Category Archives: writings


X-Men 2 stunk.

X-Men 3 stunk on ice.

And I HATE prequels. The legacy of George Lucas and Jar Jar Binks lives on.

Another piece of ammo is the merchandising campaign. One piece of brummagem junk that is being pushed on kids (at $14.99 to $23.99 a pop) is the Wolverine Electronic Battle Claw (wow!). For your hard earned bucks your kid only gets ONE claw. What kid is going to want to be a one-clawed Wolverine?

Bob Dylan’s new album, “Together Through Life” is out. Bob, (or Robert to your mother), you’re a great songwriter but you’ve never been any great shakes as a singer. This album reaffirms that fact.

Lastly, but not least, the series finale of Battlestar Galactica – major disappointment. In my humble opinion the series jumped the shark early in the third season and after the “Planet of the Apes” – style ending of the first half of the fourth season I stopped watching. So I missed the second half of season four except for the series ending. I didn’t miss much. And the finale had more WTF moments than Cylon models. Let’s see, Col. Tigh’s wife was the 12th Cylon, the Colonials go “back to nature”, Baltar walks off scot-free, Starbuck is an angel, and that’s just the beginning of the jackassery.

This has been a public service announcement.

Dragonball: Evolution, I’m siding with creationists on this one…

Like many other adults by chronological age only, I would really like to see a live action version of this:

But, when I heard that 20th Century Fox Studios was going to try, I didn’t have high expectations. I thought maybe it would suck and yet would still be kind of entertaining.

I was wrong. It sucked and it wasn’t even entertaining.

Continue reading Dragonball: Evolution, I’m siding with creationists on this one…

WATCHMEN: There must be some kind of way out of here


Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message.” If that’s true, in the case of Watchmen the message should be, “stick to your medium.” Because if you haven’t read the book, don’t waste your time. If you’re reading this I’m not going to belabor the backstories of the graphic novel and the movie directed by Zack Snyder. In the event of an emergency the oxygen masks will deploy from the overhead compartments. And Awaaay We Go!

First the good. The visual effects are probably the best literal translation of the comic book panel since the “ZOK!” superimposed over the fight scenes in the 1966 Batman TV series.

Second the bad. The acting is atrocious. Defendant number one, Malin Akerman. I’ve seen particleboard with more emotive ability. There is a scene of coitus superherois between Akerman and Owl Man (Patrick Wilson) in the Owlmobile that I think is the sole reason Akerman was hired. And Wilson displays all the depth and range of paint drying. Mathew Goode, the anti-hero hero is right up there with gypsum board. The rest of the cast is burdened by makeup that they cannot overcome with their limited abilities (acting, not superhero).

Next the ugly. The absolutely gratuitous, pointless violence with compound fractures and blood squirting captured in glorious slow-mo close-ups a la The Matrix to inspire the next generation of Gary Ridgeways whose parents are too lazy or too damn dumb to know that an R rated movie like this is inappropriate for kids under 18. (It really should have been rated NC-17, not R). And did we REALLY have to see multiple shots of Dr. Manhattan’s MIRV?

Now the blasphemous. They changed the ending – and it was better!

Finally the point. Watchmen was a originally drawn and written as a graphic novel and is a master of that medium known as “panel art” to the Upper West Side (Dr.) Manhattan crowd and “comic book” to the Great Unwashed. While individual scenes and sequences may have been translated literally (or as best as possible) to the moving image, it is simply impossible to take an art form which is a stationary medium and translate ALL of it literally to the moving screen without the result resembling Rorshach’s ever-changing blobular mask. – in other words a confused, incoherent mess.

The bottom line. Contrary to the fanboys, film students, and critics, Watchmen is NOT another Battleship Potemkin (let alone Star Wars). However it is NOT League of Extraordinary Gentlemen either. It is an interesting failure. Should you spend your hard earned $7.50? Only if you can see it in a theater with five other people like I did. Wait for the dvd. The theatrical version, not the “special director’s nine millionth edit” release they are planning. Cuz crap with a cherry on top is still crap. But it’s not TOTAL diarrhea. Confused? So am I. Said the joker to the thief.

Saucy Visions of Dangerous Jack

Dangerous Visions

Recently I read three short stories. Although written by two different authors more than twenty years apart, they shared one common theme: Jack the Ripper. Unlike David Berkowitz, Eileen Wuornos, and Gary Ridgeway, Jack the Ripper was never caught and so he did not lose his infamous moniker like the others. Which is probably why the man who brutally murdered women in London over a century ago remains so fascinating for us. Gary Ridgeway’s crimes were more horrific, at least in numbers of victims, but does anyone believe that 120 years from now, he will be the subject of a horror fiction story? Jack the Ripper’s anonymity allows writers a canvas upon which to paint suspense, fear, and nauseating horror.

And that’s exactly what writers Robert Bloch and Harlan Ellison have done with their trio of stories, “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”, “A Toy for Juliette”, and “The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World.” Bloch wrote the first story for Weird Tales in 1943 and adapted it for the TV series Thriller and Star Trek. He wrote the second for Ellison’s 1967 anthology Dangerous Visions.

At the time, Dangerous Visions was heralded as revolutionary and in retrospect, it was. Written at the height of the “new wave” movement in speculative fiction that sought to move the genre from space opera and the stigma of second rate offal to mainstream literary art, Dangerous Visions contained stories from established masters like Bloch and Philip K. Dick to then-beginners Roger Zelanzy and Samuel R. Delaney. In fact, Ellison encouraged his contributors to break their own rules and submit stories that could not be printed in the science fiction magazines of the day. As for the stories themselves, Bloch’s are the first two acts in this three-act play. They are well written and original and the basis for Ellison’s which is the best. But be warned, “Prowler” is NOT for the faint of heart. There are passages that can literally be stomach-churning although they are probably tame to a generation raised on CSI.

You can find “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” in The Dark Descent edited by David G. Hartwell. Dangerous Visions can usually be found for a reasonable price on eBay or in a good used bookstore. The last two stories can also be found in the July, 1968 issue of Adam magazine. One other note: Ellison recommends reading “Toy” and “Prowler” as one continuous bloc with their introductions and afterwards. Elias recommends reading all three stories seriatim sans intros and afterwards. Read them first, then go back and read them per Ellison and you’ll see why.

Black Affair, Stephen Mason – Interview

Many moons ago I conducted an email interview with Black Affair frontman Stephen Mason. Formally a member of the now legendary Beta Band and his own solo outing King Biscuit Time, Black Affair resonates as a project distinctly Mason’s, yet a very different beast from his previous musical efforts. Since this interview was conducted, the Black Affair album, “Pleasure Pressure Point,” has been released. However, it is currently only available on import. Here’s hoping that it gets stateside distribution!

Interview Follows

I have really enjoyed the songs you have been putting up on the Black Affair Myspace page (there have been a number of them). Can we expect an album anytime soon?

Yes! the album is done and sounds incredible. Once the business end is fixed i can put it out. Soon i hope.

Continue reading Black Affair, Stephen Mason – Interview

d20 – Deadlier Dungeons Hitpoint System

Thanks to Cyrusjle’s recent comment for reminding me about this.

A bit under two years ago now, shortly after playtesting the Injury & Consequences system, I started work on a completely different variation how to record damage.

Injury & Consequences was inspired by a similar system suggested in the D&D/d20 Unearthed Arcana supplement (not to be confused with the AD&D supplement of the same name). And it was an interesting take on how damage was received and what it’s effects were. But I couldn’t help thinking it was just getting too complicated. Too many rolls to determine the effects of damage, too much to keep track of.

This annoyance provided the impetus for the Deadlier Dungeons rules set.

Those familiar with White Wolf games “Storyteller” systems might find the Deadlier Dungeons rules system a slightly familar, but anyone initiated into the Ars Magica cult will no doubt notice that an even more significant parallel with that system.

And fair enough. There are many elegant and well designed aspects to the Ars Magica mechanics and I’m proud to draw inspiration from them.

Unfortunately It was taking a little long to re-format Deadlier Dungeons for convenient reading here, so it’s been converted to PDF to dowload and peruse at your leisure:

Deadlier Dungeons

Interview with Alexander Louis Grass

We came across the artist Alexander Louis Grass posting on Craigslist1. I conducted the following interview with him.

What are your influences?

That’s too hard, man. That’s too hard. You can’t ask a question like that. Well, when I first started, I had the rock ‘n’ roll and acid jazz base that most people did. Jimi Hendrix, Jaco Pastorius, Black Sabbath, Mahavishnu Orchestra, 10 Years After.  Black Sabbath was a huge influence on me, and from there I really delved into heavy metal. I’m not really headed in that direction at all any more (metal, that is), but I’m very thankful I put the time and effort into learning the licks and the history. It’s important. All that minor key stuff… the staccato and legato and subtle hints of classical music… that’s all very important in developing a sense of dynamics. Which is why I’m a huge fan of Tool, as most people with any sense are. Randy Rhoades and Cliff Burton left an indelible imprint on my brain. Especially Cliff Burton. No other bassist has influenced the way I learned about music the way that he did. Les Claypool is great, too… although I was always a fan of his more commercial stuff. I really loved the Primus album produced by Tom Morello. I love Iommi’s more obscure stuff from Sabbath… like “Tequila Sunrise” or “Changes.” I mean, I couldn’t really tell you ALL of my influences, but there is definitely a source. Middle eastern music means a lot to me as well. I lived in Israel for a while, and the different modes they use are just so unconventional. It’s so boring to stay in that little pentatonic box… especially when you’re writing. My influences are too great to name. I just try and pay attention to good songs and great musicians. I try to imagine their thought process in coming up with what they did. I try to put myself in their shoes. Otherwise, if I hear a cool sound, I’ll put it in my memory bank to use later on.

Alexander Louis Grass

Continue reading Interview with Alexander Louis Grass

  1. Alexander Louis Grass post on Craigslist was flagged and removed. 

Interview with Steve Barnett, Director of Mindwarp (1990)

Ever so often a B-movie comes along that goes beyond its modest budget and genre trappings to do something more, something unexpected, something prophetic and just sometimes even better than the films it predicts. The virtually unknown Mindwarp (1990), directed by Steve Barnett, is one of these movies. Showing a debt to author William Gibson and pre-dating films like The Matrix (1999), directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski, unlike the The Matrix, Mindwarp does not fall prey to romantic triteness. Whereas The Matrix naively suggests that the global-everyman (or nondescript-mannequin as played by Keanu Reeves), could fight and change the system, Mindwarp realistically posits that ideals put into practice are more apt to fail than they are to succeed. The Matrix remains at its best, like Star Wars before it, a cultural event, and at worst, a hackneyed intellectual hodgepodge told and sold with martial arts and leather trench coat cool. Mindwarp conversely is never easy to swallow. Hiding its compelling story in high-concept gore, the film features the legendary talents of both Angus Scrimm and Bruce Campbell. With its supergroup cast, you would expect that the film would be as well known as Scrimm’s and Campbell’s respective calling cards, Phantasm (1979), directed by Don Coscarelli, and The Evil Dead (1981), directed by Sam Raimi. Yet the film has yet to even see a proper DVD release. And it needs one desperately along with a commentary from its director Steve Barnett. For now Mr. Barnett, who is no longer directing but is working as a vice-president of post production at 20th Century Fox, has kindly answered a couple questions here.

Interview follows:

How did your involvement with Mindwarp come about?

After editing trailers and features for Roger Corman’s Concorde Pictures, I directed BACK TO HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD for him in 13 days. Rodman Flender, the executive on that film, recommended me to the producers of MINDWARP. This was the first movie for Fangoira Films and they needed someone who could bring it in on time and looking like a real movie. I had a pretty good take on the material, and I took a chance in telling them that the script was a terrific yarn that fell apart in the second half. I guess they agreed, since they hired me. I worked with writers Mike Ferris and John Brancato (aka Henry Domonick) and the producers to get the story working better in the second half and then beating it to within the confines of the very limited budget. My wife had turned me on to William Gibson cyber-punk, and this show fit into that world very neatly. Ferris and Brancato created a wonderfully twisted world (five different worlds actually) filled with bizarre and memorable characters. I managed not to screw it up too badly.

Continue reading Interview with Steve Barnett, Director of Mindwarp (1990)

Interview with Dennis Dragon of the Surf Punks

Formed in 1976 and borrowing elements from punk and surf rock, the Surf Punks were a completely singular if not unique musical phenomenon. Irrevent, funny and totally original, the Surf Punks would release five albums, Surf Punks (1976), My Beach (1980), Locals Only (1982), Oh No! Not Them Again (1988) and Party Bomb (1989). In the following interview, Dennis Dragon, drummer and founder of the Surf Punks, talks about the band.

Dennis Dragon 1985 – Click on image for a bigger version.

For more information on Dennis Dragon’s current work, visit his website by clicking here.

Interview follows.

With all the information out there on the internet, surprisingly there isn’t a whole lot about the Surf Punks. Additionally, your albums are quite hard to come by. “Surf Punks” on Day-Glo is next to impossible to find, and compact discs of “My Beach” go for 90+ dollars on Amazon used vendors. Do you think any Surf Punks albums
will see rereleases?

Since Epic Records owns the rights to the “My Beach” album, the ball is in their court. I personally have a few unopened copies of our original Day-Glo record and would consider selling some if the price is right. I have recently re-acquired the rights to “Locals Only” and will probably re-release that one at some point.

Continue reading Interview with Dennis Dragon of the Surf Punks