Jell-O Fist

My all-time top favorite Marvel heroes are:

         

  

with Cap being the top of the top. Why? Because they’re regular guys, not god-like, nigh-on invulnerable ubermensch such as Superman and Thor. Unless you had some kryptonite or Loki’s staff handy, fighting them was pretty much suicide. The Marvel guys, though, could be beaten, even by regular schmos like Gladiator

or Tarantula;

heck,  they could be killed. Cap has been killed, or so I’ve heard. By Crossbones,

or so I’ve heard. Daredevil actually has a handicap, a radioactive muffler (we had radioactive car parts in the 60s, doncha know) taking his sight while giving him bat radar while martial arts training gave him badassery. And Iron Fist…oh, c’mon, plunging his hand into the fiery heart of Shou-Lao the Undying?

Now what 1970’s era martial artist like moi didn’t want to do the same thing?

So when Netflix announced an Iron Fist series, I was all atwitter. After all, they’d done a bang-up job with Daredevil (maybe not so much in Season 2, except for the best Punisher ever

), Jessica Jones (with the most terrifying villain ever,

except for maybe Doctor Doom), and Luke Cage…

well, two out of three ain’t bad. I settled in, popcorn in hand, to watch and…

What? The? Hell?

I mean, seriously, Netflix, what the hell? I don’t know what this series is, but it’s definitely not Iron Fist. Jello Fist, more like it.

Foist of all, Danny Rand’s not some naïve waif-like barefoot hippie spouting Zen koans and bewildered by The Real World. Danny Rand is a badass, with badass attitudes. After all, he marched out of Kun’Lun in full Iron Fist regalia and yanked Rand Enterprises out from under the legless Harold Meachum (if you know the original comic books, that’s funny). With the approval and encouragement of Lei Kung the Thunderer.

What’s this “guardian of the pass” crap?

Second, Iron Fist is a master martial artist. This guy Finn or Swede or whoever is a green belt. Colleen Wing is a green belt. Both are getting their clocks cleaned by other green belts. About the only one who looks like he knows what he’s doing is Davos.

I’m beginning to back his claim to the Iron Fist.

And who wrote this thing? Because, seriously, the Big Reveal about Colleen Wing?

Amateur hour.

One more question: where the hell is the Iron Fist? I think we’ve seen it once or twice. Maybe.

I vote for an immediate reboot.

Posted in lesser mediums, Merry Marvel Marching Society | Leave a comment

Verizon is the Devil

Yesterday, I got a bill in the mail from Verizon for $66.99. This is odd because all of my Verizon accounts are prepaid; in other words, I do not receive bills through the mail. Especially bills that are for more than my pre-paid accounts, and especially when, the day before, I got the monthly text from Verizon thanking me for my pre-paid account payments. Perhaps I should inquire.
Any of you who have Verizon know that making a telephone inquiry into billing matters is somewhat akin to the Bataan Death March: you have to grimly hold on and hope to God you reach the end of it without some screaming guard bayoneting you in the back. So, forget the 800 number; go for the Chat on the Verizon website. So I did.
I got a bright cheerful customer service rep named K (no names will be used in this) who was very excited and happy to help me. So I said I got this bill through the mail and I had no idea what it was for, and K was very excited and happy that I told her that, and was very excited and happy when I (a) got my secret code right and (b) guessed which of my secret questions was currently in force. I can’t really blame her for being excited and happy with every correct response. No doubt, up to 50% of persons querying through the website are not quite sure what their own names are, much less secret codes and questions.
So she checked my account and noted no such bill was there, and I told her yes, I know, because I checked my account, too, before initiating the Chat and saw no such bill and I am now Chatting to find out what exactly this bill is, which made her happy and excited. Is the bill for phone service or internet service? Don’t know, K, because it does not say what the bill is designed to pay, only that I am to pay $66.99. Is one of your cell phone numbers listed on the bill? No, K, they are not; there is an account number listed on it, though, which made K very happy and excited and I gave it to her. A few minutes later, a puzzled K advised the account number was not for any pre-paid account but appeared to be for a postpaid account, like a landline. I don’t have a postpaid account, K, nor a landline. Okay, K said, all happy and excited, so you will need to go to Chat for the postpaid accounts.
Uh, what?
Turns out there are different chats at different levels in Verizon world. See, you thought that Verizon, being this technically sophisticated organization, could simply get someone from postpaid onto the same Chat that I was currently enjoying with K. Oh, you peasant you. Turns out that getting onto the Postpaid chat is a little more complicated than getting on the mere prepaid Chat. You have to log off prepaid, click Device, then Contacts, then hit Chat and then you will be talking to postpaid. Intuitive, right? All of this K happily and with great excitement explained to me, although she did not call me a peasant. That was implied.
So, I clicked through the Verizon universe until I was on Chat with another K, who I suspect was the very same K I was talking to in the bourgeois prepaid Chat because this K was just as happy and excited to help me as the first K. Got through codes and security questions and I explained what the issue was and K2 was concerned as well as happy and excited because she did not show me having any postpaid accounts. Ah, the same sheet of music at last, so she asked me what the bill was for and I said I did not know and did it show what telephone number the bill applied to and I said no it only showed an account number and then she asked if it showed an invoice number and I puzzled over the bill and located five digits next to the amount I owed but that turned out not to be an invoice number so K2 checked the account number and, waddya know, it not only does not show up as a postpaid account, it’s in the wrong format for any Verizon account, post or pre. Aha! Progress! So, K2, am I getting scammed here? Is this a fraud? Can I scan the bill to your security department?
Well, no, let’s try something else first. Why don’t you, peasant, call one of the 800 numbers listed on the bill while I stand by here and then you can tell me over Chat what they said?
Uhm.
As previously mentioned, I am not one to willingly enter the Death March of Verizon Customer Service over the phone, so I typed more or less the following back to K2: “Next to being boiled alive in skunk oil, calling a Verizon Customer Service Representative is one of the worst experiences a human can endure. Do I really have to do this?”
At which point, an alert popped up on my screen saying that I had been on Chat far too long for Verizon’s liking, and they were now logging me off. Which they did.
Co-inkidink?
I looked around for someone to strangle but the only thing in reach was the cat and, well, not her fault, so I logged on to postpaid Chat again. After the usual protocols, I got another perky young thing named H, and I told H that I had been this close to getting this mystery solved when Verizon decided to log me off. He said he was really sorry and mournful about that and couldn’t send me back to K2 to resume where we left off, but he’d be real happy and excited to start the whole thing over again. I told him no, forget it, I was going to go waste another couple of hours at the Verizon Store downtown which would probably get me right up to the point the mystery was solved, then close for the evening. I then logged off.
So today I went over to the Verizon store, bill in hand, and was met with immediate hostility. The hostile guy tried to tell me it was a landline bill and got more hostile when I told him I didn’t have a landline. So he starts doing some stuff on his handheld and then on the PC and, ya know, it’s not a landline. So he called the Bataan Death March. However, him being an employee, he knows all the secret call signs and handshakes to keep the guards from bayoneting him, and got through to an actual, half-hostile person. Turns out it was a bill for my internet service which, funny enough, was no longer on autopay. See, back in December, I called the Death March and changed my card and made a payment with the new one, but, unbeknownst to me, in order to continue autopaying on the new card, I had to agree to the terms and services, which cannot be done over the phone when making a payment. Instead, they sent the terms and services agreement to…an Email I haven’t used in five years. An Email, incidentally, that, whenever I went to my Verizon Wireless Internet account, I noted as still being listed as my Email and, after saying a few choice words, I would change to my current Email. Every single time I went there. For about the last two years. Which is why I did not get the terms and services, which is why the new card was not listed on autopay.
Fine.
I got half-hostile person to change the Email…again…and verify, over the phone, terms and services so my autopay is, allegedly, now fixed. As for the bill, I said go ahead and pay it using the new card…at which point, her system shut down.
I am going to find a Gypsy and put a curse on the Verizon CEO and the entire board.
Posted in Life in the Shenandoah Valley | Comments Off

Can’t Hang

I’m a bit late getting to this, but, two weeks ago, I was at Lost Weekend VII, the semi-annual film festival held at the Alamo Drafthouse in Winchester, VA. Yes, there have been six previous Lost Weekends (capitalization of those words necessary to designate them from normal lost weekends where you sleep in or binge watch Netflix or something) and yes, I have written of them before. But, this time, I did not spend the entire Thursday through Sunday night huddled in the back row as movie after movie spun by.

Couldn’t hang. Just couldn’t.

Didn’t help that I spent most of Sunday in the ER for my friggin’ back (a syringe of Dilaudid turning it into a different kind of lost weekend), but, even without that, I can’t hang. Certain of life’s inevitabilities have kicked in, making continuous film watching problematic. My wife hung in there, but she’s always been tougher than me, and yes, yes, several other old farts endured, but, not me. I’m done.

Because this is not actually a film festival, it’s a film marathon. Lost Weekend started in 2013 with eight films over three days and now, now…twenty-three films over three-and-a-half days. Doing the math, that translates to oh, say, twenty-seven minutes to eat and sleep over four days.

Can’t hang.

So I didn’t.

I went home after the next-to or next-to-the-next-to last movie of the night, crashed, made a leisurely breakfast and then a leisurely trip back to Alamo and queue up the next movie, stay until my brains started flowing out of my ears, rinse, repeat. Which means I did not see all twenty-three films, but I did see quite a few, of which I thought three were outstanding:

a. Buster’s Mal Heart:

This is a movie so good it could easily have gone another 45 minutes to an hour of its rather short hour-and-a-half and suffer absolutely no ill effects. It was vignette after vignette of three distinct story lines, two of which may, or may not, be the result of the real story line, which may, or may not, be the real story at all. I’m not going to say much more than that, but this movie will blow you away. Oscars for Rami Malek as Buster, DJ Qualls as Brown, and Best Director for Sarah Adina Smith.

b. Toni Erdmann.  

This movie is so good that its over-two-hours run time might actually be a little short. I could have stood a couple more of Toni’s practical jokes with little complaint. In this German film, an apple falls very far from the tree, almost out of the county because daughter Inez is a humorless, stick-up-the-butt corporate apparatchik in contrast with her certifiably insane Dad, practical-joking  Winfried, who has practically joked himself into an old age of isolation and loneliness. Guessing that his stick-butt daughter is as isolated and lonely as he, Winfried pays a visit to her office in Bucharest and, well, you just gotta watch. Things get progressively out-of-hand as daughter, suddenly the apple, tries to match him prank for prank and, you know, you’re going to have to answer the door naked to see what happens. Rumor is that Jack Nicholson has been picked for the American version.

c. The Invisible Guest:

A locked-room Spanish murder mystery originally released under the title Contratiempo from Mexico (or not. Lineage is not certain on this film), there is a point in this fascinating story where you go, “Wait a minute. How can that happen?” And you think you’re some kind of Sherlock because, aha! You have discovered the flaw in the movie! But you haven’t, because the thing that you thought happened DIDN’T happen, and you won’t know that until the last few minutes. Very cool.

Some of the other good ‘uns were the amazing Colossal; I, Daniel Blake (which should pretty much cure you of your socialist enamorings); and the freakin’ hilarious The Young Offenders. That’s about all the ones I actually saw and remembered.

If the trend continues, then the next Lost Weekend will be 23-24 films over the same time frame, and I will see about eight or nine because I can’t hang. Be nice if Lost Weekend became an actual film festival where all the movies are listed and you buy, say, a five-movie ticket to see the ones you want, you know, like Cannes or Sundance.

Not Boston.

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Done. I mean, really done. Sort of.

Col’m, I mean. Again. But, really, this time, I mean it, it’s done.

Well…

I still have to run the macros to find words and phrases that I use to the point of annoyance, like “just.” I just use the word ‘just’ just about every other word or so. Just can’t help it because I just like it. And ‘pretty,’ which I use for ‘very,’ pretty much just about all the time.

You get the point.

So, right now, Col’m is coming in at 99, 900 words or so. Once I’m done with the macros, it’ll probably be about 99 even. Then it goes to my editor, Genghis Jane, who will do her own fair share of word slashing, so figure anywhere between 85 -90k in the word count, which, to me, is a little light. If you’re gonna read, read.

There are 46, count ‘em, 46 characters in this book so it’s approaching Russian novel status but I’ve thrown in short biographies of everyone, including the briefly mentioned, in an appendix for easy reference. Seemed the best thing to do. If I’d back-storied every one of them, Col’m would be close to 200k words.

Hmm…

No, no, that’s enough. So, given editing and formatting and the creation of a cover, think maybe…April? Yeah, that sounds about right.

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Monkeys Throwing Poo in Space

This past Monday night, the Alamo Drafthouse here in Winchester held an advance screening of Syfy Channel’s The Expanse: Season 2.

Wow. Just wow.

First, Alamo Drafthouse is a national treasure. Just is. It’s a movie chain owned by people who love movies and anything that looks like a movie, heck anything that tells a story via film. A TV series on the big screen? For free? With free popcorn and a beer, to boot? Man. And NO ADS!!!!! Suck it, AMC.

Second, there is nothing better than well-done scifi. Blade Runner, Gattaca, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (both versions)…you know, scifi where the story is more important than the special effects, which rules out everything done by George Lucas.

And The Expanse is well-done scifi. Set centuries ahead, there are now three distinct human civilizations in the solar system: Earth, Mars, and the Belt, asteroid belt, that is. Earth is Rome, Mars is Sparta, and the Belt, well, they’re Dickens’ London. All three of them are ready to go to war with each other over anything at all and they might just have that ‘anything at all’ when a Belter salvage ship is nuked by what can only be a Martian stealth ship except, maybe the ship was built by a shadowy terrorist group that has about fifty different factions wanting to kill everybody else for a hundred different reasons and maybe Earth is using them to start a war with Mars and then again, maybe it’s something else entirely.

Bingo.

Season One ended with one of the most terrifying weapons tests ever. Season Two begins right after, and the nature of the weapon…Ho. Lee. Crap. And the implications. And the double dealing and things not what they seem. This is Game of Thrones in space. Complete with dragons.

Great characters. My two favorites: Joe Miller (played by Thomas Jane)

is a Belter detective employed by a private police agency on Ceres. He has seen it all. All. And he is jaded and sardonic but still willing to find some truth and to be surprised by justice. He conducts an act of pure sanity at the end of the Season 2 premier. Chrisjen Avasarala

(played by Shohreh Aghdashloo, whose hand I seek in marriage) is UN Assistant Undersecretary of Executive Administration…read “Gestapo.” She is cruel and murderous and she knows something is going on, she knows they are being played, and she is going to do whatever necessary, including hanging a Belter or two up by their clavicles, to find out.

Special effects? Oh sure. Marvelous ones, especially the rail gun battle between the spin station, the stealth ship and the Rocinante; the beer can breach of the station wall; and that weapons test. Man, that weapons test. The effects are right, as if somebody took the time to ensure the science matches the scene. F’rinstance, sitting inside a ship laced by rail gun slugs, you’re not going to hear Pew! Pew! and the sounds of tie fighters growling like Chewbacca’s pissed-off girlfriend as they go racing by. No, it’s going to be rather tranquil because you’re buttoned up in a pressure suit because, you know, rail slugs breaching the hull and look at all those fireflies shimmering and dancing all through your crew compartment, ripping everything to shreds in zero gravity and sound. Lovely.

If I have a beef, it’s the introduction of an outside-the-solar-system element. In other words, BEMs.

Too bad. IMHO, it lessens the story somewhat. The intrigue and the savagery and the backstabbing among the humans is fun enough and aligns rather nicely with my own view that, no matter how advanced our tech gets, we’re still monkeys throwing poo at each other.

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Hey! Look What I Got!

A YouTube channel!

Posted in lesser mediums, Reading itself | Comments Off

The Next Three

Books, that is. The next trilogy, that is. I’m working on it because Col’m, the last of the Partholon trilogy,

 

is done…well, I need to do one more rewrite before I submit it to my editor, Genghis Jane because, you know, she’s Genghis Jane and I wish to spare myself a flogging. But, the manuscript’s in pretty good shape after the second rewrite, just a tad short of 100k words, and I am confident it will withstand her iron-clawed scrutiny.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

So it’s time to finish up  what is actually my first trilogy. I wrote Frank Vaughn Killed by His Mom before I wrote Partholon…well, they were both ongoing projects, but I finished Frank Vaughn first. I wrote the second Frank Vaughn book, called Southern Gothic, before Tu’an. This third one, which I started a couple of days ago, is called Looking for Don.

It’s a much looser story than what you normally expect from a trilogy, in that it’s not an ongoing story so much as it’s ongoing characters spanning from 1965 through present day. It’s magical realism, sort of, in a way, in that the ghost of a murdered little boy shows up (sort of, in a way) in all three books. This series is different than everything else I’ve written because it is not horror or fantasy. It’s normal life. Whatever that is.

The first two books simply need some edits and cleaning up and they’ll be ready to go, but I’m not going to release them until the third one is done, cleaned up and ready to go. I’ve learned that a hungry public demands its trilogies completed, not dribbled. In that way, trilogies are like a fine wine.

Stay tuned.

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Rogue One, Prequels Zero

Rogue One is a Star Wars universe I could get into, dark and murderous and crazy and action packed. Not the George Lucas Star Wars universe of namby-pampy muffin religions summarized by a bumper sticker, and adolescent barely-shaving heroes who really don’t want to hurt anybody, and muppets, and outlandish aliens which are there just to give the make-up people something to do and a story line right out of My Weekly Reader. That’s because George Lucas didn’t really have anything to do with this movie other than putting his name in the opening credits. Residuals, doncha know.

So this was an actually GOOD Star Wars movie. A damn good one, probably the best of the first three (which is NOT the prequels! They are NOT the first three movies! They are afterthoughts, embarrassments, more of Lucas’ muffin universe where we gotta have clones because, ewww, we can’t show PEOPLE getting hurt! Except Darth Vader. Who becomes evil because of a girl. Isn’t that always the case?)

Ahem…

Based on an offhand remark made early in the first Star Wars (yes, dammit, the FIRST Star Wars!), Rogue One is a Star Wars movie for grownups. This is war as it actually is: people die, things get broken, great tragedies are visited over large swaths of territory usually because some overbearing, nasty, and oppressive power wishes to be overbearing and nasty and we freedom loving people object. So, war, because oppressive powers don’t understand anything else (got that, bleeding hearts?) And what a war, fought with the terrible intensity you would expect from high-energy weapons and technology. You will be stunned. You will be engrossed. You won’t even notice some glaring inconsistencies.

Like…there’s still a Senate? Didn’t that kinda end when the Emperor made his move? But, wait, wasn’t Princess Leia a Senator or something in the first movie and, wait, that didn’t make sense back then, either.

I’m confused.

But, don’t worry about it, because this is a straight up story. The Death Star has been activated and nobody in the Senate (which, really shouldn’t exist anymore) knows about it…I mean, the zillions of dollars and zillions of diversions of labor and materials from all over the friggin’ galaxy just wasn’t noticed by anybody. Jedi knights didn’t even pick up on it (that Force can be fickle). So, the evil Director

(played by absolutely one of the greatest actors of our time, Ben Mendelsohn. If you don’t believe me, start watching Bloodline) is trying to keep it hidden before unleashing it on the unsuspecting Rebels, because, ya know, nobody has even HEARD about this gigantic metal moon that’s eating up all the dilithium crystals (or whatever they are) in the universe when Peter Cushing shows up (wait, isn’t he dead?) and wants to take over so prove to me this hunk of junk actually works and so the Director does. Hoo boy, does it work, in a constrained test shot that is ten thousand times more graphic and terrifying than the much-beloved destruction of Alderan.

But, don’t worry, there’s a heroine, pulled into this entire mess by some of the most convoluted and downright implausible means that only a scriptwriter could manufacture, and she’s going to get those Death Star plans. Or die trying.

And there you have it.

Darth Vader is in this one.

The real Darth Vader, not that petulant kid you just want to slap the crap out of, or that Kylo Kilo pajama boy, but Darth friggin’ Vader hisself, all broody and scary and living in his Fortress of Solitude on the lava world. I swear he told his architect to make his home as intimidating as possible, to discourage visitors, I guess. And I guess he saved money by incorporating old Star Wars sets into the place, but it was good to see him. And he is a true badass, as the last sequence will reveal, when you’ll get to see Stepford Princess Leia, too.

There is a battle sequence involving a master switch that will make your head explode, because someone has to go to the master switch and set dial 7 to the 400 mhx range and then throw fuse 11765883 into the neutral position and then wait five seconds and turn the base plate 28.5 degrees magnetic north and then jump on one foot and hold your breath and…really, somebody should write this down. And, of COURSE, the switch is right out there in the middle of the entire Imperial storm trooper army. Of course. Wouldn’t it be easier to drive an Imperial Star Cruiser right through the Star Gate?

Sheesh, Captain Kirk would have just photon torpedoed the whole mess.

Anyway. Go see it. It’s a blast. And if you don’t cry at the end, you’re a Sith.

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I am Thankful For…

1. Being Alive. Especially given the events of the summer.

2. Believing in God. Because it makes the universe wondrous and unlimited. I feel bad for people who don’t believe in God. Your universe is so small.

3. Some people I’ve known these past sixty years or so. We still talk. And we still laugh at things.

4. Writing five books. Actually, I’ve written nine, but the remaining four aren’t readable. Yet.

5. Getting older. Even though the side effects suck. This is the best time of my life, hands down. I don’t owe anybody anything. I’ve got great memories. I’ve got bad memories. I ain’t rich, but my bills are covered.

6. A wild, insane, cringe-worthy life that no one would believe. But I do.

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Free. Free. Free. Did I say, “Free”?

 

Free at Smashwords. Eventually, free on Amazon, too. Only thing it’ll cost you is time and memory. I mean on your EReader, not your brain.

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