December 31, 2011

Resolutions

About a year ago, I made a resolution to be the best version of myself that I could be this year.  As 2011 winds down, I realize that, while I am far short of that mythical, optimal me, that I am so much stronger, better, wiser, and productive today than I was in 2011. 

I've been blessed with so may gifts this year: an absolutely fantastic lady and the great home we're building together; lots of outstanding great new products, both professionally and creatively; a renewal of my faith; and, most important of all, the resolve to do what is necessary to get even better. 

The year has been challenging, but each hurdle has been a gift to show both how high I can jump, and who's there to catch me when I fall.

Thank you, 2011.

And, with all due respect to the Mayans, 2012 is not the end.  It's the beginning.

Happy New Year, gentle readers.

December 20, 2011

The Return of Stories About Stuff

Yesterday we were blessed with previews and interviews about two very high profile film projects for next year: Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises and Ridley Scott's Prometheus, and I could not help but notice something a bit different from these two films.

There's a moment in The Dark Knight Rises trailer where Selina Kyle whispers into Bruce Wayne's ear:
"Did you think this would last?  There's a storm coming, Mr. Wayne, and you and your friends had better batten down hatches, cause when it hits you're all going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us."
Boy, that sounds very 99%-ish, doesn't it?


Meanwhile, over in the Prometheus world, Ridley Scott talks about how this is a movie about the origins of humanity itself, where one of the main characters, played by Michael Fassbender, is an android observing the human's reaction to the horror.

In other words, it's a true sci-fi movie.



Big ideas for, ostensibly, big summer popcorn movies.

Directors who actually have something to say about our world around us, and are not just interested in driving you into an seizure from 3-D effects.

Young storytellers, take note.

December 18, 2011

Now that the Iraq War is over...


I'm not interested in debating the success of the mission: goodness knows I did a ton of that back in 2003.  And I know there are a lot of people, particularly servicemen for whom I have the utmost respect & admiration, who feel very passionately about its importance.

I will just say this:

Think of what else we could have done with $800 BILLION (with a B) dollars over the last ten years.

We could have bought a year's worth of good American-sized groceries for 86 million families.

We could have paid four years worth of tuition & expenses at Princeton for 4 million kids.

We could have bought Exxon Mobile.  Twice.

We could have bought the entire population of Dakar, Senegal a single family home in the suburbs of Santa Cruz, CA.

I'm just sayin'.

Glad it's finally over.

One war down.  One more to go.

A thought on Occupy Wall Street


A few weeks ago I was playing Monopoly with my better half and some friends.  I usually play with my family back in Baltimore, and I usually make a respectable showing but typically lose to the sharks like my brother and my cousin. 

But this time, I was the shark. 

I got super-lucky, landing on Free Parking, Park Place, and Boardwalk.  I had other properties, but I quickly realized that, as long as I didn't trade with anyone else, I could keep them all from building houses while I just bled them dry.

So I did.  And I won.  It took a while, but I ended up with over $12,000 in cash.

It was pretty obvious I was going to win, but I choose to really pour on the gas.  Which made for a really rotten game for everyone else but me.

Somewhere along the way, I had the thought: "Is this what it's like to be in the 1%?"

Luckily, it was only a game.

December 16, 2011

for Christopher Hitchens, or Requiem for a Contrarian

I did my research, and the first time I referenced Christopher Hitchens here on Macroscope was way back in 2002, in a post called "The Shadow King" on the absurdity of naming Henry Kissinger, of all people, to investigate how badly the government botched the prevention of 9/11.  Around that time, Hitch had written a book about how a very convincing case could be made that Kissinger should be prosecuted in The Hague for war crimes, given the campaign he and Nixon conducted in Cambodia and the way they sabotaged LBJ's negotiations with the North Vietnamese by secretly telling them to wait until Nixon won the '68 election to get a better deal.

I feel like I'd been aware of Hitchens for a long time, and while I bounced back and forth between agreeing with him wholeheartedly and thinking he was completely off-base, what I loved about him was that he was one of the few people in public life who took the time to argue eloquently.  Yes, he was a chain smoking jerk, but he never backed away from a fight and he always did it with the very best lyrical flourishes.

He reminds me of a political pundit version of George Sanders, and felt like he faced his own impending demise the same way he confronted all of his adversaries: with the ongoing power of his words.

Cannot think of anyone who more definitively owns the classification "rapier wit".  A quintessential man of letters in the vein of a William F. Buckley.  Hitch was often more conservative and reactionary for my tastes, but at least I always knew what he was thinking.  At least I always knew THAT he was thinking.

The political discourse could use far more voices with the style, guile, passion, and care that Christopher Hitchens possessed.  The world is poorer for his passing, but much richer from his presence.

Rest in peace, Christopher.

December 12, 2011

Scary Christmas

Now, Macroscope fans, as a special holiday gift from Amazon.com, if you have an Amazon Prime membership, which already gives you unlimited free 2-day shipping and a huge cache of free streaming videos, you can now get all four of my horror short e-books for FREE.  That includes:
  • "I'll See You in Hell", where not even death can put an end to the vicious feud between two rival hitmen.
  • "The Worst Place On Earth", about the terror unleashed with a secretive, "old money" family are forced to open the doors of their mansion to the public.
  • "The Monster That Ate My Summer Vacation", something abominable that is slowly, deliberately stalking a family driving home through the post-Las Vegas desert.
  • and, "The Trick-or-Treaters", who come knocking on the door of a working girl who hates Halloween.  As you can imagine, the Trick-or-Treaters are not amused.
 Not your every day stocking stuffers, but definitely good for huddling around the open fire.

Enjoy!

October 29, 2011

2 More Days 'Til Halloween. Read Four for $4.

Now that I've taken you through all four of my current short stories, my Halloween gift to your Macroscope readers is a Four for $4 deal.

Get all four short horror stories, including "I'll See You In Hell", "The Worst Place On Earth", "The Monster That Ate My Summer Vacation", and the very latest, "The Trick-or-Treaters", for $0.99 each. Just check out my Author Page on Amazon and you can score them all.

Enjoy, and don't stay out TOO late this weekend.

October 28, 2011

3 More Days 'til Halloween, but "The Trick-or-Treaters" are already here.

I used to live in a working class neighborhood in a not-so-great area of Los Angeles.  If you looked at the crime maps on the internet, the area was a virtual collage of color-coded crimes and misdemeanors, but it was also an area with mostly houses for blocks & blocks.  The population was less transient than streets lined with apartment buildings, and, as a result, there were more children.

And more children mean trick-or-treaters on Halloween evening.

It all sounds great - little kids in cute costumes with their mock attempts at candy blackmail.  I was in to it, ready to play along with my buckets of Hershey's kisses.

But once the sun had completely set, I figured it would only be another hour or two before the parents packed the kiddies away and off the mean streets.

Imagine my surprise when I settled in to watch John Carpenter's Halloween for the billionth time when, at around 9:30, there was a knock on my door.

There was no peep hole and my lights were already on, so I couldn't peek through the window in secret.  There was, however, a pretty solid screen door, so I opened the main door to take a look.

It was a person, at least as tall as me, but clearly heavier, wearing saggy jeans, a dark hoodie, and wearing a plain white hockey mask and holding a sack full of.... who knows.

He didn't make a move.  He didn't make a sound.

He just stood there.

And I just shook my head and laughed, saying "No, dude.  Not tonight", before closing the door and waiting for him to leave.

He was probably just some teenager who wanted in on the fun.

Probably.

But what if...

My latest horror short is called "The Trick-or-Treaters."


It starts from that idea and runs with it into some pretty crazy and surprising places.  I can honestly say that how I imagined this story would end is no where close to how it actually concludes.  And there are definitely some moments where I had an idea to write something where I thought, "wow, that's really, really wrong."

I'm reminded of a term Marlon Brando uses in "Apocalypse Now":

Moral terror.

It's brand new and available in the Amazon Kindle store today.  And definitely pay attention to my Macroscope post on Halloween proper.  I've got a little special something cooked up.

October 23, 2011

8 More Days 'til Halloween. Read "The Monster That Ate My Summer Vacation"

A little over a week left before the day, and I'm sure most of you will do most of your celebrations over the weekend, so let's call it a week.

Which brings us to my next scary project.

This one had been percolating in my brain in a variety of forms for years. And it comes from a couple of different places.

So much of horror is about dark, closed-in spaces, which, as you can imagine, makes me think about flipping the proverbial script to see what we can do in big open spaces in broad daylight. Which, as a California resident, can't help but lead me to the desert.

My mind wanders to the long drives out to Las Vegas and all of the nothing in between.

Or is it nothing?

When I fly over that same land, I think of all of the mountains and rock that goes for miles on end. It's literally a no man's land.

But just because there are no men, that doesn't mean that there's nothing else out there.

And that leads me to one of my other thoughts, as a genre writer: I'm SO much more interested in new monsters. I've had my fill of vampires and werewolves and zombies. These things have been done to death.

But something new...

You could literally be sitting right next to something horrible, and not know it until it's too late.

The original title was "Sidewinder". But it was August, and the process of finishing this story was literally consuming me.

Hence, "The Monster That Ate My Summer Vacation."

I'm pretty sure you've never seen or read anything like it. Check it out.



Now that we've finished our trips down memory lane, I think the next time I'll have to share with you something fresh.

 And awful.

 

October 21, 2011

10 more days 'til Halloween. Read "The Worst Place On Earth".

Keeping in the spirit of the month, here's a little bit on my next horror short ebook.  It's actually a title I used once before for a Macroscope post about my love of horror movies that I wrote in the wake of the first time I'd ever seen Eli Roth's "Hostel". 

But the title is really inspired by a feeling, and it was a feeling I had after watching one of the earliest trailers for "28 Days Later".  I've literally searched dozens of times for that particular version of the trailer, but I've never been able to find it.

Maybe it was a nightmare I had after watching the trailer.

But, there's a moment where people are running away to hide from something terrible, but they're running into a deep, dark, wet place that, under ordinary circumstances, they would never EVER go.

I was just struck by the sensation of the awful choice: what's after you is bad, but where you're going to escape it is worse than you could possibly imagine.

It's the worst place On Earth.

And, like any good writer, there's lots of double meanings in that title.  But I'll leave it to you, oh, intrepid reader, to suss that out for yourself.

I mean, at this point, if you're following my writing, you've already gone to Hell.  How much worse can it be? :-)

Right?


October 19, 2011

12 more days 'til Halloween. Read "I'll See You In Hell"

Those of you who've never seen "Halloween III: Season of the Witch", may not get the joke, but I'm not going to spoil it for you.  :-)

We're counting down the days to All Hallow's Eve, which struck me as the perfect time to re-share my horror shorts.  So, taking it from the top:

The first story sort of started from that scene in "Unforgiven", where a certain character who's staring down the barrel of a shotgun says to his tormentor:

"I'll see you in Hell."

And, to a person like me, that's the kind of line that gets your mind racing.  Would they really see each other in Hell?  And how would that go down?

Bad people doing bad things in a really bad place.

It's like an episode of "Oz" on steroids.

Hence, my very first ebook.  It's really pretty crazy.  But, at the end of the day, if you're not going to create something crazy, what's the point of creating in the first place?

I prefer to think of it as "innovation", right, Steve?  :-)

Anyway, if you want to go on this sick, horrified ride, jump on board.  Download it.  Read it.  Be scared.

And, if you've already read it, share the love (or hate, as it were :-)) with your horror-loving friends.

It's that time of year.


October 18, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of The Year, or why I love Halloween

There are certain times of the year that tickle my heart as a filmmaker and a deep lover of movies.  I love February, when all of the classic Oscar-winning films suddenly get new life on TV.  I love December, when your favorite holiday movies return while the studios generally offer the highest qualify films they've made all year.  I love May, when the biggest, loudest popcorn movies of the summer come roaring into the multiplexes.

But my dirty little secret is that I love the month of October most of all.

I love scary movies.  And these 31 days are the days that they all rise like zombies, shambling across the quiet countryside to frighten a new generation.  These old horror films are like old friends:

The tightly coiled maniacal genius of a medical student who can Re-Animate the dead.

The terrible thing Creeping inside the crate beneath the university staircase.

The little boy in the clown costume with the butcher knife on Halloween night.

The puzzle box that Raises a little Hell every time someone is fiendish enough to try to solve it.

The Thing inside that snow dog running across the Anarctic.

I could talk about Val Lewton and William Castle.  I could talk about Vincent Price and Peter Cushing.  I could talk about Universal and Hammer and Dimension and Artisan and Lions Gate.

I could talk about the newbies, like the people who can't help but video tape the things that go bump in the night, or all the poor souls who've forced to live or die and make their choice.

In many ways, I think a good horror film is the highest order of filmmaking.  Think of the skill it takes to craft a movie that can terrify and amuse, that can horrify but still attract repeat viewings, that can attract the best talent, that can push the boundaries of special effects.

Psycho
Jaws
Alien
The Silence of the Lambs
Cape Fear

I could go on and on and on.

But I won't.

I'll just ask you to turn on the TV or go to the theater, hold on to your sweetheart, and enjoy the rush of getting the daylights scared out of you for the next two weeks.

October 17, 2011

Review: The Thing

Do you have those movies that you've seen so many times that you've actually forgotten the first time?

I'm like that with "John Carpenter's The Thing". I think it's pretty safe to say that it is, hands down, my favorite horror movie of all time. I practically know it by heart. I re-watch it and study the evolving (or should I say deteriorating) relationships among the group of fairly ordinary men in an Artic research station that is infiltrated by a shape shifting alien that can perfectly imitate any animal it can devour.

I think it's a perfect horror movie. It's tense and scary. It's got great laugh out loud moments. It's pretty original. And it's super bleak.


It's funny to me that Carpenter himself worships the original movie, "The Thing From Another World", where the alien is basically a Frankenstein monster made of vegetables who fertilizes new versions of himself using human blood. It's such a weird, quirky movie with the stereotypical stupid scientist. But it also has some great jump out moments and a great end line:
"Tell the world, tell everyone: Watch the skies everywhere, keep looking, keep watching the skies!"

But, frankly, I don't find "The Thing From Another World" scary at all. For my money, the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" trumps it in every way: scare factor, Cold War paranoia, direction, performance... it even has a better end line: "They're here already! YOU'RE NEXT!!!"

That said, I can appreciate that The Thing From Another World comes from a different era in horror moviemaking, so I can excuse Carpenter's affection.  Especially because I so appreciate what he did with his own take on the film.  By returning to the original source material, John Campbell's novella, "Who Goes There?", Carpenter rediscovered the true paranoia and horror of this unwelcome visitor from another planet.

What's interesting to me in reading the Campbell story is the intelligence that's implied about the monster by the investigating scientists.  While a reviewer of the current prequel to Carpenter's film (which we'll get to in a moment) asks how such a creature could evolve through natural selection, Campbell assumes that the creature has developed the science that allows it to adapt to any environment at a cellular level.  They even assume that they've never seen its natural form, that even its ship was something it had appropriated from another species it had imitated.

Which is what is so great about Carpenter's film - the thing isn't just a monster.  In many ways, it's smarter than the humans and is constantly a few steps ahead of them, deliberately sowing the seeds of mistrust as it swallows them up, one by one.

It's this intelligence, this cunning, that is the single biggest thing I miss the most in the new prequel, "The Thing", with Mary Elizabeth Winstead.  But, don't get me wrong.  I actually love this movie.  It really takes the horror aspects of the franchise to a new level.  For fans of the Carpenter film, the way the two-faced thing is born in this film has to be one of the most horrifying scenes in any movie I've seen in some time.  The effects are crazy and the cast is great.  Mary Elizabeth really reminds me of Naomi Harris in "28 Days Later".  As my better half said, by the end of the film, what she's experienced, you cannot take any chances.  You have to be as hard core as possible.

But her survival hinges on the way the thing chooses to attack her early in the film.  Frankly, it's sloppy and not nearly as clever as it is in the Carpenter movie.

Then again, it is a prequel.  Maybe the Norwegian camp taught the thing a thing or two.

Go see them all.  They're great films.

October 06, 2011

The God of Forethought, or A Comment on Steve Jobs

I've always loved Greek mythology.  And one of my favorite myths has always been the one about Prometheus.

In short: Prometheus was a god who secretly gave the gift of fire to man for the first time.  But, because the other gods held fire for themselves, they punished Prometheus by chaining him to a mountain top where an eagle would come every day and, essentially, disembowel him.  And, because he was a god, his wounds would regenerate every day so that this eventually very fat eagle would always have something to snack on.

But if I may run with the myth analogy for a bit more, I think the true gift that Prometheus gave to the masses wasn't just the spark to light the bonfires.  It was the example he set.

Not only that the heavens could be challenged, but that they MUST be.  By everyone.  That the cost was far outweighed by the treasures.

And when you do that, a new world can be born.

Imagine if we all strove to achieve what he achieved.  Imagine if THAT was the standard.

Think of the universe that could be born.

Thanks for the spark, Steve.  You'll be missed.

September 23, 2011

The Record or how Facebook is literally rewriting history


I had a true "a-ha" moment today, sitting in the hall listening to Mark Zuckerberg give his keynote address at F8, Facebook's annual developer's conference.

To coin a phrase, history isn't just written by the victors. It's written about the victors: the people we've all some how collectively deemed important and significant. But, in Facebook's perfect world, by introducing their new timeline feature, they want to write history about EVERYONE.

Every action and relationship and preference for every single human being on the planet.

So, a billion years from now, when our sun has gone supernova and even our graves have been reduced to cinders, if someone has the presence of mind to stick Facebook's user database on a truckload of drives and shoot it into space before the end, some alien civilization will know exactly when my niece graduated from high school, and what kind of music my coworker liked to listen to and when my classmates' babies were born and when I got engaged and how much we loved each other. And they'll know that about all of you, too.

It's a true history of the human race, were we all matter enough to be cataloged.

Too romantic? Probably. But its a nice dream, and worthy of aspirations.

September 14, 2011

About that "Fright Night" remake...

Last month in the post "Scream and Scream Again", I made a defense of horror remakes, and the new 3-D Fright Night in particular - that we should judge all of these movies on their own merits.  Well, I just want to say, having now actually seen the new Fright Night, that it's actually one of the better studio horror movies I've seen in some time.  Shocking, great twists, and intense.  Kudos to all involved.  If you're a horror fan and your boycotting it out of some misguided loyalty to the original film, shame on you, because you're missing out.

Jawjacking with Gods, or why I love Grant Morrison.

For those of you who don't know, Grant Morrison is a comic book writer. Most recently, he's worked on the relaunch of Superman in the new Action Comics #1 and has been writing Batman for the last 4-5 years. His big projects include JLA, New X-Men, Final Crisis, Doom Patrol, Animal Man, as well as his amazing creator-owned work We3, The Invisibles, and The Filth.

All of which probably mean absolutely nothing to you if you don't read comic books.

But what's fascinating about Grant (@grantmorrison) is that he treats his role as a comic writer in much the same way that someone like David Bowie treats his role as a musician. Grant wants to find the magic in comics and bring that world to life here in the real world.

As he says in the documentary below, "the bomb before it was the bomb was an idea. But Superman is a better idea, so why don't we try to make that one real."

I felt like I never experienced both the humanity and the wonder of The Justice League or The X-Men or Batman until they were written by Grant. And only grant could make an idea as insane as We3 (logline: household pets are kidnapped and turned into cyborgs by corrupt military scientists before going on a killing spry to find their way home to their owners) into something so equally beautiful, horrific, tragic, and triumphant, all at the same time.

When I write, I want to be more like Grant Morrison.

I highly recommend watching this entire documentary. It's so worth it.

September 12, 2011

The Art of 9/11

Rather than talking about the event itself, I'd much rather reflect on all of the amazing artistic responses the September 11th terror attacks elicited.  Tragedy always requires an emotional outlet, and these films and TV shows, at least, in my opinion, captured them perfectly.  And, frankly, I don't think any of these shows would have existed in the form that we know them without that awful day.  These are just the top few off the top of my head on a Monday morning.  I'll add as more occur to me, but please, feel free to chime in yourselves.

24

Battlestar Galactica

The Dark Knight

Planet Terror

August 29, 2011

Looking The Devil In The Eye or why you should get my latest horror ebook

I just published the third of my short horror ebooks to Amazon's Kindle store this weekend.  This one is called "The Monster That Ate My Summer Vacation", and it's the end result of a story idea that had been rattling around in my brain for sometime.  It's about a family driving home from a vacation through the high desert.  They make the wrong turn.  They make the wrong stop.  And then, it finds them....

In a weird way, this is kind of a story for my dad because it sort of combines his two favorite genres: horror movies and westerns.  Because law enforcement in a western was a job that was much more naked (and, for those of you who've already read it, you'll have to excuse the pun).  And, as a result, MUCH more frightening.

Anyway, I don't want to get too much into the sausage-making on this.   Please just download and enjoy the steadily increasing insanity.

August 27, 2011

Version 3.0 or Why you should take a look at my new blog design for Macroscope

I first started this blog way back in 2002 and, since then, this is only the third time I've changed the overall look and feel of the site.  But, conceptually, I felt that it was time to get a bird's eye view on the so-called "blazing world", which, ultimately, is what this blog is all about.  Clearly, what we call the real world intrudes quite a bit, because it influences what we create, but I want to refocus on the things that matter most to me: art, culture, soul, and the creative things we all love.

With that in mind, take a look at http://macroscope.blogspot.com.  It's a lot less anonymous, and features much more of my own original work, especially my ebook short stories.  It also integrates a lot more with all of the nifty social networking stuff.  So, if you read a post you like, click the Facebook or Twitter or Google+ buttons near the top and share with your buds.

Oh, and I got rid of all the ads, too.  I think the Goldline banners were the last straw.  :-)  Sorry, AdSense.

I want to thank you all for continuing to read.  I think this is going to be a much more fun place.

August 20, 2011

At The End of the World, or why I love Apocalypse Now

People often ask me what's my favorite movie.  I used to say "Vertigo", Hitchcock's hypnotic masterpiece on unrequited love, obsession, and madness.  Makes sense for a teenager still trying to navigate his way through the the maze of frustrated romance while focused on unattainable, unrealistic female idols.

And then I saw Apocalypse Now.

I don't think it's any exaggeration to say that this movie literally changed my life.

But, to understand that, you have to understand who I was before that.  I joke with my friends that, if I'd been born bigger, I'd have probably been a bully.  A judgmental, moralistic, holier-than-thou bully.  The world was quite black and white to me at that age.  But, of course, how else could it be?  I didn't know anything.

I know young people get really frustrated when they hear older people talk about how much more they know than them and how far behind they are.  They think that the older folks have forgotten what it's like to be young.  The truth of the matter is, we remember it, quite vividly.  We relive those moments every day, looking into the mirror and wondering why what's staring back at us doesn't match what we imagine.

My mother jokes that she believes that time is actually moving faster now because, in her words, "these rascals have messed with the universe."  But the fact of the matter is, a year seems much more fleeting when you've had nearly 70 of them like Mom has.  When you've only had 16 of them, a year seems like a precious eternity.

But I digress.  I thought I knew it all.

What Apocalypse Now showed me was that, out in the jungle, away from the catered safety of a general's trailer where you can issue edicts without mud on your boots, the world is not binary.

It's very, very, messily analogue, where the difference between right and wrong isn't a cliff, but a sloping continuum.

It's funny, because the emotional journey of that movie mirrored my intellectual journey during college and much of my life thereafter.  I was sent off to learn and do extraordinary things, and suddenly turned around and realized that I had far less in common with the people in my home than the folks out here in the jungle with me.

Tree of Knowledge, maybe?

Like Capt. Willard says towards the end of the film: "They're going to give me a medal for this, and I wasn't even in their f'n army anymore."

My eyes opened.  And for that, I am eternally grateful.  It took some old parts of me, but brought back so much more.

Thank you Francis, and John, and Martin, and Marlon.

August 19, 2011

Scream and Scream Again or Why I'm going to see the new "Fright Night"

There was a time when "Love At First Bite" was too much for me to handle as a horror movie.

For those of you who don't remember, that was the comedy where George Hamilton (who made being orange kewl way before anybody had ever heard of John Boehner) plays a bumbling, comedic Dracula in the modern world.  And, if my memory is correct, that movie largely came about in response to the success of John Badham's "Dracula", starring Frank Langella as the count and Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing.  Which, of course, comes well before Coppola's early 90's remake with Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins, and well after the long line of Hammer Films' Dracula movies with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.  And let's not even get into Bela Lugosi and the classic Universal "Dracula", or Max Schrek and "Nosferatu".

In short, for as long as we've had movies, particularly horror movies, we've had remakes.

Now, it's pretty fashionable to cry and moan about how remakes suck and the filmmakers have no respect for the original films.  But, let's be real about this:

John Carpenter's "The Thing"
David Croenberg's "The Fly"
Philip Kaufman's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"
Zack Synder's "Dawn of the Dead"
(yes, I'm going to go there) Rob Zombie's "Halloween"

Those are just some movies that I can tick off from memory that are all remakes of great movies that are actually great movies in their own right.  Heck, even the original Fright Night, which I absolutely adore, is a very self-referential nod to those old Hammer vampire movies ("Peter Vincent"?  Come ON! :-)).

Yes, there are plenty of remakes that suck (I'm looking at you, Vince Vaughn "Psycho").  But even Hitchcock did a remake of one of his own movies, namely "The Man Who Knew Too Much".  And, frankly, there are plenty of original movies that suck, too.  I think, in the end, we have to evaluate all of these movies on their own merits.

I LOVE that Carpenter "Thing" movie.  But, after seeing this trailer, I am all over the prequel:


I remember someone once asked Alan Moore how did he feel about Hollywood ruining his books like From Hell and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Moore simply pointed to the books on his shelf and said "see, my books are just fine."

Those old movies will always be there, and these remakes may just give them new life.

I'll never forget Chris Sarandon as Jerry Dandridge.


But I'm going to give Colin Farrell a chance.




May 31, 2011

Claustrophobia

It starts with a feeling.

You barely notice it at first. It all seems so innocuous and ordinary. So, of course, you tell yourself that it's nothing. Maybe it's just the night wind that's making your hair stand on end.

Then you realize that there is no breeze. That the air is standing perfectly still.

The night knows something that you don't, and it's holding its breath.

Waiting.

But as for you, you ignore the signs. You ignore the signals that your animal brain, long buried under rational thought, conventional wisdom, and common sense, is screaming at you, even as you take those few fateful steps forward.

Your animal brain tells you there are only two options: Fight or Flight.

What's really sad is that it's wrong. There's only one option, and you choose it the moment you decided to come here.....


This is not an excerpt. This is a feeling, special delivered just for you to get you in the right frame of mind for my latest horror short story.

It's called The Worst Place On Earth and, frankly, the ending makes my skin crawl.

I hope you enjoy it. :-)

Available now exclusively at Amazon.com at http://amzn.to/kqziIH. Click the link or button below to download your copy.

May 21, 2011

Bright Lights. Big Cities. Pretty Ladies.





















In many ways I suppose I'm a recovering professional wrestling fan. Call it yet another Saturday morning habit that I never grew out of. One of my earliest memories with my best friend & future best man was watching him mimic Pedro Morales' convulsions after being thrown out of the ring on his head by Greg "The Hammer" Valentine when we were both about 7 years old. My grandfather was also a huge fan, and one of the ways we bonded was that he would take me with him to the live events at what used to be called the Baltimore Civic Center.

But, of course, Wrestlemania was different. It was always a huge event in some huge venue, and, in the days before pay per view, if you couldn't get a ticket, your only option was to go to some hall where they'd be projecting it on a movie screen in closed circuit TV. So, Granddaddy took me with him to see Wrestlemania IV on the closed circuit, where the main event was a tournament for the WWF World Championship. In the end, the winner, and my favorite to win the night, was The Macho Man, Randy Savage.



The Macho Man died in a car accident yesterday, and the world is definitely poorer for having lost his unique brand of craziness. I was always a fan, and I'll miss him.

But, as I think back to that show, something really awful dawned on me.

Here's the card from that night back in 1988:
* Bad News Brown (DEAD - Heart Attack) won a 20-man battle royal, including the Junkyard Dog (DEAD - Car Accident), Bred Hart, Harley Race, and others
* Don "The Rock" Muraco def. Dino Bravo (DEAD - Gunshot)
* Greg Valentine def. Ricky Steamboat
* One Man Gang def. Bam Bam Bigelow (DEAD - Drugs)
* Ravishing Rick Rude (DEAD - Drugs) fought Jake "The Snake" Roberts to a draw
* The Ultimate Warrior def. Hercules Hernandez (DEAD - Heart Failure)
* Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant (DEAD - Heart Failure) were both disqualified
* Brutus Beefcake def. The Honkytonk Man by disqualification
* The Islanders, Haku & Tama, and Bobby Heenan def. Koko B. Ware and the British Bulldogs, Davey Boy Smith (DEAD - Heart Attack + Drugs) and The Dynamite Kid (PARALYZED)
* Demolition def. Strike Force
* The Million Dollar Man, Ted Dibiase def. Hacksaw Jim Duggan, then Don Muraco
* The Macho Man, accompanied by Miss Elizabeth (DEAD - Drugs) def. The Natural Butch Reed, Greg Valentine, The One Man Gang, and Ted Dibiase to become the undisputed World Heavyweight Champion

Let's not even get into the long list of wrestler deaths in between (Mr. Perfect, Crash Holly, Eddie Gilbert, Owen Hart, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Louie Spiccoli, Rocco Rock, Johnny Grunge, etc.)

There's something terribly wrong when something that's supposed to be fake, pre-determined violence leads to so much death.  As much as I enjoyed it, I can't help but wonder did I, as a fan, contribute to many of these deaths by encouraging this insane lifestyle?

It's entirely too sad.

That said, I have a treasure trove of fond memories, both of the shows, and what they meant to my family, so, for that, I am eternally grateful to The Macho Man and his friends.

Thank you, Randy Savage. There will never be another one like you.  Rest in peace.


May 03, 2011

The Darker Side

I'm a pretty sociable person, so, when I first arrived at the American Film Institute, most of my classmates just assumed that I wrote comedies.

And then we had our first cold reading session, where we essentially bring in a bunch of actors to sit on stage and just read your script as if they were in some sort of radio program.  The piece that I'd submitted was a short film script called "Recipe for Disaster", which is all about a pair of mob accountants who're trying to kill their mob lawyer buddy over dinner before he can inadvertently reveal to their bosses that they've been embezzling.  The murder plot involves a pot roast, plyers, and a potato peeler, and the characters all gleefully bounce around each other like something out of a 50's sitcom.

When it was all said and done, one of my classmates looked at me, shook his head, and said, "You're sick."

Like Garth Brooks said, I blame it all on my roots.  As I've said about 6 years ago in my blog post about Eli Roth's Hostel, I love horror, starting with my Dad's fascination with "monster movies".  October is probably my favorite month of the year for movies, because all of the new horror flicks premiere while all of the old ones get their just due in constant rotation on cable TV.  I remembered being terrified of the little vampire boy outside the window in the TV version of "Salem's Lot", which, for my money, is still Stephen King's scariest novel.  I used to burn through King novels like mad in high school.  I think I read "It" in a week.  And THEN I discovered Clive Barker and HP Lovecraft, where horror wasn't just bound by what you could see and touch and feel.  There were other things, and other worlds too terrible to imagine.

My favorite Lovecraft stories always seem to have a moment where the main character sees.... something, and says "and in that moment, I went insane."

And, in those moments, I'm reminded of John Carpenter's commentary on the Saw movies:  he finds them all incredibly funny.  And, frankly, so do I.  Just like Re-Animator, or the moment when the alien head grows legs and tries to run away in The Thing.

Did I mention that I have a soft spot for Metallica, too?

Like King said, I've had all of these ideas bouncing around in my head, and frankly, why wait to see them in film form?  They're stories.

Which is why I've decided to just write.  Like Poe and Shelley and Bram Stoker and all of those other storytellers who predate the moving picture.

So, I've concocted this gruesome little tail that begins with a pair of hitmen killing each other.  It's called "I'll See You In Hell", and, if you're curious about the plot, remember that my favorite Clive Barker movie is "Hellbound: Hellraiser II".

 If you'd like to read it, you can buy it and get it in electronic format from my friends at Amazon.com.  See?
My friends, not only would I appreciate you buying it and sharing it with your horror loving friends (and I mean that seriously, because it's not for the faint of heart), but it would also be a massive help if you did the following:

  • Go to the page for my short story on Amazon.com and click the "Like" button.
  • Rate it (five stars, please)
  • Comment on it (which would probably require you reading it, but that's up to you).
  • share it on your own Facebook page
  • and, for those of you with Twitter, watch for my tweet and re-tweet it.
  • And, if you're feeling REALLY helpful, go to my author page at http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004YXN65U and do the same (like, post to Facebook, tweet, etc.)
And for those of you who don't have Kindles, don't worry: you can download it to your computer or your smart phone as well, too.

This is the first in a series of short stories I'm writing for the Kindle marketplace, the vast majority of which are  going to be horror, sci-fi, and genre pieces, so keep an eye on my author page, Facebook, Twitter, and, of course, Macroscope, for the updates.

Thank you all for being such a good audience over the years here at Macroscope.  I hope some of you will follow me down this new path.  It may be scary, but I'm pretty sure it will be worth it.

I Write

Just the other day, I encouraged one of my students to start posting daily on Facebook so that she can become more comfortable with sharing her work with the public.  She called her first post "I am a Writer", and frankly, I was a bit inspired by her affirmation.

That phrase is something that I've said for years to justify or explain away my behaviors and proclivities.  Why I can't wait to tell, basically, anyone anything.  I suppose, at a level, it's a love for the sound of my own voice, regardless of the medium, but it I think it's also something deeper.

My uncle died when I was about 6 years old, and after the funeral, I had a bit of a morbid curiosity for the program, his obituary in particular.  As I read about his life, I began to imagine what those moments were like: growing up in Cambridge, MD; joining the Army; getting married and starting a family.  I had the entire scene in my head.  For reasons that are really beyond me, I was compelled to draw these images and, essentially, make a picture book companion for this obituary.

Now, I know some of you are thinking, "Wow, I had know idea his craziness started that early."  And, if that's the case, boy, you're really in for something on my next post.  But more about that later.

I shared this picture book with my folks, and my mother, bless her heart, photocopied it and started sharing it with her coworkers.

My very first publisher.  :-)

I've always written.  It's in my DNA somewhere.  I come from a family of storytellers.  Some who like to hold court in the middle of a crowd, holding sway like a gladiator at the center of the colosseum.  Others who like to lean over tables and tell secrets in quiet.   But the story is always an act of sharing.  Sharing feelings, news, affections, horrors, tributes, rebukes...

Film, to me, is just another form of writing.  But there are other forms that are more essential, more primal.  No one ever needs to give you permission to write.  Not the public, not a publisher, certainly not a movie studio or producer.  To paraphrase Talib Kweli, if you can talk, you can write.  And that's not just a statement on capability.  That is your birthright.

February 12, 2011

First Amendment Remedies

A very brief comment about the revolution we just saw in Egypt:

There's a reason why freedom of speech, religion, and public assembly come first in the Bill of Rights, before the right to bear arms.

THOSE are the things that are the basis of your freedom.  Not a weapon.

The founding fathers knew it.  Gandhi knew it.  MLK knew it.  And it looks like the people in the Middle East are starting to figure it out.

In the age of intercontinental ballistic missiles, your 9mm cannot guarantee your freedom.

Only the courage of your convictions and the purity of your ethics has the power to do that.

One is just an emblem of your fear.  The other is a symbol of strength unfailing.

Sleep on that a bit, patriots.

Congratulations, Egyptians.