning, the details would be made public to the masses. And it wasn’t till I saw the reports that I realized what just happened.

The Gael Army did get a couple mentions, but as far as the media was concerned, we were just bystanders. They made it sound like we’d shown up too late, and tried to talk him out of killing all of them. It was annoying, but only slightly. Especially when it occurred to me right then and there that I had just come face to face with none other than The Blue Hood himself.

9/1/2017: The Hood and The Heroine Semi-Official Release Date!

I’d gotten word from my cover artist that he’ll most likely have the cover art for The Hood and the Heroine finished around September the first.  At least, that’s how I interpreted the text message he sent me during our last exchange of texts.

The fact I’m not entirely certain is why I have this down as a SEMI-official release date.  It’s subject to change, but barring another fucking power outage, I have a feeling everything on my end will be ready and available for sure.

Indeed, the blackout this past weekend that left me without electricity for two straight days has set me back a bit.  Admittedly, book 3 of this whole series has probably been the most challenging.  According to my original plan, I was hoping to be done with this series a month ago.  Between family emergencies, writer’s block, and the fact I get distracted by shiny things, it wasn’t to be.

I’m not even sure Sept. 1 will be the day you see this book.  However, that seems to be the most likely date for sure.

For sure, the book is done.  I’m in the process of spellchecking it.  A task that, considering the character of CharKendrick parks is one of the narrators, is a real fucking chore.  I should be done with the spellchecking real soon, and I’ll be reading through it for continuity errors I missed the first couple read-throughs just in case.  Rest assured, the hard parts are pretty much done.

If you don’t see The Hood and the Heroine on Amazon.com by Sept. 2, and I don’t say anything, assume that there were complications.  I try my best to meet deadlines, but let’s face it, fate is a fan of Murphy’s Law.  And I don’t mean MILO Murphy’s Law.  Although as far as Disney cartoons go, Milo Murphy isn’t terrible.

Till then, mark your calendars, and tune in again for further news as it becomes available.  Also, whatever other insane babble I have lined up.

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.: My Thoughts

I ask you audience: what the fuck do you people see in Neil Stevenson? Because between this, and Seven Eves (heh, I see what you did there), I just don’t get it.
Recently, I joined a scifi book club. Yeah, I know, me being social. The end of days may be upon us pretty soon. Although I think The Kansas City Chiefs have to win the superbowl before it’s TRULY official. Whatever.
The scifi bookclub I joined chose The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. as their book of the month to read. Considering I’ve been spending the last couple of months alternating between Wings of Fire by Tui T. Sutherland (a book series about dragons that I can’t decide on whether or not I might be a little too old for), The Demon Accord by John Conroe (a series of books I honestly liked a lot better when it was called Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter), and the occasional Yahtzee Croshaw book, I probably needed a change of pace. It’s just too bad that it had to be this near-800 page brick of a dud.I was willing to give Stevenson the benefit of a doubt. I couldn’t see my way past the first part of Seven Eves when I picked it up, but I still can’t decide if it was because of the story itself, or if it was because Mary Robinette Kowal’s voice really annoyed me. She has a weird accent that according to my memory, is very George Tekai.

But hey, sometimes, an author puts out a dud. I myself, in my infinite wisdom, felt like Homecoming: a Novella of Highfill, Kansas needed a sequel for reasons I can’t remember anymore, so yeah, even I’m capable of doing it. So maybe Seven Eves was just one dud in an otherwise steller catalogue.
If The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is anything to go on… Yeah, no. I’m officially in the minority. Hashtag-TJBHatesEverything and what not.
D.O.D.O. is a government organization built around the concept of time travel. For a lot of scifi guys, that right there is already a red flag. Time travel is one of those concepts that even GOOD authors struggle with. Add on the fact that Stevenson manages to include multiverse theory into time travel, and it becomes an even more tangled mess.
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is read by at least ten different readers. And while I perked up when I heard Luke Motherfucking Daniels was one of them, the rest were a real mixed bag. Each reader reads from the perspective of one character, which is actually a really cool idea, and I really wish more audio books would do that. I’m not especially familiar with the other nine readers, though. I could tell you their names after looking up the book on Audible.com, but I couldn’t tell you who played who. Other than Luke Daniels, of course.
I will say, though, that whoever they got to voice Stokes was a SERIOUS miscast. Someone who is stranded in 1851 England with little to no hope of returning should NOT be this fucking perky. Everybody else in the recording, though, is passable at worst, and pretty damn good at best.
Then we get into the story. Oh god, the story.
Stevenson apparently decided to tell the story through a compilation of Stokes’ diary, government emails, memos, letters to the queen, transcripts of video conversations, and so on. It’s not especially obnoxious… Until you get to part 3, anyway. Then it becomes a serious fucking chore to get through.
The entirety of the book club can at least agree with me on the fact this was not a great idea. I personally believe they could’ve stuck with Stokes’ diary from 1851, and call it good.  It’d probably be three hundred pages shorter, but oh well. Length does not dictate quality of story. You’re talking to a guy who’s written books that barely hit the one-hundred page count.

I personally didn’t care for how the Stokes diary chapters basically announced what the chapter was going to be about.  I’ve literally seen titles for Dragon Ball Z episodes that left more to the imagination than this.

Some of the group think that Stokes was way too detailed in her descriptions, despite complaining constantly about hand cramps from writing with a quill pen, or shortage of ink or paper, and just that nobody could hope to remember the insane amount of detail put into each conversation. I see what they’re talking about, but honestly, that’s the one thing I personally could look past. Largely because by the time I’d gotten to parp 4, a fucking unicorn could’ve come through space and time, farted a rainbow, and blown up the Earth, and I still could’ve shrugged, said “whatever”, and used the book to squash cockroaches. If I had a copy of the print version, that is.
The story overall doesn’t go anywhere. It’s not really a story so much as it is a series of events. Someone in the group said it reminded them of someone writing a pilot to a TV show, and it’s not hard to see where he got that.

The concept of time travel in this series is heavily built around Schrodinger’s Cat.  IE, you can only travel through time and space when you somehow achieve a state of dead-alive.  if you can somehow convince the world you’re both dead and alive, you can convince the world you are both in the present, and…  Well, say, 1851.  That’s actually kind of a neat idea.

It’s just too bad we had to achieve the concept of time travel through WITCHCRAFT.

I have no problem with sorcery in my fiction.  Especially nowadays, where I’m a lot more open to the fantasy genre than I used to be.  It seems like they spend all this time talking about witches, and how they can do all this magic, but aside from turning an apple into an orange, or turning a can of white paint into a can of black paint in the beginning, the only thing the witchcraft is used for is time travel.  And maybe mind control towards the end.

The thing about time travel in this book that gets me, though, is that just because you accomplished this deed in the 1600s doesn’t mean it carries over to our specific present day.  Remember, I said this version of time travel includes multiverse theory ON TOP of past and present.  Meaning that the version of the past where you meddled probably isn’t the version of the past that’s on our timeline!  Meaning you have to go back in time at least FOUR OTHER TIMES if you want to accomplish what you want!  That, or create a disaster so catastrophic that the entirety of time and space has to go out of its way to rewrite more than one timeline in order to stay afloat.

Keeping that in mind, the only REAL way to change time is to basically burn down taverns, or murder super-important figures in time.  Otherwise, what’s even the point!?  It’s all an exercise in repetition.

But there in lies the theme.  The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. is pretty much a 700+ page allegory on the mind-numbing repetitive nature, general incompatence, and bureaucratic nightmare of government.  Wow, a book that’s extremely critical of The United States government?  WOW!  Haven’t read that one before.  And in 2017 no less!  All we need now is a thinly disguised representation of Donald Trump, and we’ve hit the zenith of creativity that no one has ever thought of reaching!  *sigh*

Okay, let’s cool off.  I know I’m going to get hatemail up the wazoo from Stevenson fans no matter what I have to say (I hear he has a cult following), but let’s cool down.

As much shit as I give this book, I DID manage to see it to the end.  More than I can say for Seven Eves, that’s for sure.  The book was tedious enough to annoy me frequently, and make me consider putting it down to read something I actually WANT to read.  On the other hand, the premise was actually intriguing enough to where I actually wanted to see where it was going.  There was a good story in this near 800 page brick somewhere.  I just wish someone up in editing had taken out the chainsaw and made the effort to hack away the driftwood to get there.

Thumbs Vs. Stars

Netflix had been talking about switching from the five stars system to the thumbs up or down system for a few months, but up until earlier tonight, I had dismissed it as a rumor. However, I logged on to Netflix after a day of work, proofreading, and what not, and found that they finally made good on that promise.
I wonder out loud why they bothered switching from one system to another like this. A friend of mine is convinced that the thums system was set up after Amy Schumer threw a fucking temper tantrum over the fact her special was getting record-setting amounts of one-star ratings. Some people (Schumer herself included, apparently) claim it’s people being assholes because a woman is doing stand up. Others believe it’s because Amy Schumer is legitimately not funny, and spends more time talking about her vagina stink than actually telling jokes. Normally, I belong to group B, but as far as whether it’s the reason Netflix switched from stars to thumbs… I don’t know, man, I think it was a lot more complicated than that.
Well, whatever their reason is, they switched to thumbs. So instead of five possible options, now you have two: thumbs up, or thumbs down.
Am I in favor of stars, or thumbs? Honestly, I don’t know. They both really have their ups and their downs.
Bill Burr: stand up comedian and recent hero of mine, was on his podcast talking about the negatives of the thumbs system. He made claims that one simple, petty complaint that ultimately contributes fuck all in the longrun might be enough for Mr. Petty-fucking-asshole to thumbs down your standup special. “Oh, I didn’t like the color of the background. Thumbs down. Oh, that one joke wasn’t funny. Thumbs down.” etc.
In a way, he’s definitely on to something. I’d like to think that the average Netflix bingewatcher isn’t a savage retard like about ninety percent of the people who leave comments on YouTube videos. Of course, we are talking about people. This may be my misanthropic attitude from my early twenties talking, but people are assholes, there’s too god damn many of us, and the world would be better off if seventy-five percent of us died right now.
The star system had more variety. If you liked a show, but didn’t LOVE the show, you could just rate it four. If you thought it was just okay, you could rate it three. Five and one were the extremes. A lot of the time, you could follow the same philosophy a lot of Amazon.com users follow, and trust only the four, three, or two star reviews. The ones who rate it five or one probably love or hate the show that much, but someone who rates it four, three, or two is probably more guaranteed to be genuine, and not a kiss-ass.
The thumbs system, meanwhile, demands a lot more of you. It takesaway the ambiguity four, three, or two stars may leave behind, but with the thumbs system in place, you either love it, or you hate it. No middle ground is possible.
If Amy Schumer hissyfits were really the reason for this change in ratings, I have a hard time seeing it accomplishing anything. The people who rated it two stars, or even three stars will probably just thumbs-down the standup special now. Which between my friend’s comments, and my own research, means people still fucking hate her special. Congratulations, dipshit, you accomplished nothing.
In the longrun, I prefer the stars. There’s more flexibility in the star system. There’s a lot of stuff I watch on Netflix I don’t feel deserves a positive rating, but it doesn’t deserve a negative rating either. I give shows like Bordertown a nice neutral three, because while they keep me amused in the moment, I don’t see myself watching it again. I only ever give the truly horrendous a one-star.
In the thumbs system, though, there is no nice neutral rating. You either love it, or you hate it. Or you decide not to rate it, but that’s not really contributing anything. Dead silence is the worst thing you can give an artist. Or an actor. Or a comedian. Or a lonely blind guy on OKcupid trying to find some sort of companionship in a fucked up world where Donald fucking Trump can be president, but I can’t even get a book published for real because…
Uh, got a little sidetracked.
I personally favor the star system. But maybe I’m a fringe minority. Maybe people prefer the thumbs system. Hell, maybe the next step is to put a Facebook esque system in place where there’s no thums down. Either like my show, or get the fuck out.
What do you say, audience? Stars or thumbs? Or do you even care?

Regarding Jade Blade Legacy

In 2012, I began the epic experiment in self-publishing. A coin toss ultimately decided on whether I published Jade Blade Legacy, or another book whose main character eventually found her way into HikikoMorey. As of the publication of HikikoMorey, I have reservations about that story EVER seeing the light of day, but I digress.
If I’d known KDP was cheaper, I’d have gone with KDP in the early going. True, paperback versions wouldn’t be available, but the importan thing is I wouldn’t have wasted an insane amount of money on Mahinder’s Grand Tournament and The Scarlet-Ruby War like I had. Probably would’ve been able to pay off my credit cards a lot sooner, too. Oh well, live and learn.
Because I’m in penny-pinching mode at the moment, I’ve opted to sever my ties with Outskirts Press altogether. I haven’t heard back on whether or not my account has been shut down as of this posting. Apparently, you have to email their marketing department and explain why you’re closing your account. Here, in a day and age when even OKcupid has a button in the MY ACCOUNT section, and a multiple choice question that you technically don’t even have to answer if none of the choices express how disappointed you are with the human race… But I’m getting distracted again.
Once my account is closed, I have to wait a minimum of ninety days before I reupload my books to KDP. So unless you have a paperback version, it’ll probably be 2018 before you can access these books again.
Although in honesty, I have reservations about reuploading the books at all, really. The Jade Blade Legacy books were books I was a lot more proud of in 2012 and 2013. They’ve both received positive reviews (Mahinder’s Grand Tournament moreso than Scarlet-Ruby War), but I don’t know. I do tend to be my own worst critic when it comes to my writing, and it was made very clear to me that I had made a couple typos in book 1 I unfortunately couldn’t fix like I can with KDP. Well technically I could, but it’d cost fifty bucks. Fifty bucks I wasn’t able to part with because I’d already spent a shit ton getting the fucking things published in the first place, and promoting it with some services Outskirts Press provides in the meantime.
For sure, I’ll reupload the first two books once the ninety-day waiting period is up. Barring that, I’ll upload them some time around 2018. For now, though, understand that these things happen, and I’ll try to get them back up as soon as possible. Hel, I might even revise them! Fix those errors that drive me crazy.

Addicted to Dating?

I’ve had an OKcupid account for the better part of three years now. I’ve deactivated and reactivated it on several occasions throughout those years. In 2016, it was because I found someone who could put up with my dumb neurotic ass for more than one date. Usually, though, it’s closed because I get ghosted repeatedly and thus get mad at the fact that I’m apparently not worth so much as a generic “this isn’t going to work” message that a fucking autogenerator can produce in seconds, I close the account saying “This time, I fucking mean it!”, I spend a couple days to a couple weeks in the pit of perpetual depression and ennui, and then reactivate the account despite my previous intention to close it and keep it closed, and convince myself that somehow it’s going to be different this time.
The fact I’ve been doing this for three years should convince the most spectacular of all flunkouts from any given science program that it’s never different. It drives my roommate insane when I go into the pit. My friends have urged me to give up on OKcupid. One friend in particular has suggested I just give up on dating altogether and embrace the single life. Even my mom thinks I “need a new hobby”. By all accounts, all of these people are probably right… And yet, I just keep going through with it.
The thing about OKcupidis that, unlike any other dating site I’ve used over the years, I actually get results. I had a plentyoffish.com account for about the same amount of time as my OKcupid account, but I didn’t take it NEARLY as seriously because in that entire time, a grand total of ONE PERSON ever responded to me. I had a Match.com account for a grand total of nine months. I met people on there, but I had to pay to use their service. It’s hard to commit to something that has a monthly fee looming over head. Probably why I never got into MMOs back in the day, although just as much of that was because I didn’t have that kind of money. For Match.com, or for MMO games.
OKupid, in short, has been the best of both worlds: it’s free (mostly), and I actually get results. Disappointing, self-esteem crushing results it seems, but results all the same. And I think that’s why I keep going: because I get just enough results to give me hope, but not much in the way of legit success.
After nearly three years of disappointing dates, getting ghosted, and spam-likes from some asshole in Kernie, Missouri who doesn’t seem to get the hint that I’m not going to fall for their obvious fake profile (and even if it’s real, I’m not going to god damn Kernie , Missouri if I can avoid it), you’d think I’d quit by now. Shit, I quit playing Gems of War a month after I bought it, and that ended up being MORE of a headache than this. But For some reason, I just keep coming back to this dating site!
After thinking it over for a while, I can’t help but come to one conclusion: I have a gambling problem.
Dating is a lot like gambling: it’s a complete and total crapshoot, the house always seems to win, and there was a point where I was convinced the dice may be loaded. And yet, like that slot machine that occasionally gives me back all the quarters I put into it and dares me to keep going, I keep putting money and effort into it thinking this time I’m going to hit the jackpot. Hell, almost a year ago, I thought I DID hit the jackpot. But I’ve been over that in my 2016 retrospective.
The thing is I’ve been to casinos, and never really got hooked into any of the games. Half of the games the local casino offers are games I’ve never even heard of. I played slot machines, but didn’t really see what the big deal was. I played a round of craps, and ended up finding it more tedious than anything else, what with the fact you have to roll over and over and over again until you either make point, or seven out.
I get obsessed with a video game from time to time, but have you seen video games lately? It’s just as much of a game as it is a cinematic experience. I’m more obsessed with seeng how the story ends than I am with actual rewards. Especially since a lot of games think fucking concept art is a reward. Maybe if I were an artist, but I’m not. So no, no it fucking isn’t.
Dating, or really on-line dating, is a different story. I don’t know why I keep coming back to this when it clearly isn’t working, but I do. My roommate is on record saying I seem to have developed an unhealthy laser focus on the idea of having a girlfriend. Except really, I’m not even sure that’s what it is anymore. Sure, that might’ve been the endgame back when I started… But now, I think I just want to roll the dice for the sake of rolling the dice.
I don’t know. It’s 2:00 AM, I just got through telling someone that they really should’ve indicated on their profile they had kids from a previous marriage, and I really have a bad feeling I’m a week away from explaining all this to a therapist or something. And I don’t exactly have money for a therapist, but it seems like this may be on the horizon no matter what I have to say. I can smell the intervention all the way from here.

My Adulthood Experiences with D&D

Dungeons and Dragons.  Admit it, you’ve heard of it.  Lord knows I’d heard of it.  For the longest time, though, my experience with D&D has been pretty…  Mixed.

I’d first heard of Dungeons and Dragons when I was a wee little lad, living out in Western Kansas.  Western Kansas, for the record, is the single reddest part of one of the reddest states to ever red.  Meaning that if you ever brought up D&D, regardless of context, you’d be getting a lecture about how it was the work of Satan, and all yall chilins should shut the fuck up and read your damn bible.  I didn’t see the connection as a kid, but I ended up following the advice on the grounds adults are smart, and always know what they’re talking about.

Then I got older.  Suddenly, I realized adults aren’t all that smart.  I mean shit, most of them voted for Bush.  Twice.

I also quickly learned that individuals who declare that “[X] is the work of the devil” are either VERY poorly informed, or sanctimonious pricks.  They said D&D promoted Satannism, but they also said Harry Potter promoted Satannism.  Because apparently, Jesus is the only person allowed to cast spells I guess.  They said Pokémon promoted Satannism.  I’m still trying to figure out how they came up with that one, honestly.  These same people said stuff like The Life of Bryan was blasphemous, and that The Da Vinchi Code needed to be boycotted, and that The Passion of the Christ was the single most important movie ever made.  Life of Bryan is hilarious, Passion of the Christ was nothing but a two hour snuff film starring Jesus, and…  Well, The Da Vinchi Code wasn’t great, but heaven forbid something come along and challenge your perspective on life.  Slowly but surely, I was starting to realize these people were either stupid, or sheep.  And let’s be honest, sheep aren’t very smart to begin with.

But I’ve already gone on that tangent about my time in Christianity, so let’s move on.

of all the things I did as a teenager that were in blatant defiance of the right-winged, uberchristian culture I was born into and forced to endure, picking up Dungeons and Dragons actually wasn’t it.  I didn’t think it was a product designed to promote Satannism…  But it was pretty damn nerdy.

Evidence may suggest otherwise (especially in hindsight), but I never really considered myself a nerd in high school.  I wasn’t good enough at sports to be a jock, and a lot of sports were out of reach for a one-eyed individual such as myself.  I wasn’t a goth kid, because my family had a dog that shed like crazy, and black clothes were a magnet for white fur.  I wasn’t a theater kid, though lord knows I tried.  I wasn’t a cool kid, because to this very day, the more popular something is, the more I tend to avoid it like the plague.  I wasn’t a hit with the ladies…  Partly because impaired kids are NEVER a hit with the ladies, but mostly because I wasn’t a people person back then.  In a lot of ways, I’m still not.

The only REAL clique I truly fit in with were the kids I dubbed “the metal clique”.  They were like goths, but the music was better, and it was less “the world sucks and I want to die”, and more “the world sucks and I want to burn shit.”  They were like jocks, except none of us were ever going to medal in anything.  Depending on your taste in metal, you could probably mesh with theater kids, though you’re a lot less interested in acting out The Crucible, and more interested in recreating something you saw GWAR do on stage.  Not entirely sure if anime is TRADITIONALLY part of the metal culture, but Yu Yu Hakusho was considered quintessential.  Largely because we were all Yusuke Urameshi.  But I digress.

You’d really think something like Dungeons and Dragons would appeal to a group like this.  It had metal imagery like dragons and epic battles resulting in massive carnage and bloodshed.  Blind Guardian, and other bands of that subgenre wrote songs based on D&D, and D&D esque franchises like Dragonlance, or Lord of the Rings.  And of course, the Christians hated it.  Sounds like the perfect match…  Except nobody was even remotely interested.  We may not’ve OFFICIALLY been the cool kids, but we weren’t about to get bumped to the same table as the nerds for fuck sakes.

I didn’t show any REAL interest in D&D until my adult years.  And even then, I didn’t start out with D&D.

Somewhere around 2013, my friends and I tried our hand at the ole tabletop RPG.  However, we went with Shadowrun.  It had cyberpunk elements, which one of my friends was, and still is into.  I myself was also interested in Shadowrun for more or less the same reason at one point.  So we ended up trying our luck with Shadowrun.  And…  Honestly…  It was a disaster.

One of our friends didn’t get the concept of rollplaying at all.  The GM didn’t really explain the rules, character customization, or really ANYTHING all that well, and in the end, we just made shit up and rolled D6 for everything.  The campaign we ended up picking at first was clearly not intended for beginners.  In fact, reading a little more into Shadowrun, I’m starting to think Shadowrun IN GENERAL isn’t for beginners.  I know for sure it’s the one D-20 game I’ve ever seen that doesn’t use a D-20.

So yeah, our attempt at a Tabletop RPG group was pretty much the equivalent of giving birth to a stillborn baby: a lot of pain and agony for a result that left a lot of us depressed for weeks at a time, wondering where the hell we went wrong.  What, too dark?  The original line was going to involve compare it to performing a wire hanger abortion on yourself.  And it’s at this point I realize I’ve been watching WAY too much Zero Punctuation.

Though our group didn’t succeed, like, at all, I still found the concept of the tabletop RPG intriguing.  It also helped that around the same time, The Spoony Experiment, and a couple other TGWTG personalities I liked at the time were trying THEIR hands at…  I think it was Pathfinder?  Either way, as I watched, and learned the rules, I realized something: this game is actually pretty fun when everybody knows what the hell they’re doing.

My friends and I haven’t tried a D-20 game since, but I’ve still found myself interested in the world of D&D.  I’m far from the most knowledgable person on Earth, even after three or four years of on-again-off-again research.  It also doesn’t help they put out new editions every seven or eight years or so, and change FUCKING EVERYTHING in the process.  In any case, I find myself making D&D characters in my spare time on occasion.  I imagine up a campaign idea that, with a large degree of effort, could actually become something worthy of recording and posting on-line.  Hell, I even listen to a podcast that’s basically a dude and his friends playing the game!

highly recommend this podcast, by the way.  It’s pretty entertaining.  Even when they aren’t playing D&D and just talking about video games or whatever.  Bird is my favorite. 🙂

One day, I may find a group of like-minded folks who’ll welcome my novice ass into the fold, and I can actually try this out.  If nothing else, it gives me a reason to buy that Cthulhu dice set and dice bag.  Till then, my fascination is more of a spectator sort of thing.

Regarding Red Flannel Radio

It’s been fun.  Sadly, this is where I announce I have to put the podcast on hiatus.

For starters, this is the time of year when my roommate is off for the summer.  Normally, we barely have any contact with one-another.  She’s at work from 8:00 to 4:00, I’m at work from 2:00 to 7:00 (on average).  My afternoons are usually full of writing, and in recent months, Red Flannel Radio recording and editing.  However, with her hanging around, there’s no way I can record this show.  I’m not one of those guys who invites their friends, or their girlfriend/boyfriend, or their wife/husband, or kids, or whatever on to the show.  I ain’t no Bill Burr.  Red Flannel Radio is a solo act, and even if I had the kind of connections to have guests on board, I’d sooner do the entire show on my own.

My afternoons of solitude technically don’t come to an end till this upcoming Friday.  I thought for sure I could fire off one last episode, and maybe even explain the situation there.  Sadly, something else has come up.

My job has decided to start calling us in early.  So now, my hours have changed to a time that is super inconvenient if you wanted to fire off a thirty-minute ramble before work.

It also doesn’t help matters that we’re heading into the summer.  When you’re in my line of work, shit gets hot.  By the end of the shift, I’m so sweaty, exhausted, and hating my life and virtually everyone in it that the podcast would probably be a much different animal.  Not to mention by the evening, I’ve absorbed a generous amount of news from my favorite news sources, and just in case the heat hasn’t given me a healthy dose of misanthropy, whatever stupid shit Donald Trump and/or the republicans said recently ends up topping me off nicely.

I’m still writing for sure.  In fact, that sort of sweaty exhausted misanthropy is what fuels a lot of my creativity.  Not to mention typing on my computer is significantly less intrusive and irritating to my roommate than me putting together audio content.  Trust me, about this time two years ago, I was recording “funny” parody jingles and dumb skits and putting them up on Soundcloud.  Not only did nobody on Soundcloud like most of them (amputech4000 seemed to have a following), but the people living with me expressed their annoyance with it at least twice.

As long as I’m talking about writing, I’ll gladly mention that I’m up to chapter 30 of The Hood and the Heroine.

I’m also streaming a game or two on occasion on Wednesday nights…  Although that’s mostly for shits, giggles, and to test out how things on my PS4 work.  If people watch, cool.  If not…  Well, I still got to play a video game I thought was fun.  Most likely.  So whatever.

Red Flannel Radio, on the other hand, is pretty much on the shelf.  If not till August, then until I can find a place away from the complainers, and record to my heart’s content.  Too bad blind people can’t drive, or I could’ve made like Mark Bennet: host of I Said Shut Up!, and made my car the studio.  Sure, I’d probably make the neighbors super confused, but I’ve never given a flying fuck what the neighbors think.  Probably why a lot of them generally move out, am I right?  Ba-zing!

If I think of a way to work around this, I probably will.  Till then, I’ll probably focus more on the book I probably should’ve finished by now.  For sure, I figured I’d be on the second or third draft by now.

I’d like to thank everyone for subscribing, for listening, and really, for giving me the motivation to keep the ramblefest going well after it served its purpose.

I’ve covered a lot of topics in improvised audio form on that show.  Maybe it’s time I converted them into more well thought-out blog articles here?  Maybe do more with this thing than talk about getting sidetracked with side projects.  Time will tell for sure.  Till then, stay tuned for more TJB/Red Flannel/Steaksaw goodness.