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The Thing: Childs and MacReady

If you’ve not seen John Carpenter’s fantastic sci-horror film THE THING, then beware. SPOILERS BELOW!

I commonly cite The Thing as one of my favorite films and one of the most formative films I saw as a youth. Thanks to John Carpenter (and Ridley Scott), I became enamored with quality dark SF and sci-horror. I’ve seen the movie at least five times. Writing this blog post makes me want to see it again.

We were discussing famous denouements of horror films last night in my writing horror short fiction workshop, and I brought up The Thing. The movie ends with MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Childs (Keith David) resting in the snow, the camp burning around them. They agree that there is no point in killing each other. Cue dramatic music. Movie ends and you’ve just watched one of the best endings in film.

Because this is a great example of an ambiguous ending, I bring up the question “Which guy was the thing–Childs or MacReady?”

The internet has debated this question at length and passionately for years with no solid conclusion. It is generally agreed that MacReady was not a thing monster. But Childs…

One of the students pointed out an interview where John Carpenter says that it is obvious that Childs is the thing monster because in the final scene Childs’ breath can’t be seen but MacReady’s can. I rushed out to YouTube to watch this scene…and well..you can obviously see Childs’ breath many times.

It seems the question remains: is Childs a thing?

What do you think? I have an opinion on the matter, but I want to hear from others first. :)

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20 Years of Pulp Fiction — And the question remains

Honey Bunney is *not* being cool.

Honey Bunney is *not* being cool.

One of the great joys of my college years was getting to watch Pulp Fiction on the big screen. Being an early adopter, I got to reference and quote PF before it became tiresome to do so. The one time in my life where I got to be hip and ahead of the curve.

Of course, seeing Pulp Fiction in large scale enhances the film quite a bit. Imagine the following scenes projected on a 50 feet wide screen: Marvin’s head shot, bringing out the Gimp, Vincent and Mia dancing, Jules taking a huge bite out of that tasty burger, adrenaline shot to the heart, the bright glow of the briefcase when it is opened, and so on.

And about that glow…there’s an important question that has floated around the movie since its release. What exactly was in that briefcase? Some speculate it was diamonds and/or other jewels. It’s been theorized that the briefcase contained Marcellus’s soul. Personally, I think it was one of those on-the-go make up kits you see the Dance Moms take around with them on competitions.

Wasting time 0n the IMDB message boards, I came across the most important unanswered question in regards to Pulp Fiction. The question, posed by user Minstrelo goes as such: What if there had been two wallets with “Bad Motherfucker” stitched on them, in the bag? (sic)

Indeed, what if?

<SPOILERS BELOW>

If you recall, the situation was tense. Honey Bunny/Yolanda had a gun and an itchy trigger finger. Jules had tenuous control of the situation, instructing Pumpkin/Ringo to command his wife to be “bitch be cool” (blame Tarantino for the misogynistic statement, not me). Honey Bunny makes like the Fonz and becomes cool. Granted, it helps that Jules has a .9mm underneath his table pointing at her beloved Pumpkin.

Then Jules tells Ringo to reach into the bag and take out his wallet.  The bag is stuffed with a lot of wallets, so Ringo asks which one is Jules. Jules retorts “It’s the one says ‘Bad Motherfucker’ on it.” It is obvious to Jules. It is obvious to us. But not Ringo. Ringo’s face even reads like he is disbelieving.

So he digs in the bag, and there it is, Bad Motherfucker, Jules’ wallet.

Because Jules is in a transitional period, he gives Ringo and Yolanda $1500 so that he doesn’t have to kill him. They make off. Vincent and Jules depart. Movie over.

But what if Ringo pulls out a Bad Motherfucker, opens it, and out falls a few singles, perhaps a fiver, pictures of a milquetoast suburban family, a driver’s license for somebody named Mort Smith? Ringo’s going to get pissed, like he’s been played. Honey Bunny drops the Fonz act, loses her cool. Jules is forced into a decision. Dominoes fall.

Bloodshed. Chaos. Death.

Mind blowing, right?

Pumpkin Spiced Libertine — A History

Dear PSL, We hate you. Love, The Internet

Dear PSL, We hate you. Love, The Internet

I’m angry.

I’m angry because pumpkin spice has been co-opted by those seeking a quick buck.

I’ll not stand on a box of Starbucks pumpkin spice mixture and preach to you about the sanctity of our precious orange substance. But at one time, pumpkin spice was something special, something seasonal, something sensational.

Every year, my friends and I would await for the leaves to turn yellow, red, and yes, orange because we knew it meant the start of pumpkin spice season. Starbucks would bring out their PSL signs and stick them on their doors. That first sip of glorious PSL awaited me every fall. It was something people could savor. Together.

The country bonded over shared expectations during the turn of fall. We, as a nation, knew the pumpkin spice was on its way.

Then the food industry got a whiff of the spice. The greedy CEOs did not smell pumpkin spice. They smelled money. Okay, perhaps the greenbacks were orangebacks to them, but whatever the case, their capitalist taint spread like wildfire. Soon everybody, even the shitty 7-11 down the street had pumpkin spice latte. The rare and treasured now became commonplace.

The infection didn’t stop there. Food of every sort and stripe became pumpkin spiced. Pastries of all types found themselves tinted orange, coated orange. Ugh, so much pumpkin!

Inevitably, a backlash happened. PSL gained fame, and people of the internet found out that other people of the internet enjoyed PSLs. This, in turn, caused the internet to hate PSL. With smug richness, they would point and say “See, it is out of control! Other people like it, therefore I hate pumpkin spice latte!” Fans of PSL were derided worldwide for their loyalty. Shunned. Mocked.

Even John Oliver hates PSL.

These days, my stomach–thanks to all the madness–gurgles in anger and outrage when I think about putting some PSL in it. The world has ruined PSL for me.

I’ve moved on. I have a new obsession. Hummus. Oh yes, I will eat ALL the hummus.

I will become the hummus libertine!

Review– Half a King: Book 1 of the Shattered Seas trilogy

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

The publication of a new Joe Abercrombie novel is a cause for celebration and cheers. Abercrombie is one of the finest fantasy authors in the business, and I would not be surprised that he reached George R.R. Martin levels of fame some years down the road.

The latest reason for celebration and cheers is Half a King; the first book of a planned YA trilogy. The thought of letting our youth read a Joe Abercrombie novel makes me cringe. He’s known for his epic, gory, exciting battle scenes. He’s known for his sharp and witty dialog (most of it for mature eyes only). When I heard Half a King was intended as a YA book, I worried that it would be a watered down, less interesting version of Abercrombie. I worried that the ‘edge’ with which Abercrombie writes with, that helps distinguish him above other grimdark authors, would disappear.

Were my fears unfounded? Mostly.

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National Day on Writing

Every October 20th, the National Council of Teachers of English holds a National Day on Writing. It is a celebration of writing in all media: film, novels, short fiction, graphic, and so on. As a publisher, editor, and writer, I heartily endorse this day! One goal of the NDoW is to get communities involved in writing.

Five years ago, Lexington participated by holding a “Longest Short Story” event. They asked legendary Kentucky author Ed Mcclanahan to provide the first line of the city’s shared short story.

This year, they asked me!

The line I came up with: A little girl, tears streaking down her face, pointed into the dark maw of the ‘Centrepoint pit’.

At 12 different locations throughout the city, anybody can sit down and add a sentence or paragraph to the story. The first time they did this, they ended up with almost 100 yards of story! I really want to beat that mark this year.

(For reference, Centrepoint pit is a block sized pit in downtown Lexington…I would estimate 20-30 feet deep. It used to be beautiful green space. For nearly a decade there have been plans to develop a large hotel on the site…but as you can see in the webcam linked below nothing but a muddy pit has been built thus far.)

http://www.thewebbcompanies.com/centrepointecam

If you would like to participate, here is the flyer with all the information. Linked here is the PDF edition.

National Day of Writing

National Day of Writing

 

5 Things I’ve Learned From Shark Tank

Not having a business degree has, at times, been a hindrance when it comes to running Apex Publications, LLC. I’m a busy guy, so I don’t have the time to head back to school and pick up all those boring accounting and business management courses. Instead, I decided I would watch Shark Tank to bring me up to speed on important business concepts.

If you’ve never heard of or seen Shark Tank, it goes like this: 5 rich ‘shark’ investors listen to pitches from wannabe entrepreneurs. The entrepreneur delivers their pitch and requests X amount of dollars for X% equity in their business, then the sharks ask their questions, there is a lot of ridicule by the sharks directed toward the entrepreneur for his/her answers, and if a shark is interested, they will make an offer to invest.

My wife asked me once how I would react to certain questions if I were given a chance to present in front of the sharks. My response is that there is no way I would present to the sharks on television. In a private boardroom, sure, but not on television. My accent would get so bad that Kevin O’Leary would have to make a snarky remark that relates money to social status. I would sweat like a pack mule. It would be a gory sight.

Anyway, I watch the show to learn, not to dream.

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Gracepoint and the Doctor

Rose!!!

Rose!!!

I <3 David Tennant. He is my favorite Doctor (even though I consider his span of episodes to be the weakest of nu-Who).

For the longest time, I’ve wondered why he’s not been a bigger breakout star. In my opinion, he’s a great actor with a lot of onscreen charisma. He can be sweet and quite. Flip him over, and (despite his skinny frame) he can become angry and imposing. Sure he does a heck of a lot of TV work in the UK. And, sure, he had that brief glorious moment as Barty Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Sure, he did voice work in the superb How to Train Your Dragon. But all that does not add up to ‘breakout star’ material.

When I heard he was starring in an American production of Broadchurch, I thought Yes, finally! A chance for the world to see this wonderful man perform! He’ll be like Clooney in ER. Folks will see the shining star that he is and he will become a big screen idol!

Alas, the American production of Broadchurch–named Gracepoint–probably will not be the springboard into the upper echelon of actors for David Tennant.

Gracepoint is a one-shot 10 episode mystery-thriller starring Tennant in the role of an ostracized big city detective searching for the murderer of one of the town’s children. The show co-stars some talented thespians, namely Anna Gunn and Nick Nolte. Sadly, the poorly written show does all three actors a grave injustice. In particular, Tennant’s Detective Carver. In the premiere episode, all Tennant is given to do is act smug, growl at people, yell a couple of times, and stare at things. Stare at a lot of things.

To complicate matters, Tennant struggles with his American accent. Perhaps he should take some pointers from Hugh Laurie.

To further complicate matters, no matter how much scraggle he grows on his face, no matter how weirdly he combs his hair, that’s David Tennant, and he’s My Doctor. If the show was better, this wouldn’t be an issue, as I’d become invested in the dramatic narrative and be less conscious of who is acting what.

I’ll stick it out until the bitter end, though. Because Tennant. And sometimes shows like these become much better after the premiere ‘setup’ episode.

Let’s hope tonight’s episode shows much needed improvement.

Gracepoint Trailer:

THE FRAME coming soon by Jamin Winans

First, the trailer:

THE FRAME is Jamin Winans’ follow up feature release to the incredible dark fantasy INK (perhaps my favorite indie film of all time). There’s not a lot of information about THE FRAME available, even the trailer is quite cryptic. If you’re in Boulder, CO (October 17th) or Los Angeles, CA (October 23rd) you might be lucky enough to land tickets to the sneak peek showings.

As you might guess, I am incredibly excited about the movie. I’ve seen INK 5 times, and it never fails to give me an emotional gut punch.

You *need* to see INK. Even the movie’s soundtrack is fantastic (easily one of my favorites).

INK trailer:

The Sacrament

sacrament

The Father, so kindly

The Sacrament directed by Ti West and starring genre vets AJ Bowen, Joe Swanberg, and Amy Seimetz is another entry in the flourishing found footage sub-genre of horror. If you absolutely hate the found footage conceit, then you’re probably going to miss The Sacrament, and that is a damn shame. The film is quite interesting, well-acted, and has at its emotional core one of the great tragedies of the 20th century.

The story rolls into action when three Vice reporters accept an invitation by Caroline (a sister of one of the reporters) to visit Eden Parish. Upon arrival, they’re met by men with automatic rifles and baleful glares. Things are tense until Caroline shows up and escorts the visitors into Eden.

Inside, the three men are looked on by suspicious but friendly people. There are few modern comforts, but to talk to a parish member you would think such things are the toys of sinners. Every so often, you here the voice of ‘Father’ over the loud speakers dispensing with Bible quotations or reminders to be kind to one another. The surface of the utopia seems nice enough and everybody acts happy.

All through this period, there is a slight unease to the situation. The three men are vulnerable to the whims of the Father and his people.

The Father (played by Gene Jones) doesn’t make his physical appearance until halfway through the film in a dynamite scene involving Sam (AJ Bowen) and the Father doing an interview in front of the congregation. The way Gene Jones works his charisma and the skill involved in exacting the emotions he wants you to feel gives you insight into how Jim Jones might have accomplished the same in Jonestown. By the end of the interview, both the viewer and Sam are feeling wrung out and mesmerized by the Father’s presence.

Sam later discovers a group of people wanting out of Eden Parish. Word gets back to Father, and in a chilling climax, Ti West takes us through a reenactment of the group suicide of Jonestown. A helicopter providing possible safe passage fuels the final 15 minutes of the movie as Sam and friends attempt to escape.

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Saying Good-bye to a good person

It was a Saturday at Context when Jason Sanford shared the news with me that Eugie Foster had passed away. The news crushed and stunned me.

I’ll be upfront and admit that I only met Eugie a few times. And for those few times, just a few minutes each. At three different DragonCons I had the pleasure of engaging in a brief chat with her. She was an editor of the Dragon Daily, so DragonCon was a manic time for her. Despite that, she was always kind enough to spare a moment to hug, chat, and charm. She smiled. A lot.

We had had plenty of online interactions. Shared lots of emails. I had the opportunity to publish her several times. Her fiction never failed to amaze and entertain our readers.

Eugie was the type of person who ‘paid it forward.’ Always helpful, willing to do what she could for her fellow writers, editors, and publishers. And during some of the most difficult periods of my life (particularly professional), Eugie stood by me as a friend. I will always remember her as being one of the nicest individuals I’ve had the pleasure to know.

It is crushing to think of the shared sadness all the people who came to know and admire and love her feel right now.

We can take solace in remembering the happiness that she gave to those who knew her.

Finally, we are all blessed to have the legacy of Eugie’s fantastic writing. Go here. Read it all. Buy it all.