Something Bigger Than Life

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That’s right, the long-awaited reboot of my award-winning serial, The Watchmage of Old New York, is here! Click here for the Amazon buy site, or buy on Barnes & Noble, iBooks, or Kobo.  Don’t miss out on this, old fans and new will love what I’ve done with the story.

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You’ve probably figured this out, but I read a lot. Books, comics, the backs of shampoo bottles, if it has words, I will consume its soul, therefore gaining its powers.

This is a metaphor, but apt.

A few months ago, I wrote about how Inside Out explored human emotions by personifying them. Instead of being something abstract, suddenly Joy was a character, a joyful one, but with significant flaws. Sadness was a pariah, but with a hidden virtue. Anger, Fear, Disgust, all given life. This is how the mind works…

Sorta…

Continue reading

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Scifi/Fantasy and the Bigots that Love It

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Click the link above for The Watchmage of Old New York. Just 99 cents until October 27th, and then rising to $2.99.

My brilliant friend Michael wrote something on Facebook this morning. It was so insightful that I asked if I could share it here. This is not mine, but I wish that I said it. Here you go:

I will never understand how bigots of… well, any kind really, can be sci-fi-/fantasy fans.

Of course, we’ve got out Orson Scott Cards and Ayn Rands and all that, and of course their messages and styles will appeal to certain people, but I’m talking about people who glut on multiple major entries in the sci-fi/fantasy canon.

I mean, seriously. Practically every genre work of note is about liberating the oppressed. Lord of the Rings (for all its unfortunate Eurocentric implications) actually pushes for intercultural tolerance and cooperation, and the right of peoples to live freely as they will. Star Wars is all about taking down a greedy, oppressive regime that exploits its people. Harry Potter is all about respecting the dignity and sovereignty of all walks of life, regardless of how your values may clash or how weird they may seem to you. Star Trek has always (and, at points, problematically) prioritized humanity’s evolution beyond bigotry and warmongering over dramatic necessity. X-Men, even when everything else about it is stripped away, is about Civil Rights and the evils of bigotry.

And all of these stories are chock full of women who are strong either in body, mind, heart, or any combination thereof. Well, Lord of the Rings is pretty much a sausage fest, but the appendices help with that. A little.

So, how we manage get fanboys who are sexist, racist, homophobic, or whatever is just frankly COMPLETELY BEYOND ME. How does this happen? How can someone be drawn to works that are all about freedom, tolerance, and respect, and then turn around and be bigots? Like, what do they even get out of these stories then? Honestly?

Is it just that light sabers are cool? Is that really all?

He makes such a great point. Sci fi and Fantasy stories are usually progressive in theme. Unity, Peace, The power of the common person. These are not the thoughts of the bigot. Of course there are exceptions, but you are what you read. Even Orson Scott Card wrote Ender’s Game, and if that’s not a powerful progressive statement, I don’t know what is.

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The Muppets (So Far)

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I’ve talked about my love for The Muppets so many times that you’re probably all bored sick of it, but I’ve yet to talk about The Muppets, the new show on ABC. I love it (mostly).

Yeah, that’s not a surprise given my muppet love, but let me explain why:

The Muppets have always been a mix of slapstick, puns, and adult humor (there’s no better way to explain my humor as well, but that’s my own problem). Like Looney Tunes, if you look at the old shows as an adult, you see jokes that went right over your head as a kid. This show different.

In The Muppets, they dropped a lot of the puns and easy jokes and went for more (relatively) sophisticated, character-driven humor. It was unexpected, and I think it turned off a lot of fans. It wasn’t set-up, punch line, exploding fish anymore.

In a sense, they’re not “puppets” anymore. They’re characters with real problems and character flaws, not empty joke vehicles. They’ve always been one or two dimensional before: Piggy as the aggressive egomaniac, Fozzy is a hapless comic, Gonzo is the love-stricken weirdo, and Kermit was the hero keeping everyone together. The personalities are still the same, but much more complex.

It’s the flaws that are most striking now. Kermit is very manipulative, and at points I cringed at how he handles Piggy. If I have one problem with the show, it’s Kermit’s use of psychological control. Piggy is an unreasonable diva that terrorizes the staff. Fozzy is the engineer of his own downfall. He’s a furry George Costanza.

fozzy embarassed

Now it’s the bit players that really carry the show. Pepe, Rizzo and Yolanda are hilarious (and I love how all Muppet rats have old timey NYC accents). The Electric Mayhem is exactly what we always imagined them to be: recovering drug-addled road warriors. Bobo is the everyman (bear) that’s easy to relate to. And Gonzo…it broke my heart to see Gonzo’s online dating experiment go awry. From one weirdo to another, I feel ya, bro. Keep at the online dating, there’s a weirdo out there for everyone.

Oh, and how great is Sam the Eagle’s crush on Janis!

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But I do have some advice for the show’s writers:

  1. have Kermit solve problems without underhandedness: Kermit was one of the few three-dimensional characters before the show. We know who he is, don’t stray from that. He’s allowed to have flaws, but being dishonest is very out of character.
  2. Keep mining the secondary characters: There are so many Muppets. I want to learn more about them. They’ve done a great job of adding depth to them so far. Keep at it.
  3. More music: It’s not the Muppets without music, and Piggy is starring in a late-night talk show.
  4. Keep adding depth to Piggy. It’s ok to have Piggy as the antagonist, but she’s still beloved. Give us something to empathize with.

Other than that, I think the show is on the right track. I hope that it gets renewed, because it’s one of the only shows that I watch.

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(In Just Seven Years) Rocky Horror Made Me a Man

 

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Pick up your copy of The Watchmage of Old New York here. If you like history, fantasy, and all-around weirdness, you won’t regret it. 4.8 stars on Amazon (23 reviews)!

Some of you will get the title reference. You are my people. Thank you for existing.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show turns 40 this year. I’m not sure if this is old or young, because it’s always been an old movie for me. Even though I’ve seen it hundreds (literally) of times, it’s always seemed like something from the past, brought into the present for lonely souls like me. It was a holy relic, and we were the cult that formed around it.

For better or worse, Rocky Horror made me who I am.

I was always different, quiet, weird. I suppose the term is “socially awkward.” I was more comfortable playing alone or reading than with hanging out with friends. I had some success with sports (particularly baseball), but it never won me any friends. I was bullied in school, and no matter how many times I fought back, it never stopped (Every time someone says that if you stand up to a bully, they’ll stop, I want to laugh at them. It doesn’t stop, it escalates). I hid behind my long, greasy hair and didn’t speak to anyone. Eventually I stopped going to school and just lived my life as far from people as possible.

The doctors diagnosed me with Bipolar Syndrome. I got loaded up with Lithium (the only drug available at the time) and sent to a special school. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, but that’s a different story.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but that school was the link to Rocky. Like I said, it was Rocky that transformed me from a shy, awkward kid to a semi-outgoing, but even more awkward, adult.

I was 16, and I went with a friend from the special school and some of his friends. Suddenly I was surrounded by people in half-naked costumes and makeup, yelling, joking, and…hugging! I don’t think I had ever been hugged by a stranger until that first night, definitely the first time I was ever hugged by a man in fishnets. People were actually friendly to me. I was confused, titillated, and entranced. When the movie started and people started yelling awful things in unison, it was all over for me. It became an addiction. I ended up going every Saturday night, getting home at 3 or 4 in the morning (because you have to take over the local diner afterwards, order one plate of disco fries between 10 people, and drink coffee until you vibrate).

I think it was the anonymity of it all. In the dark, no one could judge you. You shed your outer self–the mask you wear for acceptance–and just let go. The thing was, I never had a mask, so I never had acceptance. Suddenly I was in a place where everyone was like me. For two hours a week, we were all equals.

I memorized every line and every call back. I made friends with other socially awkward people, so we could be awkward together. Yelling terrible things at a movie screen brought us together (like how Cards Against Humanity is such a great party game). Rocky was a vehicle that allowed me to be social in a judgment-free area.

As I got older, I got bolder. In college, me and my friend (I had friends now) staged a bi-weekly Rocky in our dorm lounge. I played Riff Raff and sometimes Eddie (and I was freaking good at it). It empowered me. In a few short years I went from hiding in corners to dancing in a spotlight.

I really wish I had pics of me performing.

So what did going to hundreds of Rocky Horror performances teach me? It taught me to get over it. I was so busy worrying about what people thought of me that I couldn’t be myself. There will always be people that judge, and those that will never accept you. Fuck them. Be yourself, be weird, and the people you want to be around will find you.

I’m proud of my weirdness now. I used to be afraid to say that I love D&D and cartoons. Now I shout it out. I’ll sing and dance in public. I’ll wear facepaint at a football game. I’ll embarrass myself, and I don’t care what people think.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Rocky in the theater, yet it’s still latched firmly in my heart. It makes me sad that there are only a few places to see it live now. Every generation needs something like Rocky, a place where the weird can be weird without fear of judgment.

The one near me closed down a good 15 years ago. There’s one within an hour of me, but I can never get up the will to go. I have no idea why. Maybe I don’t need Rocky anymore. Maybe I used to go as social therapy, and now I’m confident enough that I don’t need it. No. It’s because I can’t stay up till 3 or 4 in the morning anymore.

I’m old, Rocky is immortal.

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Inside Out Was the Movie of the Summer

I finally got around to seeing Inside Out last week, and I was stunned at how great it was. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie that managed to be funny, moving, and intellectually compelling. Disney continues to nail it.

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Disney always puts out excellent movies, and I think that the big reason is that they hire the best writers and directors. Pete Docter–the director and one of the writers on Inside Out–is a certified genius. He’s been nominated for 6 Oscars, and won 1 (For Up, a beautiful movie) Check out his filmography. He’s hardly had a single miss.

It doesn’t matter if it’s in a song, a book, tv show, or a movie, story must always come first. Disney gets that.

Warning: Some spoilers below

Feelings suck

What really struck me was how well they portrayed how the human brain works, and especially the function of Sadness. It’s all a metaphor of course, but it’s true. Sadness is the hero of the story. The other emotions stifling her is what causes the trouble, and her taking control at the end is what ends it. As Rosey Grier once sang: “It’s alright to cry. Crying gets the sad out of you.”

It also created a great allegory for depression. One by one, the aspects of her personality crumbled until her emotions were locked out of the controls and she felt nothing. That’s what Depression is. it’s not Sadness, it’s Apathy. You don’t feel joy, you don’t feel anger. You don’t feel. You lose your personality. As someone who has fought with depression (and mania, and anxiety) for most of my life, I understand. I hope other people understand too.

And when Bing Bong (Riley’s childhood imaginary friend) sacrificed himself…

Feelings suck

Yep

The moral of the story is that as you age, your emotions and memories become more complex. A memory can be colored (in the movie, literally) with joy, sadness, fear, anger, and disgust. To a child, everything is one emotion or another. To an adult, nothing is.

inside out emotion overlap

This chart only shows when two emotions combine. What do you get when three, four, or five do?

Feelings suck.

On a side note, the short in the beginning, Lava, was emotionally manipulative and made me cry. Fuck that shit. I hate crying at movies, and I hate having my buttons pushed.

Feelings suck.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist). Song of Simon currently has a 4.7/5.0 rating on Amazon, so it’s pretty damn good. If you’re looking for something FREE, you can read my serial (soon to be an expanded series of novels) The Watchmage of Old New York. Though it ended in February, 2014, it remains one of the most popular serials on JukePop OF ALL TIME!

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The Underrated Genius of Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle

I’ve written before about how much I love this movie (the sequels, not so much) but it’s not for the absurd comedy and stoner jokes. There’s more to this movie than you might notice, especially if you’re high, and let’s face it, when you watched it, you were probably high.

Yes, you

Despite this, Harold and Kumar is a great absurdist comedy, with excellent story structure and character development. Yes, it has NPH, Chris Meloni covered in boils, and a cheetah going for it too, but follow this logic.

Story Structure: H&K has near-perfect story structure, a retelling of the Hero’s Journey that would make Joseph Campbell proud (and very confused). They leave their Ordinary World–one where Harold is bullied by coworkers and longs for his neighbor Maria, and Kumar resists his father’s demands and destiny to become a brilliant doctor–to search out the prize that will make their lives complete: White Castle Sliders.

Along their journey through fearsome New Jersey (brave the Parkway…if you dare) they meet Allies and Enemies (Freakshow, The Extreme Kids, Bradley the Hippie Dealer, Neil Patrick Harris on Ecstasy, overenthusiastic suburban cops, the cheetah, etc), suffer terrible ordeals (NPH steals Harold’s car, the cheetah breaks Harold’s laptop, Harold gets thrown in jail…all the bad things really happen to Harold), but come out stronger and transformed at the end, defeating their enemies, both within (Kumar and his inner fears) and without (Harold’s coworkers). They return to their home in Hoboken transformed. Kumar is ready to go to med school, and Harold finally makes a move on Maria.

The prize at the end of the Hero’s Journey: you know you want it

Good story structure is more than just the hero’s journey. H&K open several absurd side plots, but manage to close every one of them. The cheetah escape reported on the news later gives them a ride. The two guys that look like them in Newark show up at the hospital. Bradley is in jail when Harold gets arrested, Bradley’s pot is used to frame and arrest the Extreme Kids, NPH returns the car and pays for their Sliders, and so on.

But wait, there’s more. While Harold and Kumar are having their adventure, their neighbors Rosenberg and Goldstein are having a parallel adventure off screen. This is important, and adds a new level of depth to the movie.

Character Development: Both Harold and Kumar change drastically through their journey. Harold begins as timid and paranoid. He ends as–while not exactly bold–a braver human being, standing up to his rivals and claiming his heart’s desire. Kumar begins as a boorish slacker. Despite his incredible aptitude for medicine, he refuses to do anything besides get high all day. By the end, he realizes that he was resisting for the wrong reasons. He was afraid that he’d be another sterotyped Indian doctor, but to paraphrase him, there are worse things I could be than a great doctor. Plus how cool was saving that guy in the hospital?

Oh yeah, they saved a gunshot victim’s life in the hospital (where they went to get medicinal marijuana)

False Moral: There’s also a false moral in the story, a technique that you don’t often see. While Harold is in jail, he encounters a black man who casually tells him that he was arrested and beaten for being black. When Harold asks how he can be so calm about it, the man says that he’s been harassed by idiots all of his life, and it’s not worth getting upset about. The universe usually works out as it should.

It sounds like it’d be the moral of the story, but it’s a trap. If Harold was to take the man’s advice, he would still be the timid, passive man he was at the beginning. The man was a “shadow mentor” on the journey. Instead, Harold sees an opportunity to beat his enemies and takes it, stealing The Extreme Kids SUV and asserting himself against his coworkers.

Allusions: Remember when I mentioned Rosenberg and Goldstein? Here’s where they come in.

H&K is clearly an absurdist comedy, and alludes to one of the greatest absurdist comedies: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Like in H&K, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are part of a parallel story, the background to Hamlet. Rosenberg and Goldstein (note the similarity of names) play a similar role.

There’s something else. In the beginning of R&GAD, they flip a coin repeatedly, and it keeps coming up heads. That’s a signal to both the characters and the audience that something is wrong with reality. This prepares the audience for the absurdity to follow (though not nearly as absurd as H&K). Early in H&K, Kumar drops the scissors he’s using to trim his pubes. It lands point down and doesn’t fall. Similar to the coin flips, this is a signal that something very strange is about to happen.

Yes, I believe that this was intentional. No, I’m not high.

Why is all of this important (Besides reviving NPH’s Career?: It’s fairly simple to make a stoner comedy. Get a bunch of people high and send them on a misadventure. It sells. People like this stuff. Cheech and Chong made a career out of it (their movies are so freakin’ bad). Adult Swim made a phenomenon out of it (most of it good). But you can still have a stoner comedy and make it well-written. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is proof that no matter what the genre, a good story will always prevail.

Also, who doesn’t love White Castle?

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10 Observations on DBZ: Battle of Gods

Thanks to my friend Schmitty, I finally watched the DBZ movie Battle of Gods. It was damn good. I felt that it had more of the lightheartedness from the original Dragonball. I loved Dragonball even more than DBZ, which sometimes took itself too seriously.

Here are some things I noticed: There will be spoilers

1) They all got married and had kids young, like, really young. I know that Goku married Chi Chi early, but all of a sudden, Gohan is married with an unborn baby.

2) They talk about Goku being virtuous, but how virtuous is someone whose main passion in life is to fight people?

3) I love that their humor comes from food. It makes me so hungry.

4) If Buu didn’t eat all the pudding, this movie would’ve been very different

5) Why is Bulma aging, but not Chi Chi? Is Goku’s sperm the fountain (hehehe) of youth?

6) Goten and Trunks are adorable

7) Something interesting came out about Goku. He was disappointed by getting the God power, because he had to rely on friends to reach that level. But he fights along his friends all the time. He’s so driven that he doesn’t even want help. Again, not virtuous.

8) Beerus is pretty cool.

9) I like that Goku actually lost, but he impressed Beerus enough that he spared the Earth. He won by losing.

10) Gohan’s unborn child was able to add his chi to the god circle. Apparently, Saiyin life begins at conception.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist). Song of Simon currently has a 4.7/5.0 rating on Amazon, so it’s pretty damn good. If you’re looking for something FREE, you can read my serial (soon to be an expanded series of novels) The Watchmage of Old New York. Though it ended in February, 2014, it remains one of the most popular serials on JukePop OF ALL TIME!