Friday, June 29, 2012

Somebody Make This Song Go AWAY!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nora Ephron (May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012)

Photo by: David Shankbone
Nora Ephron, writer of such films When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, and more recently, Julie and Julia, has passed away.

It's always a shame when someone so influential to the world leaves us behind.  It's easy to say that the world is a darker place because of their absence.  I would argue that the world is a much brighter place because she was here.  She written and directed some fantastic and funny movies.  As one whose international gender symbol comes equipped with an arrow rather than a plus sign, I was often mocked for enjoying Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail, but I did, I still do, and I thank her for how much fun those movies were.

I haven't seen Julie and Julia.  I intended to, because, y'know, I always found Julia Child entertaining.  Now I think I'll have to go rent it and toast a glass of scotch to Ms. Ephron while I watch.

Thank you, Nora Ephron, for great, smart, funny movies, strong messages for women, and this:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Flash Fiction Challenge: That's My New Band

Chuck Wendig, over at Terribleminds, has a weekly Flash Fiction Challenge wherein he provides a prompt for you to write to. This week, he provided a random band name generator.  We were tasked with picking on name at random and writing at story about that band.  Whatever we wanted.  This was my entry.  Enjoy!

(P.S. Senor Wendig has a new book, 500 Ways to Tell a Better Story, that just came out yesterday.  Go, buy, enjoy.  It's only $2.99 and available in many formats to fit your e-reader needs.)

Wine Beside Defect

Most bands get a gig and they’re ecstatic.  Even if there is that one wise ass in the crowd that seems contractually obligated to shout “Play ‘Freebird’!”  Most bands struggle, living paycheck to paycheck, gig to gig, desperate for that one moment to make it big.

We’re not that band.

We were band geeks in college.  Most weeks we’d get bussed to whatever shithole town our football team was playing in, we’d have ourselves a show, and then we’d get bussed back.  Overly pumped up men slammed into each other repeatedly, scraping and clawing for a yard here or two yards there while the crowd screamed and ate it up like candy.  When halftime arrived, the crowd would mostly funnel over to the concession stand.  The few remainers politely applauded as we marched out to perform our little show.

Honestly it sucked.  It’s a thankless job when no one gives a shit that you’re even there.  So my friends and I decided to start up a little side project.  We went to different Salvation Armies and Goodwills until we found four black suits.  Then, we packed up our instruments and headed off to a club.

We called ourselves Wine Beside Defect, a classy name for a jazz band, we thought, with a sort of wink and a nod to the audience that we knew this was just as ridiculous as they did.  And yet, we were a hit.  I mean, we weren’t Top 40, record-execs-tearing-down-our-doors, but we had a fairly steady stream of gigs.  We became known around campus.  People would hoop and holler at us from across the quad, praising last weekend’s show.  We took to wearing our fedoras all of the time, like a badge or a uniform.  We were going places.

One night, we were playing at a toilet of a place known as Ralphie’s.  A no-talent screamo band was ahead of us.  The lead singer had tattoos of quotes from literature he thought made him look deep, along with quotes from the Bible, the Koran, and Buddha, because, you know, he was a child of the world.

By the time they ended their set, my ears were ringing despite the earplugs I wore.  No rhythm, no melody, just a constant pounding and a high pitched screech.  I was glad to see them go.  I was gladder to see them go with a pathetic smattering of sarcastic applause--a slow clap that never got going.

After they’d broken their set down, we raced on stage, set up our drums, and gave the signal to the light man.  He put up a red filter and I nodded my thanks.  I threw my sunglasses on, big Ray-bans, and tapped my right foot.  Our post-ironic suit and Converse combo seemed to be doing the trick.  The crowd was laughing and applauding.  I opened my case, gave one girl in the front row the Finger Guns, and then produced my trumpet.  We counted down and blasted off.  Glen Miller, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, we played ‘em all.  Everyone was on their feet, clapping, hollering, having a great time.  When the set was over, the people clamoured for an encore.

Out back, we took a smoke break.  Sweat was pouring down my face, and my undershirt was soaked through.  The crisp autumn air felt good.  I took a drag on my cigarette and let it out in a neat little ring, a trick my older brother had taught me before he went to Iraq and got himself blown up.

“You boys were pretty good up there,” we heard someone say.

Out of the shadows appeared a man in a tailored black suit.  He had on little round Victorian Era-looking sunglasses, and walked with a slick, black walking stick with a polished crystal for the handle.

“Thanks,” our drummer said.  That was all he was going to say.  We didn’t like the cut of this guy’s jib, as my grandpa would say.  He was seedy.

“You know, you’re all too talented for this.  I can think of a better use for your talents.”

“Oh yeah?” I sneered.  “We’re not really looking for a change. We’re happy with what we’ve got here.”

The man chuckled.  “What?  Playing for pennies in a shithole dive bar on weekends while you cram for your Biology finals during the week?  Please.  You know you want something more.  And you know you deserve it.  Hell, look back at your set tonight.  Do you realize who you just played to?  Drunken frat boys and slutty, sorority girls.  And you had them on their feet.”  With that last word, he slammed his cane into the ground, which sounded surprisingly loud in the quiet, echoey alley.  Like gunshot or a car backfire or something.

“...What’s the gig?”

The man explained that he’d come to claim someone’s life tonight--someone in the audience who’d racked up a high debt.  He liked having a soundtrack--a roving band of minstrels to entertain him while he worked.  If we followed him from job to job, he would pay us handsomely.

Of course, we didn’t believe him.  Not until the next day, when the man he’d mentioned at the show turned up dead, eyes wide, like he’d met his death staring into the face of Fear itself.  Each of us received a letter that week in a red envelope with no recognizable postmark, urging us to consider his offer.

I tell you this because tonight, we’re playing again, just like we have a hundred times before.  Tonight he claims another life.  Tonight he’s coming for you.

Any requests?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Joe Hill: Purveyor of T-Shirt Worthy Quotes

Last night on Twitter, Joe Hill, awesomely talented writer of novels and comic books, posted a series of tweets in which he was appalled by the idea of zombie sex.

Of course, this was an incredibly entertaining set of things to see pop up in your Twitter feed.  The last item in particular struck me as a particularly t-shirt worthy quote.  For my own amusement, and since I had a few zombie pictures from a previous post lying around, I went into Gimp and messed around with a quick-and-dirty mock-up of what this t-shirt might look like.

Please note this t-shirt isn't actually on sale.  I only did this for my own amusement.

And, of course, you should totally be following @joe_hill on Twitter at this point, which I've linked to above, and will do so again here.  And of course, you can check out his three books here, here, and here.  I highly recommend Horns.  It was a fantastic read.*

*One thing that strikes me as amusing is how I'm giving you all a recommendation of Joe Hill like some sort of influential blogger or something.  Tee hee.  He's Joe frickin' Hill; he doesn't really need my pimpage.  All the same, credit where credit is entirely due and all that.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

4 Unlikely Superhero Movies

It’s a great time to be a superhero.  2011 saw that the onslaught of comic-book-based movies continues to be a fertile investment with such blockbusters as Thor, X-Men: First Class, and Captain America, along with other...lesser comic book movies like Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, Cowboys & Aliens, and Conan the Barbarian.  This year doesn’t really appear to be any different with The Avengers kicking some serious ass in the box office, as well as the release of Men in Black 3, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and the promise of more costumed antics to come with movies like The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-man looming on the horizon.  

We’ve seen superheroes that can fly, that have super strength, that can shoot lasers out of their eyes, shoot web from their wrists (sort of), and even superheroes that are technically gods.  But one thing that never gets any attention are the superheroes with lesser abilities (unless you count poor, ridiculous Aquaman).  I decided to come up with some mock-up movie posters for movies you will probably not see soon in a theater near you.  Without further ado:
4 Unlikely Superhero Movies

1.  Low Charge

In the tradition of such electricity based superheroes like Thor, Static Shock, and Storm, I bring you Low Charge.  Once a regular shmoe working as a simple retailer in a big brand cellphone outlet store, Low Charge was struck by a freak bolt of lightning while checking the cellphone stock inventory.  Now he is equipped with the incredible power to significantly extend the battery life of your electronic mobile device.  IPod giving out while you’re at the gym?  Give a shout out to Low Charge!  Is your Kindle Fire giving out while you’re waiting at the doctor’s office?  Low Charge!  Is your Droid giving out just before you’ve beaten your best Angry Birds score?  Low Charge!

Unfortunately, just like all superheroes, Low Charge has a weakness.  While he can wear mixed fiber fabrics, he has to avoid wool at all costs.  The static build up between his electric personality and the itchy sweater is enough to cause him unthinkably bad hair.  This is also why he keeps his hair cropped so short.  It saves him trouble on humid days.

2.  The Tokenater

One issue that Hollywood has a hard time overcoming is their inability to cast anyone other than white dudes in movies.  Even the famously feminist Joss Whedon had only one solid female character in The Avengers. The rest were all white dudes.  And who can forget X-Men: First Class [SPOILER ALERTS] in which the cast was largely white, and while the female quotient was better, of the only two minority characters, one died and the other became a bad [/SPOILER ALERTS].

The Tokenater is here to help.  Got a team of superheroes that’s all male?  The Tokenater will become the token female character to help the team seem well rounded and representative.  Got a team that has a good mix of guys and girls but they’re all white?  The Tokenater will become your Token Black Guy to help round out the mix.

The Tokenater came to be one day when a virus went running rampant through Hollywood’s screenwriters’ computers.  Many famous and/or upcoming movie scripts were infected.  This virus continued to gather data until it was finally downloaded onto a flashdrive and thrown into a garbage chute.  That garbage chute was filled with old movie films and leftover modeling clay.  The Tokenater came to be independently, stepping out of the burning wreckage.  He was literally born by fire.

Unfortunately, The Tokenater has no superpowers beyond the ability to shapeshift.  The base form of the Tokenater is neither male nor female, but simply a gray-ish person-shaped entity.  This helps The Tokenater avoid identity issues, but also makes pronoun use very difficult.

3.  Air Freshener

How many times have you been an work in your cubicle, or standing in line at the coffee shop, or wedged into a crowded elevator, and you just really have to fart?  You could go ahead.  There’s always the chance it’ll be one of those rare silent and unscented varities, but honestly, what are the odds of that?  And so you spend your time uncomfortable and crampy, desperately willing the time to pass quickly so that you can reach some privacy and sweet, sweet relief?

Air Freshener, formerly Janice Harrison, knew exactly that pain.  She was a powerful businesswoman working for a cleaning products company in New York.  She oversaw the safe and environmentally friendly disposal of the various chemical and toxins they used to produce their cleaning products.  Being a woman in the business industry is tough, and tougher when on considers this horrible truth--according to modern culture, women simply do not fart.  For guys it’s a gross and funny expectancy, but for a lady?  Tisk tisk!

One night, while doing a routine onsite inspection, a freak collapse caused her to become coated in the dangerous chemicals.  Through some miracle, however, instead of being killed, she gained a mystical power:  whenever Air Freshener passes gas, her emissions do not stink.  In fact, they smell incredibly pleasant to anyone within range.  The smell is different for every person, seemingly reflecting whatever scent they find the most enjoyable, like a gassy litmus for the nose.

There is one catch for Air Freshener’s powers: while everyone else can benefit, she cannot.  To her, her flatulence smells incredibly putrid and instantly nauseating.  This causes her to use her powers only in the direst of emergencies.

4.  Master Debater

Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve just had an argument, and the other person won?  Walter Carothers had.  He was Chicago’s worst lawyer, with a terrible win/loss record.  Quiet, anxious, shy, and non-confrontational, Walter was on the verge of losing his job, which he had barely gained in the first place.  

One night, at a local comedy club, as Walter got up to use the restroom, the performing stand-up artist began to deliver a verbal smack-down to Walter for leaving his seat and disrupting the show.  With 44 ounces of soda swirling through his bladder, Walter attempted to defend himself, but was too tongue tied and distracted.  He simply fled the scene in a sobbing fit.  While in the restroom, he slipped on a puddle in the floor, bashing his head against a toilet.  When he awoke, Walter had been transformed.  He could never lose an argument.  He always knew exactly what to say.

Walter returned to his seat and proceeded to heckle the comedian on stage.  The somic did not appreciate and attempted to fire back at Walter, but Walter was always one step ahead of him.  He fired off a flurry of insults before side-tracking to psychoanalyze the comedian and question his motives, calling up deeply buried daddy issues and a self-esteem problem.  The comedian fled in tears and Walter vowed to find those who taunted the weak, and talk them into submission!

Unfortunately, throughout his many years as a moonlighting vigilante of verbal justice, Walter has cost himself his personal life.  He has been divorced seven times.  When asked why they ended it with Walter, all of his ex-wives resoundingly affirmed, “It’s because he always had to be right.  Every argument, no matter how small.”

What do you think?  Would you pay to see these movies?  Think of your own silly superheroes and list them in the comments!  Make us all laugh!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day Flash Fiction

The sirens let loose their screaming choruses, echoing up and down the deserted industrial hallways.  Red angry lights spun and danced, alerting no one but the ghosts of the disturbance.  No one except the thief that is, and he was well aware of his actions.

Dr. Strankelmund stood before the glass case containing the rare ore he needed to complete his latest doomsday device.  Suspended in an anti-gravity chamber, it floated, spinning in lazy, docile loops.  The sirens and the lights were giving him a headache.  He pressed a button on a remote and the sound gave one last choking blast and silenced.  He smiled as he keyed in the code that raised the glass.  He pulled his gloves tight, produced a small glass container, and gently placed the ore inside.

“Put the ore down, doctor.”

The doctor sneered.

Defender of the weak, champion for the championless, and all around goody-goody, the Green Knight, stood before him.  His gleaming, green, crusades-esque helmet caught the warning lights’ color and reflected it back in an especially awful way.

“You should really just leave.  Between your gaudy costume and this room's red lights, it looks like Christmas vomited.”

“Very kind of you to be concerned with my appearance, but the fact remains, you’re taking something that doesn’t belong to you.”

Dr. Strankelmund zipped his bag up with a flourish and stuck his nose in the air.  “And what if I am?  This ore is going to help me in ways you can’t even imagine!  You have no idea the breakthroughs I’m about to achieve in the name of science.”

“Mad science.”

Strankelmund shrugged.  “You say that like it’s a bad thing.  If they taught my brand of science in schools, I’m sure our children’s test scores wouldn’t be so pathetic.”

“Put the ore back!”

“Make me.”

Strankelmund lowered himself into a crouching position, extending his arms and legs into a defensive stance.  He was still in fairly good shape, despite his gray temples and salt-and-peppery beard.

The Green Knight let out a harsh bark of laughter and lowered himself into a similar stance.

“You want some of this, old man?” he sneered.

“Shouldn’t you be cramming for your Chemistry final or something?”

“Shows what you know.  Finals were last month.”

They charged at each other.  Strankelmund threw a punch at the Green Knight’s face.  The Green Knight blocked and countered with a knee to the stomach, knocking the wind out of the doctor, who spun away whipping his fist back and slamming into the Green Knight’s neck.  The Green Knight dropped.  Strankelmund smirked and turned to flee, but something caught his foot.  He flopped to the floor with a crack, his teeth clacking together.

The Green Knight, still on the ground, began dragging Strankellmund backward by his legs. Strankelmund began kicking at his chest and face.  Both men began scrambling for the duffel bag to reclaim the rare ore.  Strankelmund had it in his grasp for a moment before the Green Knight dove onto him, knocking him away.

The two men wrestled on the ground, straining, sweating, grunting, and suddenly, the doctor began to chuckle.  “You’ve gotten better.  Taking lessons?”

Panting, the Green Knight replied, “There’s a MMA gym that’s been offering lessons on special.”

“It shows.  You’ve had pretty good form so far.  But you could stand for a few more pointers.”

“Oh yeah?  Why do you say that?”

“You’re leaving your right side open.”  He drove his knee into the Green Knight’s side.

The hero let out a gasp and rolled away, curling into a ball.  Strankelmund cackled and snatched up the duffel bag, jogging out the door.  He made his way down the hall, straining for the sounds of any police or security that may have finally arrived.  That damned Green Knight had wasted precious time.

He found the stairs and began sprinting up them, skipping every other step.  Sweat poured down his face, stinging his eyes.  He stopped halfway up, doubled over and panting.  When he finally burs through the door, he stared straight into the eyes of the Green Knight, who had his Chivalric Negotiator, an emerald green stun gun, aimed at the doctor’s chest.

“Hey there.”

Strankelmund let out an airy laugh and leaned against the wall.  “How’d you get up here?”

“The other staircase.”

From below, the cacophony of sirens told him the police were surrounding the building.  The doctor turned his attention back to the Green Knight.

“You’ve got a shiner.  I guess I clocked you good.”

The Knight reached up and touched his right eye, smirking.  

“Lucky shot,” he muttered.  “Besides, your lip looks like someone over-inflated your face.”

The doctor let out a laugh and sighed.  “So, how is this going to work.  Are you going to take me down there to them or make them come up here to you?  Or are you just gonna tie me up and disappear like that other, darker knight we all know and love.”

The Green Knight chuckled.  “That guy can be such a dick, can’t he?”

They both laughed.  As the laughter tapered off, they stood for a moment, regarding each other.  The Green Knight’s brow furrowed for a moment before he let out a sight and stepped aside, gesturing for Strankelmund to go through.

The doctor was stunned “Are you serious?”

“Go, before I change my mind.”

Strankelmund took a quick glance over his shoulder and hustled over to the edge of the roof.  He dug around in his duffel bag and produced a little remote with a flashing red button on it.  He pressed the button and a floating, motorcycle-like craft came crashing out of the trees.  He tightened the duffel bag around his person and hopped on.  Before he raced off, he looked back over at the Green Knight.

“Hey, son?  Call your mother!  She misses you!”

With that, he throttled the handlebars and raced off into the night.

The Green Knight sighed.  “Happy Father’s Day, Dad.”

Monday, June 11, 2012


I had an interesting experience when I went to Hobby Lobby recently.

The wife and I went to town because we wanted some art supplies.  Specifically, we were getting supplies to make our stamps for Ze Frank’s aptly named A Show with Ze Frank.  As we went into the store, I rushed in ahead of my wife.  She stayed behind and was opening the door for someone behind her, but I was so jazzed and excited to get these little bits that I could hardly wait to get there and get my supplies.  I know it’s weird, but I get really excited over little projects like this.  However, my enthusiasm doesn’t remain around for very long before I’m on to the next thing.

I rummaged all over the store trying to find various things—a straight edge, some carving board, an ink pad—and all the while, I kept leaving my wife behind.  She’s disabled, and I’m kind of like a little hummingbird.  I flit around from one place to the other with hardly any moment to stop and rest.  I guess a more accurate depiction would be like a cartoon character.  I’m like Roger Rabbit from that one movie.  You know.

So, anyway, when we finally got the parts together, my wife caught up with me because I was busy mulling over which type of stamping materials I wanted and how I wanted to make them and various things like that.  When it comes to these types of decisions, I can be there for a while.  I’m very indecisive.  You can practically hear the dialup signal while I process whatever I’m going over.

So after we got the supplies and checked out, I had to go back and kind of drag my wife away from the register.  She was making small talk with the cashier, and I wanted to hurry up and get back home so I could start working on my stamp.  On the way out of the door, however, I heard a tiny voice call out to me.  I was in the middle of talking with my wife about how awesome this stamp was going to be and how I couldn’t wait to get home to make it, so I almost thought the sound had been in my head.  Then I saw the little old lady by the door.  She said, in her same tiny voice, “Would you mind walking me over to my car and helping me put my walker in it?”

I hesitated for an instant as a dam burst in my brain and a ton of thoughts came flooding through.  First there was confusion, because this was not an experience I had very often.  Then, surprisingly, there was outrage.  For just an instant, I was actually annoyed that this little old lady had the audacity to ask me to help her put some stuff in her car.  I mean, who the hell did she think she was?  Expecting me to help her out when I didn’t know her from Adam?*

Then I realized how much of a total dick I am, quelled that thought, and followed her over to her car to help her put her walker in her car.

The entire way to her car, I still couldn’t help but be skeptical that this was all it was?  Just helping her carry her stuff into her car?  What was the catch?  Did she want to talk about kids today and their lack of morals?  Did she want to mug me?  Did she want to mug me and then bring me to Jesus?**  Did she want to try to get me to donate money to some cause?  Or was this one of those scams where the people tried to pretend they’re all helpless and then you donate money and it turns out that they actually drive a Lexus and you’ve just been played?

I walked the lady to her car, helped her put her walker in her car, and then she thanked me and told me to have a nice day.  I did the same for her and headed back to the car.

I felt like such an ass as I walked away.  When had I become so cynical?  When had I become so infatuated with myself that I was annoyed that some little old disabled lady would ask me for help?  Or that I didn’t have the time and patience to walk a little more slowly with my disabled life?  Why did I expect everyone to bend their lives around me?

Today, I want you think to think long and hard (tee hee) about yourself and how you treat other people?  Was there someone to whom you could have been nicer?  Were you maybe too short with your spouse or child or best friend over something trivial and stupid?  If so, if you notice that maybe you’ve been a bit too self-centered lately, then I have a challenge for you.

I challenge you to find someone and do one nice thing for them.  Help them carry their bags to their car.  Hug them and tell them you love them?  Write them a letter.  It doesn’t matter, just one nice thing.  If you’d like it to be extra challenging, do it for a stranger—someone you don’t know and to whom you have no emotional attachment.  Once you’ve done that, share your stories in the comments and talk about how it made you feel.

* That’s Southernese for: “All Adams look exactly the same.” Because, you know, Adam Sandler and Adam Baldwin are basically the same person, right?

** The two things you never want to hear from someone hanging out in front of a store is their politics and their religious views.  That's where madness lives.

Friday, June 8, 2012


For those of you that don't know, John Scalzi's Redshirts came out on June 5th.  If you haven't run out and procured yourself a copy yet, do so.  It's fantastic.  I managed to get a ARC of the novel, but I also plan on getting a hardcover copy as soon as I can scrounge enough money together.

In honor of that fantastic post, I have below my entry to the Scalzi Redshirts Fan Art Contest (that did not win, obviously) (after seeing the finalists, I totally get why--SO TALENTED!), and Jonathan Coulton's new song that was inspired by, based on, and released in conjunction with the novel Redshirts.

For a better understanding of what's going on in the picture, you can find the previews on several sites, including for the Kindle, the Nook, and on Tor's own website.  Just Google "Redshirts sneak peek" or "Redshirts preview" or something like that.  It'll be worth it.  You'll totally be hooked within pages.

And, for those of you still intrigued, here's JoCo's new song, "Redshirt."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Whilst I Battle the Agrostological Rebels

This song has been rummaging through my head tubes for hours, and I thought, since I have to deal with mowing my yard, and I imagine many of you may have this task laid out ahead of you in the near future, I could try to infect you as well.