The Three Hundred and Thirty-Eighth Blog: The One Where I Went to a UFO Convention and Met Someone!

First off, I want to apologize for missing a deadline. I do have a good excuse, and it’s tangentially linked to this post. Next time, if I’m struck low by con crud – I’ll just throw up a little message or some amusing cat picture explaining there is no post this week.

Now – I went to my first UFO convention a week ago, partially for the novelty of it and to see a person who is well known in these circles.

Travis Walton disapproves of the quality of this photo

If you’ve seen the movie Fire in the Sky or read the book of the same title, this is that Travis Walton. He is the reason why I went out to Knoxville and added to my speeding ticket collection (only 46 more states to go!).

I’ve been asked if I believe in UFOs. ‘Believe’ is a loaded word for me. To say I believe in something means I accept it as a facet of life without reservation, even if given evidence to the contrary, or even lack of evidence to its existence. I don’t believe in UFOs like a child believes in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. I accept their existence, but if someone showed me evidence of a hoax, I would change my view.

Having said that.

I believe Travis Walton.

I got to see him three times. Twice at the convention, and once in the elevator at the hotel where I was staying. He’s friendly, a little reserved and signed my copy of Fire in the Sky without fuss. One might say aloof, but then again – if you’ve gone through what he’s gone through, I think you’ve earned a little distance from people.

But if you look at him, you can’t help to think that he’s undergone a trauma reserved for combat or dark alleys. The best way to describe his demeanor is: something scooped out everything that was Travis Walton and left the husk behind out of politeness. I don’t think he’s pulling a con, or that he had a serious of events in his mind that could be interpreted one way and he chose the other. He was abducted by beings from another world (dimension?), held for five days and then dumped back down. Whether it was their way of saying “Sorry about that blue flame hitting you, but Gazorth is a little quick on the trigger. Here’s fifty bucks and we just settled out of court” or this was a deliberate attempt to take someone for tests and it backfired a little, it did happen. A conman wouldn’t keep this up for forty-four years. I can’t keep up a self-imposed deadline for a month apparently, much less claim to be abducted.

Another thing about the convention and comparing to the local Comic-Con or GenCon, is the atmosphere. Outside, it was like other conventions with wares being peddled (you know what attracts aliens? Clean gutters and tattoo artists) and celebrities selling autographs (Dean Haglund from ‘The X-Files’ was there!). Inside the lecture hall was a different matter.

Even as some of the presentations were…odd…there was an atmosphere of serious scholarship. Comic-Con and GenCon had more of a free-wheeling feeling to it. Everyone there to see their favorite actors or writers or artists and play games. In Knoxville, it was an almost monastic silence and perhaps only five cosplayers (in order of complete costumes: Scully, Spock, George Norry [including a woman sporting the dyed black hair, brows and mustache], and silver lame generic alien). I should also mention that this is the inaugural convention, so I’m sure as it goes on there will be more to it. Will I go? Not entirely sure.

It’ll come down to my belief and acceptance.

Thanks for stopping by! I will be more diligent about maintaining my deadlines in the future. To the right, as always, you can buy me coffee or check out the books written by good friends. If you like this blog, be sure to spread the word.

Always: keep watching the skies.

The Three Hundred and Thirty-Seventh Blog: The One Where I Complain Groundlessly About Hollywood, Again!

I was worried that I wouldn’t have a topic for today, and I would have to rely on one of those Hemmingway Cards again…then I saw this.

I’m not very happy about the possibility of this movie getting shelved – especially with the talented cast the studio fielded (not to mention the crush I had on Wolfsbane). Sure – Disneywood Fox Studios killed the X-Man franchise with Dark Phoenix and re-shoots have been ordered for the movie, but none had happened so far. While Feige is eager to pick up mutants and the Fantastic Four from Fox – I don’t think we’re going to see a New Mutants release anytime soon on the big screen.

Why? Well – if Fox had read my earlier post about how I feel about the whole Dark Phoenix saga, they would have avoided a whole lot of woe. I’m not saying that I wanted God Loves, Man Kills in its place. The comparisons to X-Men 2 would be completely justified. I really wanted to see New Mutants – not for the fact that I’d get to see some of my favorite actors and characters, but because of how the movie was set up.

The one thing I like about the MCU is that they’re not superhero films, they’re other genre films that happen to have superheroes in them. I know I’ve talked about this earlier, but in all the superhero movies out there – only one film dared to approach horror and that was Brightburn, which is a massively underrated horror film in its own right. Horror is a genre that is under-represented in movies unless it’s Halloween (the holiday).

The MCU has a lot of horror in their back catalog, and a lot of adaptable properties. The Brood? The Aliens rip-off homage that took over their host, absorbing a mutant’s power until it finished gestating and transformed itself into the alien body. We’ve seen that The Shadow King and Legion can be handled excellently on the small screen (don’t spoil it for me, I know the last episode came on recently), so why not one or the other on the large screen.

And don’t tell me Disney can’t do horror. Jesus Christ – the most frightening movie I’ve ever seen is Something Wicked This Way Comes. Let’s face it, the House of Mouse can be blood-curdling when they set their mind to it. There is some supposition that New Mutants is going to end up on Disney+ (what does the plus mean? +$!). No. No, that will not do. It needs to be on the big screen. I need to be sitting in the darkened theater with pop corn and soda in my lap and waiting for Wolfsbane and Magick and Sam “Cannonball with Ears” Guthrie.

Is that too much to ask? For the MCU to continue to push the art forward and for Disney to stay the hell out of the way?

Well, this isn’t what I was oringally going to talk about, but I thought I had seen something on TV that Dredd was going to be released in 3-D and that put me into a tizzy. Sadly (?), I couldn’t find a trailer or a date of release. I might have been mistaken.

If you’re looking for some original work – on the right side of the page, you can find some well-written books from dear friends, or you can find my stuff. If you’d like, you can also donate to my kofi account. Thanks for stopping by. Have a good day.

The Three Hundred and Thirty-Third Post: The One Where I Point Out the Obvious!

I know this is going to be a bit late, but I really had no idea what to write until this morning while I was in the shower. So – in trying to make the self-imposed deadline of Thursday, this might appear a bit scattered. All I really have to go by is a hastily scribbled outline and a crack-pot idea.  Y’know…Thursday afternoon.

I was in the process of showering up and thinking about going to go see a movie on Friday when two ideas hit me. One is for the novel I am (perpetually) working on, and the other explains how the Marvel Cinematic Universe got so prominent as it is today, and why the DC Cinematic Universe seems to be lagging way far behind.

When the MCU was getting put together, Marvel had a bit of a problem: their two big properties for the movies: Spider-Man and the X-Men series were not Marvel properties. They were owned by Sony and Fox respectively. Remember those days when Fox was its own entity and not in the tightly gripped paw of the House of Mouse? Well, apparently Marvel had some problems keeping the lights on. If you watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., they’re never referred to as ‘mutants’ (Fox owned that word…seriously) but ‘enhanced individuals’.

With their big money makers tucked away in the arms of others, Marvel had to do something, so they got creative. They reached way back in the back of the catalogue. They had the makings of the Avengers, which was something they could work towards, but they needed filler. This was a huge gamble for Marvel. While Iron Man isn’t a third-tier character like Mantis from Guardians of the Galaxy, he wasn’t Wolverine either.

This set-up forced Marvel to work on the world and the storylines that would become the Phases. It was a gamble to be sure, but it was one that would pay off spectacularly. Big enough for Sony to loosen its grip on Spider-Man to allow him to have a place in the MCU.

We have the exact opposite problem with the DCU. They have the heavy hitters: Superman and Batman. Like Marvel, they have an extensive world already put together. This should have been as easy as plugging in a lamp. Why did it collapse in two films? Why is the DCU seemingly now getting their feet back under them.

Because they relied on the aforementioned heavy hitters. They rushed where Marvel took their time. Thinking that they could throw up a film that treats us to another origin story and everyone would run to it unthinking, and then giving us what should have been the midpoint movie in the first arc to prelude the movie that should have ended it is a face palming offense. I’m not saying the movies are bad, but just not well placed.

However – the DCU has shown that they can learn. Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Shazam get it right. We get to meet characters that were rarely given time elsewhere. Remember when Aquaman was the butt of many jokes? I do. Heck – thanks to Jason Momoa’s performance, Marvel can’t release a Sub-Mariner movie without getting the inevitable comparisons (and the Sub-Mariner is two years older!).

I must admit that I don’t know a whole lot about Shazam, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying a film about a boy finding both family and purpose. I can’t wait to see how they treat other properties. Could Cyborg be the DCU’s body horror tale – injecting some much appropriate terror into the series? Can we Jordan Peele to direct? Can the Flash be as humorous, I hope? Having Barry and Leonard trading quips while hashing out a gentleman’s agreement while in the middle of a bank heist would give a little humor to a universe that seems to take itself a little too seriously at times. As much as I am a Marvel fan…I like what they DCU has given us so far. I just hope they can keep it up.

Well – that’s my opinion. Maybe next time I’ll delve a little further into how I would have worked the DCU’s first phase.

If you’ve liked what you’ve read and if your last name rhymes with Schmigey – hit me up on e-mail. I work cheap and fast (and I know that I can be afforded. I mean – what’s a few hundred grand between friends, right?). Also please consider checking out the book links on the right.

Have a good day, and I’ll see you next Thursday.

The Three Hundred and Thirty-Second Post: The One Where I Complain About Post-Modernism (again!)

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m getting old and set in my ways. Of course, I’m getting crotchety over all the wrong things. 

I am a Marvel fan going far back, and I am happy to see the heroes I grew up with on the big screen and done right. The effects, the story, the casting (somewhat…I would rather watch Robert Downey, Jr. as Dr. Strange, but that’s just me) are magnificent. I love the continuity and the “phases” that start and begin an arc. I’m as gleeful as a four year-old in a room full of puppies.  

However… 

I have an issue with the Skrulls, but the root of this is post-modernist villains. 

Here come the spoilers. If you have not seen Captain Marvel and/or Spider-Man: Far from Home, leave now and see those films. Right now. The blog will still be here, I promise – mostly because I’m paid through to November. I can entertain myself while you’re gone. 

Back? Cool. Here we go. 

When I was reading comics – Claremont was writing X-Men, including my favorite God Loves, Man Kills, and the Skrulls were utterly merciless. They were black hatted, dark hearted villains who thirsted after the enslavement of Earth and the utter destruction of the Kree. They were shapeshifters, cunning and perfect. The old man staring you down? Skrull. That over-friendly cashier? Skrull. Your parents? One of them could be a Skrull. You’d never know.  

I think I might have found the root of my cheerful paranoia. Moving on. 

The Skrulls in the movies are…squishy, soda-drinking, post-modern villains and I hate it. 

Let me explain. 

One hallmark of post-modern villainy is the humanizing of the villain. We meet the Skrulls in Captain Marvel and we’re told that the Skrulls are cunning, amoral and savage infiltrators. They aren’t dropping through the atmosphere with guns a-blazin‘. They steal in, take your face, uniform, memories and your life. Their first appearance was in 1962, so you can make the case that the Skrulls were the sci-fi face of the Red Menace. 

The scene with Talos calmly sipping on a soda (a subtle shout-out to Tarantino) and explaining what they were about: 

[Vers walks out of Maria’s office after listening to the Black Box recording and realizing that Yon-Rogg abducted her in 1989] 

Carol Danvers: He lied to me. Everything that I knew was a lie. 

Talos: Now, you understand. 

Carol Danvers: What? What do I understand now? 

Talos: Yon-Rogg killed Mar-Vell. He killed her… ’cause she found out that she was on the wrong side of an unjust war. 

Carol Danvers: No. Your people are terrorists. They kill innocents. I saw the ruins on Torfa. 

Talos: Ruins that the Accusers are responsible for. My people lived as refugees on Torfa. Homeless, ever since we resisted Kree rule and they destroyed our planet. And the handful of us that are left… will be slaughtered next, unless you help me finish what Mar-Vell started. The core that she found would have powered a light-speed ship capable of carrying us to safety. A new home… where the Kree can’t reach us. 

Maria Rambeau: Lawson always told us that our work at Pegasus wasn’t to fight wars, but to end them. 

Talos: She wanted you to help us find the core. 

Carol Danvers: Well, I already destroyed it. 

Talos: No, you destroyed the engine. The core that powered it is in a remote location. If you help us decode those coordinates, we can find it. 

Carol Danvers: You’ll use it to destroy us. 

Talos: [sighing] We just want a home. You and I lost everything at the hands of the Kree. Can’t you see it now? You’re not one of them. 

 

See? It’s not the Skrull’s fault. They’re just victims of the Kree antagonism. How are the Kree portrayed? Cold, emotionless and unified – marching in lockstep towards a bright, blue destiny. I wonder if they’re going to bring in the Kree Civil War? The original Captain Marvel (or Mar-Vell if you want to be accurate) was a pink-skinned Kree, which was the minority on the planet. I don’t see that being brought up, since MCU is heading in a certain direction as far as the Kree. 

 

Supreme Intelligence: You did good, Ace. 

[Supreme Intelligence grabs the Tesseract] 

Supreme Intelligence: Thanks to you, those insidious shapeshifters will threaten our borders no more. 

Carol Danvers: I used to believe your lies, but the Skrulls are just fighting for a home. You’re talking about destroying them because they won’t submit to your rule. And neither will I. 

Supreme Intelligence: We found you. We embraced you as our own. 

Carol Danvers: You stole me. From my home, my family, my friends. 

[Supreme Intelligence sighs. Carol charges and punches her in the face, but her fist is stuck in her face before she is thrown to an invisible wall] 

Supreme Intelligence: It’s cute how hard you try. But remember, without us… 

[Carol is absorbed through the wall, which projects images of her memories] 

Supreme Intelligence: …You’re weak. 

[Carol continues to watches flashbacks of her crashing in races and failing in physical activities] 

Supreme Intelligence: You’re flawed. Helpless. We saved you. 

[Carol falls back in the room] 

Supreme Intelligence: Without us, you’re only human. 

Carol Danvers: You’re right. I’m only human. 

[Carol starts remembering every time she got up from a fall] 

Supreme Intelligence: On Hala, you were reborn. Vers. 

[Carol holds a fragment of her dog tag that reads “Vers] 

Carol Danvers: My name is Carol. 

 

Post-modernism looks to muddy the waters, making the villain a little more tolerable, but at the cost of making the heroes a little less sterling. The Skrulls (at least these) are weary, fellow travelers just looking for a home free from Kree tyranny. The Kree take what they want because they are unchallenged by an unsuspecting Earth, but they do these things for their greater good.  My problem is not with the representation of Skrulls, nor with the Kree or Captain Marvel – who I can’t wait to see how they treat her run-in with Rogue now that Disney owns Fox, which owns the X-Men. My problem is with post-modernist villains. 

It was good ten years, or even twenty years ago. Not now. Not for comic book movies. Not for movies. It’s not daring, hip, new storytelling. It’s safe. It’s cliched. It’s tired. We need something new in villainy. What is it? I have no idea. Maybe we can go back to the white hat / black hat. Let’s dust that concept off. I’m not advocating moustache twirling villainy, but I’m no longer a fan of telling myself, “He’s got a point”. 

“But, Mr. Apathy!” I can hear you screaming at the screen. “The world isn’t like that!” 

I know. I know that people are complicated little things. That’s why I love writing about them. Maybe in my inky fumblings I can figure them out. I know that people do things for reasons that only makes sense to them. I’m just saying that your villain can be complex and engaging, but we don’t have to sympathize with them. 

As I write this, I know I am going to have to try to clarify my argument as I speed towards the deadline of before Thursday night. This might be as good as it gets. I’m going to try to expand on it later on. Right now, I am not completely caffeinated. More than likely I’m going to read this and wonder what was I thinking. 

Feel free to chime in through the comments, also check out the books on the right written by talented, good and charming people. Have a good day, and just remember: your boss is a Skrull. 

The Three Hundred and Thirty-First Post: The One Where I Try Really Hard to Maintain a Schedule!

I was going to try to continue writing my treatment for “God Loves, Man Kills”, but I can’t really come up with anything else. So, I erased it (I might get back to it) and almost launched into a rant about the lack of single books in fantasy, but I’m not really ready for that. I know that I need to maintain the schedule of something every Thursday. Don’t ask me about the cards – I’ve read ahead and they get rather dark. I might look for some other prompts. I can see why they were called “Hemingway Cards”. I almost expect to take out a card and read: “Pick your favorite way to kill yourself.” 

So – with that in mind, I am going to talk about something that you might not think I follow. 

Bitcoin. 

I bought some at when it was at $5,000 and now it’s at $11,000. I’m going to double my investment from $50.00 to $110.00. I didn’t invest much, but it is nice to see a small gamble pay off a little. I’m not selling now, but I am trying to buy very little at this point. I know the bubble is going to pop soon, and when it does, I will hopefully have some money to buy more coin and sell it when high. I am a writer, not a good speculator. My stock portfolio will attest to it. There’s more red in it than a Crayola factory on fire. 

I’ve heard that the series “Chernobyl” is good, and I wonder if there will be any other attempts to mine Gen X nostalgia for stories. I think I know how my parents felt when they saw remakes of their series and movies. I wouldn’t mind a series based on the Challenger disaster. Hubris killed those astronauts. I mean – history now has become tearing down our idols, right? 

I hope you will forgive me rambling, but this is more about trying to maintain my schedule. In the rush and excitement of going to the Mall of America, I forgot to write a second posting to cover this week. 

The Mall of America. Holy cow. Is that place huge! On one of the walls is a series of statistics and one of them is that one lap around the mall is about 1.15 miles. Yes. Miles. I walked around each floor and I walked to the mall from my hotel. I walked 4.25 miles in one day. I walked more in two days (2.30 on the second day) than I have the whole month. Ouch…but I recommend going there. Shops for almost every taste – three different candy shops and a dealership. Yes. A Mercedes-Benz dealership. If I had the money, I could have had the ultimate souvenir: a sports car. 

One last thing: the final series of the show Legion is out. Thank god it has not lost any of its quirky weirdness, Go see it if you get the chance, It’s great. 

Well, I promise to write something a little more focused for next time. Thank you for your attention, and now I have to finish this screwdriver and make lunches for tomorrow. Good night, all. 

The Three Hundred and Twenty-Ninth Post: The One Where I Bare My Soul…

Card 2: Describe a time you felt lonely

I am going to include a trigger warning with this posting: there will be frank talk about depression and thoughts of suicide. If you feel that reading this will lead you down a dark path: DO NOT READ THIS. Close the window and come back next Wednesday. I promise to have something different. Also – if you are having issues with depression or suicide: GET HELP. GET HELP. GET HELP. Call 1-800-273-8255 or go here for suicide prevention services. Talk to someone. Get the help you need.

My time in college was a lot of firsts for me. It was the first time I was really far from home. I had a rather…tied down sort of life before I left for college. I was out of the house with no one to stand over me demanding attention. The freedom was giddy. As a theatre arts major, I didn’t have anything too hard for my first year. If I knew then what I knew now, I would have made a lot of changes.

At this point, I was feeling like I had finally come into my own. I knew what I wanted to do, I had friends and I was back engaging in one of my favorite hobbies without having to look over my shoulder out of fear. I was engaged with my work (even if it felt a little simple for me) and living on my own recognizance. If I wanted to stay up to 3 A.M., I could – by the way, I was a bit of a night owl (still am). This was it. It could not get any better for me.

Then I fell in love. It got much better. This was my first…adult love. I wanted to marry her. I was completely comfortable with her. We shared all the same interests – books, movies and TV. This was one of those “loves that define the age” sort of things.
Yeah…that lasted about two years.

Did I take it hard? Yes. Oh, yes. It was my first real love. It was hot. It was passionate. It was nothing I had ever felt before. It came crashing down over a summer. I scraped and scrambled to get the funds to come back for the penultimate year. Everything at that point starting drifting in black and white. What I didn’t know then that I know now is that I was entering a depression that I wouldn’t completely get out of for several years. It continues to affect me to this day.

When I got back, I thought that the friends I had made would have my back, as it were. That year of college taught me a lot. It taught me that in the end, you are the only person you can rely on. My friends – the ones that I thought could count on to at least tell me to buck up and that you’ll get better – ditched me just as quickly. She stole everything from me. Friends, joy and love – all gone.

The people that stepped up to try to fill the void – the other guys in my hall – did so, but did it in a ‘well, we have to’ sort of way. I might as well have had everything packed away and get sent to reside in the stables off campus. I got some booze out of what would be my final year on campus (the only love affair that continues on from college), but for the most part, it was just me on campus, muddling by and looking to end up being a fifth-year senior.

My family…well…that was a deeper betrayal. All my life, I had been told that I could always depend on family. I could always hang my hat in the chaos and feel that I was safe from the outside world. Surely – they would trip over themselves to defend me.
I am going to admit that I never wrote about this to anyone at home. I also understand that since the family didn’t know what was happening, they weren’t able to help. I get that. None of them are mind-readers. I get it.

However, when trying to reconnect with my family and speaking to my mom about what’s been going on. We drifted to what was going on with college. What she told me in the course of that conversation proved to me that one can only trust themselves.

“The dean called me and said to come get you. I told him that you were going to stay there.”

I was having a mental and emotional breakdown. I spent my last two dollars to buy razor blades to slash my wrists. I was sleeping away entire weekends. When I was awake, I was overeating and drinking to excess trying to feel happy again. I was joking with people to maintain the façade, but inside I was the walking dead.

For my final year of college, no matter how many people I surrounded myself with, I was completely alone.

There is a happy ending to this, believe it or not. I got out, got away from that toxic environment. I lost weight – diet and exercise, yada, yada, yada…. I’m not back to my high school weight, but I am far, far from 300+ pounds. I’m reading Marcus Aurelius (something I could have used earlier) and pursuing writing which is something I should have done from the get-go. I have gotten far more comfortable with the notion of being alone to the point where I prefer that state. I’m not whole and healthy, but I am doing better.

Well, thanks for coming by. Sorry that this was a bit of a downer. Hopefully, the next card will be a bit cheerier. I can write comedy – my book The Dreaded Day Job is still on sale through Amazon, along with my other stuff. Tell you what – regardless of the gravity of the next card, I’m going to find the comedy. It’s there, I just have to uncover it.