Friday, March 27, 2009

Wave Your Shriek Flag High!

If you're like me (and really, who isn't?), you grew up reading horror magazines like Fangoria, Gorezone, Toxic Horror, Slaughter House, and Rue Morgue. Chock full of the latest in terrifying films, movies, music and books, these were indispensable guides to the latest in ghoulishly good fun, must reads for those of us needing to be on the cutting edge of... well, the cutting edge.

Well, there's a freaky new kid in town, and he's shrieking as loud as he can.

ShriekFreak Quarterly is the newest independent horror mag to hit the newsstands, and it is delivering everything that horror fans like myself have always been hungry for; the freshest red meat of the horror entertainment realms.

I was lucky enough to snag a copy of issue #1 when it first came out. A friend had recommended the issue's article on EC Comics, and I always try whatever my friends tell me to. I found much more than I bargained for. Not only were there plenty of industry interviews and currnet reviews of the latest in horror films and novels, but there was enough eye candy and original fiction to keep me entertained as well as informed.

Appetite sufficiently whetted, I pounced the minute issue #2 was available, and was happy to discover that the quality material wasn't just an out-of-the-gate fluke. These guys have the taste, and they won't be satisfied until they've shared it with everyone.

Neither will I. Issue #3 just hit the stands, and now I am more than just a fan and subscriber; I'm also a contributor. The Deaditor in Chief over at the ShriekFreak headquarters (rumored to be located in the refurbished morgue of an abandoned asylum somewhere in northern Connecticut) has been kind enough to welcome my into the freaky family. My article on the moral lessons to be found in horror films, "What Would Jason Do," proudly appears alongside other great material such as Renee Downton's indepth interview with Sid Graves, Antonia Wilson's look at serial killer films, and the impressively creepy artwork of Martin Blanco.

Times are tough, and entertainment budgets are stetched to the limit. But if you find yourself able to spend some cash, and need a fix for the carnal cravings that all horror fans feel, I urge you to pick up the latest issue of ShriekFreak. It will more than muffle the chattering wails of the monster monkey on your back.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Book Review: The Argyle Sweater by Scott Hillburn

Cartoonist Scott Hillburn and I have a lot in common. We both share the same first name and we were both exposed to dangerous amounts of radiation as children. We also have all our teeth, a weird sense of humor, and a strong affection for puns. Unlike me, however, Hillman is also a talented artist, and a hilarious cartoonist.

The Argyle Sweater is a collection of Scott Hillerman’s single-panel cartoon by the same name. The influence of Gary Larson’s Far Side comics is easily noticeable when enjoying Hillerman’s work, yet it never feels like he is attempting to copy or mimic Larson’s work. Hillerman’s humor is his own, a laughable blend of bad puns, unfortunate antonyms, and other fun examples of humorous wordplay.

This is where a book review would normally give a more detailed description of the contents, but I simply refuse to be the guy who sits there describing cartoons and ruining the joke. All I can tell you is that I will never look at the Pillsbury Doughboy the same way again. You can count on laughing out loud every so often, in between the giggles and chuckles that will no doubt follow any reading of The Argyle Sweater.
The Argyle Sweater is a great collection of Scott Hillerman’s past work, but there’s no need to stop there. You can also view his newest creations at, many of which no doubt comprise another wonderful collection in the near future.

There are so few cartoons left that are worth reading, let alone worthy of open laughter. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss out on this one.

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Book Review: Project X by Jim Shepard

In the aftermath of the Columbine High School Shootings in 1999, countless reporters and commentators repeated similar versions of the same phrase over and over again: "People are wondering how something like this could happen."

Jim Shepard knows.

Project X is one of the few books that has ever honestly attempted to get into the minds of people like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, or the other teenager gunmen who later patterned themselves after the Columbine incident.

Most seem to take comfort in explanations that support preexisting phobias and prejudices; violent video games and movies, popular music, poor parenting skills, drug abuse, white supremacy, and even homosexuality have often been blamed for driving these kids to violence. Project X refuses to fall into this simple-minded trap. Edwin and Flake, the two teenage characters in the book, are portrayed as the complex personalities that people really are, and not the easily categorized stereotypes that people tend to see each other as.

The protagonists in Shepard's book aren't simply misanthropic loners by choice. They are bullied and harassed on a daily basis, in and out of school, by people they know and complete strangers, and by adults as well as teenagers. The toll of this repeated physical abuse, egged on by their inability (both physically and emotionally) to fight back, forces them to withdraw from society. But they aren't presented as pure victims of an uncaring system. Their self-imposed alienation and inability to explain their situation to someone who could assist them, coupled with increasingly anti-social and reactionary behavior, just makes them easier targets and escalates the situation even further.

If this were just about bullies, the playgrounds across the country would be a never ending battlefield (and for some, it is). There are often other influences involved, and Shepard exposes some of these as well. The psychological instability of both characters is well displayed, but never left as a final scapegoat. Allusions to a previous head injury possibly causing some of Edwin's emotional problems, as well as Flake's apparent sexual confusion and sometimes aggressive domination over Edwin in their friendship, add to the pressures and overwhelming confusion. It is all too easy to forget that some kids live with stress levels that often drive adults to nervous breakdowns.

Shepard doesn't just trap these characters in a world where no one cares about them or notices the problem. Edwin's parents are well aware that their son is troubled, and try to both understand and lend emotional support. But their awkward attempts to reach out never manage to break through the confusion and despair. Their rebellious behavior makes Edwin and Flake an easy target for the scorn of teachers and other adults, but even some of them attempt to help through positive reinforcement, and enrolling Edwin in an after-school program for troubled youth.

The true brilliance of Project X is that Shepard manages to easily evoke sympathy, and even empathy, for Edwin and Flake. Most readers will no doubt find themselves not only wanting to help them, but wondering what could have been done differently. Through fictional characters and events, Shepard is giving the reader a glimpse behind the curtain that hides most of these kids until it is far too late to do anything but pick up the pieces and wonder to ourselves what went wrong?

I have read other reviews of this book, and I am surprised by two common reactions to Project X. One is the repeated comparison of Project X to Vernon God Little, which is unfair to both books. Vernon God Little is a great book in its own right, but only uses troubled youth as a foundation for its story, and in no way attempts to expose or explore the serious issues that Project X does. This is almost like comparing Gus Van Sant's Elephant to Napoleon Dynamite.

The other reaction is from those who complain about the book's ending. Some readers wanted more about the aftermath of the events at the end of the book, and felt the need for closure. I feel that these people missed the point entirely.

Project X is not about school shootings. It isn't about the victims or their families, the assailants or their families, the media coverage afterward, or the attempts by those affected to somehow pick up the shattered remains of what used to be their lives. The truth is, there is no real closure after such a tragedy.

Project X is about what happens before these tragic events. It is about the children who become lost amongst us, the demons that plague and influence them, and most importantly, what finally drives them over the edge. Jim Shepard knows the truth; the only way to save ourselves from them is to learn how to save them from themselves.

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Shepard Smith Mocks Glenn Beck On Fox News During "Glenn Beck Friday"

For those who missed it last week, what follows is a compilation of all the moments throughout Fox News' "Glenn Beck Friday" when Shepard Smith openly mocked Beck and the bizarre event.

I have been a huge fan of Shepard Smith ever since I caught his live reporting from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. He had been talking to Sean Hannity live via satellite, and even though Hannity was the hottest Fox News Flavor at the time, Smith slapped down his attempts to trivialize the events without batting an eye. Despite the cable news channel he has ended up on, Shep has repeatedly proved that he is unwilling to take direction from the wingnut personalities that promise ratings in lieu of real news.

I'll admit that Glenn Beck is rather easy to make fun of lately, but watching Shep openly mock "Glenn Beck Friday" when he is obviously meant to be promoting the event is hilarious. Watching him laugh as Chris Wallace chastises him for not "getting on the bandwagon" is priceless.

For those not into news and politics, I promise more book related posts in the immediate future. Honest.

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Who is John Galt? Conservative Talking Heads Want To Know!

You can always tell when the Right is in trouble. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, with no real warning whatsoever, Right Wing hosts and commentators will site, in unison, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged as a classic tome of conservative values versus liberal socialism.

This, of course, is complete and utter crap.

Anybody who has ever read Atlas Shrugged in its entirety knows that any kind of comparison of Rand's Objectivism with any of the GOP's current positions is ludicrous. But I think the number of people truly familiar with the book are far fewer than anyone really imagines. That has to be the reason that they would attempt to draw any kind of connection between the two. The only way to get away with such a patently false deceleration is by assuming that the majority of viewers or listeners have never read Atlas Shrugged. To be honest, its a pretty safe assumption.

I would take a stab at trying to outline the myriad of reasons why the philosophical theories of Atlas Shrugged don't work in this context, but somebody else has done a far better job of it than I probably would have. Take a moment to read Ed Kilgore's entry at The Huffington Post, especially if you've never read Atlas Shrugged. It is also worth reading if you have, but odds are you haven't.

Ed Kilgore: Conservatives Lionize Their Bitter Enemy

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Friday, March 13, 2009

If you're going to take Pelham 123, take it right!

I'll admit, I keep going back and forth on film remakes. One minute I'm all for them, as in my eagerness to see the new Last House on the Left. The next minute, I'm bitching and whining because I just saw the irritating trailer the new update of The Taking of Pelham 123...

I can almost understand casting John Travolta as the head bad guy, even if the last five or six bad guy characters played by him seem to blend all into the same chirpy, smooth-talking sociopath. But what I don't understand is why, in an attempt to copy Walter Matthau's frumpy middle-aged MTA worker, they hired Denzel Washington and try to dress him up as a frumpy middle-aged guy. Aren't there any frumpy aging actors worth hiring? And exactly which studio head insisted that they squeeze a bunch of car chases into a subway train heist picture? I suppose I should just be thankful that they didn't reduce the title to a marquee-friendly word or two, like Taking Pelham, or just Pelham. I'm not.

If you need a refresher as to just how good the original was, you can watch it in its entirety below, thanks to the evil aliens over at Hulu.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Kindle Revolution? Perhaps...

I've been pretty skeptical about Amazon's Kindle Device, and the possibility of ebooks taking a strong foothold in the publishing world. Then I came across this article in Slate online. It looks like things might be moving in a certain direction, whether the market likes it or not. Take a look... The Kindle Revolution | The Big Money

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Not exactly the kind of critical review I expected...

This is kind of funny, so I thought I would share it with everyone.

Roughly two years ago, I had a major argument with a (now former) friend over the phone. Ugly and nasty things were said, mostly by me, and the phone call went on for a good twenty minutes before either of us hung up. That was the last time either of us talked to one another, and I've never felt the need to look back.

Fast forward to present time.

Last week, I posted a quick blog entry parodying a current series of Pledge commercials. In it, a young woman is locked in a glass box by Jigsaw and forced to clean a dirty kitchen or face a gruesome death. I gave the female character in the brief screenplay excerpt a common woman's name, picked at random, and quickly moved on to other writing projects. Apparently, I'm the only one who moved on.

This morning, I received an email from that old former friend of mine. It turns out that I inadvertently gave the young woman in the blog post the same first name as his wife. He has informed me that he has taken this as a threat against her, and has informed police of the blog post. It also seems that I accidentally invited them to several social networking sites ten times over the past two years (they had a dated list of all ten occurrences), so he's adding those to the list and accusing me of harassment as well.

This is funny for several reasons:

1) I honestly didn't use his wife's name on purpose. I mean, really. Two years later, and sudenly I'm out for blood?

2) No harm actually comes to the young lady in the SAW VI parody screenplay snippet.

3) It was a parody piece. You know, like humor and stuff?

...and most importantly...

4) The fact that they saw this post and mentioned in their email that it appeared on several of my blogs (two, actually) means that, in all likeliness, they have been monitoring all of my blogs and internet output OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS!

For two years they have watched my every move, waiting for me to tip my hat and expose my devious master plan, watching wide-eyed in anticipation for any kind of sign that I am about to unleash the hounds of Hell! Apparently, the name I used in this blog post was the moment they were waiting for.

I'm sorry, but I find this all rather hilarious.

As funny as it may be, however, I have no need for petty quarrels. I especially don't need to incur the paranoid wrath of someone who apparently plans to report me to the authorities whenever I write something he doesn't like, or inadvertently name a character after someone in his immediate family.

Fear not! I will not be censoring myself in future works, no matter how many cyber-stalkers I attract in the years to come. But, just to help others move on with their lives, I am going back to my SAW VI posts and changing the name of the young woman in the humorous post to Judith. It is my hope that this small action will cure cancer, and world hunger, and allow the poor delusional souls of the world sleep a little easier tonight.

I just hope I don't know anyone named Judith...

Jack Chick - Religious Fundamentalism at its Best!

For the most part, The Last Call is an edited reprinting of a sermon written by Charles G. Finney, heavily illustrated with thought provoking cartoons by Jack Chick, cult hero of the religious tract.

Jack Chick, for those not familiar with his work, is a fundamental Protestant Evangelical artist and publisher. Since 1970, Jack T. Chick has published over two hundred palm-sized comic books (known affectionately as Chick Tracts) written with the purpose of preaching the word of God, as well as warning innocent souls against the demonic evils that lie hidden in modern music, roleplaying games, the hippie movement, evolution theory, and homosexuality.

Jack Chick has gained a large and loyal fan base over the year. Ironically, many (if not most) Chick Tract fans don't share his views. Rather, they find his over-the-top dogmatic philosophies, myopic world view, and unintentionally humorous art downright hilarious.

The problem with The Last Call is that it is essentially two different books. If reviewing the text, then what you have is a passionate and heartfelt instructional sermon on how to organize religious revivals. There is nothing in Finney's original text worthy of being mocked or ridiculed.

On the other hand, Jack Chick's cartoons and illustrations paint a paranoid and heavy-handed picture of an oppressive world filled with boorish heathens and unwitting blasphemers. If the cover illustration, featuring a man with a pick axe attacking a large heart filled with words like 'Greed' and 'No Prayers', doesn't give you an idea of what to expect, then you need look no further than page two.

The opening comic consists of four panels. In the first panel, a mother and son stand at the door as a police officer asks them how many bibles their family owns. Dad, observing from his easy chair, thinks to himself how odd this question is. The fourth panel, after a progression of events, depicts a long shot of a religious concentration camp, in a row of people are lined up before a firing squad while a soldier asks if any of them would like to deny Jesus.

This book might only be palatable to two kinds of people; devout evangelicals looking to start up their own revival, and fanatical collectors of Jack Chick's maniacal cartoon rants. I must admit to being a fan of the latter, and so that is the only basis on which I can recommend it. Which, needless to say, I do.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's more than a meal... it's an Adventure!

There was a time not too long ago, during the Kitchen Revolution of the fifties and sixties, in which casseroles were viewed differently than they are today. While today children whimper and grown men cringe at the mere thought of a modern household sitting down to a casserole dinner, families of that more enlightened age celebrated the casserole as a modern culinary innovation on par with sliced bread and s'mores!

Back then, in those innocent times, the casserole was seen as both economical and festive. For the housewife, the casserole was a miracle dish of time management and efficiency. Instead of slaving over several dishes for extended periods of time, the modern housewife could simply combine all of the mandatory food groups into one big dish and leave it in the oven for an hour or so, freeing up her valuable time to tackle other household chores.

For the family sitting down to an evening meal, the casserole was both decorative and entertaining. The colorful patterns that the baked cornucopia of mealtime starches and proteins created were much more festive and cheerful then fresh cut flowers or fancy centerpieces; with a casserole, your meal is the centerpiece! And what could be more fun than a mystery meal in a creamy sauce or flaky crust? Is it ham or beef? Are those peas? Casseroles are a filling and nourishing meal that will have the whole family guessing long after the dishes have been loaded into the time-saving automatic dish washing machine. This hide-and-seek game with the dinner's ingredients can also take the edge off of other mealtime chores. No more tedious arguments trying to make young Johnny eat his vegetables; he won't even know where to begin looking for them!

Yes sir, those were the days, when combining an entire meal in one big mixing bowl while the electric oven preheats was one of the highest culinary art forms a devoted wife and mother could achieve!

No one new this better than Better Homes and Gardens. This is why their collection of all-time favorite recipes is an endless repository for the wisdom of the one-dish dinner. The pages of this precious volume are simply overflowing with, as the cover says, mouth-watering casseroles '...for a quick meal or a gala celebration.'

Who could resist a Pork Chop-Fried Rice Casserole, or a healthy serving of Sweet-Sour Kraut and Chops? Spice up boring hot dogs in a Savory Frank-Noodle Bake! Dig into a Turkey Souffle! If you are entertaining at a large gathering, why not wow them with a mess of Sausage Au Gratin, or a round of Toad in the Hole? And who could resist asking for seconds of Caraway-Sour Cream Cabbage?

Just think of the Better Homes and Gardens All-Time Favorite Casserole Recipes book as a time machine of taste, destination: the land that cooking forgot! Your appetite will thank you for making the journey!

To Tweet, or not to Tweet: The Twitter Dilemma.

Everybody’s doing it.

That used to be the peer pressure reasoning when someone was trying to talk you into doing something stupid; smoking, drinking, making crank phone calls, experimenting with drugs, performing acts of vandalism, voting republican - things that logic would normally dictate you avoid. These days, following the pack doesn’t involve breaking the law as much as it does utilizing the latest social networking fad.

If people ask what you are on, they aren’t talking about drugs. Are you on Facebook? What about MySpace? Are you now, or have you ever been, a Blogger? The latest and greatest of these is Twitter. Are you on Twitter? Do you Tweet? Are you Tweeting right now? Do you Twitter at work? Just what are you Twittering about? If you Twitter in a forest and nobody reads it, do you make a Tweet?

I will admit that I was reluctant to sign on to Twitter when I first heard about it, even though professionals were starting to utilize it for networking. It isn’t so much that I was afraid of new technology, or of appearing childish. I still play video games (on my Xbox 360 , no less), and am as capable as most when it comes to computers. My real fear was of being seen as the creepy old guy hanging out in the playground.

When I was a kid, there seemed to be a greater divide between kid tech and adult tech. When the Walkman came out, adults weren’t really seen wearing them in public unless they were commuters, and what few handheld games there were only seen in kid’s hands. But the lines have blurred now; kid gadgets are on par with the real tools. Cell phones the kids and adults alike are toting around have more technology in them than my first Desktop (a Commodore 64/128), you’re just as likely to see a middle-aged man with a PSP watching movies or playing games, and it seems like just about everybody has a damn iPod.

The same is true for social networking sites. When I first got online, chat rooms and news groups were almost entirely made up of sci-fi geeks, computer nerds, gossiping teens, sexual deviants, and any combination of the above. Now you’ve got politicians trolling for votes in the very same places.

I have numerous blogs now. I reluctantly joined MySpace a few years ago, after it was on the news about a dozen times, and quickly found it to be a great way to look up old friends as well as network and promote my writing. I joined Facebook for the same reason, and had to lock myself in a closet for three days after joining forty-seven apps.

Then the Twitter thing happened.

I’d heard about Twitter. I had even looked at the Twitter account of someone I knew, and here mind-numbingly boring descriptions of her daily thoughts and routines convinced me not to join it. But then it started getting mentioned in the news. All of a sudden, everybody and their mother were Tweeting their demented little hearts out. Newscasters were reading their Tweets on the air. Senators were Twittering during Obama’s State of the Nation address. John McCain, the man who bragged during the elections that his wife had to open his email for him, was suddenly Twittering like a madman.

Everybody’s doing it.

So now I Twitter. So now I Tweet. I try to keep my Tweets relevant, interesting, or at the very least, humorous. I don’t compose five separate Posts on how much I didn’t like the breakfast sandwich I got at Dunkin’ Donuts that morning. And I don’t follow anyone who does. Is it fun? Kinda. Has doing this improved my life? Not in the least. Will this eventually becoming more of a distraction than the helpful networking and communication tool that I’m hoping it will be? It’s still way too soon to tell.

But now, most importantly, when someone tries to convince someone else to Twitter by saying that “Everybody’s doing it,” I’m one of the ‘Everybody’s’. It may not be the equivalent of hanging out with the cool kids, but it’s probably the closest I’ll get.

I just Twittered that I was writing this blog entry. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Alan Moore is a Complete and Utter Jackass

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess to being a longtime comic book fan. Not a fanboy; I could never gather up enough excitement and wonder to attain that status. But like the many personalities behind Monster Rally, who all met and assembled at Metropolis Comics, I enjoyed comics immensely. And we all enjoyed The Watchmen. It was the bible all of mature comic readers, and none of us could ever be caught without a copy.

The Watchmen is, in our collective opinion, one of the greatest comic books ever written. We are all connected to The Watchmen, albeit some more than others. For example, one of my old friends from the days of Metropolis Comics, Gerard, loved The Watchmen as much as anybody. Now, two decades later, his band My Chemical Romance has a song featured in the film adaptation's soundtrack. So, needless to say, my affection for this classic work knows no bounds.

Sadly, I must also confess that I am a little less enthusiastic about the author.

Alan Moore has been an outspoken critic of every film ever based on his comic books. Of course, as he will happily admit, he’s never had anything to do with any of them. In fact, he has always refused any creative consultation on any of them. He is also of the strong opinion that none of them have ever come close to capturing the spirit or essence of anything he has ever written. Of course, he’s never seen any of them. He refuses to. Why? Because they aren’t any good, of course. In fact, Alan Moore is not a fan of movies at all. Not that he watches any of them, which he doesn’t. Why should he, if none of them are any good? Interesting logic for a man regarded as a highly intelligent literary figure.

Famous authors have often rallied against Hollywood, usually after they’ve sold out to it. Anne Rice spent a great deal of time bad mouthing the casting and story of Interview With a Vampire, then ended up taking out a full page apology in Variety. Stephen King got bent out of shape when the adaptation to The Lawnmower Man bore nothing in common with his short story by the same name, which featured a lawn care worker who ran around naked eating grass before eviscerating the lawn’s owner. He retaliated by writing a horror film of his own called Sleepwalkers, which ended up being far worse than Lawnmower Man. Clive Cussler threatened legal actions against the Hollywood version of Sahara, mainly because the screenwriters keep insisting on giving his Dirk Pitt series characters recognizably human personalities. Michael Crichton panned the film version of Jurassic Park and complained that people in Hollywood were ‘Stupid’, then proceeded to sell them the rights to his other titles so they could keep up the good work.

Where Alan Moore parts company with these other authors is that he consistently refuses communication with anyone involved, while simultaneously insisting that they have no idea what they are doing. Much like Ralph Bakshi, who made himself even more irrelevant that he had previously been (this was before Cool World) by declaring that Peter Jackson could never come close to adapting Tolkien the way he did in the animated Lord of the Rings, Moore has rejected Zach Snyder’s attempt to adapt his comic to the big screen with absolutely no knowledge of how it was being done. When asked about film adaptation of The Watchmen by The Los Angeles Times, Moore gleefully stated that when it finally came out, he would be “…spitting venom all over it.”

It is almost surprising, considering his distaste for any adaptations of his work, how eager he is to give interviews about how much he hates them. Surprising, that is, until you realize that he isn’t really talking about how bad the films are, but rather how great he is. These interviews usually start off with an explanation of how the film in question will never come close to mimicking his poetic genius, and eventually wrap up with the interviewer asking Moore’s opinions about government policies and world affairs as if he is Noam Chomsky, and not a guy who writes comic books. He hates these films so much, he can’t stop talking about them.

The irony to this is that the last two film adaptations of his work, V for Vendetta and The Watchmen, are two of the most faithful translations of a comic book to the big screen ever made, right along with Sin City and 300. I’ve heard some Moore fans bitch and moan about how V for Vendetta wasn’t faithful enough, and all I can recommend is that they go watch the first four Batman movies, follow it up with a double feature of Daredevil and The Spirit, and shut the hell up.

Moore’s main complaint about the adaptations of his work is no doubt what many critics will use as their crutch, that these films can never truly copy the experience of reading the comic book. This argument, of course, is pure and simple crap. Of course a movie can’t deliver the same experience as a comic book. It can’t deliver the same experience as a novel, either. It is a different form of media, which is why you have to adapt it. If that is your main argument against the film, then you had no business watching it in the first place. Stop criticizing movies for being movies and get over it.

To be fair, Moore doesn’t just restrict himself to criticizing an entertainment industry he has no experience in and knows nothing about. He’s also very critical of the publishing world that brought about his success, the comic book industry. When I say critical, I mean he hates it. His hatred of DC Comics is somewhat understandable, as they apparently tried to cut him out of merchandising royalties during the initial success of The Watchmen. But he also has strong words for the rest of the industry, and for comic books themselves, which he firmly believes are still stuck in the same clich├ęd format that they were when he first started writing for them. Of course, he readily admits in interviews that he doesn’t read comic books anymore (except maybe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which he writes), so at least his opinion of the industry’s current state is fully informed.

Of course, there is one film that Alan Moore likes. He not only approves of it, but also stars in it, mainly because the subject matter is close to his heart. The documentary The Mindscape of Alan Moore, for the most part, is over an hour of Alan Moore sitting in his home and telling a camera what he thinks about his art and the world. Moore may not like films or comic books, but there is one thing he still enjoys with a passion: the sound of his own voice.

All writers share two universal drives; an overwhelming desire to entertain, and a love of hearing themselves talk. When writers lose that first drive, they cease to be writers. They become advocates, politicians, protestors, leaders, advertisers, or sitcom staff writers. Or, they occasionally become wild-eyed lunatics preaching against the evils of a world they rarely visit and no nothing about.

There is always an irresistible urge to compare writers to their creations, and it is one I am not immune to. While some might compare Moore to the delusional Rorschach or megalomaniacal Ozymandias, I think he bears a closer resemblance to Dr. Manhattan. Like the good doctor, Alan Moore is a simple man who was given a gift of creative power, and in the process of utilizing it, lost touch with humanity. Of course, Dr. Manhattan came to understand the human race and left to possible create his own, while Moore grew his hair out and attempted to become the next Harry Potter, so there are flaws to the comparison.

So, I don’t agree with Alan Moore. Is that any reason to resort to name calling? No, of course it isn’t. But my argument isn’t that he is egocentric, obnoxious, and runs around looking like Rasputin the Mad Monk telling the comic and film industry how much they suck. My problem with him is that he consistently manages to spit in the face of everything that has made him the legend he is today. Like most entertainment personalities who go on to become boorish egomaniacs, his ultimate sin is that he bought into his own hype. Enough people called him an artistic genius and a literary god that he actually believed it.

Now he has eyes only for himself, for there can be no other but him. His contempt for comic books spills over to the fans, and his resentment of films attempting to translate his works into another format spills over to his own fans. You’re stupid if you read any other comic books but his, and you’re stupid if you liked any of the films based on his comics. In fact, you’re stupid if you like any films at all. In short, Alan Moore wants us to know that barely any of us has any taste, and that nearly all of the other comic authors and filmmakers out there have no real talent. And that, as far as I am concerned, is what makes him a total ass hat.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Saw VI: Lemony Freshness in an Open Wound

I don't watch much television these days, mostly because I don't nee the aggravation. But in the past couple of weeks, I have noticed a series of Pledge commercials that feature housewives being locked in a glass cube with dusty furniture.

The more I see these commercials, the more I can see this glass box showing up as a torture test in the next SAW sequel. One scene particular keeps popping into my head:


The warehouse is full of old boxes, discarded machine shop equipment, and random piles of trash. A large glass box sits inside the center of the space. Inside the glass box is a mock setup of a household kitchen, including a breakfast nook, an over sized refrigerator, and a counter-mounted television . The counters, cabinets, and appliances are all coated in filth.

A Young Woman sits unconscious on a kitchen chair inside the glass box. She is dressed in casual clothing, and looks as if she has recently been in a scuffle. A large metal collar is around her neck. A long metal cord attaches the collar to the television.

The Young Woman wakes up. Confused and panicking, she whips her head around. The cord pulls a pin out of the television. The television turns on. Jigsaw's tricycle riding puppet appears on the screen.

Hello, Emily. I want to play a game with you.

The Young Woman, Emily, paces around the mock kitchen, examining the glass walls for openings and looking in random cabinets.

You have been an untidy person your entire life.
Messy, sloppy, and unkempt, you have stumbled
through life allowing others to clean up after you.
You have voluntarily spent your life living in filth,
condemning your few friends and loved ones to
suffer through the mobile rubbish bin you call your

It is now your turn to clean up after others, 
Now is your chance to prove that you are worthy
of the life you have so carelessly filled with clutter
and refuse.
Emily opens a cabinet over the television. In it are a can of Pledge, a roll of paper towels, and a time clock. The time clock turns on and starts counting down from twenty minutes.

This kitchen was once a notorious bachelor
pad, a house in which twelve men lived as you have,
never cleaning, never tidying, never picking up after
themselves. The house was eventually abandoned
with six months of back rent owed.

You have twenty minutes to clean every surface of
this kitchen until it is completely free of all dust, dirt,
grime, mildew, mold, and allergens. If the kitchen has
not been cleaned to showroom quality by the time the
clock runs out, your glass cage will become your tomb.
The walls will compress down to a one foot cube,
which will be picked up by a rubbish collection agency
tomorrow morning.
Emily grabs the paper towels and Pledge. She looks at them. She looks around the room. She looks back at the can of Pledge.

The television turns off. 
Emily Screams.

The big twist ending could be that, since Jigsaw is dead, these new attacks have been perpetrated by his latest accomplices, the two British cleaning women from How Clean is Your House?

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