Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Long & Short of the NY Comiccon by Earl B Morris

I recently was an honored guest journalist at the NY Comiccon in NY (or New York to those in the know - also sometimes referred to as The Apple, or simply Appletown, by the Greeks and Armenians that frequent the food stalls and houses of ill-repute in nearby New Jersey).

A convention of the unconventional - comic collectors, cosplayers (people who dress as super-heroes or fruit), artists, writers, inkers, one letterer, filmmakers, actors, publishers, etc - The NY Comiccon was a colorful and interesting diversion from my current project, a delightful musical adaptation of Sophie's Choice to be produced at the Murlfeesboro, Tennessee Jazz players.

I also had the opportunity to meet two of the people on the staff at BBT Magazine with whom I had previously communicated only via the World Wide Internet (which I access on my compumax by mashing the buttons labeled with three W's, and waiting for my processing unit to begin screaming and making puffing sounds to another compumax which screams and puffs as well, at which point I know I'm connected), Lucien Spelman & Kennedy Smith. Both were delightful in "real life," and Lucien seemed clean and articulate. Kennedy I'm sure is a nice man outside of the stress of a comic book convention.

We were sitting at the bar high above the throng, peering down at the conventioneers when Kennedy began slurring remarks to female passersby, many of whom were costumed or in desperate need of a tan. In order to avoid the impending confrontation with a rather menacing looking version of Ms. Marvel, we made our way through the crowd to begin collecting interviews and/or hair samples.

Frankly I am a little behind the times, and haven't seen a film since 1965, and while I like funny books, once the cover price exceeded 20 cents I was forced to leave off the reading of those by my great aunt. With those things under consideration, I parted ways with Lucien & Kennedy, leaving them to do the majority of the interviews.

I wandered for awhile, sipping at a pineapple colada (which I'm certain did not have real pineapple juice in it and for some reason was made with red wine), and just as I was about to leave for the water closet, I spotted a small crowd around one of the tables at the far end of the room. As I got closer, I noticed a small fellow with dark skin, who at first glance appeared to be a child but on later inspection was revealed to be a very short man. A small notice in front of him declared him to be Gary Coleman, an actor, and I presumed super-hero funny book collector.

The small crowd left, and he resumed eating his salad. I fumbled with my recorder, and after changing reels (Kennedy had earlier been singing racy limericks at the top of his voice, and demanded I record him), I made my way over:

"How long will it take you to rid the world of evil?" I asked.
He begins to laugh, a delightful churlish sound, and clearing his eyes he said,"I don't know, a few lifetimes maybe,"
"Are you off to a good start?" I asked. I seemed to be picking up this journalist thing quite handily.
"No. I have not killed my quota yet this year," he said, still grinning.
The grin threw me for a moment. There was a slight menace to it, as though there were more to this man then there seemed. At a loss, but not wanting to waste the opportunity for further dialog, I scanned around the room for inspiration. I noticed a young man with a t-shirt bearing the word "fanboy" scrawled across his chest. Unable to think of anything better to say, I blurted out "Are you a fanboy?"
"Ahhh," he says, and raises his finger to his lips in a rather dynamic gesture. "What's a fanboy?"
"I believe it's someone who likes comic books." I said, a little unsure.
"I used to like Robotech" he said.
"Very good," I say, happy to be off the hook.
His smile fades a little, and we both falter for a moment. The uncomfortable moment of silence is broken by a man in his thirties who begins to pick through a small pile of autographed photos on the table. He chooses a seemingly odd image - in it are two black children, (One of them Mr. Coleman, the small fellow I'm speaking with), a pretty freckled girl, and an older white gentleman. Mr. Coleman is sitting on his knee, offering a sideways glance to the camera. The title below declares it to be a photo from The Different Strokes, an offputting title to be sure. Money is exchanged, a handshake offered across the table, and the man leaves poking his new photo into a plastic bag with a picture of a Japanese schoolgirl sitting atop a police car, and smoking a cigar in bold colors on either side.
Mr. Coleman turns back to me, expectant.
I'm at a loss for words for a moment, then:
"Anything new coming up?"
"Not really, no," he says, but I'll probably be at an upcoming... uh"
"Comic-book convention?" I offered.

I shook his hand and make my way back to the bar, hoping to find out from either Lucien or Kennedy the nature of the celebrity I had been speaking with, when I was struck by the fact that they seemed to be lining up the guests in this room by height, for a giant of a man with a long head of curly hair was at the far end of the wall from where the small dark fellow was sitting. I was also struck by the fact that he was reading the latest copy of our new publishing endeavor, BBT Magazine, and he seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.

I snapped a photo for reference, and later on that evening I showed it to Lucien & Kennedy. Kennedy spat a series of impolite euphemisms at me, and said it was a man named Peter Mayhew, and told me he had played a gorilla or something in The Star Wars, a 30 year old space film. I left to let the two of them sober up a bit, as they were clearly upset about something. I looked him up on the Interweb, but all I could find was this page: www.petermayhew.com with you may also find by typing into your googlemax and mashing the buttons on your mice. Please be sure you wait for the computers to begin screaming at one another, however, to ensure connection.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Dissertation on Alan Moore

I realize I just posted, but I wanted to babble about something else. Pull up a chair. Let's talk about Alan Moore.

Recently, I've had an interesting and useful discussion about Alan Moore, and whether or not he's a literary genius (or just a comic book genius). I maintain that while his work can be thick, and sometimes difficult to get into, it's solid work that tells powerful stories, and that it should hardly be altered.

I think "dumbing down" Alan Moore would work about as well as those lousy "easy reader's versions" of people like Herman Melville and Victor Hugo. In other words, you've gutted it and then handed the carcass to people and expected them to appreciate it.

Personally, I don't have a problem when Hollywood "adapts" or makes over something. When I dislike a comic book based movie, people (friends and family included) always assume it's because I'm familiar with the original comic and it wasn't like that.

The thing is, I thus far have been familiar with the original material for most of the comic book movies, but that doesn't hold me back. Batman Begins, for example, wandered way away from most of the comics and I enjoyed it immensely, because it was well acted, well written, and it took itself seriously.

That's all I need. I don't care if its entirely faithful.

With Alan Moore's work, I go back and forth. I respect that he had his name taken off the film credits and had his share of the money split between the other co-creators. I was less than thrilled about the huge media stink that was made about it (none of which came from Alan himself, who is a quiet and sweet man). Alan Moore snubs Hollywood, hates Constantine! garbage like that.

I did not like LXG, because it was shallow and it acted silly. I disliked it for the same reason that I disliked the new Star Wars movies. I expected it to be changed and adapted, but not turned into a "teen titans, but with really old characters from books" sort of movie.

Inversely, I enjoyed V for Vendetta very much, even though it was written by the Wachowski Brothers, who have a less than sterling reputation for being able to write (Matrix 1: Good. Matrix 2, 3: Not so much.) I thought it was well done, powerfully acted and written, and gave me brilliant and moving performances by Natalie Portman, and Stephen Fry (he made me happy; he broke my heart).

From Hell was less than perfect. It had good moments, the ending not among them.

I enjoyed Constantine, though it had none of the depths or character that the comics had. It wasn't bad. It wasn't great either.

The nice thing about movies is, if the movie is good then it helps the book. If the movie sucks, then the book is untouched and unaffected.

Things like Watchman and Promethea would be nearly unfilmable, I think. I have no idea how you'd adapt them into movie form. His newest work, Lost Girls would be perfectly filmable, but would probably only show on Cinemax after midnight, when they show cheap softcore porn. (Although even then, it would be the most intelligent softcore porn movie ever made.)

There. Some chatter about Alan Moore. Go read his stuff, honestly. You'll enjoy it more than listening to me go on about it.

*PS: That picture up above is Alan Moore, big as a bear, standing beside the small, wonderful Jack Kirby. A picture like that is priceless.

Friday, February 23, 2007

An Interview With Kevin Smith and Ben Affleck (posters)

On Behalf of the BBT Blog I recently sat down to tape a short, unfiltered and uncensored Q&A session with famed director Kevin Smith and even more famed actor Ben Affleck. Unfortunately their publicists refused to answer my calls and emails so I conducted my interview with two posters hanging in my living room.

BBTBlog: I'm here with Kevin Smith and Ben Affleck today and it really is a pleasure to spend some time with you. I'm sure all of our readers are looking forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas. Let's get started, shall we?

Kevin and Ben:

BBTBLog: Yes, so let's begin. Kevin, my first question is for you. You've made many successful movies, you own your own comic book store, you've written your own comics and even published a book of essays. What's the creative force that drives you?


BBTBlog: Er. Ben, you're up next! You've have some scary career moments but we've all been pulling for you! Sort of a career Armageddon! (Laughs). You've recently redeemed yourself with your role in Hollywoodland. what's coming up next in your career?


BBTBlog: You know guys, I've seen both of you interviewed before and I know you're capable of being relevant and funny. Are you having an off day? Do you (coughs) do you think you could, you know, ramp it up a little? (Pause). If not for me, for the fans?

Kevin and Ben:

BBTBlog: Oh. I get it! This is like a Silent Bob thing right? Except you're both being Silent Bob. (Pause.) The Silent Bobs. Hah! That sounds like a punk band!

Kevin and Ben:

BBTBlog: Ah. Really, this is a bit embarrassing, like Prince on American Bandstand. That whole silence thing. Er... um. Are you both going to be working on project together in the near future? A simple nod or some sort of hand gesture will suffice.

Kevin and Ben:

BBTBlog: Yes. Care to elaborate? (Whispered) you sick bastards.

Kevin and Ben:

BBTBlog: (Whispers) Look, I've been authorized to give each of you a year free subscription to BBT. Just answer the questions and it's yours.

Kevin and Ben:

BBTBlog: (Sounds of hands muffling the mike). (Whispered). . . .friggin stop it! Is this how you treat all your interviewers? Christ, you come all this way just to give me the silent treatment? What's up with that? Do you hate Speculative Fiction? Is that it? Are you both SciFi haters? C'mon admit it, you guys can't take the heat. Harlan Ellison too good for you? I'll bet neither of you could ever even come close to playing Spock. Huh? Huh!

Kevin and Ben:

BBTBlog: That's it. I'm (Muffled) off! Come on. Outside! You and me Silent Bob and friggin, friggin boy acting, Matt Damon toting friggin, Ben Gigli Affleck. What's the matter, can't get off the wall? huh? Well here, Let. Me. Help. You! (Sounds of tearing). Nobody gives ME the silent treatment! (Sounds of a scuffle.) I'm an artist too dammit. Not even a gift bag from your publicist you cheap, two dimensional bastards! (Pause. Sound of heavy breathing punctuated by hysterical laughter). I can't take this crap anymore. Sheenah? Sheenah! Where's my loincloth? Grab a fifth of Jack and come with me, We're going to Disney Land! Whoo! Yeah Baby! Whoo! (Tape Stops.)

Editors Note: This article was filed from a bus stop in Guadalajara Mexico several days ago. If anyone knows the current whereabouts of the author, please let us know immediately.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

An Appreciation of Zombies

So, the other night, I have a bunch of work to do on the computer. I have short stories to write, and web-sites to tidy up, and witty comments to post. All those difficult things to do. But before I do that, I flip on the TV for thirty seconds to see what's on.

I see a movie called Undead on. It's an Australian horror film. I'd heard good things, so I gave it a moment of my time.

I didn't surface again until it had finished.

This brought to the forefront of my mind one of those interesting details that I knew, deep down, but hadn't been consciously aware of until after I saw that (really, really brilliant) movie. I love zombie movies.

I adore them. It's weird, because I really don't like horror films all that much. People made fun of it (and me) but The Grudge scared my wife and I very, very badly and thoroughly screwed up our lives for a month. For one thing, we wouldn't park the car in the garage, because it's dark and shadowy. I did my writing in the early morning hours instead of late at night. I was frightened of hallways. The Grudge tapped the primordial fears that I had as a child. It made manifest all the images that I had as a child when I gave voice to my fears. After that, I haven't really ventured to horror films, even just splatterflicks. No thanks.

But I gobbled up Evil Dead a month or so ago for the first time. Then I devoured George Romero's movies (to which I am a latecomer, having recently discovered them) and I delighted in Undead. My favorite Stephen King book in a long time is Cell and just tonight I watched Evil Dead 2 and enjoyed it more than many high-budget movies I've seen recently.

You're sitting there going "Gosh, he loves zombies, welcome to the friggin' club, here's a t-shirt," and you're probably right. I'm not exactly the first person on this wagon.

I've always liked the concept of a post-apocalyptic world. I just think it's fun. When I was ten or so, I used to wander around the small town I lived in at the time on a quiet day, and I'd imagine that the reason I wasn't seeing anyone was because there weren't any people. And I used to work out what I'd do if I were the only one left. What houses I would go into, how I would get in, what I would use, would I carry a gun? (yes; a pistol, but I would mostly carry a couple of knives, less clumsy I decided).

It wouldn't matter that I was ten and couldn't drive yet. I would get some keys and drive anyway (and could I get the keys if they were on a dead body?)

Incidentally, these may sound like horrible things for a ten year old to be thinking of, but really it was in good fun. And I think it was my writerly brain turning over and over. At the age of ten, I'd already been writing stories for two years. I was getting the hang of it.

Zombies were a logical progression of that. Not only would I have to survive (heroically, as only a 10 year old can) but I would have to dodge these brain-eating shambling creatures. I'd have to make a fortress for myself, an impenetrable place where I could survive. Making fortresses was another interest of mine.

Zombies are, like Ninjas and Nazi's, instant story gold. Any story is made better by the inclusion of any one of those three things. To include all three would be best, of course. Many's the sad, sappy touching romance movie where I'm sitting in the chair with my leg falling asleep, envisioning zombies shambling out of the walls.

Steel Magnolias
for example.

Gobble gobble.


And that is my appreciation of Zombies. Go watch a zombie movie. We should have an Official Zombie Appreciation Day. It's the right thing to do. The day we honor that we still have our brains inside our heads. I move that February 23rd henceforth be Zombie Day. I think that's important for us as a world community.

I leave you with this important song, the Anthem for our new holiday.

Shamble on, my brothers. Ramble tamble shamble.

Monday, February 19, 2007

What the World Needs Now

It’s 2007, and I’m certain that I’m not alone when I say that so far, the twenty-first century is, well, lacking in technological wonder. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on about the jetpack and the flying car, because I know that the problem with these overdue wonders of science isn’t the technology, it’s the people who would use it. The problem isn’t making cars that can fly, it’s keeping flying commuters from crashing into your house at 600 miles per hour every time their cell phone rings. That’s a serious operational issue and the folks who are working on the jetpack and the flying car should take all the time they need to figure that stuff out.

No, the missing technologies I’ll talk about are not absent due to a lack of safety measures or even a lack of know-how: it’s simply a lack of vision, a failure of the part of the larger manufacturers to grasp exactly what would make out modern world more livable, and in that, more modern.

1. A Punchable Internet. I admit freely that the single most profound difference between our so-called enlightened age and the fire-lit past is the internet. The internet is awesome, beyond awesome, it is, to put it in the terms the kids use today, the bomb. But that said, the internet doesn’t always work. Sometimes it wholly fails to bring you what you want. Other times it just sits there, hung up on this or that. And there are those other moments, more common by the minute, where some malicious person somewhere seizes the internet and turns it against us, via worms, viruses and spam. It’s at these times that the only real response left to us is to beat the hell out of the internet for letting us down yet again, but right now, this isn’t possible. Sure, you can punch your monitor, but this makes about as much sense as assaulting your postman for bringing you your tax forms. It’s the internet that’s to blame, and the internet that should be punched, but sadly, this just isn’t possible, and since there no way that all those other problems are going to go away anytime soon, whoever makes the internet should get to work right away on a version we can beat the crap out of when it screws up.

Oh, and I know some of you already ‘punch’ or ‘slap’ or ‘pound’ or ‘beat’ near the internet, but that’s not what I’m talking about and you should be ashamed for bringing it up.

2. A Single-View FBI Anti-Copyright Warning. This is such a no-brainer. Instead of every DVD manufacturer having to put the same damn FBI/Interpol warning at the start of every program, we work out a system where viewers view the thing once, sign a form, and that’s it. We never need to see it again. Or, if the manufacturers are that worried about it, we could renew the signature along with our driver’s licenses.

This won’t stop people from making illegal copies, but the current warnings don’t either, so why not just make it easier on ourselves?

3. The Velociraptor Button. This would be a feature on your cable remote. We’ve had CGI dinosaurs since Jurassic Park was in theatrical release, and television is becoming more and more digital by the day, but so far, there’s no way for we, the viewers, to inject our own CGI choices onto what we are viewing. The velociraptor button would be the solution to this. Just press the button and several velociraptors leap into the action from off-screen, attacking whatever characters happen to be doing whatever they are doing in whatever you were watching. If some of the characters survive, the rest of the show becomes man-vs.-raptor adventure, and if all the people die horrible, messy deaths, the boring movie or show we were watching becomes a documentary where we follow the raptors around and see what they make of their new environment. It’s wonderful television and I can’t think of a program that wouldn’t be improved by it.

‘The Painted Veil’ not doing it for you? Need to spice up a ‘Night Court’ marathon? Still too much Jar Jar in that latest fan-edit of ‘Phantom Menace?’ One press of the velociraptor button and all your worries are over.

Oh, and I know when I say ‘velociraptor’, I really mean utahraptor or deinonychus but you’ve got to stick with the popular brand.

4. Someone Owes Me A Living: Let me see if I understand this correctly: It’s the 21st century, and five days a week I need to get up in the morning and go to work all day for some other person who will give me ‘money’ so I can ‘buy’ ‘things?’ What is this, the feakin’ middle ages?

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Global Threat to the Human Race

I'll be taking a break from my normally flip column to address a serious issue which I feel is gaining too little attention. There is a serious and growing threat, not just here in the United States but throughout the world. Cover ups have been manufactured. Lies have been told. Silence money spent and cheek rubs administered but I can hold my tongue no longer.

Cats have launched a plan for world domination.

That's right, they may look cuddly and attractive rolling about on the floor with a ball of string or dismembering a songbird but do not be fooled by their outwardly cute demeanor. Felines have already infiltrated such hallowed halls as the White House, the NRA headquarters and (here is where I truly fear) almost every used bookstore in America! While I urge you not to panic and take to the streets you must be made aware of this growing threat.

I speak from experience, having come to some sort of accord with three cats who have taken up residence in my home. Fighter, Bighter and Infinite-Hatred-Of-All-Humankind have lived with me and my family for almost eight years now. Throughout that trying time I have been secretly keeping a journal, scrupulously noting what we have to fear and where we may find as our salvation. I have put all of my anthropological training into this short manifesto. What follows is humanity's guide to surviving the feline invasion. Print this document and store a copy in a locked, fireproof safe. The time is coming my friends when this document could stand between freedom and the litter box for all humanity.

What we have going for us.

Cats have no opposable thumbs. While this may seem like a small victory, it actually plays nicely into our hands. Many of our tools of war are (for the time at least) still geared towards those of us with opposable digits. Guns, can openers, airplanes. All of these things require opposable thumbs. Don't let this ease your fears however! Many a night I have quietly crawled out of bed only to see my cats huddled around the can opener, an unopened can of tuna nearby. One day they will overcome this obstacle and then we will know fear. Soon there will be a time when tiny, no thumbs required firearms will make an appearance, mark my words.

Cats are easily distracted by fish. Indeed, a quick can of tuna could be the only thing standing between us and slavery to a master feline race. I would recommend that every citizen of the world keep with them at least two unopened cans of tuna and a manual can opener at all times. When you catch your cats pawing through your purse or wallet looking for your social security check (not if my friends, but when) you have just ten to fifteen seconds to open your tuna. Failure to distract your cats could mean a substantial portion of your income will suddenly be spent on jingly balls, dried herbs and carpeted poles. It is all part of their insidious plan.

Cats get hairballs. While this may seem like a minor distraction to our cats and a major obstacle to our carpets, the hairball can be a valuable tool in the fight against the feline overlords. Hairballs can serve three valuable purposes. They can be used to locate the ever stealthy cat, they can be used to momentarily distract the felines and they can be used to stop an attacking horde of enraged cats. Hairballs are our friends. Beware though! The cats have caught on and have recently begun releasing various anti-hairball products through almost all of our major retail outlets.

Cats have a serious aversion to water. Like a bad plot device in an overly produced science fiction film, cats hate water. While this may not be true for all cats, most of them suffer from this weakness. Seventy percent of our planets surface is covered in water, perhaps more if Al Gore has his way. Surely this can be used to our advantage! I foresee vast armadas of ships, veritable floating cities as possibly the last vestiges of human freedom. Remember, keep your showers running at all times and a squirt gun by your side.

Cats have a brain the size of a walnut. They have yet to be able to cram any more gray matter into their evil little heads and we must use this to our advantage. They can only use the tools that we manufacture and give them access too. You must immediately restrict your cat's use of the Internet and any form of driving or flight simulator!

Our advantages are few when we realize what we must overcome. Here is my list of the most immediate threats to our freedom.

Feline Physics. Over the past millennium cats have devised their own form of physics that operate within our Universe but apart from our so called physical laws. Feline physics allow the cat to manipulate the natural world on an order of magnitude greater than anything humanity has been able to accomplish. Cats can manipulate time and space to their advantage! In brief here are the tenants of feline physics.
1.If there is a door and a cat, the cat is always on the wrong side of the door. If the cat is inside, it should be outside. The inverse is also true. They use this ability to come and go as they will.
2.If there are more than three cats present then in reality there are always n+1 cats. This is how they appear to be in two places at once. You may actually see all three cats but rest assured there is another rifling through your tax records.
3.Cats need not travel the intervening space to get from point A to point B. In certain circumstances (largely involving twine or fish from what I can glean) cats may create a form of wormhole.

When put to use these Feline Physics make no place safe, for any space may contain a cat, or the possibility of a cat. Oh Schroedinger, what have ye wrought!

Cats are in league with Space Aliens. While I'll admit that conclusive evidence in this area may be lacking a bit, circumstantial evidence will bear me out. Cats always attempt to go out at night. The majority of alien abductions are reported take place at night. A follows B and we can deduce that cats are in league with the aliens. I believe that they are contacting their alien cohorts at night while being implanted with some sort of listening or scanning device. They they spend their days near their 'masters' doing unobtrusive things like 'sleeping'. 'Seriously'.

My attempts to create an articulated tin foil body suite for my cats have all failed and generally result in great bleeding on my part.

Cats are a lot cuter than sharks or slugs. They use this in their favor. Sharks and slugs have been around far longer than cats. Do they rule the world? I think not and the primary reason is that no one wishes to cuddle with them. Cats can get away with a lot and still manage to endear themselves to us humans. Do you think this is an accident? Or all part of their insidious plan?

Cats not only make us feed and water them but they make us clean up their poop. Subservience my friends is one of the keys to their plans. They continue to make us perform humiliating tasks while they insinuate their cute, evil little selves into our lives. Who else would we do this for I ask you? Would I clean up George Bush's poop? Would you? Or is George secretly a cat. . . that may be fodder for another article and requires further pondering.

Don't just take my word for this. Listen to the mass media! The warning signs are everywhere and those of us who can read them are attempting to get the word out. Even Bob Barker has seen the light and has been preaching sterilization of the feline race for years! Now he is being silenced with his so called retirement. Is that too high a price for our freedom? What price is too high? No price! Our livelihoods, our ability to speak in public, our right to a lint brush and a two pound steak, all of this is threatened! The price is not right my friends, submission to our cats is the road to slavery under a master feline race. The price is not right!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Snapshot of the Future

by James Palmer, freelance instigator

Dateline: Sometime In The Not Too Distant Future--Kenneth Foals walked into his local megabookstore and headed for the science fiction section to see what was new. To his surprise, he saw that it had suddenly gotten bigger!

"Wow," he said. "The SF section has suddenly gotten bigger! What gives?"

Upon further inspection, Kenneth discovered that the fantasy novels had been separated from the science fiction titles, and had their own section near the rear of the store, between the restrooms, the table piled high with discounted hentai manga books, and the media tie-ins. "This is great!" Kenneth said, eagerly scanning titles. He hadn't felt this overjoyed since discovering some knowledgable bookstore employee had placed Kurt Vonnegut's novel Timequake in the SF section. No more scanning through endless Piers Anthony Xanth books to get to the Asimovs. No more endless fantasy series taking up shelf space in place of more deserving literature. This was freaking perfect!

But then he noticed something. The books weren't actually books. They were cardboard boxes with the books' covers on them. Something was definitely rotten in Barnes & Borders a Million. "What is this?" he yelled.

He had gotten pretty loud, because the guy behind the pastry counter heard him over the capuchino machine and called the manager.

"May I help you?" said a teenaged girl in horn-rimmed glasses and a blue apron.

"Um, yes. Where did all the books go?"

She gave Kenneth a smile that said she was tired of explaining this to every jackanape who stumbled in from off the street just to get a fist-sized muffin and a cup of joe, and explained.

"We're print on demand now. We can print our most popular titles here, bind them and give them to you right now, at the same cost as a regular printed book.

"Wow!" said Kenneth. "Cool."

"And," the employee went on, "if you don't find the title you're looking for here, we can pull it up on our database and print it for you."

"That's wonderful!" said Kenneth, his eyes bulging from their sockets with the sheer possibilities that lay before him.

"Got any Harlan Ellison?"

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

So anyways... Violent Hamburgers by Lucien Spelman

1. The word "anyways," which is not really a word at all but a colloquialism, is one of the options that comes up in the new Firefox integrated spell checker. In other words, if I type anyways but really mean anyway, the damn spell checker won't highlight it for me, and me, the big time editor, will happily send a business letter off into the cyber-ether that makes me look like a dildo. Now, believe it or not dildo was just highlighted, so apparently Firefox doesn't think dildo is a word. I didn't have any problem finding it in my Mirriam-Webster Online:

Main Entry: dil·do
Pronunciation: 'dil-(")dO
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural dildos also dildoes
Etymology: origin unknown
: an object resembling a penis used for sexual stimulation

Perhaps your wondering why a big time editor might need an integrated spell checker anyways, to which I say, mind your own business.

2. The world is going to hell in a handbasket.
Today I saw a Wendy's commercial that used the song Blister In The Sun by The Violent Femmes.
It's just wrong on so many levels...
The Violent Femmes selling hamburgers...

When I'm out walking
I strut my stuff
yeah I'm so strung out.
I'm high as a kite
I just might
stop to check you out.

Hamburgers... Sure. That makes sense.

Body and beats
I stain my sheets
I don't even know why.

Hamburgers... Yeah. I get it.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


With the Super Bowl over and all the fanfare that comes with it dying down (or in Patriots country, already dead) I'd like to take this time to talk about professional sports. Something that's near and dear to lots of people, except me.

I've never been a big sports fan, particularly at the professional level. I've honestly just never seen the point. Fans get fanatical and do things like statistical analysis and dress up to keep track of their favorite teams. I just do not understand it.

Sports in general I get. There were times when I was an avid Frisbee player, a collegiate fencer, a 5-days-a-week weight lifter and a paint ball fiend. I get exerting your body in a quest to be better than you were before. I get competition. But I don't get many of the current popular sports and why people are paid millions upon millions of dollars to participate in them. Would I take a six million dollar deal to play on the Patriots? Yes sir, in a heartbeat. I'd take my money, do my best and go away after my contract scratching my head and wondering why anyone would want to give me that much money to chase a ball in tight pants.

There are a lot of potential debates in this essay and probably some hate mail but I'd like to skip all of that and move directly to my take on the current popular sports and what perhaps could make them more interesting. It shall go without saying (after I say it at least once of course) that I don't believe anyone should be paid massive amounts of money to play a game – be it football or HALO 2.

Football. This to me has always been a game that's loosely based on hunting pigs. You got this slippery ball that two groups of men are clambering after, just to get the honor of bringing it home. I expect there's a lot less ass-slapping and a lot more goring in real pig hunting than in football but honestly I've not done either myself. It certainly would be a lot more interesting to me if there was a live boar with seven inch tusks and a demonic hatred of all Mankind facing off against twenty guys with spears and loose bowels. Somehow I don't think that will happen any time soon.

I'd also find myself feeling sorry for the pig who never signed on for the gig and who wouldn't get a paycheck at all. What would really make football more interesting to me would be a no salary rule. Players could play for the money they'd make in endorsements and from fan donations. Then we'd have a game worth watching and players who cared about their fans.

Cricket. I don't know what the hell is going on here. This is the only professional sport I've ever witnessed that features snacks. It reminds me of playing soccer as an 11 year old and getting into the sliced oranges at halftime or half-game or whatever the hell it was. I don't even pretend to understand cricket but I will admit to a certain joy in watching it. I can pull in three of the most rabid football fans and watch as they scratch their heads for a change and wait for someone to hit someone else with that big stick.

Basketball. Okay, here's a sport that I do admit to a certain joy in watching. It's an elegant game of catch the ball and put it somewhere. But it's still a bunch of people, tall people mostly, chasing after a ball. I think this game would be a lot more interesting if the shot clock was reduced to say 12 seconds and the ball was set to explode on second 13. Not a bomb type explosion but more of an exploding cigar explosion. Just enough to make a grown man scream like a little girl and go running in the other direction for three or four steps before recovering his composure. That and widen the courts by about a hundred yards. Throwing some zero G in there would be nice or is that just my geek showing through.

Wrestling. I've seen real, Greco-Roman wrestling and this is something that for once doesn't involve balls. It's got two people trying their best to subdue each other. It's a test of strength, speed and endurance. Unfortunately this isn't what I'd call a popularly televised sport. Now WWF wrestling on the other hand, I just lump this under theater and move on.

Any Martial Art. Martial arts are for me a thing apart from other sports. There's just something about driving your body well past what many people would think of as good conditioning into doing things that most people would consider plain, flat out impossible. These folks have their bodies trained to the point where they do most of their thinking about 2.7 seconds after the fight is over. BAM! Tut... tut... say, did that gentleman just swing at me? Need a hand up mate?

Having fenced for a year I can say that nothing I've ever done compares to having your body react as a machine. Your eyes see something, it goes straight to the motor part of your brain, bypassing the consciousness completely and then to the bit of your body trained to do something. It's a true joy to experience and can be dead boring to watch. Watching a fencing match is like watching two people simper up to each other, make whooshing noises while blurring their hands in frenzied motion and then suddenly standing still and glancing about. Other martial arts are a bit more fun to watch when people get thrown about or do dangerous moves with extremely pointy things. Alas, I don't think this will ever catch on as a mainstream sport, unless someone introduces some balls that the opponents have to catch first before beating the crap out of each other.

Baseball. This is like a rational version of cricket. It's so rational that most of it involves sitting on a bench or standing around waiting for someone to do something with a ball. There are bursts of action followed by more sitting and standing. This goes on for a few hours and then the team who runs fastest and hits balls furthest wins. It is my heartfelt belief that one minor change would make this game infinitely more interesting to watch and to play. Simply place large numbers on the bases, 1-4 and then rearrange them before each at-bat in a random order. Watching players scramble about trying to find out where the hell third base got to would be wicked.

Hockey. Take the ball and flatten it, take the bats and flatten them, then take the noses of players and flatten them. Throw the whole mix on a near frictionless surface and mix liberally with some non-denominational martial arts and that to me is hockey. What would make this sport better? I've got two simple suggestions. The first would be to remove the skates and replace the ice with about three inches of clear, lime flavored Jello. That would add a certain element to the game, as well as providing for a snack a la cricket. Another suggestion would be to keep the ice, but require that any player take 3-4 shots of either vodka, tequila or blended whiskey before they hit the ice. Each time they entered the penalty box they'd also have to chug a beer.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

An Open Letter To William Katt By Earl B Morris

Hello William, if that's your real name, which I doubt, because you haven't been honest about anything so far,

Why have you abandoned us? We here at The Greatest American Fan Club still hold weekly meetings, where we dance and sing and reminisce, and yes, sometimes shed a tear or two. But you seem to have moved on with your life as though nothing happened, and have thrown your fans to the wolves, like discarded fruit or grapes.

Sure our costumes are a little older and a little tighter in some uncomfortable places, but are we not the same tried and true Kattillacs that used to send you letters that smelled like after-shave and butter? If you bleed us do we not prick?

I know you probably spend all your time hanging out at The Brown Derby with your snooty friends, Robert Culp & Connie Sellecca, and don't have time for the "little guys" (and one "girl") in your life, but how about an acknowledgment at least, of your fans?

How about a note, or some hair? A tissue?

Something to at least let us know that we aren't (excuse my French) "Throwing screwy pills in the bathtub"?

Sometimes I feel like you might not be the Greatest American Hero, and guess what William, suddenly I'm not on top of the world, suddenly I'm at the very bottom of the world.

And I'm missing you, William.

I mean we're missing you.

Yours for ever and ever, until seas run dry and mountains turn into sand,

Earl B. Morris.

P.S, We have moved meetings to Thursday because my great aunt has therapy on her quiet places on Tuesdays, and because Leslie can come on either day. If your planning to surprise us or anything, come on Thursday.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

We interrupt this blog for an important blog.

The fine folks at Pandemonium Books & Games here in Boston (Cambridge actually, rah Havahd!) are in a bit of a pickle, so it's time for our Geek Powers to activate to do some good. They explain it very well here, but in short they have been a gathering place for writers, gamers, and Geeks of all kinds for the past 17 years, and are now paying the price for their generosity of nature.

The owner, Tyler Stewart, has hosted gaming nights free of charge in his comfortable gaming room downstairs, and held readings from up and coming (and some very well known) sci-fi/fantasy/horror authors for many years. He's also been one of the biggest proponents of independent magazine (BBT Magazine for instance), and book publishers in the area.

All he's asking to stay out of the dumps and keep giving geeks a place to hide from the real world is to sell 1000 t-shirts. We here at BBT are going to donate a design for him, and we have some great designs around the corner.

So why don't you stop by and buy a geeky t-shirt from a fellow who's done so much for like minded people, and if you have a real heart, mention this on your on website or blog.

There's more about Pandemonium here.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Learning, importance of.

Mein gott, he talks about writing for the first time in a very long time!

Yes, he does.

I have, for the past couple of weeks, been writing the first batch of episodes that will make up a serial story (I am loathe to use the word 'novel,' because it's going to be as long as three or four novels, at this rate). This is the first time I've written anything seriously and continuously in serial form in five years, closer to six.

What that means is, mostly at first, you're writing the first episode very delicately, because you're scared that whatever you were able to do before, you can't do any longer. Mostly, what I was painfully aware of during those first tricky few pages was that I am now a very different (and, I like to think, better) writer than I was six years ago. Of course that's a good thing, but it has occurred to me that it was easier to write serials six years ago, when there were very few complicated thoughts about writing in my head.

The nice thing about serials is, you have a limited amount of room for self-doubt and worry, not because there isn't space in your head, but because there isn't space in your schedule. If you're racing deadlines -- or, more importantly, trying not to let your audience down -- then at some point you have to just knuckle down and get on with it.

I've written close to sixty thousand words in two weeks. I'm really proud of that. I'm prouder still of what I've learned from it.

The thing that's important, and condusive, toward fast writing is first and foremost, that you do not try to make friends with what you're writing. What I've learned is that it's less important for me to personally be excited, or even interested, in sitting down and working on the story. The important bit is to be able to sit down in cold blood or not and put words on the page that I believe are good words, that are interesting and enjoyable. Not that I enjoy them. That someone else might.

It's important that you just get on with it. I'm probably repeating myself, and forgive me if I am, but I'm having a harder time properly articulating what I've figured out than I thought I would.

It'll be three in the morning and I'll be dead tired and absolutely not want to write, but I write anyway. Once I have the storyline in my head, I just write it down. It leaves emotional connections to the writing out of the picture, andI like that.

It's not writing in cold blood. It's not writing in the heat of passion, either. It's just sitting down, and it's just writing. I think "Just" writing is more important than anything else. I really do.

You'll pardon me if that's the extent of my post tonight. I still have a fair bit of "just" writing to do, and I intend to make that "just" deadline of mine. So I'm off to burn the midnight wossname.

My next post, we shall discuss and think about the wonderful world of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and the First Amendment Project, and I shall tell you horrible things that will make you want to go support both organizations, and then I shall love you forever.

(www.cbldf.org - Why not go have a look?)

Good night. Take care.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

While the SuperBowl is on

Pssst! Hey! While the others are all off watching that football thingie! Help! Someone let me out of here! Look, they're all busy, they won't notice. I've been locked in the basement of BBT Headquarters for two years now, toiling away fruitlessly! They don't feed me very well. It's all just old sushi and cold tea. Sometimes they hit me with sticks and laugh. Sometimes they make me read submissions!

They won't hear you. They're all watching the Mighty Ducks, or whatever, score a home run against the Orioles or something, and then it'll be the end of the fifth quarter and they'll have to stop and give the goalies and the horses a rest, and if we wait until THEN, then Lucien or the others might come down here to stretch and duct tape my mouth shut again. Come on before the Umpire announces who got KO'd this time in the left ice rink!

Quick, before they come back, or Prince-Not-A-Symbol is done with the Halftime Show or something, quickly! I've been rubbing these ankle chains against the concrete walls for a year now, and I think I've worn 'em down a little. They feel thinner. Just go get a saw or something, I can be out of here and no one will know it's you.

Hey! Hey! Wait, come back! Please! Don't leave me here! They'll make me blog on the 6th! Don't leave me alone in the dark with the voices! Hey! Don'tslamthedoor....!

Damn it. So close...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

On Fiction, Computers and the Construction of a Geek

When I was ten years old I had a nasty case of bronchitis. Staying home for several days from school I became extremely board with television and in all likelihood a royal pain in my mother's ass. In part out of curiosity with what I'd do with it and in part out of desperation to get me out of her hair she planted me firmly on the couch and place a copy of The Hobbit in my hands.

Ten is a tender age where reality is starting to creep into play and the magic of the world starts swirling around the bath drain of life. Unfortunately most of my metaphors went down there too. When my mom gave me the book she told me that it's a great story written by an Oxford Professor. Somewhere on the vague edges of my consciousness I knew Oxford was in England, it was old and it was prestigious. Strong stuff.

I devoured that book in two days and my view of the world changed forever. If some guy from Oxford (don't worry, later in my life I learned a lot more about Tolkien and respect him as a linguist, medievalist and all around father of modern fantasy) could take this stuff seriously then why couldn't I? I wasn't quite sure what to make of it but I wanted to get me some more hobbits. The Lord of the Rings trilogy would have to wait until my early teens though as it was a bit too dense for me when I was ten.

At about that same time I hove myself down the street to a yard sale where some poor kid's mother was selling all of his Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books. On a whim (and for $0.25 each) I bought the original Players Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual. I devoured those too. My biggest problem was finding someone to play the game with.

Eventually I talked my friend into a few solo adventures, which we had while he was working at his Church rectory answering the door. This not only served as my entry into gaming, but also my entry into priests as my family wasn't at all religious. the gaming was fun and damn those priests could drink.

A year later I was having trouble reading in school. Several teachers thought I was lazy but really who wants to read Judy Bloom when there are frickin hobbits to be looked into and dragons to slay? I think again out of desperation one teacher took my by the hand and deposited me in the library with a copy of a book called Dragonsong by Anne McCaffery in my hands.

I'm not sure but I think my first case of puppy love may have been with Menolly, the put upon young girl/harper from the series.

After this there was no turning back. I started branching out and read through most of the SciFi and Fantasy books in my local library. In the mid 80's right around the time I was heading into high school I came across perhaps one of the most influential works of fiction I've read. Ender's Game.

No, it's not the best book in the world. Yes it's something of a cliché now. Remember though, this was the first year it was published and I was shocked at how clear the characters were. Here were a bunch of kids forced into a situation they didn't necessarily want to be in. They were smart, put upon, bullied and the saved the goddamn world. Hell! I want to save the world! At least, I did at 14. The fact that Card seemed to be writing not just about kids, but too kids and he did it without sounding the least bit condescending, well that really struck a chord with me.

That and I really enjoyed the bits when Ender hacked his desk (computer) and the other subsystems. At about this time I was also making horribly simple, wonderfully awful computer games in Basic on my Atari. Except for the bit about being a genius, saving the world from alien invaders, learning how to lead armies, being in space and having a psychopathic brother I was Ender.

Right there. Thats moment when I finished reading Ender's Game, put the book down in my lap and gazed over at my sad little Atari 800. That's when I turned and strode down the long road to geekdom.

Of course I've flavored it with other stylings as well. I had really long hair and a really loud guitar with which I could play the shit out of an Anthrax song. But then, Anthrax was a comic book loving band. I went to school to learn about the medieval world and how to dig it up but never lost my interest in computers. In the end however it seems that a geek I became at the age of 14 and a geek I shall remain.

And just what is a geek? In my book it's someone who loves to learn, is technically inclined, has multiple interests that span from horizon to horizon, enjoys figuring things out on their own and is willing to admit when they don't have the answer provided that they can then go out and find the answer.

Doesn't sound all bad, does it?

Friday, February 02, 2007

They Are Not Heroes.

Sorry my blog is a day late, but I live in Boston and right now, we are a town under siege.

Now, here’s where I’d like to launch into a carefully crafted absurdity about how the mooninites are a real threat that our bomb squads must meet while burdened in their heaviest kevlar armor, but I can’t quite bring myself to treat the matter with such dignity. However, at the same time, I can’t not write about it—it’s that kind of idiocy.

Beneath all the foolishness there is a genuine threat, and no, I’m not talking about our post-911 culture’s ability to turn a simple prank into a national news item. I’m talking about the incredibly bullshit idiocy of guerrilla marketing in service of international corporations.

Now, I like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and I praise the folks whop created it and made it shine because they are living the dream: they have taken a thing from their imagination, sold it to the world, and now don’t have to go to a design job, or bartend, or temp, or walk dogs, or any of the terrible, terrible things millions other creative people have to do every day to keep their heads above water because so far, no one wants to pay enough for the things we pull out of our imagination.

But the guys who did this little stunt, who conceived, orchestrated, and executed the ‘put dozens of small glowing moonintes all over the city’ are not praiseworthy. They are tools. They are marketing a product owned by Turner Broadcasting in the hopes of increasing awareness of that product so as to make more money for the stockholders. They are taking their own creativity, their own abilities, and whoring them out in the worst possible way: these selfish, shortsighted idiots are selling out, not just themselves, but the language of the disenfranchised, of the genuine artist, of the person with no other outlet but that which they can carve from the resisting world.

Guerrilla marketing used to be just that— guerrilla. It was an attempt by some penniless, powerless person or group to get the word out. It was a rejection of the standard means of publicity, either due to cost considerations or a rejection of the whole idea that self expression should be regulated or cost money. Also, putting small bits of carefully created crap all over town used to sometimes be called something else- not marketing, but art. That’s right, we used to have a thing called guerrilla art, which wasn’t a way to market a thing, but was the thing itself. It was illegal and dangerous and itself a rejection of galleries or publishing and based in a belief that art should be made, seen and shown in the real world where people actually live.

Peter Tork of the Monkees—that’s right, Peter fuckin’ Tork- once said that ‘The hippy culture will never produce anything of lasting significance because once a movement begins to grow it is co-opted by the system.’ That shabby paycheck-cashing pre-fab Paul McCartney was right on because now the biggest companies on the world are hiring reckless young idiots and training their raw creativity, daring and disrespect for society in ways to make those corporations more money.

Yes, the guys picked up for the gag can give their bullshit press statements and flaunt their oh-so non-conformist dreadlocks but they did this not for an idea or a concept or principle, they did it for a product. They did it for a paycheck. Those two fuckers could have made their statement in the gowns of last year’s Oscar winners for best actress and it wouldn’t change the fact that they are just like everyone else: they get up in the morning and go to work on a thing they didn’t create in the service of powerful men. They are in-harness, and their job is to take the canvas of installation artists, graffiti artists, guerilla artists, and make it palatable for Turner Broadcasting. To use public property to promote a movie made by a company that took in billions last year.

Face it: if it had been Exxon or McDonalds or Haliburton instead of Comedy Central, ‘Hip, young Bostonians’ wouldn’t be laughing about it. They’d be pissed off. But it's clear now that if you hide what you are doing behind a pile of foul-mouthed pixels, it’s okay—your target demographic will give you a pass to shit where real guerrilla artists eat.

As for me, I’ll be pissed whenever I see some odd object that might be some sincere artist’s attempt at injecting some wonder into our lives, to challenge us and make us think about space and use and urban design and whatever else, because I’ll have that doubt that the thing I’m seeing, the out-of-place expression of creativity that has been illegally placed on a landmark or overpass or train station, is just a commercial.

Thanks a lot, fuckers. I hope the city fines your asses into oblivion.