Monday, December 16, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

--from Calvin and Hobbes
If there is magic in Christmas, it is all of you who create it. Thank you for being a part of my blog and for reading my posts. I will see you again in January 2014 for the Insecure Writers Support group. Until then, take care, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Friday, December 13, 2013

This Christmastime chūshingura prequel drips more coolness than any Desolation of Smaug trailer.

I absolutely love this poster for 47 Ronin.
This Christmas, fans of Japanese samurai and magical worlds are getting a real treat in the form of a super-ambitious high quality live action movie starring Keanu Reeves. My fear though is that some people in America may not realize that 47 Ronin is a Chūshingura and may just dismiss what could be the greatest fantasy film of 2013 (yes...I'm saying it could be better than Desolation of Smaug) and miss out on it entirely because of their unchecked prejudice.

So what is a chūshingura exactly? Well, they are fictionalized accounts in Japanese literature, theatre, and film that relate the historical incident involving the 47 Ronin and their mission to avenge the death of their master, Asano Naganori. Including the early Kanadehon Chūshingura (仮名手本忠臣蔵?), the story has been told in kabuki, bunraku, stage plays, films, novels, television shows and other media. With ten different television productions in the years 1997–2007 alone, the chūshingura ranks among the most familiar of all historical stories in Japan.

So this new telling of 47 Ronin is nothing different. In fact, it is a tradition in Japan, and you should embrace it wholeheartedly. Also, "I hate Keanu Reeves" is not a valid excuse to avoid this film. Keanu is a pretty decent actor and he's poured his heart into this role, even going so far as to become fluent in the Japanese language (he's also half-Japanese so he has more cred to be in a Japanese film than Tom Cruise).

However, despite 47 Ronin being so well-known across the Pacific, audiences here risk confusion as to what this particular chūshingura is about. Have we ever seen one replete with dragons, ki-rin, tengu, and other such monsters? To prepare those of you who've been bitten by the curiosity bug, there's an animated prequel to the movie done in comic book style and I've embedded it below. It's so wonderful, I wish book trailers had this kind of quality. Heck, I'll take one please! All kidding aside, you should watch it and marvel at the really cool art panels and how the whole thing is reminiscent of those beautiful silk screens for which Japanese art is famous.
Some terms you may need (in order to understand the prequel) defined by me with essential text lifted from Wikipedia's extensive knowledge base:

Bushido: This word means "the way of the warrior" and it is a code that defines a samurai's life. The western comparison might be chivalry, although this is a "loose" comparison as chivalry mostly developed out of medieval misogyny (the fear of women). And if you're surprised to know this then I'm sorry to burst your little bubble. Yes, chivalry was developed because men feared the power and association women had with Satan (and it all goes back to Genesis when Eve got Adam kicked out of the Garden of Eden and we've paid for it ever since).

Bushido originates from the samurai moral code and it stresses frugality, loyalty, martial arts mastery, and honor unto death. Born from neo-Confucianism during times of peace in Tokugawa Japan and following Confucian texts, Bushido was also influenced by Shinto and Zen Buddhism, allowing the violent existence of the samurai to be tempered by wisdom and serenity.

Under the Tokugawa Shogunate, aspects of bushidō became formalized into Japanese feudal law.

Samurai: the military nobility of medieval and early-modern Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany persons in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau. In both countries the terms were nominalized to mean "those who serve in close attendance to the nobility," the pronunciation in Japanese changing to saburai. According to Wilson, an early reference to the word "samurai" appears in the Kokin Wakashū (905–914), the first imperial anthology of poems, completed in the first part of the 10th century.

By the end of the 12th century, samurai became almost entirely synonymous with bushi, and the word was closely associated with the middle and upper echelons of the warrior class. The samurai followed a set of rules that came to be known as bushidō. While the samurai numbered less than 10% of Japan's population, their teachings can still be found today in both everyday life and in modern Japanese martial arts.

Ronin: A rōnin (浪人) was a samurai with no lord or master during the feudal period (1185–1868) of Japan. A samurai became masterless from the death or fall of his master, or after the loss of his master's favor or privilege, and it usually meant losing all your land. Imagine how devastating it would be to have your house and job taken away from you. To add insult to injury, poor Ronin were oftentimes the butt of jokes and faced ridicule when the government should have set up a social safety net. But then we wouldn't have great stories like 47 Ronin now would we? It just doesn't have the same ring to it if the story is 47 Ronin who got approved for Social Security.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Are these what the vampires in The Strain for FX will look like?

In 2009, film maker Guillermo del Toro gave us the horror novel The Strain. He followed it in 2010 with The Fall, and in 2011 with The Night Eternal. Together with writer Chuck Hogan, del Toro explored the world of vampires that he had begun with the movie Blade 2. Do you remember the Russian vamps that could split their lower jaw in two halves revealing a larger mouth filled with all kinds of terrible things? Yeah, those vampires were a precursor for what del Toro planned to do with vampires. Let's just say (for the sake of convention) that these vamps are a far cry from Edward in Twilight. Rumor is they even defecate on themselves while feeding on humans. Gross but probably something I'll be drawn to watch. I'm a fan of well-done horror that crosses science-fiction boundaries and if del Toro is behind it, the production values should be incredible.

From what I gather, del Toro is exploring vampire biology in The Strain (the sciency twist). He views them as parasites. They introduce a capillary worm into a host's system in the most invasive of ways (del Toro has a thing about vaginas and vagina-like orifices in all of his films) and of course it introduces a virus that changes the host into, well, a blood-sucking vampire. Anyway, I've been looking at comic covers for The Strain to get an idea of how the vampires are going to look when the series makes its debut on FX, and I'm pretty sure it's going to be a fairly accurate reproduction of these panels:
I seriously would not want to be this hapless fellow.
This isn't a herd of zombies. It's a herd of vampires. Zombie Vampire apocalypse
is where the action is at. Wouldn't you agree?
I love the atmosphere in this piece...down to the exposed bloody ribs
of the human victim on the ground. The fact this act took place in what
appears to be a garden shed hints at the horror that engulfs the world.
Even suburbia isn't safe.
Anatomical sketches of the vampire head.
I kind of wonder if The Strain series will follow the path blazed by The Walking Dead. In other words, will they start with a band of survivors just trying to find a safe place to hole up in the ashes of a vampire apocalypse? Like The Walking Dead, The Strain has potential to just keep going season after season with new and different tidbits revealed about the vampires and by rotating the cast (killing off characters with abandon) in fall/season finales.

Have any of you read The Strain comic book or picked up the three novels? If so, what did you think of them?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Godzilla is the eldritch movie to satisfy your Lovecraftian wet dream

So, you guys know that I LOVE kaiju movies and yesterday was a treat because we got the first trailer for the new Godzilla reboot. Let's just say, it gave me chills. And yeah, I have to analyze it because that's just the way my brain works.

First of all, Let's begin with addressing some of the technical stuff for the uninitiated. The narration is done by actor David Strathairn. The last time I saw him on the screen was for the second season of the now defunct SyFy show "Alphas." For the record, I thought Alphas was good and hated how they ended the series by killing everyone (it's the only show I've ever seen that did that). David has one of those voices that's technically perfect for a voiceover movie trailer. But he's not the only one on the cast that I'm excited to see (insert mandatory "squee" here).

Walter White is no longer the "one who knocks." But aside from this jib at Breaking Bad (best series ever!) I'm experiencing a "baby blue euphoria" at spotting Bryan Cranston. The only thing really that could make the comeback of the King of all Monsters even better is a dash of Walter White and THAT'S TOTALLY WHAT WE'RE GETTING!

Now (I'm a little bit of a classical music geek) so I'll tell you that the opening score for the trailer during the paratroop sequence is called Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, 2 Mixed Choirs and Orchestra and hopefully some of you recognize it from the Stanley Kubrik adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey. It really makes the fall done by those soldiers seem like a descent into Hell (that combined with the absolutely stunning visuals of a city on fire). I'm reaching for words like "Eldritch" and "Lovecraftian." It really needed just one more thing: someone doing the whole "Oppenheimer speech" that I start my free short story, The Insanity of Zero, with. You know, the one that says "I am become Death, destroyer of worlds..."

As an aside, I'd like to point out that it appears atomic breath is back in a big way (the Matthew Broderick Godzilla film of yesteryear ignored this much to my chagrin). I point to evidence of the giant carved holes through the buildings that are all charred and melted-looking that we see in the trailer. Those weren't created by a big monster running cartoon-like through the sides of skyscrapers.

Also, what is a H.A.L.O. jump?
Ahem...a HALO Jump (for those of you that don't play the video game) stands for High Altitude Low Opening. This is used to keep aircraft above radar and limit the amount of time a jumper's parachute is visible. Think extreme height (like 20,000 feet) and deploy your parachute right before you go splat. That way you evade conventional anti-air fire or detection until the last minute. Because of the devastation and all the smoke, the flares we see are probably used more for the soldier's benefit than to actually hide from Godzilla. They probably think that the monster is stupid so can't act on the flares anyway, and they are so small they'll be beneath detection (which is entirely possible because Godzilla is frickin' huge).
This seriously needs to happen someday. Guillermo get on it please.
Now (small spoiler alert) the internet seems to think that the concept behind this film is that there's a secret organization called MUTO that's out there creating monsters and that Godzilla is a kind of "curse" the planet delivers unto us for doing so...for toying around with science. Find out more about M.U.T.O. by visiting their viral website HERE. The thing I love about this website is that it makes you feel like you're actually exploring some weird and classified information! And what better place to have Godzilla show up than the tech happy urban hub of San Francisco?

Honestly, I can't help but think that the reason San Francisco is being used is to support the "Occupy Google" movement. Yep, that's got to be it. So did I tell you everything you needed to know about Godzilla to be excited about it now? As usual, your comments on this important science fiction topic are greatly appreciated :).

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It's inconceivable to suggest that the CW could have picked a more adorable Barry Allen.

Actor Grant Gustin nailed it. Seriously. I'm so excited for the new Flash series that it's entirely possible I'm anticipating it more than Pacific Rim and Prometheus combined. The Barry Allen they showed us in last week's Arrow episode was in my friend Sarah Falen's words "Pure adorbs" and I MUST AGREE.

If you are not watching Arrow, you are missing out on this:

If you didn't see last week's episode, watch the below embedded video right now. The exchange between Barry and Felicity is filled with geeky science, intelligent problem-solving, and just a drop of sexual tension. It'll make you want to go out and smell the sunshine. And if you're a stranger to DC Comics, you just need to know these four words (repeat after me): The Flash is AWESOME.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Stephen King's second tweet basically sums up all the #FAIL of twitter

Stephen King's second tweet basically sums up all the #FAIL of twitter. How on earth this social network is worth $40 billion and yet can't turn a profit is something I'll never be able to understand. 
I think every single one of us has felt this at some point unless of course you're on twitter to spam people to read your blog or to buy your book. I think with this single tweet, Stephen King finally earned me as a fan because having something worthy to say is where nearly all of us fall short.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Is Luke the new supreme on American Horror Story

Poor shirtless Luke and his mother prior to the
Borax enema that she forces him to use
in order to clean the evil out of her son. He's
becoming a more interesting character with
each new episode mmhmm
This week's episode of American Horror Story (it shows late Wednesday night on FX) had the coven witches basically looking for their next Supreme. For the uninitiated, there is always one witch of every generation who demonstrates powers above and beyond the rest. When this new person arrives, the powers of the old supreme begin to fade and the new one begins to come into their own.

Previously, I assumed that the new supreme must have been Zoe. But that is way too obvious for this show. So I started to look deeper. With the appearance of a male witch on the council, it started me thinking that (if a man could be a witch) a man could be the supreme.

Enter Luke Ramsey (played by Alexander Dreymon). Earlier in this season, Nan and Madison paid a visit to the next door neighbors (where Luke lives with his super religious mother) and we just assumed that Madison set the drapes on fire. But I don't think Madison is the one responsible. I think Luke set the drapes on fire because he was also in the same room. Additionally, in the Halloween episode where the zombies sent by Marie Laveau were thwarted (seemingly by Zoe) Luke was in the car outside with Nan and it's possible he may have been responsible for what happened to the zombies. Marie Laveau woke up and said, "They've got some kind of power in that old coven house!" or something similar to that when the zombies all collapsed back into moldy corpses.
A funny pie chart that doesn't include Luke, courtesy
Other evidence that Luke is the supreme? We know a supreme is super healthy and we've seen enough of shirtless Luke to know he fits the bill. Additionally, his own mother says that he's got some kind of evil inside him, even going so far as to give him a (was that borax?) enema in the tub just to clean him out from the inside (what a disturbing scene) and then locking him in the closet.

So here's my educated guess (as I find these little mysteries insanely fun to figure out before the big reveal): Luke is the new supreme. What do you think? Yes? No? If no, then who do you think it is and why?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jai Joshi has been super productive lately and now's your chance to grab a Hidden Gem for the low low price of FREE!

You may not know Jai Joshi, but she's a regular commenter and participant in the blogging community. Because of this, I wanted to do a plug for her and mention that her newest short story is now LIVE to purchase on Amazon Kindle. Entitled Hidden Gems, it's an anthology of five short stories from her epic Mahabharat series. You can download it by clicking HERE for FREE all day long (Christmas comes early this year).

Oh and if you want to see the cover, feast your eyes below:
Seriously folks, this book is worth the time for you to go and download it right now even if you have no interest in reading it. The sales will help Jai get noticed by the Amazon algorithms at work and possibly propel her other stories into the "best seller category."

So who is Jai Joshi?

Well, she's the author of Never Fear. It's a short story that tells about an event that happened in Krishna's childhood. Here's a short synopsis: "When young Krishna turns the people on Earth from age old rituals to a new spiritual path, he makes a deadly enemy in the form of Indra, King of the Demigods. The clash between them will rock the foundations of the world." That sounds exciting, doesn't it?

Jai doesn't stop there though. She's written a book called Youth, one called The Ancestors, another called The Prophecy, Bhishma-Son of Ganga, and Follow the Cowherd Boy.

All in all, I count seven titles to her name. That's pretty darn good if you ask me. And just like I'm a fan of curry, I intend to gobble several of these up.

If you want to know more of J.A. Joshi and her stories of Indian culture, please check out her Amazon author page or her blog.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Insecurities in strikethrough is what confidence is all about

I got a bad review. I got a good review.
I'll never finish my book. I published my book today.
No one will read it. I got fan mail in my inbox.
I'm not the next Stephanie Meyer. There's only one Stephanie Meyer; there's only one me.
I don't understand self-publishing. I got a book loaded on Kindle Direct Publishing in only three hours.
Success will never find me. I am successful.
I am a writer. I am an author.
I'm boring. I'm fun.
Readers hate me. Readers love me.
I'm too old. Every passing second is another opportunity to turn it all around.

If you come away from this post with only one thing it should be this:

Insecure people have to make excuses and put others down to feel confident. Confidence isn't walking into a room with your nose in the air and thinking you are better than everyone else. It's walking into a room and not having to compare yourself to anyone in the first place.

Have a great Wednesday and...
Go HERE to sign up for the Insecure Writers Support Group.