Wednesday, July 31, 2013

If a perceived threat is big enough do you think we'd ever be okay with surveillance from a giant robot with glowing orange eyes?

The NSA site right here in Utah where I live.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is tapping into the same viral marketing that propelled other successful movies into the black with a commercial for Trask Industries. If you don't have time to watch the commercial, it's done in the same tone as some of the Apple commercials that you see on t.v., you know...the ones with nice music playing in the background and video of people going about having fun and just loving life. The giant robot with glowing orange eyes at the end of the video is part of the Sentinel program which is the plot for the next X-Men movie. You kind of see a "hint" of this if you stay through the credits on "Wolverine," which came out this last weekend. Charles Xavier (yes he's somehow alive) and Magneto find Wolverine in the airport and tell him he needs to join them because the humans are doing something horrible to persecute their kind.
The "horrible" in this situation comes from the Sentinels. So instead of giant robots fighting kaiju, we get giant robots fighting humans with superpowers. I did love this summer's giant robots fighting kaiju story put out by del Toro and wish it had done better at the box office. I have no doubt that the latest Marvel offering will avoid a similar fate mostly because it's part of an existing franchise with a huge fan base.
This is one of the Sentinels protecting New York.
After I watched the video I did have one question that popped into my mind: if a perceived threat is big enough, do you think we'd ever be okay with surveillance from a giant robot with glowing orange eyes? The whole NSA thing has really blown up this year. I'm not sure why 2013 was the year of outrage, since Michael Moore has been blowing his horn on the NSA for years now. In Utah there's been a few protests staged outside the NSA's super facility that's located in the side of a mountain. An environmental impact statement indicated it would require 1.7 million gallons of water each day to keep the computers cool that will store all of "your" information. That statistic by itself is impressive.

And keep in mind that all of this is to "protect you" from terrorism.

So maybe this new X-Men offering is allegorically about our own decision to forego certain freedoms in order to feel safe. Maybe mutants have gotten so out of hand and destructive in this alternate reality, that the only way to live a normal life is under the perceived protection of a giant robot with glowing orange eyes.

What do you think? Would you ever be okay with something like this? How severe would the threats have to be before you thought, "Hey this is a great idea!" Oh dystopia...will your plots ever run out so we can have happy fun movies again? I'm kind of missing the days when we had offerings like Mary Poppins. However, this new X-Men plot does have me intrigued. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I'm totally not reviewing the Conjuring but I am interested in your phobias

This is Annabelle in the movie, "The Conjuring." It's a doll possessed by
a demon in the story. A guy keeps it in his house along with a hundred
other artifacts also containing demons. Why not? Right? There's no bad
that can come of doing that. It's just storage.
When I lived in Idaho Falls, Idaho some five or so years ago, my friend Melissa dragged me to every single scary movie that came out. She loves them (to date Melissa is the only person I've ever met that kept a copy of the Exorcist in her trunk, you know, for those occasions when the Exorcist is the perfect movie for any given social occasion). Melissa also LOVED black. Like, it's the only color she wore for years. And with regard to movies that she picked, it got so bad that I had to make deals with her. Deals like "Okay, Melissa, I've seen all these scary movies so now you have to see 'Dreamgirls,' because I want to see it." And she'd begrudgingly say, "Okay."
My friend Melissa thinks this movie is the most
appropriate selection for family "social gatherings."
I've seen this movie so many times, I really have
no interest in EVER seeing it again. Seriously.

Truthfully, I've never cared much for scary movies. I'm one of those people that screams and jumps in the movie theater, I cover my eyes with my shirt, and Melissa tells me that this is one of the reason she likes going to scary movies with me. I don't understand the attraction honestly.

So every time I go home to visit my parents, I always get together with Melissa. This happened last week, and as I looked at the movie listings I thought "Oh the Conjuring has been out for a little while so I bet Melissa has seen it, and I won't have to sit through it and we can go to Wolverine." Well it turns out that she hadn't seen it so yeah...I ended up at The Conjuring, and it scared me so bad that I had nightmares afterward. It's filled with creepy dolls, loud noises, and skillful editing that just draw you in. For the record, my mom collected dolls and she has hundreds of them around the house. She has some in fish tanks (that she converted to display cases) and in cupboards, and under the stairs. You can't go anywhere in my parent's house without seeing some emotionless and oddly disturbing doll staring you down.

I half expected some of their heads to start to turn in the middle of the night and say, "COME PLAY WITH ME." Umm yeah. No thanks. I'll pass.

Anyway, as I lay there thinking about The Conjuring I can't help but ask, what exactly is the allure in being afraid? If it were entirely up to me, the business would go bankrupt. I don't like being afraid nor do I condone paying good money to get someone or something to scare you. But fear is BIG business. So as a kind of social experiment, I'd like to ask you a few questions:

1) Do you pay for fear?
2) Do you like watching scary movies and if so, why?
3) What kinds of phobias do you have? Do you find dolls creepy? Are you afraid of the dark? And if you can answer this question, please tell me what happened that made you fear this very thing.
4) What are your favorite scary movies of all time?
5) Does the one minute short at the end of this post scare you?
That's all. Have a great Tuesday.

Monday, July 29, 2013

I'm kind of excited about Star Wars Rebels. Okay I'm REALLY excited mostly because this new concept art totally channels Ralph McQuarrie

So I saw on io9 last night that Star Wars Celebration Europe had a big reveal: concept art for the follow-up series to the Clone Wars. If you weren't reading my blog in the spring, I did my whole A to Z challenge on the Clone Wars despite the fact that Cartoon Network had canceled it. I (like many Star Wars fans) have been in the dark up until now.

So here's some fantastic concept art that was shown and if you're a fan of Ralph McQuarrie, you should be able to see the artistic nod. In short: it looks awesome!
Cool logo
This picture looks like it could have been a module written by West End Games.
I wonder what planet this is. The action in just these stills looks promising though.
Scheduled to appear in fall of 2014, it is supposed to take place between episodes III and IV. Basically, it is after the Emperor has taken over and Yoda has fled Coruscant. So if this series features any Jedi at all, my guess is it will be Obi Wan or Yoda. Maybe they'll have the ghost of Qui-gon teaching Obi-Wan the ability to live beyond death. That would be really cool.

So are you excited for Star Wars Rebels?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Michael di Gesu and Siv Ottem have some big news

Drum roll begins today and the Big Cover Reveal (or BCR for short) happens on Monday!

I'm still technically on blogger break, so I've disabled comments on this post. However, I was asked by Michael di Gesu if I could give a shout out for his blog post this Monday. And of course I'm incredibly honored to do so! In fact, seeing as Monday is a whole three days away...I'm kind of feeling like this (especially given the nature of this spectacular news)...
But the best things come to those who wait. Le sigh.

Michael, as it turns out, has many talents and one of them is art. So, it should be no surprise that he has done a fabulous job illustrating Siv Ottem's new book. If you want to see the artwork, it will be shown at the beginning of next week. I can hardly wait!

So, on Monday please go and visit In Time...located HERE
And stop by Siv Ottem's blog, Been There Done That, located HERE.

Have fun this weekend. As for me, I'm visiting mom and dad before the big move that takes place in August, so I've little time to do anything other than post this news. But I shall be visiting and reading your blogs soon. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Monarchy haters may want to imprison the royal family but that's because they don't do the math

I guess most of the world now knows that there's a new prince in Britain. For what it's worth, I don't understand the obsession most people have for this ancient organization that operates not as a meritocracy, but through strict nepotism and strategic alliances. That just seems like a relic of a bygone age, but hey, it's not my country.
Britain's royal family is literally the goose that laid the golden egg. Haters
of this institution are simply that and haven't bothered to do any of the math.
However, before I just blatantly condemn this millennia old institution, I decided to do some research and see what good the royal family does for Britain (you know...aside from existing as a family of "British Kardashians" that lives on luxurious estates making their number one responsibility to "look good" and sucking down a lavish lifestyle on the back of the taxpayer). The above video does a great job of explaining it. Hint: you should watch it.

In short (TL;DR):
Americans could compare the royal family to the Kardashians. But that
would be seriously insulting. The royal family makes the Brits a TON of
cash. The Kardashians make the U.S. a ton of embarrassment.
The Brits spend $40 million pounds a year maintaining them. However they make $160 million pounds off of their lands. This is enough to reduce the average taxpayer's burden by $2 pounds and 60 pence than it would otherwise be. I wish the president's family (Republican or Democrat) could say this about the impact of their family on the economy.

The golden goose tourists from America dump buckets of money on the UK every year to see the royals and everything they touch with magical "royal pixie" dust. It's a better attraction than Disneyland. Twelve million tourists spending $7000 million pounds is a good thing, right? Hell yes it is. In Chris Rocks words, that's a lotta money!
Cheap Pete from the 90's show, "In Living Color." He's best known for
saying "Good Lord that's a LOTTA MONEY!"
So how about you? Are you a hater of all things royal? Do you think this fabulously wealthy family sponges off the back of the people? If so, has the video changed your tune?

I (like the rest of the world) am curious as to the name of the new baby. I also kind of think it'd be cool if the prince was born gay. Wouldn't that be interesting? I wonder how the royals would react if their son said, "Um...I've been dating a guy that I met while playing polo..." William would probably look at Kate and say, "Why did you insist on wearing all that pink while you were pregnant? Sigh."

Oh my. The world would never be the same.


I'll be taking the rest of the week off. I'll see you guys next Monday.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Falling Skies tried to pull off Inception and didn't quite succeed

Tom Mason just prior to jumping off a balcony and miraculously escaping
the alien overlords who tried to extract information from his subconscious mind.
The escape seemed daring at first, but far too easy. Why in the hell didn't they
chase after him? Maybe he's still dreaming. It seems possible.
So Sunday's episode of Falling Skies really had me thinking "you writers at TNT watched Inception, didn't you?" Only in the case of Falling Skies, it was not as well done as Christopher Nolan's brilliant film simply because they didn't employ the use of the totems (totems are a good thing for the audience because it keeps us from getting frustrated).

For those of you who haven't seen Christopher Nolan's Inception, a totem is a thing that you construct. You don't let anyone touch it because only you should know the balance and the weight. Ariadne's was a chess piece, Cobb's was a spinning top, and Arthur's was a weighted dice. The purpose of the totem was to implant this idea (when you saw it in action): your world is not real.

In the Falling Skies episode entitled "Strange Brew", Tom Mason is once again the guest of the alien overlords (having been caught in last week's episode during the last five seconds). Now to be fair, Tom has been a house guest of the alien overlords before. Last time they talked with him and ended up planting a bug or something inside him. So this time around, it had to be different, right? Plus the stakes are much higher due to interference from another alien race called the Volm.
Karen is like the Darth Vader of this show.
We have Karen (she's the main bad guy that replaced the alien overlord from last season) and she wants to find out which of four cities is going to be struck by the resistance. Is it going to be Jacksonville, Boston, New York, or Chicago? Rather than resort to torture which Karen says she knows Tom can resist (he is a college professor after all), they decide to try and extract it from his subconscious. Think dream within a dream within a dream only unlike Inception, I kind of got lost.

Part of the fun of an Inception-style plot is figuring out if the reality you are being shown is real or not. Sometimes it's blatantly obvious. For example, Tom Mason shot Karen in the head. This led me to say "There's no way they'd off Karen that easily. She's like the Darth Vader of this show and for them to just shoot her and be done...not buying it." And sure enough, it turned out to be a dream.

I'm really not sure if the whole "Inception" thing really worked out well for Falling Skies. It made for some awesome flashbacks and for us as an audience to become emotionally connected to Tom's first wife, but it also distanced us from Tom's second wife and his baby daughter in a weird way. We also saw Anne Glass and his daughter Alexi murdered off camera by the alien overlords. In fact, we didn't even get a good look at them at all. This makes me think that Tom is just in another dream. But is he? Because it sure as heck seems that (at the end of the episode) he's not really dreaming. I mean he got away from the alien overlords by simply jumping off a balcony. They didn't even chase him down. Who does that?

If this is really how they are going to play things, i.e. off Anne and Alexi like they were nothing and then just let Tom get away by jumping off a balcony, I'm very disappointed. There are only two episodes left in Falling Skies this season, and I'm hoping to get some clarity on the things we saw in "Strange Brew" that left me full of questions. That's the danger, I think, whenever someone wants to channel Christopher Nolan and the Inception plot. To clarify further, the idea of layering dreams on top of each other can be aggravating to the audience if not anchored and explained well. Hence, Falling Skies should have used totems.

Either that, or they should never have tried to duplicate Inception in a forty minute episode. It just doesn't work.

Friday, July 19, 2013

How will you be affected if Barnes & Noble closes its doors?

Barnes & Noble at one time was huge. In April of 2006 its stock traded for $46.25 a share on the New York Stock exchange. Its stock price today is $17.97. For those of you who don't know, stock is how a company raises the money it needs to expand. When it falls like this, it means that investors are fleeing in droves, and that's bad.

As a writer who once fancied that it would be nice to see my books on a Barnes & Noble bookshelf, I think that fantasy will always remain a "fiction." I say that not because I don't feel I have the talent to get into one of those stores as a published author. I say that because their company is in SERIOUS trouble. As an amateur investor in stock, I'd have to say I wouldn't give them a penny. It's the "should I catch a falling knife?" syndrome. For those of you who don't invest, the analogy is pretty obvious. If someone throws a knife from a two story window, do you want to be the one that tries to catch it? Not me. I'm gonna let it hit the pavement and get destroyed. That's just the way things are sometimes; that's capitalism.

There are many problems that have plagued Barnes & Noble. For one, they decided to try and get into the ebook game to repeat Amazon's success. The only problem is that this particular strategy runs against their business model. They own brick and mortar stores that feature books, calendars, magazines, a cafe, some wi-fi for a person to use their laptop on, a dvd section, etc. But by selling the Nook, they were telling their customers: stay home and download books. And that's what they did (I live across the street from a Barnes & Noble and in five years, I've probably been inside maybe ten times). That's kind of sad. Without people like me going in, they lost the chance to pitch books from tables, to collect side sales like cookies and lattes from their cafe, and countless other things that I might have bought because the packaging caught my eye.

However, I suppose that the biggest problem is that not enough people want to buy books in retail outlets anymore. That's just a fact. Now, just to be clear, the brick and mortar portion of Barnes & Noble is still profitable by a tiny margin. Analysts on Wall Street believe that it should remain so for the next few years. But it's questionable if the company can survive the absolute hemorrhaging of money that's occurred thus far in 2013. Here's a rundown of the B&N holocaust.

On June 25th of this year, B&N (with regard to its brick and mortar stores) reported a 7.4% drop in revenues and a $122 million dollar loss for the fourth quarter of its fiscal year. For the full year, B&N earned a mere $10 million, compared to $177 million just one year prior.

It gets worse. The Nook division is an unmitigated disaster. It saw a stunning 17% drop in Nook revenues and a staggering $475 million loss thus far this year. Can you imagine losing almost $500 million?


So yeah, I think if you're a writer who wanted their books in a Barnes & Noble, or if you are one of those people that thought, "Man...those naysayers will be eating crow when my book is on the shelf at the local B&N, and I'm signing books to adoring fans" you should probably go and take a picture of your B&N because that business is in its death throes.

I wish it weren't true. But it's possible that the only place you will see paper books anymore is through independents or on that aisle in the grocery store. It makes me wonder how the Big Five publishers will deal with the mom & pop stores. So if B&N is tanking, what company is raking it in? The answer is obvious: Amazon.

Here's food for thought: In just ten years, Amazon's stock has surged 2000%. If you had invested a thousand dollars in them in Y2K you'd have 2 million dollars in the bank. Interesting, eh? Amazon will probably get so big within ten more years that it will just buy out Random House, Penguin, Knopf, and all the others with pocket change.

So what do you think? Will Barnes & Noble survive for another ten years? Do you think they can salvage their operation? Can big-style agented New York publishing survive without Barnes & Noble? And finally, how will you be affected if Barnes & Noble closes its doors? I think it would suck to go through all the trouble to get an agent, get your book sold to a publisher, then see B&N implode and shutter all its stores, resulting in you being told that your book is now slated for digital only and then thrown on kindle with all the millions of self-pubs because they have no way to market the paperback version of your book. I wonder how some egotistical writers will react when the "glitz" of a Barnes & Noble is gone, leaving behind a slew of used bookstores filled with cobwebs, yellowing pages, and hippies smokin' weed behind a stack of books propped up on end tables surrounding a flea ridden couch.

I can hear the conversation in my head. "Sue Grafton...over here. What's up my woman? You write some serious mystery." Puts cigarette out in ashtray. "We had five customers yesterday, but with you in da house we prolly get seven or eight. Saweeet!"

It may be a tad bit early but I'm gonna say it anyway. R.I.P. B&N. May the future prove me wrong.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hemlock Grove's atmosphere is great and its writing interesting but it needs more nudity.

So I started watching Hemlock Grove (the quintessential werewolf series) on Netflix (I'm presently three episodes in) and am enjoying it. The eye-candy is great, however, there are a few things that are bugging me about it (just to be clear, these nitpicks are NOT enough to make me stop watching by any means):
This is your werewolf ladies! Landon Liboiron plays Peter in "Hemlock Grove"
only he has more facial hair. He's a wolf after all. You previously saw him in
the failed science fiction show "Terra Nova." I'm glad he's made a comeback.
1) Not enough nudity. Come on. This cast is gorgeous with exception of the "freaks" like Roman's sister. All the guys have 6% body fat and the girls are all thin with perky smiles and firm everything (it's like they all have their own anti-gravity machines levitating their boobs). They've had plenty of opportunities for some serious nudity (trust me on this if you haven't seen it), but the only naked parts I've seen by the third episode is Landon's butt  (I'm not complaining just we coulda seen more) and a dead chick's torso.

2) It channels LOST way too much. Remember sitting down and watching Lost and then seeing a mystery and then another mystery and then another question? You hoped that in the end, everything would be explained but the mysteries kept compounding until all you had was a show full of questions. Well...that's a little of how Hemlock Grove seems to be going. I hope they explain some of the things I'm seeing, like 1) why is Roman Godfrey's sister so big? Why is one of her eyes all strange? How can Roman hypnotize people and make them do what he wants them to do? How did everyone know Peter was a werewolf as soon as he rolled into town? What's with the glowing trail of fire that lit up Roman's sister's face when he touched her? And on and on and on.

3) Blatant iPhone marketing is obvious to the point of it being annoying. Everyone has one. It's almost like Apple paid for this entire series.

Now there are also things I LOVE about this series (aside from the eye-candy):

1) The production values are great. The sets look awesome, and the dialogue is interesting. The atmosphere and feel of the Netflix series pulls me right in. I realize it takes place in modern times, but I'm constantly reminded of the gothic through visceral details that splash in full color on my high definition screen.

2) The special effects blow me away. Take a look at this video of the werewolf transformation that Landon has to go through (character name is Peter, and for the record, he's a nice werewolf and not a mean one). It's frickin' incredible. THIS is none other than the creative genius of Eli Roth (the man behind Goretorium in Las Vegas). I especially love how the wolf walks up and eats the discarded human skin. It's horrific, yet I can't pull my eyes away.

3) They have Famke Janssen (from X-Men) and Kandyse McClure (from Jeremiah and Battlestar Galactica). These two ladies can pack in some powerful performances.

I'd say more, but I have another episode of Hemlock Grove I need to watch. Have a great Thursday. :)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Talking Murder, Madness, and Love with author Yolanda Renee

Yolanda Renee is stopping by my blog today to answer a few questions. I hope you find her answers as interesting as I do. Oh and she answered the questions in "bloody" ink. Isn't that awesome?

1) Murder, Madness, and Love was previously self-published. Why did you change your mind and go with a publisher?

In the beginning I wanted to go the traditional route, and after numerous (over 100) rejections, I decided to self-publish because I wanted to give books to the family as Christmas presents. However, once I started the process, my husband convinced me I should go the full route. But self-publishing never gave me the exposure I needed for success. The books were not available in bookstores, except locally, Kindle did not support self-publishing in 2008, and I wanted national attention.

I set a goal, and I have this bad habit of needing to achieve goals. I'm very competitive. I hate being told I can't, or I'm not good enough—challenge me, I dare you.

2) You have previously spoken of three locations in the two books you have coming out. Which locations are used in Murder, Madness, and Love? Which are used in the sequel Memories of Murder? Had you been to any of these places, and why did you choose them?

Murder, Madness & Love is set in Anchorage, Alaska, Seattle, and the coast of Washington State. Memories of Murder takes place in Alaska, Washington, and a few scenes in Paris, France. The third book in the trilogy, From Obsession to Murder, is almost exclusively set in Alaska, this time I use the entire state, from Deadhorse to the Aleutian Islands.

I chose Alaska because I found it awe inspiring. I lived there 4 years and then Washington State for 17. I've never been to France, but I hope that changes soon! Research and loads of wonderful pictures took me to Dijon and Paris. I chose Alaska because my main character Detective Steven Quaid is Tlingit Indian / Irish, he's lead detective in Anchorage, and this is his story.

3) Tell us about the first sentence of Murder, Madness, and Love. How long did it take you to come up with it?

"Debra pulled up the collar of her jacket and stared out at the arctic gale battering the city."

This is the fourth first sentence. I have gone round and round with this first chapter, because it involves the first killing. One of my first critics said there was not enough action. The second said, never use the weather to begin your story, (this is also a pet peeve of agents), and the third thought I spent too many words on a character that died in the first few paragraphs. They were all right – this new sentence, says it all. Of all the chapters the first, is always the hardest to get right.

4) Did you always intend for there to be a sequel? Were there any frustrations you experienced in writing the second book?

I had no plans for a sequel, not when I wrote the first draft. When I first sent out queries to publishers, one called to say she was interested, and asked if I would consider doing a sequel. Of course, I said yes, and immediately started to formulate one. I never heard back from that publisher and was sorely disappointed; I go over and over that conversation in my mind and still don't know where I screwed it up.

That disappointment was a few years before I decided to self-publish. Once I knew where I wanted to take the story, I wrote books 2 and 3 in a matter of months, four to be exact (the first draft). And there were frustrations a plenty, especially trying to make book two as good as if not better than the first book. From the early reviews, I've done it, and now it’s a challenge to make book three even better. To have the entire trilogy published, will be a dream come true!

Thank you, Mike, for this wonderful opportunity to share my work.

Murder, Madness & Love by Yolanda Renée
To be Re-released August 19th, 2013


After a gritty detective becomes involved with a beautiful widow suspected of murder, slander and obsession obstruct his quest for justice.


A killer plays cat and mouse with a young widow against the snowy backdrop of an Alaskan winter. Branded a black widow after the suspicious death of her millionaire husband, Sarah Palmer flees Seattle for Anchorage. But the peace and quiet she hoped to enjoy in her hometown is soon shattered. The killer is murdering Sarah look-alikes on the 14th of each month, taunting Sarah with a valentine of evidence.

After her experiences in Seattle, Sarah is slow to go to the police. When she finally does, she finds Detective Steven Quaid. Called on to protect the beautiful widow from a stalker intent on her destruction, Steven is convinced he can solve Michael Palmer's murder and arrest the stalker. However, crime is never simple, and before long Sarah has Steven wound up tighter than barbed wire. Is Sarah a victim or a very skilled manipulator? With a killer on the loose and a climbing body count, Steven cannot afford to hedge his bets-or his life.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Newsroom makes me wish I lived in New York City and was a part of something so much bigger than the banality of my very common life

Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy. He's basically the "Brian Williams" of this
show. One of my friends said she can't watch this show because she
associates Jeff with his role in "Dumb and Dumber." I wish she could get
past that because the two characters could not be more different, and it
shows Jeff's strength as a high-caliber actor.
I enjoyed the first season of The Newsroom even though critics seemed to distance themselves choosing to be either 1) offended 2) confused or 3) disinterested. The "offense" was intentional as Will McAvoy at the center of this show believed in an America that was still great, but in his eye had lost its luster because politics had become both extreme and corrupt. He branded himself as a Republican, but there's no question that a lot of what he said in the show came out as "anti-conservative" especially when he compared the T.E.A. Party to the "American Taliban." That kind of analogy sounds as awful as it is, and I'm pleased that the waves from his statement (just like there would be in real life) are making things difficult for the little news network that could (meaning that they want to return the U.S. to a time where journalists were respected and not reviled by the public at large).

They changed the opening credits. Do you think it signifies a change in the writing?
I honestly love the music to the opening credits. It's one of my favorites. If you 
haven't seen it, you should watch it.

I think the reason I like Aaron Sorkin's take on the news is because he cleverly sets up the season within the first episode. Last season, it was Will McAvoy's rant that set up everything he said and who he was as a person for the viewers that tuned in faithfully every Sunday night.

This time Aaron is playing with the events that unfolded in the wake of the Arab Spring in our country: the idea that Americans wanted a revolution and staged Occupy Wall Street to draw attention to income equality. Whether or not Occupy Wall Street actually accomplished anything I suppose is not the point. But talking about why bankers who made hundreds of millions of dollars while tax payers lost billions of dollars is worth looking at, and I think this is going to be one of several themes for this season. Or maybe to make this even simpler, the show is going to talk about inequality and how (as Americans) we actually encourage it...perhaps (dare I say) even revel in it?

In the premiere episode of season two called "First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" we have repercussions from the insult uttered by Will McAvoy when we see ACN ostracized during congressional hearings on SOPA (remember this one?). ACN wasn't even allowed to enter the building.

We see Jim (in the role of reporter) turned away from a ride on the Romney press bus, so he has to spend his own gas to cover the early stages of the presidential campaign.

And we see the whispers of a story that (according to previews) will blow up in the face of The Newsroom and provide the kind of drama we'd associate with these very real characters.

Yes, I find these points interesting because despite our culture's readiness to push for change, what usually ends up happening is change means that someone is going to come up with the short end of the stick. However, I have to say that what continues to draw me back to The Newsroom is how every single character can stand alone. They are very human. And just like I can relate to the single picture of the eyeball in the opening credits (as the person owning that eyeball contemplates the day's events), I can relate to the human struggles that these fictional characters undertake with admiration, bringing us the news with the same vigor as firefighters putting out flames and saving lives.

It's fascinating, heroic, and even tragic at times. There's a part of me that hopes I can breathe this kind of life into characters via whip smart dialogue (which is a trademark of Sorkin) and real life issues that transcend the material things to which we all cling. And there's a part of me that wishes I could live in New York City and be a part of something so much bigger than the banalities of my very common life.

Are you watching The Newsroom? If so, what did you think of Sunday night's premiere?

Monday, July 15, 2013

True Blood's Warlow is the most interesting vampire to come along since Eric Northman and yes, I only watch True Blood for the PLOT!

Okay True Blood, as of last night's episode, I'm totally engrossed in you. But there are days when I feel we are in a Bad Romance....
That's Warlow on top. And that's Sookie's "slay any vampire" power she's
holding to his head. If that isn't the best way to kill a vampire, I don't know
what is. And it's one of many reasons I like Warlow so much.
This season of True Blood started out with me doing much head shaking. I didn't see the need for the "Billith cam" (where we got introduced to the way Billith sees the world) unless it was for priceless gifs like Sookie Stackhouse saying the word "Fuuucck" in slow motion. Last season wasn't that great either, so my expectations were maybe a wee bit low. We had the oldest fairy in the world who loved Ke$ha, we had five hundred characters, we had Sam and Luna running around naked in every episode, and there was hardly any Lafayette (and I love me some Lafayette), but this season has somehow pulled itself up by the bootstraps and given us some real interesting characters.
Okay, this gif really is amazing. You should download it to your phone and
text it to anyone that messages you. It's funny as hell to get their reaction.
Now I'm freely admitting that I was deeply skeptical when I heard of Warlow. For those of you who don't know who Warlow is because you aren't watching the show (well I have no idea why you're even reading this if you aren't watching the show) but just to explain: Warlow is the vampire that killed Sookie's parents, and he's supposed to be very old and very powerful.
He killed Sookie's parents! But doesn't he have a nice smile? I guess if he
had a good reason to kill Sookie's parents it can't be all bad, right?
Warlow's the reason why Jason Stackhouse completely lost it and said "Knowing my parents were killed by a vampire is the worst thing that's ever happened to me." And that's a pretty big statement since in one season of True Blood, a pard of were-panthers spent at least six episodes gang raping him over and over. So either Jason has a gift for ignoring anything that has to do with sex, is stupid, or he just really didn't like hearing that his parents had been killed by a vampire. I'm actually not sure which of those three applies, but it's True Blood so it's not like any of their problems get so bad that they just can't hump their way through them, right?
In a world filled with super-powered freaks, Jason Stackhouse's super-power
is the ability to hump his way through any problem that arises. Damn. I think
I'm jealous of that.
Anyway, with regard to Warlow, I thought they were going for another kind of Russel Edgington-type character and I thought, "how unoriginal." But they aren't. Warlow is way more complex, and I love where this is going. And they're employing the same kinds of techniques that make Bill, Eric, and Pam interesting vampires, i.e. the flashback.

Now I know I just heard all you writers out there groaning, but the flashback really works in television (maybe not so much in writing). Last season with Eric, we flashed back to the time where he made Pam (think gas lamps and Victorian England and you've got the time perfectly). And with Bill, it's not been so much flashbacks as it's been surreal conversations with Lilith (the vampire goddess and perhaps the first vampire?) while being surrounded by bloody naked women strutting vagina first into the sun. And well...if you've got a nice body and are a feminist, I honestly can't blame you for strutting vagina first into the sun. It just might be the greatest meme ever.
Censorship courtesy of io9 :) Ladies, do you feel empowered yet?
So we get introduced to Warlow who is a fairy that's crossed with a vampire and who's basically almost as old as Lilith. She made him in fact (and we're talking about prehistoric times here). The first flashback we got from Warlow read "3500 years ago..." That's pretty damn impressive. But it also turns out, he's not really a bad guy. He was a good husband that got turned into a vampire by Lilith while putting water in a jug by the river for his family. And now 3500 years later, he's come to marry Sookie Stackhouse, and it turns out he loves her and actually saved her from her parents who tried to kill her. a seance with Lafayette, Sookie found out her "loving parents" really didn't love her all that much. They feared her, thought she was weird, and pretty much just wanted to get rid of her. Warlow stopped all that.
In another season, Lafayette said, "I am not gmail for all you dead bitches." But for Sookie,
he IS gmail...and for the record, I love the way Lafayette says "bitch." It's more entertaining
than when Jesse Pinkman says "bitch!" and that means a lot. Don't believe me? Here are
my scientific findings to back up my hypothesis:
Verdict: Lafayette wins!
Warlow can walk in daylight, saved her brother, and sure...he's done some bad things like destroy an entire nightclub of fairies that worked as strippers and then stuck Sookie's grandfather "the King of the fairies" into the dimension he had to live in and survive for a long time, but Sookie's grandfather was weird anyway.

There's that word again..."weird" and I've used it multiple times here. Is "weird" really something that I should use to describe True Blood? Don't answer that, or the universe may possibly explode. Maybe my whole point to this utterly pointless post is this: Warlow is hawt, and I'm weird because I watch True Blood.

So yeah, I think True Blood's Warlow is the most interesting vampire to come along since Eric Northman. Anyone else agree?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

If you haven't been paying attention to the Treyvon Martin case you should because the outcome could affect your life

Yesterday, the defense team of George Zimmerman made their closing arguments in the Treyvon Martin case and it's expected that the jury will begin deliberations as soon as Friday afternoon. I've been following this case (as has most of the nation) for a while now and the one thing that troubles me has to do with this thought:

If an aggressor goes out of their way to antagonize a defendant (who is doing no wrong) and a fight breaks out that goes badly for the aggressor to the point where they feel their life is in danger, do they actually have the right to kill that defendant and get off with no punishment?

To put it another way, is it okay to antagonize someone into a fight and if it gets out of hand, claim self defense and kill the other person? Because that's exactly what's going on in this Florida case. That's what the defense is arguing is "lawful," and depending on how this verdict goes down, I'm a little worried about what it means for the rest of us.

In states that support a self-defense law, it will be okay for enemies to stalk you and antagonize you into a fight in the hopes that they can justify that they "feared for their life" and had to put a bullet in your heart to stop you from killing them. Does anyone else have a problem with this? Does anyone else believe that it's wrong that an aggressor pay no legal penalty for setting deadly events in motion?

I don't think that this trial is just about what happened that fateful night in Florida. Nor is it about what you or I believe what happened and whether or not Treyvon was in the wrong and Zimmerman conversely in the right. The bigger picture is about how we can grant some citizens the right to kill on fear while systematically denying that right to others.

If you haven't been paying attention to the Treyvon Martin case, you should be. The ruling could very well be a matter of life and death for any one of us in the future if aggressors are emboldened by the knowledge they can face no legal punishment as long as they can claim self-defense, even if they started the fight.


I will be skipping my post tomorrow to enjoy a Pacific Rim weekend. I'm seeing it tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday. If you wonder where I'm at, just think "watching monsters and robots slug it out on the big screen."

Have a good weekend. I look forward to reading your comments on what I've said here and whether or not this thought occurred to you about the trial.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The best parts of Melissa Harris-Perry's commencement speech to Wellesley College graduates are truthful and worth listening to

Melissa Harris-Perry
I like great commencement speeches, mostly because I never went to my commencement. I was actually ashamed that I got a degree in English because my father essentially said it was a worthless degree and that I was a failure for getting one. I'm not mad. It's just the truth. It's what he honestly believed, and seeing as I didn't have a job right when school finished, it's not like I could prove him wrong. It took a decade before I gathered enough work experience to have a career that can support me into retirement. Here's another truth: I don't feel like a failure anymore. I feel lucky to have my job with benefits and a pension, and I clawed for everything I've accomplished (tooth and nail) to get to where I am (firmly planted in the middle class). I also feel sorry for those who are entering the workforce today, because good jobs are drying up. America is not the land of opportunity it was forty years ago.

There's a lot of truth in my life (that's the one thing that has always come in crystal clear and 20/20) and all the people in it have never held back. I remember when my cousin came to visit and after she met me (eleven years old at the time) she asked grandma "Why is their family so ugly?" More truth I suppose; kids tell it like it is. Just recently someone I was helping asked me, "What is your degree?" (I assume they were impressed because I'm smart). I responded "English." They immediately said with disgust and contempt, "How did you get this job then?" I was amused because even a person that doesn't have a job can have contempt for me. But you know what? I am smart. I have an above-average IQ, and I'm thankful for it.

Maybe I could have gone to an Ivy League school. I'd like to think that had I been given the opportunity, I could have been on the Dean's List of my choice of major at Cornell. But I went to Sarah Palin's alma mater, i.e. the University of Idaho. And as soon as school was done, I packed up my things and just drove home to try and struggle with the big question of what to do with an English degree that my father said is useless? Well, I can say from experience that as useless as it was, living in Idaho Falls, Idaho (population 50,000) made it even more challenging to find work that wasn't minimum wage. It's a right-to-work state so there's no unions and the "job creators" there believe that profits should be made off the back of slaves. Because of living in Idaho Falls, Idaho, I will always be a democrat. I've seen economic injustice first-hand. I spent years working retail, sometimes holding three jobs, and trying to build a resume so chock full of experience that I could land a career.

But this post is not specifically about me or the challenges I have in my life. It's not supposed to be about whether or not someone chooses to mock me for trying to showcase credentials I feel I've earned through study, trial and error. Nor is it about how people misjudge me all the time because they think my life is easy when in fact it's the opposite, and I hide it really well.

This post is about Melissa Harris-Perry and what she had to say to graduates of Wellesley College in May of 2012, and it's every bit as great as what Steve Jobs had to say to Stanford grads before his death, because it holds nothing but truth. For those of you who don't know, Melissa Harris-Perry is a political scientist and MSNBC television host and she urged the crowd of students to be ignorant, silent, and thick. That sounds awful, right? Well, not so much.

Here are a few choice quotes:

"But even as you accept your hard won degree, I encourage you to embrace the reality that you know almost nothing."

I personally feel that I know almost nothing. I just wish others felt the same. I try to explain things that I do know and more often than not, I get cut off mid-sentence by someone who acts the expert and then the conversation is ended. Days later I find out they actually knew nothing and just didn't want to learn from the likes of me. In every single case, I want to point out that all of these people that cut me off have been men.

"Standing in a library reminds us of our own limitations. It encourages us to remember that we don't know everything, can't predict every outcome, and don't even know all the right questions to ask. I will never fill a cavity. It is pretty unlikely that I will ever speak Mandarin. I am certainly not going to decode anything in the DNA chain. But thankfully, graciously, the universe provides an interdependent web of other fantastic women who will. Remembering our ignorance, embracing our ignorance, allowing ourselves to accept a posture of ignorance compels us to keep learning."

"So remember, ignorance is not your enemy, only complacency with ignorance is to be resisted. Never become so enamored of your own smarts that you stop signing up for life's hard classes. Remember to keep forming hypotheses and gathering data. Keep your conclusions light and your curiosity ferocious. Keep groping in the darkness with ravenous desire."

I don't understand why people get to an age where they choose to stop learning. I've actually heard, "I know how the Earth came to be. This is what I believe and you're not going to ever change my mind." All I've got to say to that is "Wow. You learned everything before you were twenty and now all you want to know is how to save money for retirement and pop out some kids." I've never stopped learning. Each day I try to fill my mind with something else. I ravenously read newspapers, read science articles, and search out anything and everything about stocks and the financial market. I guess at the age of 41, I know enough to say in the humblest of ways "I actually know nothing, but I'm willing to learn if you teach me."

"Silence can help to soothe one of the voices that you would actually like to be quiet more frequently. It's what Jay-Smooth would call your 'internal hater.' That little hater...the hater sits on our shoulder and tells us, 'sit up straight,' 'omigod, you have a lisp,' and 'why are you talking?'

"Thick is the only thing worth being. Thick women make fools of themselves all the time because thin women stand on the sidelines. They're critical; they're removed; they're barely committed. Thick people pitch tents in a park with the belief that social action can change an entire international global system of economic injustice."

"Thin folks believe every critic is a 'hater.' Thick folks can hear critique without crumbling. Thin leaders stay the course no matter what the evidence sat. Thick leaders listen, learn, and correct."

"Thin women look great in bikinis. Thick women look terrific in history books."

I love that last line more than anything.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The shocking twists and turns of Defiance channel George R.R. Martin in a spectacular season finale. The lesson? Never meet an evil person in the woods. Like ever.

This scene ended the episode. It's the invasion of the Earth Republic
army taking over Defiance. It's a bad time for this sci-fi outpost.
Everything is indeed broken. Click to EMBIGGEN
The culmination of an amazing season one ended last night with cliffhangers that made me realize, Defiance is not your run-of-the-mill "play it safe" and be predictable sci-fi series. I am thoroughly engrossed in this story, and I HATE the fact that I have to wait until June 2014 for more. SyFy channel built last week's episode as "the one everyone will be talking about." Although good, it had none of the shocking moments that Monday night's season finale called "Everything is Broken" had. And I just want to warn those who are following this series and haven't watched it yet, there are some major spoilers in this post.
Kenya had the upper hand on Stahma, but got outmaneuvered. R.I.P. Kenya.
OMG they killed Kenya. She was like one of my favorite characters. And Kenya didn't die a useless death either. She was outmaneuvered in a game of chess and paid for it with her life. I really shouldn't be shocked, but I am. Kenya's demise was foreshadowed by the venomous and treacherous threats coming from the evil Stahma. "This will not end well for you," Stahma said to Kenya. I just didn't think Defiance had the cojones to go there. After last night's episode, I'll never say that again.

To be fair, I admire Stahma. She's got more layers than an onion and makes for a powerful villain. She's as ruthless, conniving, and clever as Cersei in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. But I thought Kenya could outwit her. In truth, I believed she had up until the end. I kept asking myself, what would I do if I were in Kenya's position? I don't know if I would have met Stahma in the woods, but I sure as hell wouldn't trust her...not after she back-stabbed her sister, Mayor Rosewater, to give Datak an edge in the election.
Meeting an evil person in the woods is never a good idea. Here Kenya
in back (she's the brunette) is meeting Stahma. This scene reminded me
in every way of the 1976 film "Omen 2" where Damien kills a blond boy in
the woods who suspects who he truly is, i.e., the Antichrist. See picture below.
This scene gave me nightmares when I was a kid. The dark-haired boy is
pure evil. The blond kid in the background goes to the same military
academy and stumbled across Damien's secret, so he kills him with his
"powers." It's awful. Lesson: never meet an evil person in the woods. Ever.
But as it turns out, Kenya did meet Stahma in the woods (NEVER DO THIS! NEVER EVER MEET AN EVIL PERSON IN THE WOODS PEOPLE!), and Stahma acted just like a spider, luring Kenya in by saying she was on the run from her monster husband. The only thing that makes this act even believable is that Datak is a monster. I suppose that Stahma said at least one thing that was correct: "You don't know Castithans." Kenya paid the price with her life by accepting a flask coated with poison. She was smart enough not to drink it, but just touching the surface of the flask was enough to kill her. It was a total turn around since Kenya had a gun to Stahma's head and seemed to have the upper hand. I'm still reeling from this surprise, and I thoroughly expect this to go down as one of the top ten shocking deaths in science fiction. It's right up there with Samuel L. Jackson's death in Deep Blue Sea.
One of the most shocking deaths in cinematic history.
OMG they killed Nolan. What the hell is going on? I loved Nolan. We've been seeing Defiance through his eyes since day one. We started out with him in the pilot episode in a crawler with his daughter in tow making their way to Antarctica. Right from the start, he established himself as a rugged military man with a sense of honor and the ability to beat anyone up in a fight. Strong, cunning, with a "straight as an arrow" moral compass, and boom...taken out with a bullet fired from an Earth Republic surgeon that has a reputation for loving his work. This is a euphemism for "I like to cut people up on the operating table."
Noes! They killed Lawkeeper Nolan. 
To be fair, Nolan's fate is similar to Catelyn's Stark's: dead but then resurrected through magic (sorry if I'm spoiling A Game of Thrones here). But the resurrection comes at what price? Irisa  has essentially given herself over to being "The Devouring Mother" because she didn't want to lose her dad. She's now the weapon of Irzu, the goddess of the Irathients, and from the look of things, I think this means she's going to lose all of her identity and become a killing machine. Her body may survive the fall into the strange glowing pit deep within the mines, but all the things that make up Irisa can't possibly survive that. So in a sense, they've killed off Irisa too!

Major cast members have been dropping like flies in this season. Who OTHER than George R.R. Martin does that? Well okay...The Walking Dead does it too. I don't know if I really like that or not? I suppose I do because I'm completely hooked in this show.
The conniving and murderous Tarr family. As much as I'd like to see them
get justice for killing Kenya and hurting others, they are some great villains.
OMG they killed Datak. Okay...we didn't see him get killed so he'll probably be back next season. But the fact is that he did kill the leader of the Earth Republic with a knife in his office and soldiers were pounding on the door. I just don't see how that could go over well? Hands covered in blood, dead body of the leader on the ground. I know if I'd been a soldier and saw that, I'd fill the dude full of bullet holes. All they wanted was access to the mines and they got that when Datak won the election. What further use is this Castithan to them? He's dead weight; a liability. And by the way the writers offed Kenya, I fully expect Datak to get executed along with Stahma in the season premiere.

Man oh man, the shocking twists and turns of Defiance channel George R.R. Martin in a spectacular season finale dripping with blood. Why does June of 2014 seem so far away?

Monday, July 8, 2013

The real world physics that could make the scenario of SyFy's Sharknado a distinct possibility and what you should do to protect yourself

Summer may be hot, but it isn't hot enough without flying shark eating
Tara Reid "OM NOM NOM NOM" ... Sharknado is an actual T.V. movie.
Summers are getting really hot, and I'm not talking about six-pac abs and string bikini hot (although I guess I wouldn't mind being on the beach to see at least some of that). Just a year ago, we had the hottest month on record. Ever. And everyone from scientists who study climate change to insurance adjusters paying out claims is asking, "Is this normal?" Now, just to be clear, I'm not trying to start a political debate and ask what side of the climate change argument you are on. However, I do want to tell you about one super crazy idea that just may be a possibility in the near future (it's super scary when you consider it could create flying sharks!)

In a paper published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, physicist Rob Wood is proposing than an experiment be conducted on a small scale where marine stratocumulus clouds are seeded with a lot of tiny sea water particles. The effect they are looking for is to significantly enhance cloud droplet number concentration, and thereby cloud reflectivity and longevity. The result: a cooling effect.
The proposed barge that could be used to seed clouds with sea water
to cool down the atmosphere. But unless there are filters to keep sharks out
we could totally be looking at a Sharknado scenario.
Initially, the project would deploy sprayers like the one pictured above to ensure that enough salt water particulate can be blasted high enough into the sky. In turn, a plane equipped with sensors would monitor the physical and chemical characteristics of the particles and how they disperse. Cool, right? Well maybe not so much.

Here's my train of thought: sea water doesn't appear to be initially dangerous. However, when I bother to look deeper and start to think of their delivery system, and how it could possibly blast microscopic algae, bacteria, fungus, minerals...literally anything in ocean imagination goes wild. Sure...the "reasonable" person in me says that this living stuff wouldn't survive the process.

BUT THE SCI-FI WRITER IN ME ASKS: WHAT HAPPENS TO THE SHARKS THAT GET SUCKED UP INTO THE MACHINE?  Cause the ocean totally has sharks in it and they nom nom nom on people ALL the time.

And I suddenly had this epiphany that "bold" font simply does not have the power to express but I shall give it the old college try: OMG..."SHARKNADO!"

Those brilliant guys at SyFy sooo saw this coming....
Here's the synopsis:
When a freak hurricane swamps Los Angeles, thousands of sharks terrorize the waterlogged populace. And when the high speed winds form tornadoes in the desert, nature's deadliest killer rules water, land, and air!
Starring Tara Reid (the Academy Award Winning [okay not really] actress from American Pie) and John Heard, Sharknado premieres on SyFy on Pacific Rim Eve (Thursday is now "Pacific Rim Eve" and Friday is "Pacific Rim Day").
But guys, after having read my explanation of how the cloud seeding works can't you see that there are real world physics that could make the scenario in Sharknado for reals? 

I know, it's terrifying right?

So let's go over the things you should do to protect yourself should a Sharknado happen for real in your home town:

1) Get yourself a suit of riot armor and don't go outside without it. Flying sharks don't like the taste of riot armor, and they will avoid eating you for someone who is plump and juicy (which describes most Americans). 
2) Don't eat at Long John Silvers. Sharks can smell fish on you and if you've been eating there, chances are, they will consume you out of revenge. I know this is a fact because there's a movie called "Jaws the Revenge!" So it's totally real.
According to NPR, this "heart attack on a hook" has 33 grams of fat, 1320
calories, and almost 3700 milligrams of sodium. Not to mention that kids
will call you "fatty" and sharks will want to eat you.
3) Get a bigger gun. You know...something the NRA would approve of because flying sharks are dangerous.
Don't be frightened by its size. You can buy it without a background check
online thanks to Congress. Just get a couple of these babies and pack them
with you to the grocery store so in case the Sharknado hits, YOU ARE
4) Become a ninja. Ninjas can always beat sharks. Just look at the below picture as proof. And if you cannot become a ninja, then hire a ninja. I hear they work for food. You know you've got a successful one if you tell him where you live, and when you go home, all your stuff is gone. Ninjas are like that. They can be in and out like the wind....
5) Dress up as Batman and buy a toy red lightsaber. Sharks are terrified of the Batman because of what happened the last time those two tangled:
And there you have it folks. Whew. Be safe everyone and remember my five rules even if you can't remember ANYTHING else. Trust me, they shall serve you well.