Sunday, December 21, 2014



I just finished watching the documentary VIDEO GAMES: THE MOVIE on Netflix.  Overall a fun 90-minute doc that made for a fun trip down memory lane.  While not in depth enough to fully inform any newbies of the history of the video gaming industry, it does touch upon numerous main moments (and pitfalls) along with some fun look back at ads and commercials while intertwining interviews with several industry professionals like Atari’s Nolan Bushnell and celebrities who are also rapid gamers like Wil Wheaton.

Video gaming has been an important part of my life since my father brought home our family’s first Atari 2600 system in 1978.  I was a lot like Ralphie in A Christmas Story as I stared at the faux wood paneling on the front of the system and stroked the luscious gaming mecha like an electrified leg of glowing sexuality.  That first day we had two games Combat and Air-Sea Battle but in short time the family began stockpiling quite a collection of cartridges and even upgraded to the more graphic friendly Colecovision which included an adapter pack for the Atari 2600 thus allowing us to move our Atari 2600 to the basement TV while we had the option to play Colecovision in the living room.  This probably explains why in a house with two adults I currently need five TVs, five cable boxes, and multiple computers and gaming systems…because video gaming options was introduced to me at a very young age.

That wood is the mark of a quality product.  Bust out your Pledge!
The majority of games we bought for that treasured Atari 2600 were fun and offered a solid level of replay value for the time.  Luckily my family managed to miss most of the dud games (looking right at you E.T….although I did manage to borrow and win this game years later just so I could proudly state to people that, “Yes!  I won the worst video game ever produced.”)  Speaking of lousy games, I also remember drinking a shitload of Kool Aid one summer so we could send away points for the Atari 2600 Kool Aid Man game.  The game was actually kind of fun…and the animation of the big red guy smashing through the screen with an “Oh Yeah!” was sort of amusing.  But, I also remember tucking this game away when friends would visit as if owning such a game would hurt my street-cred as a serious gamer.  The biggest dud cartridge our family purchased was the opening day release of Pac-Man…wow, talk about sucking all the fun out of the arcade model with this monochrome nightmare with the worst sound effects in history (that would later be used in Superman III thus combining a hated video game with a hated movie).  The Atari 2600 version of Donkey Kong was also a major disappointment with lame graphics and only two different stages.  Luckily in the not too distant future we bought the Donkey Kong version for Colecovision which offered spot-on graphics and at least three of the four stages (but I still wish the Conveyor level had been included).

I have fond memories of bonding with friends while playing games on that original Atari system.  Having them bring over cartridges that I did not own (Activision greats like Barnstorming or Keystone Kapers, any of the Xonox cartridges, and the ever enjoyable The Adventures of Tron and Yar’s Revenge) always allowed for a long fun afternoon of gaming.  It was an exciting time to experience playing a video game that told a story and actually delivered an ending.  Winning the puzzle game Raiders of the Lost Ark and borrowing from my friend Shawn the under-rated platformer Pitfall II were high points in my early gaming career as I learned the tricks needed to complete a game and be able to shut off my system knowing that I had indeed reached a definitive conclusion in where I, the gamer, WON THE GAME!

In our home, the Top 10 most played cartridges that we owned were:

1.  RIVER RAID – This was the game!  Amazing that the same
Yellow Plane, Yellow Plane, why do you fly so low?
Yellow Plane, Yellow Plane, it's not your fault.
Christmas we were gifted our treasured request of Pitfall the next present opened was River Raid which my father bought on a whim.  Within a few days River Raid would surpass all of our other games for overall re-playability.  I love this game so much that decades later I managed to download it for my Xbox 360 and played it far too much while my wife would sit and watch and laugh going, “Really, in 2013 this is the best game you can find to play?”  A true classic and for my money the best game my family ever owned in our living room arcade.  River Raid was simplistic in that you flew a yellow plane on a mission to bomb the ships and planes stationed in the tight canals of an enemy nation.  It was a very 2D environment with weak graphics and lame sound effects.  But it was fun as hell.  And, this may speak to my gaming skill, no matter how long I played I could never get the game to actually loop and start at the beginning of the canals.  I always wondered how far the programming would actually allow for new levels to appear.  I never found out, but I had so many years of entertainment from this simple game that I don’t really mind.  Later when we owned our Colecovision system, a game called Zaxxon also came along.  This was a more 3D and sci-fi version of River Raid.  I didn’t enjoy it as much.  The 3D was trickier to navigate and at times there is a fine balance between level of simplicity and level of fun.  River Raid successfully found the perfect formula to balance both.

That vine sure made circumventing the crocodiles easier!
2.  PITFALL – I loved this game as a kid so much that I had my photo taken next to my television with my high score so I could send away for a free gift from Activision.  In fact, now that I think about it…not sure they ever sent the item.  It was either a poster or a t-shirt, but free prize or not this game was a blast and I loved exploring the underground tunnels to determine the best way to work my way to a high score within the twenty minute time limit.  As a kid, Pitfall programmer David Crane was a celebrity in my home and I made sure to buy other games that he was the lead programmer on like Grand Prix, Freeway (get the chicken across the road), and even Fishing Derby.  Indiana Jones was won of my favorite movie characters so it wasn’t too big of a leap to see that Pitfall Harry and his vine swinging antics would be a close second.  I become skilled at Pitfall to the point that I could always easily complete the twenty-minute session.  I won some bets with friends on who could manage the most points in that time frame as well.  Still, there was always the momentary panic anytime you would cross onto a new screen and see the dreaded three alligators sitting in their swamp and knowing that you had to slow down and time your jumps precisely lest you would fall into the water or down a gator’s gullet.

Never judge the fun of a game by how small the maze is.
3.  WIZARD OF WOR – This was the most popular game for my brother and me to play together.  It was a game where you controlled humanoid warriors in a small labyrinth maze (this format will sound familiar) that was swarming with monsters (some invisible) and then you would have to eventually work your way toward a fight with the eponymous Wizard.  During the course of the battle both players could choose to work as a team or kill each other (often switching for no reason during the game).  Not many games for the Atari 2600 offered this sort of simultaneous co-op play excitement.  This game was one of the last “new game” purchases my family made for our Atari 2600 but my brother and I played it so much in our basement that it was worth every penny.

4.  VIDEO PINBALL – This was a visually unspectacular game but it 
So bland to look at, but once the ball starts
bouncing around there was a good deal of fun.
was fast paced and fairly addictive.  I enjoyed playing Video Pinball the most because my father (who was not a gamer) would sit and play this game with me and it was the rare game where he was better than me.  I have fond memories of these father-son moments sitting on the living room carpet and playing this game for hours.  Years later in college, I borrowed someone’s Atari 2600 system for the weekend and flipped the score on Pinball and on the bumpers.  I was happy with the score and retired from any return visits although I am still a sucker to play any real life pinball games that I spot in visits to arcades.

5.  Q*BERT – During my formative years as a gamer my favorite game at
The "Donkey Kong" of my living room.
the arcade was Donkey Kong, thus at home DK received less attention.  Q*Bert filled the void by offering a fun and fast paced game with patterns that must be figured out all while under immense pressure to avoid a myriad of enemies.  The tension playing this game was pretty high and reminded me exactly of how I felt standing in an arcade facing the barrels of Donkey Kong.  Burger Time (for Colecovision) also comes in a close 2nd for this very same reason.  The arcade game was rarely visited when I had the opportunity to play Donkey Kong instead.  However at home I enjoyed the adventures of Peter Pepper although the pace and the difficulty of Burger Time often left me overly frustrated, thus I stayed with Q*Bert.  My game play with Q*Bert was solid enough that I could stretch out a single game to go for close to an hour.  Not too shabby.  On a side note, my grandmother saw me play Q*Bert so much one holiday season that she bought me a plastic coin bank of the character.  I remember stock piling coins until it was filled and eagerly opening up the booty to find I had enough money to buy a home computer (more on this in an upcoming entry).

6.  MISSILE COMMAND – There’s three games that could fall into
The tension to save those six cities was intense!
this #6 spot since they all offered the endless assault of a futuristic setting.  Asteroids and Space Invaders were the other two but I always found myself drawn back to Missile Command.  Probably because the difficulty was so damn hard and the pace so nightmarish that I never seemed to survive for more than a few minutes.  I also loved that explosion sound any time one of the six main cities would go up in a mushroom cloud.  I was never a fan of the arcade version because I struggled even more so with the track ball.  However, in the later years of this system when many games had lost their luster, I did often find myself sparing some time for a few quick rounds of Missile Command.  Still, as a youth I wished that some of these games would offer the possibility of actually winning.  The Atari 2600 would provide numerous sub options for gameplay on Missile Command and I often thought a version with a definite number of levels might allow for a more rewarding experience.  Imagine counting down from Level 100 to Level 1 and trying to keep your cities alive the entire time.  Then there is a solid goal to strive for instead of merely prolonging the inevitable nuclear destruction at the hands of alien invaders.

7.  SUPERMAN – As a kid who loved comic books, when I heard that
Loved that box image. 
The game also holds a fond place in my heart being the
first time I controlled a video game superhero.
there was an Atari game based on Superman, I momentarily lost my mind.  Then when I saw the game box with the artwork of the red-and-blue caped superhero I absolutely lost my mind!  The game played out like a pixilated comic book which made up for the pixilated graphics as Superman needed to change into costume, capture criminals and a flying Lex Luthor, avoid Kryptonite bombs, and rebuild a bridge before returning to the Daily Planet to report the story.  The game looked ridiculous but it was certainly fun.  In the 1970s the idea of playing a video game as a comic book character was such a rare treat that this game felt like owning the Ark of the Covenant.  Superman had an end point which also made it feel rewarding to play.  As the superhero you could literally save the day!  Even at a young age I played this game repeatedly trying to memorize the city screen patterns and finish as quickly as possible.  My fastest time was 57 seconds.  Yes – seconds!  Now that truly has to be some form of record.  What makes that score even more special is the fact that my father had just come home with pizza and my mother was busy yelling at me to shut off the game and yet under all of this duress I managed to achieve a spectacular score and save the citizens of Metropolis and then reward myself with a warm slice of pepperoni pizza.
     Later on Parker Brothers released an Atari game based on Spider-Man.  Naturally this had me thrilled to no end as I was praying for a similar open world experience.  Sadly that game was limited to climbing buildings while your web fluid inexplicably drained.  I have never had patience for “beat the clock” style games, especially when their very logic defeats the point of common sense (i.e. Spider-Man is capable of climbing walls!  Thus if his web fluid is empty, he does NOT fall to his death!)

That dot with the key...that's you!  YOU ARE THE DOT!
8.  ADVENTURE – You were a “dot” with a sword that battled dragons to save a kingdom with a chalice.  Sounds lame and it looked lame but Adventure was the first game I ever experienced that offered free roaming.  You could travel anywhere you wanted and determine ways to make the game as difficult as needed.  There were mazes, three dragons of varying speeds, a flying bat, and even the now famous “Easter Egg” dot that would reveal the name of the programmer when delivered to a specific spot in the game.  I remember winning Adventure the first day we bought it and thinking, “I wonder if I’ll ever play this game again?”  I did, later that day and for weeks, months, and years to come.  It was always a fun game to return to and wander from screen to screen on a fond trip down memory lane.  Colecovision had a game called Venutre (based off the arcade game) which I also enjoyed although that game offered less free roaming and more intense and sometimes painfully fast deaths.

9.  BERZERK – I loved playing Berzerk in the arcade and the home
version did not disappoint.  This game also has the distinction of being the first video game that I can remember saving up my own money to buy.  I did a lot of chores around the house to save up the $40 (could it have been that much) to buy this cartridge.  The second game that earned my allowance was Haunted House, but for some reason that game never clicked with my imagination as much as Berzerk.  Back in the day I was a sucker for any game that involved a humanoid character (see a pattern forming in Haunted House you played as merely two glowing eyes roaming in the dark) and Berzerk’s offering of a man with a gun running through an endless labyrinth maze filled with angry robots was a classic scenario.  Essentially it was a one player version of Wizard of Wor.  The never ending dialogue of “Stop the humanoid!” always made me smile in arcades and I wished more dialogue found its way into the home version.  The shockingly swift pursuit of the smiling ball Evil Otto who was hot on your heels made this a fun game that kept you on your toes.  As a fan of the movie TRON, I felt like Berzerk was a similar offering as to what the world of video arcade gladiatorial combat might actually be like.

10.  ACTIVISION TENNIS – Tennis!  Tennis?  I can see people
The #1 sport in my family (1978-1982)
screaming now.  Keep in mind I’m talking about games that got the most play in my household growing up.  I did not come from a home where baseball and football were popular.  My parents both loved watching and playing tennis (so much so that it often prevented me from playing video games because if I wasn’t watching John McEnroe beat Jimmy Connors then I found myself sitting at the park babysitting my brother while my parents played on the city courts for a few hours).  My father bought the game and because he knew the sport it was the kind of game that the whole family could gather around the small TV and enjoy together.  Later on I found hours of enjoyment simply playing games against the computer (who seemed to always be able to run down my shots).  Decades later the reason I bought the Top Spin games for my Xbox systems was mostly because of my fond memories of playing Activision Tennis with my parents during my youth.


I no longer own an Atari 2600.  I know there are plenty available on eBay or there are offerings of MAME or other simulator programs.  However, for this level of gaming I do believe in the “You Can’t Go Home Again” motto.  I would rather have fond memories of plugging in a cartridge on a snowy afternoon and spending a few hours with my brother and friends than I would owning this same system today.  An Atari 2600 would more than likely sit on a shelf and rarely even make it to a television to be plugged in.  I have my memories and they are great memories of a period in my life where the Atari 2600 brought a great deal of fun into my life.

Before we move into 1983 and beyond, it is worth noting that during the same time period that I was playing the Atari 2600 at home I was also regularly visiting video arcades.  In my next entry on my history of video gaming (which may not fall sequentially with my blog entries), I will discuss some of my memories of plucking down quarters in these public establishments and which games drew my attention, imagination, and money the most.
The awesome Colecovision with the Atari 2600 adaptor!  Best Christmas present ever!

GAME OVER...for Part 1.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


The CW is firing on all cylinders with their Flash and Arrow shows.  Over in Starling City the big mystery is surrounding Who Killed Sara? (My guess - it was Tommy Merlyn, but we shall leave that for another entry), and Central City’s central plot revolves around Who Killed Barry Allen’s Mother?  Now fans of the DC Comics Flash already know that Reverse Flash has existed in numerous roles and caused far too many problems in the lives of all the heroes who have worn the scarlet colors of the Flash.

I am not shocking anyone by my predictions in this blog that the Reverse Flash is going to end up being Officer Eddie Thawne of the Central City Police Force!  BUT, and here’s the hook, it’s not the Eddie Thawne of 2014 but some future version of the character.

To help my theory,

TIME TRAVEL – Fans of the Flash already know that his super speed will eventually allow him to travel so fast that he will go backwards (and forwards) in time.  In the pilot episode Barry’s mother was killed while surrounded in a spiral windstorm of yellow AND red.  Thus both Flashes will battle through the time stream.  There are tachyon particles, future technology, and plenty of hints that both the past and present will be coming into play shortly.

DR. WELLS – Dr. Wells is either from the future (he may be Eobald Thawne, a future relative to Eddie Thawne) or he has knowledge of future events.  He has the technology and obviously he also has a Reverse-Flash uniform.  His tachyon device was attached to the Reverse-Flash suit to empower the suit with special time travel abilities.  But, Dr. Wells is NOT the version of Reverse Flash currently causing all the problems on the show.

Squint just right and you will see Eddie Thawne of 2024!
EDDIE THAWNE OF THE FUTURE – In the comics Eobald Thawne, from the future, is the Reverse Flash but here I believe we’re dealing with a 5-10 year in the future version of Eddie who clearly does not like Barry Allen.  Both men love Iris (and Barry will probably be the winner in that triangle).  Eddie won’t be a fan of Barry’s when he discovers Barry is the Flash and when he gains access to powers (or that empowered suit) he will go back in time to create all sorts of problems to make Barry’s life as miserable as his own must become. 
      Clearly this Reverse-Flash does not want to harm Eddie or Joe.  In Episode 9 he is given the chance to kill both men, but instead he kills a bunch of S.W.A.T. troopers, ignores Joe, saves Eddie from an errant bullet, and then pummels Dr. Wells.

BARRY’S MOTHER – When time travel comes into play will the Reverse Flash indeed be the killer of Barry’s mother?  The Flash (and his red streaking) is obviously in the room too.  If Barry’s mother is saved doesn’t that change the timeline so drastically that there can never be a Flash?  We know Dr. Wells won’t settle for that.  Reverse Flash never states that he killed Barry’s mother but instead chooses to goad him into a chase before ruthlessly beating up the Flash.  What is Reverse Flash’s hatred and motivation?

Many viewers seem to be focused on WHO is wearing the Reverse Flash costume?, but the true mystery here is WHY is there a Reverse Flash and WHAT is his true motivation?

I guess we all need to be satisfied with going along for the ride (or run as it were) and hope that the creative team behind The Flash keep firing faster than the speed of light because so far it’s been a hell of a fun run!

For fans of the Flash who have not read any of the best DC storylines
with Flash & Reverse Flash, check out many of the collections written by
Geoff Johns, all are well worth the read as his handling of the character is stellar!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


In the script Jason was found in the
lake where he had been left
at the conclusion of The New Blood.
In the 1970s and 1980s when someone cleaned out a basement, attic, or under a bed there was undoubtedly the anticipation and inevitable joy of discovery as some long forgotten, or presumed lost, item was unearthed.

In 2014 that joy of discovery often happens on a computer hard drive.  So, I was sitting down working on my next book when an errant click on a folder revealed a subfolder that I had not viewed since (according to the records) 2006!  Inside this folder were two - TWO - screenplays that I had written back in 2002.  Now, both of these screenplays were originally meant solely as practice as I honed my craft.  In order to learn the proper technique and writing style when shifting from prose to a script I decided to write two sequels for franchises of which I was a fan.  I never had any expectations that they would be sold, made, or even see the light of day beyond my computer.  In fact, I wrongfully assumed that both had been deleted.  Nope.  THEY LIVE!

In the script Michael Myers was a serial killer
who the Halloween movies were
based upon.
So, let's talk about the first one with this entry.  This was my attempt at a horror screenplay that would have inter-mixed Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers.  The script was written shortly after the theatrical release of Halloween H2O where Jamie Lee Curtis returned to that series...and, at the time, presumably killed Michael.  It was a decent movie, but nothing stellar or memorable.

In a nutshell I wanted to see something SPECTACUAR!  I wanted a movie with a plot, with a body count, and where the two lead killing machines battled not only themselves, but also a black-ops mercenary team.

So I set out to write...

Now, anyone who knows me (and if you don't listen to the podcast - knows that I demand that all sequels play fair and straight with the audience and with the history that has been presented in previous entries.  So, when I wrote my story I was sure to include both the ending to Halloween H2O as well as all the key elements from Friday the 13th Parts 1-7.  I had "outs" to explain the lesser entries in each series.  I introduced new characters and populated the town of Forest Green (formerly Crystal Lake) with enough characters/victims to build a solid body count.

In rereading the story several stand-out scenes in the script jumped out:
*Jason kills two scuba divers in Crystal Lake
*Michael kills an ambulance crew and an unfortunate homeowner (with a riding lawn mower)
*Jason battles a heavily armed squad of soldiers in a hardware store
*Michael Myers and Jason destroy a bar and the entire patronage during their battle

My simple Photoshop image that I printed and
had on my desk for inspiration.
*Michael meets not one, not two, but three awesome "death scenes" as Jason truly unleashes on him

Considering I haven't seen this script in almost a decade, I was amazed at how well it read and how evenly paced it was.  Frankly, and selfishly, I wish someone would call and offer to make this movie because even though Freddy vs. Jason was still wasn't as perfect a movie as Michael vs. Jason (or Jason vs. Michael) could have been.

Here's a small sampling of the script.  This scene is the beginning of Act 2 where I've basically set in place that Jason is on the loose and a well-armed science team has purposely set loose Michael Myers in the area in the hopes that they'll be able to have not one but two regenerating beings that may lead them towards the development of a true undying Super Soldier.

Please keep in mind this was a first draft and the formatting may be off as I switched from Final Draft to Blogger.


Rebecca and Paulson are cutting through the dense trees as best they can in the sheer darkness.

Are you sure you know where you’re going?  Besides, it may not even be there

Keep your voice down.

They hear radio communications farther off in the forest.

REBECCA (cont’d)
But right now that’s our only shot at putting some serious distance between us and them.
They walk a ways further, ducking low to avoid some flashlight beams.

REBECCA (cont’d)

Rebecca points ahead to a ditch, her bike is laying in it.

I don’t see the ambulance, or my squad car.

Well we got lucky here.  Apparently they didn’t feel like messing with my bike.
She walks over, rolls it out of the ditch, and examines it.

REBECCA (cont’d)
The only problem is the starter.  It’s been acting up on me.  Everybody within walking distance of us is going to hear this thing turn over.
So I guess we hope it starts on the first try.

I guess.  Keep your fingers crossed.
She kick starts the cycle...and nothing happens.  She tries a second time.  Nothing.

Hold it!

Rebecca and Paulson look over to see a merc with his machine gun pointed right at them.

MERCENARY #3 (cont’d)
Don’t move.
(into his comm)
I have them sir.  At the original acquisition site.

Keep them there.  We’re on the way.
Mercenary #3 as his full attention on Rebecca and Paulson.  He does not notice a shadow moving through the treeline next to him.

Jason is the "eviler" of the killers!
He easily chalks up a body count rivaling
Arnold's from Commando!

We’re all going to just stay right here and -


Rebecca ducks a hail of bullets but two strike Officer Paulson in the chest.  He goes down - HARD.


She moves away from her bike to help him.

No!  Get out of here!

Their voices draw Jason’s attention.  He swings his machete and the dead mercenary flies off of it, landing in the woods.  Jason then moves towards them.

Go Rebecca!  Get your father!
She can see the blood coming from Paulson’s mouth and chest.  It’s clearly a fatal shot.  She struggles with the decision for a moment but then finally Rebecca turns and tries to start her bike.  It doesn’t catch.

Jason moves forward and thrusts his machete down into Paulson.  Officer Paulson doesn’t scream.
Jason marches forward.  He is only a few feet from Rebecca.

The motorcycle starts!  Rebecca kicks it into gear and speeds away just as Jason swings his machete at where she was standing a moment before.  He gets nothing but air.
Rebecca races through the forest!

A patrol car is stopped in the road, lights still flashing.

Officer Drew is slammed face first against the billboard, his feet dangling above the ground. Jason keeps him pinned there with one arm while the other arm brings an axe into view. Drew is screaming until the axe CHOPS into his back.

Jason looks at the sign and then his gaze drifts towards the lights of the town below.  He turns and walks away, leaving behind the car, the axe, and Officer Drew still held in place on the billboard.

Michael racks up a good body count
but also is the more sympathetic
of the twin killing machines.
The welcome to Crystal Lake billboard still holds Officer Drew in place.

CLOSE UP: A hand reaches up and pulls the axe from the dead officer.  Drew’s corpse PLOPS to the ground.

Carrying the axe, Michael Myers walks towards the Forest Green town square.


It's worth noting that Michael had already had his ass handed to him once by Jason.  The two are on their way to clash in the town bar and begin the total destruction of Forest Green.

Maybe one day I'll visit one of the "money" scenes.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

"Show Me Your TUSKS!"

I'm a pretty big fan of Kevin Smith.  His podcast network supplies plenty of laughs and some of his movies are staples in my household (Clerks, Mallrats, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back).  Sure, occasionally the man stumbles (Cop-Out, Dogma, acting in Die Hard 4) but even Roy Hobbs couldn't hit a home run every single time he stepped up to the plate.

About a year ago Smith and his pal Scott Mosier recorded an episode of SModcast (Smith & Mosier, thus the double capital letters) where they recounted a bizarre personal ad found in a London where an old man was looking for a lodger to live with him in his spacious house, rent free.  The one caveat was that the lodger would be required to wear a home-made walrus suit for two hours a day for the man's pleasure.  YES, A WALRUS COSTUME!  The episode in question is titled SModcast #259 - THE WALRUS AND THE CARPENTER and it is laugh-out-loud hilarious.  I have listened to this episode so often that it's pretty much ingrained in my memory word-for-word. 

The minute I saw these drawings...I was sold!
As the pair delve into the ad they eventually wonder about the psyche's of the old man and any potential lodger.  How does one reach a point in their life where making a walrus costume seems like a good idea?  How does one reach a point in their life where wearing a walrus costume seems like a good idea?  This helps them branch off into a "What would this look like as a movie?"-scenario.  Now, the movie has been made and released so listening to the podcast is doubly fascinating because you can really hear the creative energies flowing between the two filmmakers as they spout out ideas, most comic gold, about how every aspect of the movie should play out.  Kevin Smith is clearly a fan of 70s-era horror movies because he understands the pacing and "flavor" that the dirty grindhouse low-budget horror movies delivered in that decade.  He earns huge respect points for knowing that most of these movies ended with a song during the credits that usually tried to feel uplifting even though the movie itself was anything but.  Horror movies in the 1970s ended grim!  There was no happiness to be found.  It's more rare to see such dark endings even today but occasionally a Pet Semetary, Se7en, Blair Witch Project or The Mist (trust me, the dark ending is what limited any form of box office success) sneaks through.  Too often though Hollywood bean-counters insist that even a horror movie must end with the sun shining and the survivors happy, thus allowing audiences to leave the theatre in a good mood.  Truly odd when you consider what they may have just spent two hours in the dark watching?

The late 1960s and 1970s delivered some great horror movies that pummeled viewers throughout the course of their run time and then slapped them silly with an even more downtrodden ending that guaranteed no happiness for the characters of the film.  Some rapid fire examples; The Wicker Man, Night of the Living Dead, Race with the Devil, Ssssssssss, Don't Look Now, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and there's plenty more...the 70s was the decade that just kept on delivering downers post-Vietnam.

No Spoiler Images!
But TRUST ME...Long gets turned into a walrus!
So, Kevin Smith got all creative with his walrus-discussion and made himself a low-budget horror movie that delivers all of the ideas and "horror" that one would expect in a film where the general plot is MAN TURNED INTO WALRUS.  To assist him on his journey are Michael Parks (as the old man) and Justin Long (as the unfortunate visitor-turned-lodger in question Wallace).  Both actors bring their A-games.  Parks at this point in his career is incapable of a poor performance.  I still marvel at his opening scene in From Dusk 'til Dawn where he plays the doomed sheriff and perfectly captures the audience with his delivery.  Justin Long is clearly no longer the "Apple Guy" but a decent actor and he is game to perform inside a grotesque walrus-costume where 99% of his acting is done solely through his eyes and lack of mobility.

"Sew very old one, sew like the wind!"
My friend and I saw the movie opening night, equal parts excitement and because we were concerned that the subject matter might make for a brief stay at the cinema, and were solidly entertained for the entire run time.  There are times when Smith's juvenile humor and dialogue shines, the initial introduction scene between Wallace and the old man a perfect example.  Then there are times when things misfire or come across as amateurish "Not-See Party" does not work at all and Johnny Depp's (in the worst kept secret in Hollywood) character seems like he belongs entirely in another movie.  Still TUSK is a nice ode to the horror movies that Hollywood truly rarely makes any more.  The box office will be used as an example of why this is, but I will say that TUSK will have a long shelve life in VOD and DVD sales as well as cable channels.  The DVD had better include the entire Smodcast episode as well...perhaps playing as a form of edited audio commentary track.  It's the perfect movie to experience in your living room where when the grim finale is revealed at least you can change the channel and instantly watch something that might shine a bit of happiness back into your life.

Recommending comedy movies is tough.  One person's A Fish Called Wanda is another person's Weekend at Bernies 2.  Horror movies are the exact same way.  It baffles me at times that the movies I find chilling are instantly met with someone else exclaiming, "That wasn't scary.  I laughed and thought it was stupid!"  So I will say that I laughed in TUSK and I was genuinely creeped out in TUSK.  I applaud Kevin Smith for his efforts and for taking a risk outside of his normal range.

As someone who writes, truly what I marvel at throughout this entire journey from a podcast episode to a movie is that every step of the way has been recorded.  During the end credits of TUSK Smith plays samples from the original podcast and it's a perfect reminder of where the idea was birthed from and how a simple spark of inspiration can lead to a well made final product.  Fans of 70s horror will eat up everything that TUSK is offering.  Others will be repulsed on numerous levels.  But, in the end it's a movie that is deserving of an audience and a great example of the creative process which should be included in movie making classes taking students along on the journey from podcast-to-movie.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


People who know me occasionally call me a "writer".  I am uncomfortable with this label for several reasons.  Chiefly among them is that I only have two books currently in circulation.  Secondly there is the fact that I do not write as my chosen career.  Writing, at this time, is more of a hobby and enjoyable escape from the day-to-day headaches that invariably assault us all.  While the term "writer" bothers me, I do feel quite comfortable in telling people that, "I am not a writer.  But, I do enjoy the art of writing."

Note the side column,
Peg (my editor) is pretty thorough
and there's never one page without
a note or correction or comment.
My goal is to complete and publish ten books in my lifetime.  I am currently at 20%, but within two months I'll be at 30%.  Last week my third book HORROR 101 returned from the editor.  I have all of my work handled by Kristy and Peg over at .  Their prices are decent, their turn around time is quick, and they offer a variety of levels from editing to polishing to critiquing.  Working with them has certainly improved my writing skills and allowed me to sleep comfortably knowing that whenever I publish a book, the buyers won't be short-changed by the quality of the purchase.

Still, the biggest issue I have with editing is that it is a reminder that there's still a large amount of work to do on a book before it can be sent to the formatters.  There are few things more rewarding than to finish writing a book and send it to the editor with the thought of, "This book is finished!  And it's perfect!"  Then a few weeks go by and the work in question returns and pretty much every page contains comments and edits from something as simple as a misspelled or incorrect word to a more thorough critique of "You need to do a better job fleshing out this character's motivation".  So, just when the writer thinks they are finished the editor...pulls them back in.

Right now, I'd love to be sitting at my desk working on my fourth book (the sequel to There Goes Tokyo!) or even my fifth book (an actual full length novel) but instead I return to the horror tales and drabbles that populate a book I worked feverishly on through 2012 and 2013.  It's a nice reflection returning to these tales, but it's also very much work.  And this is not the "joy of creation" and "fun of discovery" kind of work either!  This is the "cross the Ts and dot the Is" arduous detailing that turns an amateur book into a professional novel.

I go old school and print up a paper copy from the editor.
Usually it's easier and faster to add my own
marks and notes alongside hers as I work on the final version.
If you have ever considered writing a book, and I truly hope you do because it is an incredibly rewarding experience, then you should know that the ebook marketplace is filled with author's who make the mistake of rushing out a product before it can truly shine from the touch of a professional editor.  It's always frustrating to read someone's great story only to be pulled out every other page by a mistake from lack of editing or erroneous ebook formatting.  Never let that happen to you and your work!  You only have one chance to make a great impression with a reader who has turned over their money to find entertainment through your words.  Find an editor and even though it's a guarantee that you are paying someone to hand you back more me, at the end of the journey you'll be thankful for those extra weeks of toiling away on your book when the complete product looks so much superior to all of your earlier efforts.

Friday, August 22, 2014


Being a lifelong comic book fan, for the past decade+ I have been an avid collector of Randy Bowen's line of statues and busts.  These are great (albeit expensive at times) pieces of sculpted artwork that really add a nice element to my home.  I have a curio cabinet filled with close to 100 pieces dedicated to the Marvel Universe of superheroes.  My wife doesn't even mind the collection and she lovingly refers to it as my "Barbie Cabinet".

Anyways, the cabinet is full and sadly for all these years there was never a solid product for the superheroes of the DC Universe.  Lately that is starting to change as the company Kotobukiya (sounds like a porn term) has been releasing a high quality line of 8" DC statues.  These statues have a great metallic shine to them and are remarkably lightweight.  They are also awesomely priced falling between the $35-$50 range (and plenty of good deals to be had on ebay).

In the past six months I've added Flash, Batman, Captain "SHAZAM!" Marvel, Black Adam, and Aquaman to my collection and they're residing on shelves in my computer room.  Any time people see them they always get compliments because the product speaks for itself.  At this point the only statue I do not own is Superman and that is solely because I am not a fan of the New 52 DC take that Superman must look younger than the rest of the heroes.  Nope, not to my liking...but the work of the statue itself looks solid.

I don't often plug products but if you're a fan of superheroes and the DC Universe, then adding one or several of these statues to your home, office, or collection is a great idea.  They're excellent eye-candy for an exceptional price.

Give them a look HERE.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Shoes, Chuds, and Faulty Memories!

As I was doing some writing, I stumbled upon an original draft of stories from my first collection In 666 Words.  I was amused to find a story called The Shoe Collection, which did not make the final draft.  There's an amusing story of why this happened.

Back in the mid-1980s there was a low budget horror movie called C.H.U.D. (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers or Contaminated Hazardous Urban Disposal – depending on which part of the movie you’re watching – SPOILERS!).  The movie had a fun concept and certainly captured that shitty early 1980s, pre-Giuliani clean-up period for New York City.  The biggest problem, as I hinted at, is the movie has zero budget to back up its’ grand premise.  If this movie had focused on S.W.A.T. troopers entering the sewer systems and battling these man-eating monsters, like Aliens in New York, that would have been so bad-ass.  But, with little funding the movie is basically too much of Daniel Stern working at a soup kitchen and people running around wasting our time.

I was not a fan of C.H.U.D. and one viewing was plenty.  There was never any intention to revisit the movie.

Flash forward almost three decades and I am somewhere in the midst of writing In 666 Words.  While I’m working on that I also have one night a week free from writing where my brother and a friend join me for what we deem Netflix Night.  The goal of this one evening is to choose a bad movie so we can essentially riff on it nonstop like our own personal Mystery Science Theatre 3000.  The kind of movies we aspire to watch are things like Maximum Overdrive, The Substitute, Foxy Brown, and, of course, C.H.U.D.

So we’re watching C.H.U.D. and I have a horrendous twist in my stomach as I realize that a key scene in the movie is essentially the exact same thing I recently wrote for a story in In 666 Words.  How in the hell did that happen?  Was there still a lone memory lodged in my brain from a lousy movies I watched thirty years ago?  Obviously I was not stealing the concept as I had no clear memory of this moment in C.H.U.D., but it’s clear as day that my story and an early scene of the movie are simply too similar.  Now, I’m sure this happens more often to writers than we hear about.  Immediately I am thinking of the plot of The Simpson’s Movie and the Stephen King novel Under the Dome.  No matter, I knew at that point that I had to remove my tale from the book before my initial outing would be reviewed by people shouting, “This guy is ripping off C.H.U.D.!”  Nobody wants that, probably less than they want to realize that memories of C.H.U.D. are still floating around in their subconscious.  However, I’m proud of the little tale I penned, especially when I thought it was 100% original, and even though it won’t make it into any collection I post for sale, I wanted it to live on for readers of my blog.  So included below is the complete story.  I’ll leave it to you to decide if it’s too similar to C.H.U.D. or if my memory lapse isn’t bordering on copyright infringement as much as I think it is.  Granted, you'll need to go watch C.H.U.D. to give an unbiased opinion on the matter.

(a tale in 666 words)

“So, I hear you have quite a shoe collection?”  Jessica jumped right to the point.  It was late, she was cold, tired and uncomfortable in the dilapidated old office building.  The place smelled of urine and worse.  To make matters worse, she was dressed up for a fund-raiser she was supposed to be covering for the paper.  She could only imagine the filth she might stumble into or the odors that would cling to her when she left.

Still, the increasing disappearance of women in the city was the hottest story going.  Every reporter was scrambling for leads, and Jessica’s tips led to her current location where she hoped something would deliver.

Laying on the ground next to her was a bum who went by the name of “Al Pro” because of his love for wearing sports jerseys while panhandling before football and baseball games shouting “Eat ‘em up!” while jiggling a cup for change.

Al Pro looked at her for a minute, his eyes hazy.  “Shoes?  Yes, I gots shooooooeeess.”  Then he started giggling.  He pointed to the next room.

Jessica walked over and was immediately stunned by the sheer amount of woman’s shoes displayed before her.  There were easily over one hundred.  Al had set up make shift shelves to display them.  It looked like a twisted shoe store because the wide variety of shoes only had one of each distinctive style.  Inspecting them revealed little.  There was no blood or evidence on any of the shoes.

From the other room Al was still looking at her, “I likes them shoes.  You got.  Red is my favorite color.”  Then he started mumbling a song.

She took out her phone and snapped a few pictures of the collection.  The lighting and quality were horrible, but for now it would suffice.

Al was still lying on his filthy mattress.  “Sees, all thems shoes!  I love me some shoes!”

“Al, where did you find these shoes?”

He thought for a minute.  “I find them in the street mostly.  When I go walking in the morning.  Loves the colors,  I can look at ‘em all day.”

“Yes, they’re very nice.”

Jessica had more questions, Al had fewer answers.

The street was barren as Jessica walked back to her car.  Her mind was racing in several directions trying to determine her next course of action.  Right now, all she had leading her to the missing people were the shoes.  She was hours late for the party she was supposed to be covering.  Her lead was mostly a bust, and all she wanted was to be out of this part of town.  She picked up her pace, hearing her footsteps echo down the concrete canyon.

There was the sharp ting of metal from the street.

Jessica froze, listening for it to return.

Then she looked down and realized the sound was coming from directly at her feet.

The sewer lid shook.  She was sure of it.

Stepping closer, her brain made the final connections a split second too late.  The metal cover pushed up and a grotesque reptilian claw shot out, snatching her ankle.  It was like a vice.  Jessica fell backwards, sprawling across the cement, clutching for anything to gain a handhold as she felt herself swiftly pulled towards the sewer opening.

Jagged nails scraped over her leg, removing her shoe.

Jessica saw her red heel spiral away into the air and clatter alone in the middle of the street.  That’s when she felt the razor sharp teeth dig into her foot.

“Help!”  She shouted as the full fight-or-flight kicked in.  Then her screams became unintelligible as she was pulled below, into the dark sewer.

The heavy metal lid slammed back into place with a clang of finality.

This late at night, the city paid no notice.

The next morning, while making his rounds around town, Al found a beautiful red high heel shoe sitting alone in the street.  He took it home and added it to his collection.