Monday, August 8, 2022

RIP Nichelle Nichols

 (Yes, I know I'm a day late and a dollar short, but I worked seventy hours last week and spent most of yesterday asleep.)

Growing up, one of the people I was closest to was my father. We fished together. We went shooting together. He coached my sports teams. (I'm afraid I may have been a bit of a disappointment there.) And we watched Star Trek: The Original Series together. It was super cool. There was one character that I shared a first name with (being Jim Kirk) and one that I shared a last name with (Dr. Leonard McCoy). Then there were Lieutenants Sulu, Chekov and Uhura. And let's not forget Scotty. 

We watched it a lot. I'll never forget the times that Star Trek was pre-empted by Detroit Red Wings games. My dad wasn't a fan until late in his life and, well, it got ugly. "THAT'S NOT EVEN A REAL SPORT!!" he'd yell. And we'd end up watching some old movie on a different channel. We didn't have cable yet and so there wasn't much choice.

Others have spoken of Nichelle Nichols and her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement, of her conversation with Martin Luther King, being a black person in an integrated crew...

And yes, she was a woman. People often compare Lieutenant Uhura to a telephone operator, as that was a common occupation for women at the time. I've often wondered if, perhaps, Gene Roddenberry didn't have a slightly different take on the situation. Women, after all, had served as auxiliary members of the Britain's Royal Air Force during World War II, and Roddenberry was a pilot in the US Air Force. 

Regardless, anyone was points to Ms. Nichols accomplishments is right. She did all of that. It's all true. I'm going to take a slightly different tack here though, and you'll see why shortly.

By the time I was born (December, 1976) Star Trek had been out for roughly a decade. Seeing black people on television was nothing new for a young Jimbo. Good Times, The Jeffersons, What's Happening, Different Strokes, Benson, I could go on. Let's just say that seeing black people on TV was no big deal for me. From the point of view of a guy born in the mid Seventies, black people have always been on TV. 

Think that through for a minute. 

They have always been there. It's no big deal. At least if you're my age or younger.

How many people said that BEFORE Nichelle Nichols popped up on screen with a speaker stuck in her ear? (I'll leave aside the fact that it was the first ever bluetooth speaker.) I mean, I'm FAR from being an expert on the subject but, realistically speaking, I am aware of precisely zero black characters in an American TV show prior to one Nyota Uhura. If they did exist, they didn't last long enough to make it as part of the black and white re-runs I used to watch. All of the shows I listed above came out AFTER Star Trek.

 And I have to wonder...

I grew up on Hip Hop. My cousin Ron threw a Run DMC's Raisin' Hell album into my tape deck one day and...

Yeah. I used to haunt the local records store on Tuesdays because that's when the new stuff came out. And before you start laughing, realize that Sean Combs, Dr. Dre and Master P have all stated for the record in live interviews that seventy percent of hip hop record sales have been to white people. 

None of that happens without Nichelle Nichols. Hip hop started in the late Seventies in Brooklyn New York, and you have to give credit to one Afrika Bambaataa because he invented it, but I honestly don't think it gets as big or lasts as long without Ms. Nichols.

And yet...

My memory of her is not the towering effect she had on civil rights and pop culture. My over-riding memory of Nichelle Nichols is and always will be as the first super-attractive woman on a television show. 

Now, don't get me wrong, there were very many beautiful ladies with acting careers before Nichelle. But, like, I wasn't around to see them. Maybe some on re-runs or whatever, but the first time I remember looking at a television set and being struck by the beauty of a woman, she was on the bridge of the Enterprise wearing a red dress. Seriously. Wow. It was a really weird experience too. Not because she was black, but because I had been watching the show for years at that point. When you can't remember a time before you started watching Star Trek you were too young to appreciate a beautiful woman when you started watching Star Trek.

And seriously...

I grew up in an era when it was NOT cool to be a geek. I was made fun of daily. There were no pretty ladies cosplaying as Power Girl in 1985. It just didn't happen. When I was a kid, the worst of the worst when it came to making fun of geeks were the pretty girls and their petty bullshit.  Seriously, they considered it some kind of status marker to dog the nerdish types and that's what I've always been.

But not Nichelle Nichols. I remember seeing commercials for Star Trek conventions when I was a kid. Sometimes they mentioned that Ms. Nichols was going to be there. At least there was one pretty lady on our side. It usually felt like she was the only one (and that may be because I never saw the other Star Trek women advertised as a kid) but one was something. It was what I needed.

So maybe I'm being selfish remembering as Civil Rights icon for what she meant to me personally. Frankly, I'm okay with that though. This is my blog and I'll write what I want to. I seriously doubt that I was the only one though. And, on a personal level, her being on the nerd side means more to me than all of her vastly more impressive accomplishments ever could.

And so, yes, Nichelle Nichols will always be what her supporters say she is. Sometimes it makes me sad that her lesser contributions go unnoticed.

So fair winds and following seas Ms. Nichols. I will see you when I get there. And if you can spare a hug for a huge nerd who has always, or at least for as long as he can remember, been a fan, it would be much appreciated.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Jon R Osborne's A Reluctant Druid

First off, the disclaimer: I'm a Christian who not only attends church regularly, even if I missed it this week, and has plans to eventually have a prison ministry. That's going to be a rough road, but I want the challenge because it's important. I can't quite believe that I found myself reading a book where the good guys are the pagans and their enemies are the Christians, but here we are. I liked it so much I'm actually going to promote it on my blog. Then, at some point, I'm going to read the rest of the series. 

Our hero is a dude name Liam Knox and he starts out way over his head. Like trying to stand on the bottom while swimming over the Marianas Trench kind of over his head. It's crazy. He has no clue what is going on or what is happening to him. I mean, we've all seen this before, right? It's kind of a trope. This one goes from Buck Rogers to Harry Potter and back again, only Knox seems to have it worse. 

I mean, with Harry Potter he takes everything in pretty quickly. I love the books, but it almost seems too convenient how quickly he adapts to his new surroundings when he goes from the cupboard under the stairs to the king of the freaking world. Knox takes a bit longer but, if you can believe it, his world is even further from where he started from Harry's. He gets to where he needs to be mentally slowly but surely, I think. There's more to this story than just this one book, and he seems to be getting what's been thrown at him. Then again, the kitchen sink has not quite been thrown yet, that I remember anyway, so there could very well be something he hasn't anticipated. Or at least that I haven't. 

I really got a kick out of the way Osborne worked in a lot of mythological figures. No, I'm not going to list them all but trust me, you'll recognize a lot of them. I sure did. I got a kick out of it. I'm hoping to find out more about who from the Christian side is working with their champion in future books. So far, not a lot has been revealed that I remember but that should be interesting. And it's not like a good author is going to give away everything in the first book of the series. If I don't want more, I won't read more and the author doesn't get paid. So not knowing everything is a good thing, I guess.

I'm tempted to believe that a lot of research went into including all of those mythological beings into A Reluctant Druid. I'm also half tempted to believe that Osborne might just be one of those guys who likes reading mythology and decided to throw a bunch of it into his book because he could. I'm not sure if it's one, or both, or something else entirely but either way I approve. He did a great job.

Sometimes trouble can come from unexpected directions and Osborne gets that. He sure gives his main character a lesson or two at the School of Hard...


Get it?

Ok, so that was terrible. Please do not take my poor attempt at humor as being reflective of the quality of A Reluctant Druid. I'll accept the thrown tomatoes. Osborne deserves better than that, even if he let me review his book. 


No system is perfect, I guess.

The supporting cast here is huge and lots of fun. As already mentioned some of them are major mythological figures, but not all. Some of them are just regular people. Some of them are just regular people, only with powers. I love the fact that you don't necessarily know who is who and what's what when someone walks in or something happens. It actually does drop in the pot at one point and we're all just cruising along like, "Yeah, sounds rough." for about two or three pages before we realize all hell has already broken out and we were just clueless.

No, not like the movie. I'm neither that young, nor that hot.


There is a lot of suspense here. I spent most of the time I couldn't read the book (listen, I've got a job, okay? And like, reading and driving don't mix and no, I don't do audiobooks.) trying to figure out what's coming next. Osborne seems to have found that weird middle ground between revealing too much and ruining interest and telling too little and getting your book launched against the wall at a high velocity because the reader is too frustrated.

Not that I'd ever do such a thing. At least, not if it were an e-book. I need my phone too much for that.

A Reluctant Druid is the perfect kind of book to knock out on a rainy day when you're stuck in the house. We all know the situation, right? Nowhere to go, nothing to do, oh wow how did I finish that book in one day? I mean, I remember that feeling at least. It's been a long time since I've been able to actually do it. 

Of course, you can still read it if you're busy. I read it while working sixty plus hours a week. I'm just saying that A Reluctant Druid is the kind of book that can keep your mind absorbed for an entire day and make you feel like you got something out of it. Actually, if I hadn't been writing all day (going on three thousand words today, it's my day off) I'd probably be reading the sequel right now. 


Why are you asking ME what the title of the sequel is? 


Okay, gimme a second.





It's called A Tempered Warrior. I just found it on Amazon. I'll be checking it out soon.

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Lightning Bolts

A Reluctant Druid
Jon Osborne,
New Mythology Press, 2017

Monday, July 25, 2022

P.A. Piatt's Cherry Drop

So I was kind of reluctant to read Cherry Drop. See, I had read and reviewed P.A. Piatt's Redcaps Rising and, while it was a very good book, it was very humorous. I was kind of concerned that Cherry Drop was some kind of weird allusion to a cold medication and that this was going to be some weird, humorous craziness. I mean, I like humor in my Urban Fantasy but well-written Military Science Fiction has this sort of feeling to this that the type of humorous atmosphere in Redcaps Rising is just not conducive to. I wasn't going to read it. It wasn't going to happen. Then one of my friends, who I don't believe has ever read Redcaps Rising, but reads lots of MilSF,  said something nice about it. I trust my buddy's judgment, so I thought I'd try it. 

I'm glad I did. Cherry Drop is every bit as well-written as Redcaps Rising, but it doesn't have that comedic feel. It has the military feel that it needs. I'm extremely happy to report that it works. I felt like I was there with these guys. Now, part of that may very well be that it's been hotter than the inside of Satan's armpit here in Michigan, but whatever works. They were in the jungle. I was baking my behind off in a cab in a hot, humid place. It just felt right. I will grant you that there were no crazed aliens trying to eat me, but I can feel comfortable thanking God for small favors there.

The story begins with our hero, one Second Lieutenant Abner Fortis, about to make his first drop into combat IE his Cherry Drop. He's been sent to lead a short platoon whose last platoon leader is no longer available for duty. His men don't trust him. His platoon sergeant is a corporal. Yes, you read that right. His troops are kind of cranky...

And they send him on a mission to a planet where he has no way to contact higher. So he's on his own, with a little help from a non-promotable subordinate and a mess lands in his lap. Granted, this SHOULD have been a milk run but it turns out that it wasn't. Fortis watches everything drop in the pot when he should have spent his deployment napping and waiting for his ride home to show.

There are a lot of action sequences in Cherry Drop and they are all well done. Piatt has a knack for keeping things moving and unpredictable. Fortis, being a cherry, has a tendency to do the dumb thing every once in awhile but that actually fits. There is a reason so few second lieutenants make it back from their first combat assignment in the real world. The fact remains that Fortis has just enough luck, enough brains and enough support from his NCOs that he makes it through and actually manages to get some stuff right. 

The initial enemy Fortis and his troops face is not all that creative or dangerous. I mean, the bugs can kill you but they rely on numbers and ferocity as opposed to tactics and strategy. The troops are missing a key piece of intel on them and they still manage to win some battles before they figure it out. 

Fortis's Marines face a situation that would not be familiar to many United States Marines in that they get hung out on a branch with no help and a jacked up situation. Fortunately for them they, also like real world Marines, manage to bring themselves through somehow. No matter what the odds, they seem to at least keep their integrity intact. 

Of course, every Corps has its traditions and the ISMC is no exception. Whether it's using slang terms (like DINLI, which stands for Do It, Not Like It and is a term I'd actually like to see pass into general usage because it works so well.) or brewing homemade hooch in violation of regulations (which, oddly enough, is called DINLI) the ISMC has things that need to happen and they do. I love that aspect of the story because it's part of what make the book work. Every military force has its own idiosyncrasies and that is one major part of what makes Cherry Drop work.

The enemy is not who it initially appears to be. This is a good thing, because it makes things more interesting. The reason I never liked Pern (and yes, I know that's heresy) is because thread sucks as an enemy. It is mindless, falls in sheets and has no real ability to fight smart or use tactics. I can't deal with that kind of an enemy. After awhile, we see someone new enter the fight, and they have a lot more intelligence and adaptability. Of course, none of that means that their superiors are going to see eye to eye with their decisions or that they're going to be exceedingly popular with the public afterward, but c'est la vie, right?

I like reading newer MilSF because the tech makes sense. There's so much that the modern military has that a writer forty years ago could never have imagined that it boggles the mind. Still, when I see troops in a far future story they should be using things like unmanned drones with webcams. It makes no sense if they're not. Now, maybe I'm wrong and at some point in the future we'll invent something that's man portable and works better. I'm not counting on it though, and until a better idea crops up, they need to be there. A lot of really well written older science fiction is missing concepts that your average Joe would come up with now simply because no one had thought of it then. I'm not blaming the authors. I get why it's not there. I'm just saying that as a fan reading a story now, some things need to be there and Piatt includes them. 

All in all, this one's a keeper. Also, I'm kind of bitter that I didn't realize that I could nominate it for a Dragon Award until it was too late.

Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 Lost Troopers

Cherry Drop: Book One of Abner Fortis, ISMC
P.A. Piatt
Theogony Books, 2021

Cherry Drop: Book One of Abner Fortis, ISMC is available for purchase at the following link. If you click the link and buy literally anything from Amazon I get a small percentage at no additional cost to you.

Nathan Lowell's A Seeker's Tale From The Golden Age Of The Solar Clipper

Once upon a time there was an author named Nathan Lowell. He wrote Space Opera but it wasn't your typical Space Opera with flashy lasers and big time blowuptuations. No, very little explodes in a Nathan Lowell novel. The crazy thing is, Nathan Lowell's Space Opera is still some of the best I've ever read. I never thought I'd say that, but it's true.

When last we saw our hero, Ishmael Wang, he had rocketed through the ranks of the Merchant Marine, going from a quarter share apprentice to captaining his own ship. It was a rough ride in parts but rewarding for him as well as the reader. This time around it's a little different.

This time, Captain Wang owns his ship. This time, he has a murdered lover to avenge... if he can find the guy who killed her. And while he is searching, he's got some money to make (and a ship that can be repossessed if he doesn't) and some things to learn along the way. There's a whole side of the galaxy that he hasn't seen yet. A series of places where he can make a ton of cash. Places called the Toe-Holds that aren't regulated by the larger government of Confederated Planets. 

I love the concept of the Toe-Holds. Local governance and greater freedom have always been my thing. Less regulation equals more money and more possibilities. I've often stated that government sucks at everything it does and, while that's not totally true, I'm right more often than I'm wrong. My attitude has one hole in it though, and Lowell hits it head-on: Sometimes unregulated things break. That can be a very bad thing when you're on a space station and something critical breaks. Lowell doesn't shy away from the problems with lack of regulation though, and anyone who can remember the Challenger or Columbia explosions knows that the government's record on regulating spacecraft isn't exactly spotless either. 

I also like the way Lowell handles some of the crew members. Ishmael was always in a hurry to learn the new material, take the next exam and get the next promotion. Some of his crew members aren't like that. This is a good thing. We've all worked with someone who wanted to rise to the top, but not everyone is like that. Some people balk at the idea of extra responsibility, even if it means extra pay. To not desire more than one has is a legitimate right and it's one that I'm glad to see Lowell championing. Don't get me wrong. I'm not here hold anyone back. I'm just saying that it's not right to force someone to move forward if they don't want to.

I really need to re-read this and apply a lot of what's here to my own work (yes, I know I have nothing published. I'll get there.) because there is a lot of time spent on things that usually get lost in the novels with flashier setting and big space fights. I mean, at some point we all know that the crew needs to breathe, but how often do we get to see someone working with the oxygen purification gear? I love Honor Harrington. I have since the lady at the book store led me back to the appropriate shelf by hand and put On Basilisk Station in my hand, but how often do we get to see what happens in the galley? I mean, her steward is one of the finest in the fleet and has a service-wide reputation for serving the finest coffee around, but do we really know how he does it? (Shut up, Tom, he might use a different method than you do.) It is seriously the little things that make this series.

I've got to mention Pip, the captain's best friend and a guy Ishmael went to officer school with. Pip is a laid back dude, but he's got some serious brain power. A lot of the money that goes to keeping the ship and, indeed, the idea for buying it, came from Pip. He's got a big brain and a good head, even if he can be a bit pie in the sky sometimes. Add Pip to the list of characters I would like to hang out and have a drink with. My understanding of interstellar economics isn't as sharp as his, but I still feel like I could have a good time discussing his theories. 

You'd think that with the lack of battles and all the little details covered that these books would drag, but they don't. There is always something going on and, if it's not the run of the mill, it's still a good time. Seeing how Wang helps his crew learn their jobs and increase their earnings is a good time. He has a way about him that makes his crew better.

And maybe that's what I like most about Ishmael Wang. He's a guy I'd love to work for. He knows his stuff, communicates well and isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. Some of his crew express surprise that their captain started out as a lowly rating and did some of the scut work, but that shows how much they have to learn about their captain. That, in and of itself, is a good thing because there is always a mystique about a successful captain, and part of that is the mystery.

Ishmael's search for the murderer is kind of the point of this story and it's kind of not. It's always there, but sometimes it's just his struggle to succeed that comes to the fore. It's so easy to get caught up in the day to day and the changes in setting between Toe-Holds (and they do vary a lot) and forget that there is a dead woman out there who needs avenging and, I know this sounds weird, I like that. A Seeker's Tale from the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper isn't Mel Gibson screaming, "GIMME BACK MY SON!" It was never intended to be. It's a story about a man doing his best to succeed in life while helping others to succeed as well. That's why I love it.  

Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Cases of Frozen Food

A Seeker's Tale From The Golden Age Of The Solar Clipper
In Ashes Born, To Fire Called, By Darkness Forged
Nathan Lowell
Self-Published 2015-2018

And folks, I've never done this, but Nathan Lowell is currently suffering from cancer. He could probably use some help offsetting the payments with increased sales of his books. They're worth the time and money. I mean it.

Copies of all three books in the series are available at the links below. If you click the link at Amazon and buy literally anything there, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you.

Mask of the Vampire by Stormy McDonald and Jason McDonald

I don't usually comment on covers because "Don't judge a book by it's cover," but I really like that one.

So here we are once again with Damage, Inc. and their world spanning adventures. It's good to be back. Seriously, Dave, Hummingbird and crew (and I'm happy to see more of Jasper this time) are up to their usual shenanigans and that  makes me happy, because I'm a native Shenaniganian. 

Or sumfin'

Listen, it's not even noon yet.

Hopefully this isn't too much of a spoiler, but in part of the end matter it is revealed that Damage Inc. started off as a gaming group. This makes a lot of sense to me because Mask of the Vampire and the other related novels do kind of remind me of a really good night around a gaming table with my friends throwing dice and arguing. Only the books come with the added bonus of not having to pick popcorn out of your hair afterward. (Don't ask, it's ugly.)

I don't mean to say that you can't enjoy the book if you're not a tabletop role player, because you totally can. I'm just saying that so much of Mask of the Vampire feels so familiar if you have. You'll recognize the tropes if you don't play, but it's so much better when you've lived them. Well, sort of.  I mean, you don't really live the things you roleplay.  Thankfully. I mean, I'm sure my players would be pretty upset at me for that time I almost TPK'ed them. 


I'm getting off topic.

Listen, just buy the book.

Mask of the Vampire is a story about friends dealing with some rough circumstances in the best manner possible, or at least the best way they can come up with. One plan, in particular, sounded a little janky to me when they hatched it. I'm not going to say what it was, or how it turned out but I wasn't wrong. Still though, that adds to the reality of the work, because people don't always come up with the best plans in situations when they're under pressure. At the end of the day, they did something when they needed to do something.

Yes, life would be simpler if they could just walk to Mordor. No, really. 

I'm fighting off the urge to make a Hardy Boys reference here, but I don't think it's going to work. There are a couple of different mysteries going on to go with the usual chaos and mayhem I expected in a Damage, Inc. novel. I detect a hint of Lord of the Rings here too, but only in a way. Let's just say that having a Mount Doom around might make things a wee bit simpler for our heroes.

I find myself liking our heroes more every time I read another installment in this series and this one is no exception. I find myself more drawn especially to the character of Hummingbird who, because reasons, seems to be easier to understand and relate to this time around. I feel like she's finally found her groove where maybe she hadn't before. There are still some things she needs to do and some obstacles she needs to overcome, but she's working here and she's moving forward. This could just be a personality thing on my part, but she seems to at least be making a better attempt to adapt to the world around her now.

Something I haven't commented on previously is the coolness of seeing characters for our planet in the books. The story takes place on a planet called Gaia (yes, I get the mythological reference) but a couple of the main characters are from the planet Terra (yep, that's us) and it's awesome. Every once in awhile you'll catch a reference back to our world and it's fun. Plus in a weird sort of way, Dave and friends are like the Vulcan/android in a Star Trek series: They exist to point out and analyze the strangeness of the people around them.  

The action sequences in Mask of the Vampire are amazing as always. Whether it's a straight up fight or something even bigger, the McDonald's deliver. I've never seen a character arc come quite so far in one fight as what happens here either, but it makes sense and was necessary. I was really impressed by that one scene and how it turned out. Something things aren't easy to do and never should be, but needs must when the devil drives. 

In short, I'd read it. I mean, I already did though. Let's just say if it's worth my time, I'd say it's worth yours. Like I just did. Or sumfin'

Bottom Line: 4.75 out of 5 Hidden Treasures

Mask of the Vampire
Stormy McDonald and Jason McDonald
Parlatheas Press, 2022

Mask of the Vampire is available for purchase at the following link. If you click the link and buy literally anything from Amazon, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Paramount's Scream (2022)


I was hesitant to watch Scream because I'm a LOOOOOONG way from being the world's biggest fan of reboots, but it wasn't really a reboot in the same way that the new Ghostbusters  wasn't a reboot, so I figured I'd check it out. If nothing else, it was a movie with Courtney Cox and Neve Campbell in it right? I've had a thing for both of those women for years. (NEWSFLASH: They're still beautiful.) And turns out that I was right: It's not a reboot, it's a requel.

There are all kinds of rules about what makes a requel versus what makes a sequel versus what constitutes a reboot, but Scream definitely is one. It's all explained in one of the movies meta moments and honestly, it wouldn't BE Scream without the meta moments. Those have to be there and they were. There has never been a Scream  (or for that matter, one of its Scary Movie parodies) that wasn't very heavily meta. What would be over the line in any other entertainment, on- or off-screen, is normal and necessary for Scream and, as someone who saw the original Scream  in movie theaters back during the Clinton Administration, I can assure you that they did it right once again. 

Seriously, this was a good movie. It had the kill scenes, the jump moments, the circuitous logic, the big plot twist, and everything else you would expect. Scream is a whodunit wrapped in a slasher flick and they pulled this one off brilliantly. The only thing it was missing was the popcorn and that's my fault. I had two bags and just didn't put one in the microwave.

To be fair, I'm uhhh...

Not totally certain that was the films fault. I just can't think of who else's fault it might be.

Listen, I've never admitted to anything being my fault. Just ask my ex-wife.


I like the new cast of youngsters. Scream  started out as a movie about young people and it looks like the franchise is headed back that way. I approve. Running for your life from psychotic killers is a bad career choice in your 40s (which is where the remaining original cast members are). Us forty-somethings don't have the high enery levels, physical conditioning and ability to bounce back once injured that we did twenty years ago. There is a reason most professional athletes retire before they hit forty and it's not because they don't love the millions.

Which isn't to say that the original cast members aren't important to the movie. They for sure are and their presence makes sense. I remember reading somewhere about how Leonard Nimoy had refused to do Star Trek: Generations because there was no reason for Spock to be there. The character served no purpose. That's not the case here. All three returning Screamers are there for valid reasons and are central to what's going on. You won't see any "human exclamation points" here.

I a world where school shootings continue to happen because they get press, the Scream franchise has a visceral realism that other franchises just don't. Schools get shot up by evil assholes who want to get their faces on TV, so why wouldn't someone go to a town with a history of serial killers whose exploits get made into movies and kill people? Don't get me wrong. I'm not encouraging it. I'm just saying that this story hits close to home and it makes the fear more real. A Nightmare on Elm Street movie might be scary in the moment, but on some level you know that no dead guy is ever going to murder you in your dreams. When copycat killings happen in real life, it's easy to see something like the plot of a  Scream movie occurring. I'm honestly kind of surprised that it hasn't.

Somewhere out there exists an EMT/trauma surgeon type that's going to tell me I'm wrong about this, but the injuries looked totally realistic to me. Even down to the blood spatter (not spray! I watched CSI, so I know this) on the walls, floors and the characters themselves. This movie left me disgusted when I needed to be and in shock when I needed to be.

Speaking of in shock, I want to compliment both the writers and the actresses here. Sydney Prescott (played by Neve Campbell) and Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) have been through a lot in the previous four movies. It would have been very easy to write and play them as jaded and immune to the types of reactions that most people would have upon encountering some of what is in this movie. In some parts, they actually are. But in the parts where you need to feel the shock that the characters would, those two characters shine.  It wasn't until I sat down to write this that I thought about how well those scenes were done, but they were flawless. I should probably mention David Arquette as Dewey Riley here as well. He played his part well but, to be honest, I've never been a fan of either the character or the actor. Still, he did a better job than I expected him to and I really enjoyed him.

Anyone who says that horror movies in general, or Scream movies in particular, are not highly formulaic is lying. That much having been said, that's part of why I enjoy them. You never know what the details are going to be, but there's always the sense that, at least in a vague way, you know what's coming up. It's an unthought of comfort when someone is screaming, the blood is flying and you're starting to get that queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach. That is very much here. As part of the generation that grew up on Michael Myers, Freddie Kreuger, Jason Voorhies, Pinhead and whoever else I'm forgetting you have an expectation. Out there in Internetland, some egghead is complaining that the plot of Scream is the result of a formula. They're right. They're also an idiot. OF COURSE IT'S FORMULAIC. THEY'VE BEEN MAKING THESE TYPES OF MOVIES FOR DECADES NOW BECAUSE IT WORKS. Moviegoers love the formula. So seriously, go file the point off of your head and join the rest of us who like to have a good time, If you want big serious boring crap go watch something that won a  Nebula or a Hugo. I'll be over here with the people having a good time. For those of you who like to watch something you can enjoy, go watch Scream. You'll be glad you did.

Bottom Line: 5.0 out of 5 Long Bladed Knives

Paramount Pictures, 2022

Scream is available for purchase at the following link. If you click the link and buy literally anything from Amazon I get a small percentage at no additional cost to you.


Monday, January 31, 2022

About the Maus Thing

A school district in Tennessee has banned teaching a graphic novel (That's a fancy term for a really long comic book.) named Maus. Maus is a take on the Holocaust, retelling the story with the Jews as mice and Nazis as cats. The school board states that they banned it because of nudity and bad language. 

For the record, I have purchased (and never got around to reading) a copy of the book for myself that I lost in the move when I got divorced and have gifted another copy to my oldest daughter. I also have a BA in History and my senior thesis/capstone paper was written on the involvement of the Heer, the German Army (not to be confused with the Wehrmacht which was the Nazi equivalent to the Department of Defense) in the Holocaust. I have read everything from translations of primary sources in the form of German After Action Reports to transcripts of the Nuremberg Trials to Ordinary Men to various writings of Omer Bartov...

The list goes on. 

Then add to that the fact that, at least according to my father I have some Jewish ancestry (meaning that I am in some way related to every one if the oeople who died in those camps or from the mass shootings), and well...

You'd be hard pressed to find a person who believes more strongly in the importance of Holocaust education than me. I mean that sincerely.

Boobies and bad language happen in the real world and, honestly, you can't accurately recount some events without the atmosphere of profanity and exploitation that those elements add.

And yet...

I'm not a big fan of using things like comic books/Hollywood movies as educational aids to begin with. The amount of historical inaccuracies that creep into one of these works is unreal. I seriously (and I KID YOU NOT) took a course in Japanese history in college in which we read a scholarly paper detailing the historical inaccuracies in The Last Samurai. If I recall correctly, and I may not since it's been awhile, it spanned somewhere in the twenty-five to thirty page range. 

If you've seen Glory, you know that the Fifty Fourth Massachusetts Regiment was not issued uniforms when they first arrived. Of course, what you know is wrong. The Fifty- Fourth most certainly did suffer from racism and discrimination. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or an idiot (possibly both if they think you're dumb enough to believe them) but they got their uniforms. Now, the scene where they're paid a smaller wage and therefore refuse to accept payment is one hundred percent true. It's complicated. We were shown Glory in high school. We all took the work to be one hundred percent accurate. I mean, our teacher showed it to us, right? Except that it wasn't and that has altered our perception of history.

As another example, there was the movie The Tuskegee Airmen. In that movie, we see two senators arguing about the existence of a flight program for black men in the military. The senator from New York (I think, it's been awhile) is in favor of the program. His southern counterpart is not. The debate was real. The two senators depicted in the movie are not. And yes, Eleanor Roosevelt really did fly with one of the Tuskegee Airmen shortly before they deployed to Europe, so that part is real. It gets complicated. The Tuskegee Airmen came out after I graduated from high school, so I'm not sure if it was ever used in a classroom or not. I can only say, that despite viewing the movie so many times that the VHS tape I purchased it on fell apart and was eaten by my VCR, I never saw it in a classroom.

Please, if you value your life don't even mention the phrases "historical accuracy" and "John Wayne movie" in front of a college professor. Since I value mine, DEFINITELY don't mention it if I'm standing between the two of you. If and when I see a real fact in a work featuring John Wayne, I promise to inform you of its existence. Given the fact that my father and grandfather (on my Mom's side) were both John Wayne fanatics I've seen a lot but I'm not able to name one movie that got anything right. Actually, that's not technically true. There really were Green Berets in Vietnam. Granted, they called THEMSELVES, US Army Special Forces...


I cannot comment on the historical accuracy and inaccuracies in Maus because I haven't read it other than the obvious. Jews and Nazis were both human beings and not animals. I'm willing to bet that there are a lot more than inaccuracies than just that and I'm pretty sure your average junior high school student is smart enough to know that. And yes, I am aware that Art Spiegelman, author of Maus, based his work on interviews with his grandfather. That doesn't make them one hundred percent copies though, and I'm not sure I trust this book to get it right. 

The Left, of course, is screaming racism because that is what the left does. The problem with the Left and their Critical Social Theory (which encompasses Critical Race theory but also things like the LGBT and Feminist movements) is that they refuse to consider causes outside of race, gender, orientation, etc. When they refuse to consider causes outside of those bounds then everything is going to come up either -ist or -phobic. That's just life. Considering whether nudity and profanity are proper fare for a junior high audience would never have crossed their mind because they are blind to even understanding the argument, let alone evaluating it.

So, while I believe in Freedom of Speech and the Press, I don't believe that a persons right to say or right something entitles them to have their works used as a teaching aid. We wouldn't use a movie stating that there is no need to balance equations in either an algebra or chemistry class because of Freedom of Speech. And so, what I'm actually saying here is that I'm not sure Maus was the correct book to be teaching to kids anyway. It should've been left in the library for a curious student to find if they went looking later. It was, after all, watching John Wayne movies with all their inaccuracies that led me to love history in the first place. There are factual works that could have been used to teach the Holocaust Unit. So, for my money, I'd prefer that Maus and other works of historical fiction be kept out of classrooms, even if I have praised them previously.

Art Spiegelman
Pantheon, 1986

Maus and related works are available for purchase at the links below. If you click the links and buy literally anything from Amazon I get a small percentage at no additional cost to you.