Monday, February 22, 2010

Book Review: The Bronx Kill by Peter Milligan

The Bronx Kill is the first truly successful entry in Vertigo's new manga-style crime series imprint, Vertigo Crime. This is most likely due to the fact that unlike the first two attempts, penned by popular novelists Ian Rankin and Jason Starr, the writing duties have been handed over to veteran comic book author Peter Milligan.

At first, Milligan seems like an odd choice for a crime story series, considering his notoriety for offbeat comic titles such as Shade the Changing Man and Animal Man. But he also has a lengthy history of strong storytelling with a dark edge, and he knows how to utilize the comic format to achieve the greatest possible effect. These are the skills that shine through in The Bronx Kill, and make it an engrossing (dare I say riveting?) read.

Most notable is Milligan's deft handling of the story-within-a-story device, in this case featured as the excerpts of the novel that main character Martin Keane is working on; a novel with themes and obstacles that mirror events in his own life. This kind of device can feel cheap and gimmicky when used improperly, as can when writers make their main characters authors, but with Milligan this is never a concern. While some might remark that the manuscript excerpts scattered throughout the graphic novel read more like a short story than a full-length historical crime novel, consideration for the time and space constraints of the comic format make this less a flaw in writing than a necessity of design. With that aside, Milligan's tale flows smoothly, and feels like much more than an exercise in plot-twists or a rehash of an old Law & Order rerun.

What really separates The Bronx Kill from the previous entries in this series is not only Milligan's experience with comic books, but his respect for the format; where the previous novelists seem to simplify for the comic audience (almost talking down to them), Milligan creates a level of complexity to the characters and plot that should be expected from any decent crime story. Let's hope that Vertigo Crime approaches more comic veterans in the future, and avoids trying to rack up crime-novelist celebrity credits in an effort to cross-advertise. Some more entries like The Bronx Kill, and this might become an imprint to keep an eye on.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Book Quote: Carson McCullers on Love

Here is a passage written by Carson McCullers, which I found while reading The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, regarding the nature of Love. I wish I had stumbled upon this before Valentine's Day, but here it is anyway:

          First of all, love is a joint experience between two persons - but the fact that it is a joint experience does not mean that it is a similar experience for the two people involved. There are the lover and the beloved, but these two come from different countries. Often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which has lain quiet within the lover for a long time hitherto. And somehow every lover knows this. He feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing. He comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. So there is only one thing for the lover to do. He must house his love within himself as best he can; he must create for himself a whole new inward world - a world intense and strange, complete in himself. Let it be added here that this lover about whom we speak need not necessarily be a young man saving for a wedding ring - this lover can be man, woman, child, or indeed any human creature on this earth.
     Now, the beloved can also be of any description. The most outlandish people can be the stimulus for love. A man might be a doddering great-grandfather and still love only a strange girl he saw in the streets of Cheehaw one afternoon two decades past. The preacher may love a fallen woman. The beloved may be treacherous, greasy-headed, and given to evil habits. Yes, and the lover may see this as clearly as anyone else - but that does not effect the evolution of his love one whit. A most mediocre person can be the object of a love which is wild, extravagant, and beautiful as the poison lilies of the swamp. A good man may be the stimulus for a love both violent and debased, or a jabbering madman may bring about in the soul of someone a tender and simple idyll. Therefore, the value and quality of any love is determined solely by the lover himself.
     It is for this reason that most of us would rather love than be loved. Almost everyone wants to be the lover. And the curt truth is that, in a deep secret way, the state of being loved is intolerable to many. The beloved fears and hates the lover, and with the best of reasons. For the lover is forever trying to strip bare his beloved. The lover craves any possible relation with the beloved, even if this experience can cause him only pain.
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Friday, February 19, 2010

The Stack Manifesto

AUSTIN, TX - FEBRUARY 18:  Smoke billows from ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Just in case anyone is curious enough to read what the lunatic that flew his airplane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas had to say (and anybody willing to fly a plane into a building is just that, a lunatic), I'm copying his "Manifesto" below in its entirety. Haven't read it myself yet, but it looks a lot shorter than the Unabomber Manifesto, so I'll probably tackle it over lunch.

The "Stack Manifesto"
If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt asking yourself, “Why did this have to happen?” The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time. The writing process, started many months ago, was intended to be therapy in the face of the looming realization that there isn’t enough therapy in the world that can fix what is really broken. Needless to say, this rant could fill volumes with example after example if I would let it. I find the process of writing it frustrating, tedious, and probably pointless… especially given my gross inability to gracefully articulate my thoughts in light of the storm raging in my head. Exactly what is therapeutic about that I’m not sure, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Obama's Socialist Book Club

The author over at the SayAnythingBlog recently posted a major breakthrough in the case against Obama. While touring the White House as a time-waster until CPAC started, this fearless crusader against the Obama Oppression was supposedly told by a tour guide that Michelle Obama had made some recent additions to the White House Library. SOCIALIST additions! Knowing that a picture is worth a thousand words, this brave soul managed to take a picture of the damning evidence of our country's idealogical takeover before Socialist Security Guards could stop him:

Smelling a major Scoop, he rushed the photo out and implied that this, taken with the fact that a member of the Obama administration once mentioned Chairman Mao by name, was damning evidence indeed.

Apparently, the "SayAnything" name of the blog is a reference to saying anything that comes to mind without doing any kind of fact checking or research. After he rushed this photo out with his accusations of a Communist Takeover, the Washington Post (which apparently likes to fact check) felt the need to point out that the books in question have been sitting on the shelves of the White House since 1963, when they were placed there (along with over 1,700 other books) by a committee created by Jackie Kennedy.

The humbled whistle blower at the SayAnythingBlog reluctantly posted a correction (because taking the original inaccurate post down would be silly), blaming the tour guide rather than himself, and insisting that his error did not invalidate his accusation that the White House has been overrun with Marxists.

I'm assuming that it will only take him a day or two to realize that the books are actually proof of vast Left-Wing Conspiracy stretching from the Obama Presidency all the way back to Kennedy's Camelot. That timeline should look good on Glenn Beck's chalkboard.

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Speaking of Jigsaw's Obsession with Dust...

After reposting my old Saw parody involving last year's Pledge Glass Box commercials, I found that one of the commercials I posted was no longer available. While doing a YouTube search for the commercial, I actually stumbled upon someone who took the idea and edited a Saw trailer together featuring the same premise:

Not bad, eh?

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A Saw Parody Revisited

About a year ago, I posted a quick parody of the Saw franchise, combining it with recent Pledge Furniture Polish commercials featuring housewives trapped in glass boxes. I thought it was kind of funny, so I whipped it out and moved on.  A week later, an old ex-friend contacted me and threatened to go to the police because I had posted a "disturbing story" with his wife's name as the female victim.

Shocked, I went back and read the story again, and found that I had indeed used the same first name, a common name that I had simply picked out of midair while writing the little parody. I immediately changed the name of the character the posts, not because I was afraid of any threats of legal action, as it was a common name, and the briefly presented character bore no resemblance to this idiot's wife. I changed the name because it was an honestly unintentional coincidence, and the name of the character held no importance to me.

But recently, I've had a change of heart. I came across the story again, and found myself annoyed that I actually bowed to the irrational threats of a delusional paranoid. I was so shocked by the absurd accusation that I went out of my way to prove it wasn't true, without considering how I was self-editing and self-censoring my writing to conform to sensibilities of someone I really don't care about, and in response to a complaint with no rational merit.

So, I'm not only going back and changing the character's name back to what it originally was, but I am also reposting the short parody again with the original name intact. I'll name characters in my fictional prose anything I damn well please, thank you very much.

Below, the "controversial" Saw parody in its original entirety.


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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Saturday, February 13, 2010

This Valentine's Day, Give the Gift of Penis

Or, to be more precise, give the gift of MovieSucktastic Episode #11, the Valentine's Day Special. The focus of this episode? Full frontal male nudity in film.

In their last episode, Joey and Scott spent a fair amount of time discussing the lengthy nude wrestling scene between Oliver Reed and Alan Bates in the Ken Russel film Women in Love. As much as they tried to put it behind them, this flagrant display of thespian penises left a taste in their mouths that they simply couldn't ignore. The idea of full frontal male nudity in films kept growing in their minds, until it was far too hard to keep down. Finally, the decision was made: A Penis Episode must be recorded.

Here it is, just in time for Valentine's Day, an episode sure to fully satisfy the hopeless romantic residing deep inside you. In this special Valentine Day Penis Episode, Joey and Scott take a long, hard look at the films in which they have been exposed to male genitalia in their cinematic past, stretching from the recent viewing of Women in Love all the way back to their first traumatic childhood glimpses of nude actors in film.

So, join the proudly erect co-hosts of MovieSucktastic as they pay homage to the male actor's package this Valentine's Day. Download it from iTunes, Podcast Alley or, and give it to that special someone who makes you throb whenever they are near. They will thank you in the end.

Have a Penis Film that you think was unfairly overlooked? Share your soreness with Joey and Scott at, and they'll do what they can to stroke your ego during the next podcast.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Cheerleader Devoured

Much more entertaining and realistic then the last Jurassic Park sequel.

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New Hampshire and Anal Sex

There's nothing like a little down-and-dirty sex talk to liven up a boring political hearing. Then again, I don't think I would count my money as being well spent if I called a sex hotline and got New Hampshire State Rep. Nancy Elliott reciting her version of Backdoor Lovin' to me.

This is the kind of stuff that really pulls the curtain back to reveal the true motives behind the anti-gay marriage movement. At a recent executive session to repeal same-sex marriage in New Hampshire, Republican Rep. Elliot launched into a rather vivid description of exactly how distasteful she finds the idea of anal sex. She keeps going until someone off camera asks her to stick to the bill, to which she responds that it has everything to do with the bill, because legalizing gay marriage is apparently leading to public schools teaching fifth graders how to have gay anal sex. Watch and learn, and be sure to take notes:

I don't know about you, but this is the most turned-on I've gotten from political debate since Ken Starr spent millions to find out exactly how far Clinton sank his cigar into Monica.

I'm not sure who that is sitting next to Miss Elliot, but she must have the most disciplined poker-face I have ever seen. I know I would have lost it at "wriggling around in excrement." I also probably would have interrupted and asked Nancy what her views on oral sex are, seeing as how as cunninlingus is probably more popular than anal sex among the lesbian population, which I am only assuming accounts for roughly half of all gay couples.

As funny as this kind of legislative gutter-minded shock-value argument against what is essentially a civil rights issue is, it goes a long way to illustrate some unavoidable truths about the majority of those opposing same-sex marriage:

1) Republicans think everything is about sex
2) Lesbians really don't get the equal attention they deserve
3) Nancy doesn't go for the Butt Sex

This is why I think it is completely fair and essential for all politicians campaigning against same-sex marriage if they've ever engaged in oral or anal sex with their spouses. Not just out of sheer vindictive retaliation, but because knowing is half the battle.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

MovieSucktastic Episode 10: Naked Men, Looker Labs and Avatar Apologists

The newest episode of the MovieSucktastic Podcast is up, just in time for all of those movie-lovers snowed in across the East Coast. This time around, on top of our normal Top Ten review and Finger List nominations, Joey and I give our in-depth reviews of the latest round of movie challenges.

Joey's challenge to me this episode: the 1969 Ken Russel adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love, one of the first mainstream films to ever feature full frontal male nudity, as well as the first film to win a Best Actress Academy Award for a role featuring a nude scene. That's right, you get to see Glenda Jackson's boobies. Unfortunately (for me, at least), Oliver Reed and Alan Bates get much more nude screen time.

My challenge to Joey: The eighties science fiction thriller Looker, written and directed by Michael Crichton nearly a decade before Jurassic Park made everyone forget about this film and Runaway. A scathing indictment of advertising, plastic surgery, and the notion that a sexy model can also be smart, Looker also features a former Partridge Family member in the buff. That's right, you get to see Susan Day's boobies. Fortunately (for Joey, at least), Albert Finney does not strip down for the cameras as well.

On top of all of this retro naked fun, Joey and I take a look back at our previous review of Avatar and decide on a new position regarding the film's quality, based mostly on the rabid defense it has received from its almost cult-like fan base. Let's just say we're a little less forgiving this time around.

Check it out on iTunes, Podcast Alley or, and then write to us at and let us know what you think. You've heard from us, now let us hear from you!
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Scott's Lost Update: LA X

The Black SwanImage by henrieschnee via Flickr
Some quick thoughts regarding the season six premier of Lost ("LA X") before this week's episode ("What Kate Does") airs tonight:

Flashback Transitions: A lot of people have been just assuming that these apparently concurrent "Flashes" are glimpses of an alternate reality created by the detonation of Jughead, a reality in which the island never crashed flight 815. This is bolstered by Miles' claim that the final words that Juliette had failed to tell Sawyer before she died were "It worked."

I think this is partially true. But the fact that it seems too obvious should be a warning sign to any longterm Lost fans. The assumption that everybody is working off of is that these Flashes don't exist in the same timeline, despite no real evidence that this is the case. Considering that there is currently a three year gap between the time of the plane crash and where our remaining survivors currently are, I think it is very possible that the Flashes will eventually take them all to where they currently are, but via different routes. I'm probably wrong, but I had to weigh in on it.

Another reason I think this? Because of...

Blood Around the Collar: Jack finding the spot of blood on his collar in the Alternate Reality Flash could be symbolic for the two timelines "bleeding" together and eventually merging into one. Jack's recognition of Desmond, whom he never would have met in this timeline, also not only supports this, but singles Jack out as the main catalyst for the crossover.

Speaking of Desmond...

Desmond: Was Desmond really on the plane, or his he doing some more Time Hopping? It is quite possible that an Island-less timeline would land a happily married Desmond on the flight, but his mysterious appearance and disappearance, and the lack of any sighting (yet) of him in the terminal, make his brief chat with Jack a bit... well... mysterious.

The Second Coming of Sayid: Has Jacob come back in Sayid's body? Considering that his rival (and the revealed Black Smoke Monster) has not inhabited Locke's body, but merely copied it, I find this highly unlikely.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

The Hilarity of Road Rage: A Pseudo-Confession

An old man with a bad toupee got out of his SUV and chased after my car while I drove away laughing the other day. Does that make me a bad person?
Cruise ControlImage by toddwshaffer via Flickr

I should probably elaborate.

Its a weekday afternoon on a stretch of route 57 that switches back and forth between forty and fifty MPH speed limits as weaves through clusters of residential and agricultural zones. I make it a habit of riding the speed limit on this road, with the cruise control set. I'll admit that a big reason for my strict adherence to the speed limit is the frequency that patrol cars hand out speeding tickets in this area. Self preservation is a great motivator. But in my defense, I've also reached a point in my life where I don't see the point in racing as fast as possible to get nowhere fast. I'm not trying to make myself out as Mr. Zen and rationality, I just can't work up any passion about treating a single-lane highway like a Nascar tryout track. It isn't like I have a pregnant woman a baby's arm hanging out in the back seat, I'm just driving home. What's the rush?

Anyway, I'm cruising at a gentle 50 MPH, and not surprisingly, I end up with an anxious SUV riding my ass because I'm not going fast enough for him. He hangs onto my bumper for a good few miles, and occasionally we get a enough inches between us that I glimpse the driver's angry little face glaring at me over his steering wheel, the curly blonde toupee crouching on top of his head as if it was equally pissed off at me.

U.S. speed limit sign, MUTCD R2-1.Image via Wikipedia
In all fairness, the guy with the rug in the SUV actually waited for a legal passing zone to zip around me. However, tailgating is still illegal, not to mention dangerous, so I felt justified in flipping him off as he passed me. Not the most mature action, I will admit. Also not mature was my reaction when, less then a mile later, I would up right behind the SUV at a red light.

This happens to me a lot. Some jackass will speed by me at twenty or so over the speed limit, and a few miles later we'll be sitting together at the same red light. This is why I rarely speed anymore, and why I've never gotten into any traffic-weaving hi-jinx. You can go as fast as you want, but the law of averages will almost always drag you back to the flow of traffic.

So, I found this funny enough that I honked and waved at the SUV guy. I didn't lean on the horn and shake my fist angrily, mind you; just a quick beep and a happy wave. Two angry little hands flew up as if to ask what the Hell I was waving at, so I rolled down the window and shouted out "Congratulations! You made it one car length ahead of me!" No angry voice or harsh screaming, just a friendly voice shouting loud enough so he could hear me if he wanted to. I was actually laughing when I said it.

What happens? The light turns green, he takes off like a bat out of hell, and I cruise right back into the speed limit. End of story. Until I end up right behind the same SUV at the next red light.