Now on Kindle! Book One: God of Fire of the INFERNO 2033 saga!

 

In God of Fire, Book One of the Inferno 2033 saga, a fascist shadow organization takes over the United States government, imprisoning all enemies in giant penitentiary ships far out to sea. The most notorious of these ships is Inferno, where disgraced former Special Forces operative Sands Simon vows to bring down the man who put him there–and maybe save the world from nuclear war.

Check out the book trailer! Get it on Kindle!

Ike2 Fifty percent of all proceeds goes to support animal rescue and spay/neuter programs!

Top Five: Alternative Programming for Inauguration Day

<img src=”mike2.jpg” alt=”Mike icon smiling red hair” /> Love him or loathe him, is anyone really looking forward to spending an otherwise perfectly good Friday watching hour after hour of the Orange One and his parade of B-listers and Jerry Lewis telethon escapees?

 If the answer is no (and dollars to dog biscuits it is) we’ve got just the remedy: Our Top Five options for Inauguration Day Alternative Programming!

1. Tantrums, tirades, and talking turds.

<img src=”beefcake-16x9.jpg” alt=”Cartman eating cheesy poofs” />

Starting at 10:30 am, it’s an all-day South Park marathon on Comedy Central . Why torture yourself watching a narcissistic, cartoonish, child-man with no filter and a face the color of a cheese puff, when you can while away the hours with Cartman, a narcissistic, cartoon child with no filter, stuffing his face with Cheesy Poofs?

 

2. Special victims, special people.

<img src=”SVU-cast-poster.jpg” alt=”law & order special victims unit cast” />

 

If animated vulgarity is not your bag, check out the mix of drama and comedy on USA Network. From 8 am to 5 pm it’s a marathon of Law & Order Special Victims Unit. Revisit a gentler time, when Richard Belzer and Ice T could play cops even your grandma could love. And from five until the wee hours, it’s a parade of  Modern Family episodes. Spend one last, nostalgic night with your favorite extended family–before they’re all deported or sent to gay conversion camps.

 

3. Life is like a box of–Dang! Chipped my tooth on the nougat.

<img src=”FOrrest-Gump-movie-poster.jpg” alt=”Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump on park bench” />

 

We suppose you could fritter away your evening hours waiting for Paul Anka to be wheeled out with his oxygen tank for a few choruses of My Way–or you could tune in to AMC from 6 to 9 pm to enjoy the much-beloved Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump. Remember when we thought the idea of a clueless twit bumbling his way into history was cute?

 

4. Pass the Saurian Brandy.

Mister Spock Captain Kirk Doctor McCoy

 

If you really want to escape, BBC America offers up an all-day marathon of Star Trek. From the early morning hours until 3 pm, it’s Captain Picard and his laid-back bunch winning the day against the Ferengi, Q, and even the Borg with the “politic” weapons of reason, patience, and all-round-decency. If you prefer a little more swash in your space-buckle, Kirk, Spock, and Bones are the original “team of rivals,” boldly going into that final frontier. We know what you’re thinking–Beam us up!

 

5. Tell yourself, “It’s only a movie…”

<img src=”thomas8201.jpg” alt=”Andy Griffith as Lonesome Rhoads” />

When we’re looking for escape, Turner Classic Movies is our go-to channel, but something tells us the TCM programmers are having a little fun with us on this historic day. At 12:45, shortly after the swearing in, they’re showing The Fountainhead, alt-right darling Ayn Rand’s vision of (metaphor alert!) an “idealistic” architect who would rather blow up his building than compromise on its design. The speech Gary Cooper gives at his trial to justify his anti-social actions is an unintentional comic gem. If cinematic objectivist philosophy is a little too dry for you, at 2:45 TCM offers up Truman Capote’s frothy confection, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Audrey Hepburn is the iconic Holly Golightly, George Peppard is her “straightened” boy-friend, and Mickey Rooney is a reminder of just how far we’ve come from a time when offensive racial stereotypes were not only accepted, they were expected. But the fun and games are over at 4:45, when Andy Griffith blows through our screens as the loathsome Lonesome Rhodes in A Face in the Crowd. This biting satire by Elia Kazan and Bud Schulberg skewers politics and television with more prescience than any movie this side of Network. The parallels to our current situation are inescapable, as writers on the left and right of the political spectrum have noted. Viewers weaned on the homespun humor of the sheriff from Mayberry may find Griffith’s portrayal of a soulless conman disturbing, but it’s one of the greatest performances ever committed to film.

<img src=”mike2.jpg” alt=”Mike icon smiling red hair” /> So there you have it, five perfectly acceptable ways to veg out on the sofa and binge-watch your way into video-induced oblivion.

 Or, if by 10 pm you’re still not ready to pack it in, you could just tune in to the SyFy Channel and embrace your…

<img src=”Doom_movie_poster.jpg” alt=”shooter POV doom monster” />

 

 

 Editor’s note: All times listed are Central Standard Time.

Mark Twain Explains: The Bad Little Boy & The Good Little Boy

In a special “guest post,” Mark Twain explains this brave new world in which we find ourselves. If our moral universe seems topsy-turvy to you–that up is down, wrong is right, and bad is rewarded even as good is punished–take comfort, at least, in knowing it has ever been thus, as these two classic tales show.

THE STORY OF

THE BAD LITTLE BOY

Once there was a bad little boy whose name was Jim–though, if you will notice, you will find that bad little boys are nearly always called James in your Sunday-school books. It was strange, but still it was true, that this one was called Jim.

He didn’t have any sick mother, either–a sick mother who was pious and had the consumption, and would be glad to lie down in the grave and be at rest but for the strong love she bore her boy, and the anxiety she felt that the world might be harsh and cold toward him when she was gone. Most bad boys in the Sunday books are named James, and have sick mothers, who teach them to say, “Now, I lay me down,” etc., and sing them to sleep with sweet, plaintive voices, and then kiss them good night, and kneel down by the bedside and weep. But it was different with this fellow. He was named Jim, and there wasn’t anything the matter with his mother–no consumption, nor anything of that kind. She was rather stout than otherwise, and she was not pious; moreover, she was not anxious on Jim’s account. She said if he were to break his neck it wouldn’t be much loss. She always spanked Jim to sleep, and she never kissed him good night; on the contrary, she boxed his ears when she was ready to leave him.

Once this little bad boy stole the key of the pantry, and slipped in there and helped himself to some jam, and filled up the vessel with tar, so that his mother would never know the difference; but all at once a terrible feeling didn’t come over him, and something didn’t seem to whisper to him, “Is it right to disobey my mother? Isn’t it sinful to do this? Where do bad little boys go who gobble up their good kind mother’s jam?” and then he didn’t kneel down all alone and promise never to be wicked any more, and rise up with a light, happy heart, and go and tell his mother all about it, and beg her forgiveness, and be blessed by her with tears of pride and thankfulness in her eyes. No; that is the way with all other bad boys in the books; but it happened otherwise with this Jim, strangely enough. He ate that jam, and said it was bully, in his sinful, vulgar way; and he put in the tar, and said that was bully also, and laughed, and observed “that the old woman would get up and snort” when she found it out; and when she did find it out, he denied knowing anything about it, and she whipped him severely, and he did the crying himself. Everything about this boy was curious–everything turned out differently with him from the way it does to the bad Jameses in the books.

Once he climbed up in Farmer Acorn’s apple tree to steal apples, and the limb didn’t break, and he didn’t fall and break his arm, and get torn by the farmer’s great dog, and then languish on a sickbed for weeks, and repent and become good. Oh, no; he stole as many apples as he wanted and came down all right; and he was all ready for the dog, too, and knocked him endways with a brick when he came to tear him. It was very strange–nothing like it ever happened in those mild little books with marbled backs, and with pictures in them of men with swallow-tailed coats and bell-crowned hats, and pantaloons that are short in the legs, and women with the waists of their dresses under their arms, and no hoops on. Nothing like it in any of the Sunday-school books.

Once he stole the teacher’s penknife, and, when he was afraid it would be found out and he would get whipped, he slipped it into George Wilson’s cap, poor Widow Wilson’s son, the moral boy, the good little boy of the village, who always obeyed his mother, and never told an untruth, and was fond of his lessons, and infatuated with Sunday-school. And when the knife dropped from the cap, and poor George hung his head and blushed, as if in conscious guilt, and the grieved teacher charged the theft upon him, and was just in the very act of bringing the switch down upon his trembling shoulders, a white-haired, improbable justice of the peace did not suddenly appear in their midst, and strike an attitude and say, “Spare this noble boy–there stands the cowering culprit! I was passing the school door at recess, and, unseen myself, I saw the theft committed!” And then Jim didn’t get whaled, and the venerable justice didn’t read the tearful school a homily, and take George by the hand and say such a boy deserved to be exalted, and then tell him come and make his home with him, and sweep out the office, and make fires, and run errands, and chop wood, and study law, and help his wife do household labors, and have all the balance of the time to play and get forty cents a month, and be happy. No it would have happened that way in the books, but didn’t happen that way to Jim. No meddling old clam of a justice dropped in to make trouble, and so the model boy George got thrashed, and Jim was glad of it because, you know, Jim hated moral boys. Jim said he was “down on them milksops.” Such was the coarse language of this bad, neglected boy.

But the strangest thing that ever happened to Jim was the time he went boating on Sunday, and didn’t get drowned, and that other time that he got caught out in the storm when he was fishing on Sunday and didn’t get struck by lightning. Why, you might look, and look, all through the Sunday-school books from now till next Christmas, and you would never come across anything like this. Oh, no; you would find that all the bad boys who go boating on Sunday invariably get drowned; and all the bad boys who get caught out in storms when they are fishing on Sunday infallibly get struck by lightning. Boats with bad boys in them always upset on Sunday, and it always storms when bad boys go fishing on the Sabbath. How this Jim ever escaped is a mystery to me.

This Jim bore a charmed life–that must have been the way of it. Nothing could hurt him. He even gave the elephant in the menagerie a plug of tobacco, and the elephant didn’t knock the top of his head off with his trunk. He browsed around the cupboard after essence-of peppermint, and didn’t make a mistake and drink aqua fortis. He stole his father’s gun and went hunting on the Sabbath, and didn’t shoot three or four of his fingers off. He struck his little sister on the temple with his fist when he was angry, and she didn’t linger in pain through long summer days, and die with sweet words of forgiveness upon her lips that redoubled the anguish of his breaking heart. No; she got over it. He ran off and went to sea at last, and didn’t come back and find himself sad and alone in the world, his loved ones sleeping in the quiet churchyard, and the vine-embowered home of his boyhood tumbled down and gone to decay. Ah, no; he came home as drunk as a piper, and got into the station-house the first thing.
And he grew up and married, and raised a large family, and brained them all with an ax one night, and got wealthy by all manner of cheating and rascality; and now he is the infernalest wickedest scoundrel in his native village, and is universally respected, and belongs to the legislature.

So you see there never was a bad James in the Sunday-school books that had such a streak of luck as this sinful Jim with the charmed life.

~~

~~

Ben1 Editor’s Note: These texts have been edited slightly for length from the originals posted at Project Gutenberg.

THE STORY OF

THE GOOD LITTLE BOY

Once there was a good little boy by the name of Jacob Blivens. He always obeyed his parents, no matter how absurd and unreasonable their demands were; and he always learned his book, and never was late at Sabbath-school. He would not play hookey, even when his sober judgment told him it was the most profitable thing he could do. None of the other boys could ever make that boy out, he acted so strangely. He wouldn’t lie, no matter how convenient it was. He just said it was wrong to lie, and that was sufficient for him. And he was so honest that he was simply ridiculous. The curious ways that that Jacob had, surpassed everything. He wouldn’t play marbles on Sunday, he wouldn’t rob birds’ nests, he wouldn’t give hot pennies to organ-grinders’ monkeys; he didn’t seem to take any interest in any kind of rational amusement. So the other boys used to try to reason it out and come to an understanding of him, but they couldn’t arrive at any satisfactory conclusion. As I said before, they could only figure out a sort of vague idea that he was “afflicted.”

This good little boy read all the Sunday-school books; they were his greatest delight. This was the whole secret of it. He believed in the good little boys they put in the Sunday-school book; he had every confidence in them. He longed to come across one of them alive once; but he never did. They all died before his time, maybe. Whenever he read about a particularly good one he turned over quickly to the end to see what became of him, because he wanted to travel thousands of miles and gaze on him; but it wasn’t any use; that good little boy always died in the last chapter, and there was a picture of the funeral, with all his relations and the Sunday-school children standing around the grave in pantaloons that were too short, and bonnets that were too large, and everybody crying into handkerchiefs that had as much as a yard and a half of stuff in them.

Jacob had a noble ambition to be put in a Sunday school book. He wanted to be put in, with pictures representing him gloriously declining to lie to his mother, and her weeping for joy about it; and pictures representing him standing on the doorstep giving a penny to a poor beggar-woman with six children, and telling her to spend it freely, but not to be extravagant, because extravagance is a sin; and pictures of him magnanimously refusing to tell on the bad boy who always lay in wait for him around the corner as he came from school, and welted him so over the head with a lath, and then chased him home, saying, “Hi! hi!” as he proceeded. That was the ambition of young Jacob Blivens. He wished to be put in a Sunday-school book. It made him feel a little uncomfortable sometimes when he reflected that the good little boys always died. He loved to live, you know, and this was the most unpleasant feature about being a Sunday-school-book boy. He knew it was not healthy to be good. He knew it was more fatal than consumption to be so supernaturally good as the boys in the books were; he knew that none of them had ever been able to stand it long, and it pained him to think that if they put him in a book he wouldn’t ever see it, or even if they did get the book out before he died it wouldn’t be popular without any picture of his funeral in the back part of it. It couldn’t be much of a Sunday-school book that couldn’t tell about the advice he gave to the community when he was dying. So at last, of course, he had to make up his mind to do the best he could under the circumstances–to live right, and hang on as long as he could and have his dying speech all ready when his time came.

But somehow nothing ever went right with the good little boy; nothing ever turned out with him the way it turned out with the good little boys in the books. They always had a good time, and the bad boys had the broken legs; but in his case there was a screw loose somewhere, and it all happened just the other way. When he found Jim Blake stealing apples, and went under the tree to read to him about the bad little boy who fell out of a neighbor’s apple tree and broke his arm, Jim fell out of the tree, too, but he fell on him and broke his arm, and Jim wasn’t hurt at all. Jacob couldn’t understand that. There wasn’t anything in the books like it.

And once, when some bad boys pushed a blind man over in the mud, and Jacob ran to help him up and receive his blessing, the blind man did not give him any blessing at all, but whacked him over the head with his stick and said he would like to catch him shoving him again, and then pretending to help him up. This was not in accordance with any of the books. Jacob looked them all over to see.

Once, when he was on his way to Sunday-school, he saw some bad boys starting off pleasuring in a sailboat. He was filled with consternation, because he knew from his reading that boys who went sailing on Sunday invariably got drowned. So he ran out on a raft to warn them, but a log turned with him and slid him into the river. A man got him out pretty soon, and the doctor pumped the water out of him, and gave him a fresh start with his bellows, but he caught cold and lay sick abed nine weeks. But the most unaccountable thing about it was that the bad boys in the boat had a good time all day, and then reached home alive and well in the most surprising manner. Jacob Blivens said there was nothing like these things in the books. He was perfectly dumfounded.

When he got well he was a little discouraged, but he resolved to keep on trying anyhow. He knew that so far his experiences wouldn’t do to go in a book, but he hadn’t yet reached the allotted term of life for good little boys, and he hoped to be able to make a record yet if he could hold on till his time was fully up. If everything else failed he had his dying speech to fall back on.

He examined his authorities, and found that it was now time for him to go to sea as a cabin-boy. He called on a ship-captain and made his application, and when the captain asked for his recommendations he proudly drew out a tract and pointed to the words, “To Jacob Blivens, from his affectionate teacher.” But the captain was a coarse, vulgar man, and he said, “Oh, that be blowed! that wasn’t any proof that he knew how to wash dishes or handle a slush-bucket, and he guessed he didn’t want him.” This was altogether the most extraordinary thing that ever happened to Jacob in all his life. A compliment from a teacher, on a tract, had never failed to move the tenderest emotions of ship-captains, and open the way to all offices of honor and profit in any book that ever he had read. He could hardly believe his senses.

This boy always had a hard time of it. Nothing ever came out according to the authorities with him. At last, one day, when he was around hunting up bad little boys to admonish, he found a lot of them in the old iron-foundry fixing up a little joke on fourteen or fifteen dogs, which they had tied together in long procession, and were going to ornament with empty nitroglycerin cans made fast to their tails. Jacob’s heart was touched. He sat down on one of those cans (for he never minded grease when duty was before him), and he took hold of the foremost dog by the collar, and turned his reproving eye upon wicked Tom Jones. But just at that moment Alderman McWelter, full of wrath, stepped in. All the bad boys ran away, but Jacob Blivens rose in conscious innocence and began one of those stately little Sunday-school-book speeches which always commence with “Oh, sir!” in dead opposition to the fact that no boy, good or bad, ever starts a remark with “Oh, sir.” But the alderman never waited to hear the rest. He took Jacob Blivens by the ear and turned him around, and hit him a whack in the rear with the flat of his hand; and in an instant that good little boy shot out through the roof and soared away toward the sun with the fragments of those fifteen dogs stringing after him like the tail of a kite. And there wasn’t a sign of that alderman or that old iron-foundry left on the face of the earth; and, as for young Jacob Blivens, he never got a chance to make his last dying speech after all his trouble fixing it up, unless he made it to the birds; because, although the bulk of him came down all right in a tree-top in an adjoining county, the rest of him was apportioned around among four townships, and so they had to hold five inquests on him to find out whether he was dead or not, and how it occurred. You never saw a boy scattered so.

Thus perished the good little boy who did the best he could, but didn’t come out according to the books. Every boy who ever did as he did prospered except him. His case is truly remarkable. It will probably never be accounted for.

Read JANUS – A Twisted Tale of Murder from the Author of GUMSHOE

Ike2 Hey Boys and Girls! Election got you down? Why not chase away those Election Day blues with a little murder and mayhem in Mike’s new short story JANUS. Available for FREE Nov. 6 & 7 in Kindle!

Top 10: This Crazy Day in Presidential Politics

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Here at IkeandMikeBlog, we don’t usually get overtly political, but this especially crazy day, in this especially crazy political season, just cries out for comment. How crazy has it been? Let us count the ways:

1. As President Obama was in Israel eulogizing Nobel Prize winner Shimon Peres, Republican nominee Donald Trump was tweeting for people to check out a sex tape of a former Miss Universe.

2. That tape has not yet surfaced; however, Buzzfeed has uncovered a Playboy porn video in which Donald Trump has a cameo.

3. Libertarian Vice Presidential candidate William Weld told reporters that Hillary Clinton is more qualified to be Commander in Chief than his own running mate, Gary Johnson–“or any other candidate.”

4. Weld also suggested he might drop out of the race, because he “doesn’t want to be a Ralph Nader.”

5. The day after overwhelmingly overriding the President’s veto of the 9/11 victim’s bill, senators were overcome today with panic at the bill’s potential negative consequences. Mitch McConnell blames Obama for not telling them sooner what was wrong with their own bill.

6. A day after the USA TODAY issued its unprecedented un-endorsement of Donald Trump, The San Diego Union-Tribune broke with its 148 year history of Republican support to endorse Democrat Hillary Clinton. Since the primaries, Clinton has received endorsements from over 80 daily newspapers. Trump has received none.

7. A day after Newsweek broke its story on Trump’s alleged illegal business activities in Cuba, the magazine’s website was shut down by Russian hackers. Or maybe it was a 400-pound guy on a sofa.

8. The Commission on Presidential Debates confirmed that Donald Trump’s seemingly lame excuse of a malfunctioning microphone at the first debate was…legitimate!

9. In video of an unprecedented deposition in a civil suit involving a presidential candidate, Donald Trump was asked what his “brand” was worth. He answered that he didn’t know, and “I don’t want to know.”

10. From the hatch of Air Force One, President Obama repeatedly yelled at former President Bill Clinton, who was dawdling on the tarmac: “Bill, let’s go! I need to get home!”

 Ike2 Only thirty-eight days until Election Day on November 8th. Hang in there, America!

Review: No Love for Hateful Eight

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Okay, it’s not strictly true to say we have no love for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, but while there are some things we like about this over-cooked mess of a movie, there is plenty we don’t like. It’s lovingly produced, carefully crafted, and it takes some provocative pokes at the hornets’ nests of race and gender, but ultimately, I have to ask–to what end?

Ike2 It’s definitely a movie that raises some questions. Like, why is it being billed as “the eighth film by  Quentin Tarantino”?

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Yeah. By my count, he’s directed nine.

Ike2 Maybe they’re not counting Death Proof. That’s definitely one I’d like to forget.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Well, that was originally just one-half of Grindhouse, so maybe they figure it doesn’t count as a whole film, kind of like “The Man from Hollywood” segment he directed for Four Rooms.

Ike2 Or maybe they’re counting Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 as one film?

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Or maybe it’s just a marketing ploy, and nobody really cares what the exact count is. The double-barreled 8’s do give the whole thing a nice, symmetrical ring. It’s also a nice play on The Magnificent Seven, which is obviously a major inspiration.

Ike2 It’s not really a western, though. It’s more like a cross between The Magnificent Seven and Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians. It’s a locked-room mystery dressed up like a western.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Which raises another question–why did Tarantino shoot what is basically a stage play in super-wide screen 70 mm?

Ike2 It looks great, though.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration It does. I’m not saying it doesn’t work; it’s just weird that he would do that. The movie starts out with the kind of epic vistas you’d expect from 70 mm, as Kurt Russell’s stage coach rumbles through the snowy landscape, but then the stage stops to pick up Samuel Jackson, and it’s basically just a scene in a play.

Ike2 A long scene. With a lot of talking.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration And then the stage moves along until it stops for another guy, and we have another long scene.

Ike2 With a lot of talking.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration And then it’s on to Minnie’s Haberdashery, the roadside lodge where the rest of the movie takes place.

Ike2 And we have a lot more talking.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration But then we have a lot of shooting.

Ike2 A LOT of shooting. And don’t forget the vomiting. Spoiler alert! There’s a lot of vomiting.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Which made me wish we could go back to the talking.

Ike2 Okay, so there’s a lot of talking. It’s a Tarantino movie. What did you expect?

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration I guess. Tarantino writes some great dialogue, but it gets pretty schticky sometimes. Why do his characters always have to be so pleased with how clever they think they are?

Ike2 Well, sometimes they are clever.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Yeah, sometimes. But sometimes I feel like it’s all an elaborate joke. Like, can’t Tarantino even try for period authenticity in his dialogue? When Samuel L. Jackson asks Kurt Russell if he’s “being paranoid” that takes me right out of the scene. That’s not even a good line in a contemporary story, much less one supposedly set in the 1800s.

Ike2 But isn’t Tarantino all about the artificiality of cinema? Doesn’t he always call attention to storytelling conventions? Instead of pretending to verisimilitude–or even to create an alternative reality that exists only within the frame of the screen–isn’t Tarantino more about creating films that are in dialogue with the film canon and the creative process itself?

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration What is this, an audition for Canines du Cinema?

Ike2 Sorry, I–I don’t know what came over me.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration You make a good point, actually. But for me, Tarantino’s best films are the ones that tell a good story, like Jackie Brown, Reservoir Dogs, even Inglourious Basterds. I enjoyed the first half of The Hateful Eight, but I can’t see myself ever sitting through the second half again.

Ike2 It really did build a nice sense of mystery and suspense, especially when they get to Minnie’s and the snow storm keeps them all locked up in that one room.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Yeah, and there’s great tension between the characters. You don’t quite know whose story to believe, or even who to like. Kurt Russell is totally believable as the abrasive, but oddly lovable, bounty hunter John Ruth.

Ike2 Kurt Russell is always totally believable. I even believed it when he was Snake Plissken.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration And Samuel L. Jackson is at his Samuel L. Jacksoniest as Major Marquis Warren, bounty hunter and Civil War hero–or war criminal, depending on one’s point of view.

Ike2 I liked the way Jackson’s checkered past is doled out bit by bit, so you never know for sure just how you feel about him. Although, in comparison to the bad guys, I guess there’s never any doubt whose side we’re supposed to be on.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration It was good to see Bruce Dern again. As a bad guy. Again. And Tim Roth, as the foppish hangman, was a perfect stand-in for Christoph Waltz–who I assume was busy shooting Spectre. The acting is uniformly excellent.

Ike2 I’m glad to see Jennifer Jason Leigh finally get an Oscar nod, but I wish it was for a better role.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Yeah, she has fun as the scabrous Daisy Domergue, but frankly, I didn’t think the role gave her that much to do. She mostly just gets beat up and slimed. Which brings me to my chief gripe about the movie: If I want to see a second-rate movie horror movie, I’ll go see a second-rate horror movie, okay? I don’t need one breaking out in the middle of a western.

Ike2 Yeah, I didn’t really get the point of all the blood. And it’s so silly. The way people’s heads were exploding, it was like one of those videos where the guys are shooting watermelons with machine guns.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration I’m at a point in my life where there are certain images I just don’t need to see. I don’t need to see exploding heads, and I don’t need to see Kurt Russell vomiting blood into the face of Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Ike2 I didn’t even get why Daisy was supposed to be so bad anyway, except she was kind of gross. Although to be fair, not many women can pull off the dripping-brains-and-blood look.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration That was another thing that bothered me about the movie. It’s like, the one thing that can unite the bitterest of enemies–male enemies–is the mutual hatred toward an unappealing woman. In a movie without a single truly virtuous character, why, exactly, was she supposedly the worst of the worst? I don’t get it.

Ike2 Like I said, the movie leaves you with a lot of questions. Usually, that’s a good thing.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Usually. But the main question shouldn’t be: “What the heck was the filmmaker thinking?”

Our Review:

Bloody

Yucky

Some fun, but ultimately pointless

Two tail-wags out of five

 

 

 

Review – The Force Awakens: Glad You’re Up, Now Get Some Coffee

Ben1 For the three people who haven’t seen new Star Wars yet, this review contains spoilers.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Almost as big as the hype surrounding Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the controversy generated by three notorious reviews of the movie.

Ike2 Well, you know what they say: “Mustafar hath no fury like a nerd scorned.”

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Indeed. First, there was Seth Abramson’s 40 Unforgivable Plot Holes in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ in The Huffington Post–which unfortunately, contains a couple of unforgivable errors; then there was Matty Granger’s rebuttal, AT LONG LAST…MY “STAR WARS: EPISODE VII” REVIEW. THE FORCE AWAKENS & THE RISE OF IDIOT JOURNALISM, which–as the all-caps title indicates–is more of a profanity-laced rant than a reasoned counter argument…

Ike2 But you gotta love how he tells us in the title how long we’ve all been anticipating his review.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Yeah…although, to be fair, if he had one person anticipating his review, that is probably one more than how many have been anticipating ours.

Ike2 Good point.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Anyway, if that weren’t enough, now we have the Vatican’s own Emilio Ranzato calling Papal bull, labeling the movie a “tacky reboot” that is–as they say in Rome–Confuso e Sfocato.

Ben1 Editor’s Note: For those of you who don’t read Italian, you might prefer Stephen Colbert’s summary:

Ike2 That Vatican guy is tough. He gave J.J. Abrams a real Catholic nun-style rap on the knuckles.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration I thought he was off base about the use of real locations, as opposed to CGI backdrops. He called them “anonymous,” but there was nothing anonymous about Luke Skywalker’s hideout, shot on Skellig Michael, off the coast of Ireland:

Ike2 That picture makes me dizzy, but it looks EXACTLY how I imagined Luke’s hideout. I liked the forest sequences, too. Seeing the characters stomping around on real leaves and grass is a nice change from all the spaceship and desert stuff.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Signore Ranzato made a good point about the villains, though. Kylo Ren might be an interesting character, in that he is conflicted and all–and Supreme Leader Snoke may be supremely mysterious–but compared to Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, they’re pretty lame.

Ike2 Not to mention Captain Phasma. She looks cool, but underneath the glitzy armor, she’s just another incompetent Storm Trooper.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Yeah, “incompetent” is the word. I get it that Kylo Ren is unstable and full of self-doubt, but how big of a doofus does he have to be to suffer a butt-kicking at the hands of two lightsaber newbies like Finn and Rey?

Ike2 In the original trilogy, Luke and the gang were real underdogs. You KNEW they could never beat the Empire in a toe-to-toe fight, and the fun was in seeing how they could come out on top, mostly by being brave and unpredictable. In the end, it was Darth that did in the Emperor, and that was a twist you didn’t necessarily see coming.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Right. But in The Force Awakens, the defeat of the First Order (whatever that is) seems inevitable.

Ike2 You know why don’t you? Instead of “The Force Awakens,” they should have called this episode: Death Star Revisited Redux: Third Time’s the Charm, Amiright?

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Yeah, that well needs to be capped and never visited again. Part of the charm of Force is the deja vu it elicits from all the references to the original trilogy, but that’s also part of the problem. I almost dropped my popcorn when I realized the plan of attack on the Death Planet, or whatever they called it, was EXACTLY THE SAME as the plan the two previous times!

Ike2 “Hey, guys, this thing’s impenetrable! Well, except there is this one spot, that if you hit it a couple of times, the whole thing will blow up.”

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration They tried to throw in a couple of minute variations to change things up, but only the most literal-minded of fanboys could possibly argue it wasn’t the same-old same-old.

Ike2 I could have done without some of the wink-wink moments.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration I could have done without the whole father-turning-against the son thing, too.

Ike2 Yeah, how many more times can that happen?

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration So Kylo Ren goes from son of Leia and Han and pupil of Luke Skywalker–the three best people in the universe–to the Order’s Evil Sith Lord #1? That’s a heck of a back story. I’d like to see that movie, but instead it’s just like, “Hey, guess what? This happened.”

Ike2 At least we get the movie’s one legitimate shock out of it.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Yeah, but even that was predictable, and the set-up was so thin the emotional impact has more to do with the audience’s investment in the franchise than in the relationship between the characters–of which there was basically none.

Ike2 Kylo was pretty cool, though–up to a point. I have to say, the moment when he pulls off his mask to reveal the horror that is…Adam Driver! That was the greatest comic reveal since Jerry Lewis went from Nutty Professor to Buddy Love.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration A laugh-out-loud moment for sure–and that’s not a knock against Adam Driver, who is actually pretty scary even without the mask. In fact, all of the actors are good, although I would have liked to have seen more of Leia.

Ike2 Yeah, maybe there wouldn’t have been so much attention on how Carrie Fisher has aged if they had given her character something interesting to do.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration And did anybody notice that, while Carrie Fisher is indeed older, Harrison Ford is actually old? He’s one of the best things about the movie, but his inner geezer comes out a couple of times in those action sequences. That’s an angle they could have played up, but instead they just gloss over it.

Ike2 But overall, I’d say they did a good job of passing the baton on to the younger generation. I’m glad Oscar Isaac’s character survived, because he has that devil-may-care, Han Solo thing the series needs.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration I tell ya, that Oscar Isaac kid is going places. He was fantastic in Inside Llewyn Davis, and in terms of his screen presence, he stands head and shoulders above the rest of the new crop of young Star Wars cast members–all of whom, by the way, I thought were terrific.

Ike2 Cast-wise, the series is on solid ground.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Agreed. Director and producer-wise, too, although I’d say there were a number of missteps. Nothing fatal, though. I actually think Episode VIII may be even better.

Ike2 Okay, so the Abramson guy liked the movie but thought it had a ridiculous amount of plot holes; Granger, I guess, thinks everything about the movie is super-peachy; and Ranzato thinks it’s a flop. So where do you come down? I liked it.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Me, too, although I’m most in agreement with Abramson. As I watched the movie, I was thinking many of the same things he brings out in his review. There were a lot of “Hey, wait a minute” moments. But he blew it on a couple of points. Like the rathtar thing. He questions how they got loose, but it’s very clear Rey released them when she pulled the wrong thingamabob.

Ike2 He got a little nit-picky, too. If he’d cut it to twenty-five plot holes he would have been rock solid.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Twenty-five plot holes ought to be enough for any movie, but I understand he’s got a new article with twenty more plot holes. Oh well. Let’s face it, the Star Wars movies are fluff, and fluff is easy to pick apart, if that’s what you want to do.

Ike2 I’m glad we never do that!

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration Anyway, on a scale of one to seven, I put it at #4–behind the original trilogy, but ahead of the three prequels.

Ike2 Really? You put it behind Return of the Jedi?

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration I do. Jedi gets a bad rap because of the Ewoks, but there was a lot of great stuff in that episode. I didn’t see anything in Force that measured up to the speeder bike chase in Jedi, or the fight on board Jabba’s ship, for that matter.

Ike2 Maybe, but J.J. Abrams and company got a lot of things right in my book.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart Illustration I agree, including the most important thing of all. They made Star Wars fun again.

Our Rating:

Four tail-wags out of five.

 

 

 

Language Lessons Learned from Grading College Lit Papers

Ike2 Roundabout this time every year, my buddy Mike becomes Mr. No Fun At All. Every time I ask him if he wants to watch a movie or go to the park, he says he can’t. If I ask why, he grumbles something about “the end of the semester.” I’m not sure what that is, but for the last two weeks, all he’s done is sit on the sofa for hours and hours, reading and scribbling on stacks of papers and muttering to himself. He hasn’t even had time to do a blog entry. But last night, after he’d cried himself to sleep, I found this on his laptop, so I guess it will have to do:

LANGUAGE LESSONS LEARNED FROM GRADING COLLEGE LIT PAPERS

GrdingPapers

Never use “many” when you can use “plethora,” “myriad,” or “numerous.”

Used properly, “Plethora,” “myriad,” and “numerous” are ALWAYS followed by “of”: “There were a myriad of crayons in the box,” or “There were numerous of students in the classroom.”

Profanity and vulgarity add spice to your writing. Such “adult” language also signals to the professor that you have adult opinions and cannot be taken lightly.

“It” is a mysterious entity that exists within a work of literature to tell the story or speak on the theme: “In the novel Moby Dick, it tells the story of the great white whale,” or “In the poem ‘I Heard a Fly Buzz’ it talks about death.”

“Harsh” is a generic term describing any level of unpleasantness: “The baby’s crying was harsh,” or “The sinking of the Titanic was harsh.”

“Calm” is a generic term describing anything that is not harsh.

“Graphic” means violent or bloody: “The accident on the highway was very graphic.”

“Whom” is the fancy, college-appropriate form of “who”: “He didn’t know whom was coming to the party.”

“Myself” is the word educated people use in place of “me”: “Tricia and myself wondered whom was teaching the class.”

“Which” is a fancy, college-appropriate substitute for “that”: “It came in the color which he preferred.” If one wishes to sound extra educated, always use “in” before “which”: “It came in the color in which he preferred.”

“Where” is an all-purpose signifier that refers to place, time, circumstance, or what-have-you, and is a less-stuffy substitute for “in which”: “The 19th century was a time where women were not allowed to vote.”

“Were” is an alternate spelling of “where.”

“19th century” means the 1900s. Duh.

“Next” is a transition word that magically provides a logical order wherever it is inserted into a paper: “The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land. Next, it is one of the three branches of the Federal government.”

“Although” is a handy linking word that can indicate either contradiction (“Although Jim is a thief, he is also a Christian”) or lack of contradiction (“Although Jim is a thief, he is also a liar”). When followed by a comma, it means “however” and is useful in linking sentences: “Jim is a thief. Although, he is also a Christian.” Note that “although” is only to be used at the beginning of a sentence.

Form plurals by adding ‘s: “The 1960’s were tumultuous years,” or “There were numerous of American’s on the ship.”

Words containing the letter s do not require another s to make them plural: “We had one test on Tuesday and three more test on Wednesday,” or “There was one stress in the first line and two stress in the second.”

In a related note: It is always “ask,” never “asks.” “Asked” is also questionable. To be safe, just use “ask.” Better yet, use “interrogated.” It sounds smarter.

Words ending in -y become possessive by adding -ies: “The families car was stolen” or “The cities streets were crowded.”

For most other words, the possessive can be formed by adding ‘s. Or s.  Or nothing. “Carol’s house,” “Carols house” and “Carol house” are all correct, or close enough. That whole apostrophe thing is a scam.

Commas are to be used randomly or not at all.

Semicolons are fancy commas. They are also colons.

Colons are never to be used except when they are totally unnecessary: “The flags came in a myriad of colors, such as: red, white, and blue.”

Periods are generally used to end sentences, but leaving them off now and then adds variety.

“Led” is not a word. Always use “lead.”

“Lose” is not a word. Always use “loose.”

“Notorious” means “famous”: “Mother Theresa was notorious for tending to the sick.”

“Infamous” means “really famous”: “Pope Francis is infamous around the world.”

“Penultimate” means “extra ultimate.”

When using spell check, the first option provided is ALWAYS the best choice.

 

 

Top 5: Reasons The Paranormal Idiot Is the Greatest Animated Series You’ve Never Seen

Paranormal-Title From The Simpsons to South Park to Aqua Teen Hunger Force, there have been a lot of innovative animated television series over the years that have reinvented the genre, challenging and changing our concept of what a show can be. These cartoons for grownups have brought us many strange and wonderful things, but we haven’t seen anything quite like The Paranormal Idiot. Why, you ask?

1. It’s Not on TV! 

Paranormal-DeanTVBuddy (1)

The brainchild of filmmaker Tom Barndt and cult movie maven Buddy Barnett (and the product of the support and hard work of many others*), the pilot episode of The Paranormal Idiot had a successful debut at the 2015 CineVegas film festival.  The pilot can be seen on Youtube and Vimeo, and more episodes are in the works, but this amazing show is still in search of its broadcast home. So that’s the reason you probably haven’t seen it. Here are the reasons why you’ll want to.

(*Producers Kathe Duba-Barnett, Stephen Barndt, Brad Linaweaver, Mike Plante, Samara St. Croix, and Javier Andy Zavala, Jr., and actors Frank Mengwasser and Bill Chase.)

2. It’s Absolutely Unique.

Paranormal-Scotty

The Paranormal Idiot is an animated pop culture mash-up (yes, that is Mr. Scott being eaten by the Loch Ness Monster) that is both a satire of Ghost Hunters-style reality shows and a reality show itself. So it’s a show. It’s a show about a show. It’s a show about other shows. And it’s a show about the very concept of shows. But if that’s too complicated for you, just relax and enjoy the thing that makes any good reality program special–it’s unique, never-to-be-duplicated personalities. Host Buddy Barnett is a real person (I’ve known the non-cartoon version since high school) who is well known in the cinema collectibles and cult movie circuits, and correspondent Dean Rossi is the actual son of Steve Rossi of the 1960s era comedy duo Allen and Rossi. Throw in Mr. Lobo, of Cinema Insomnia fame, and you’ve got quite a cast. The adventures the characters get involved in may be fictitious, but the actors are playing cartoon versions of themselves, and their dialogue includes snippets of Rossi’s accounts of his colorful real-life adventures. Sometimes his stories are on point, sometimes they are complete non-sequitirs, but they are always funny and weird.

3. It’s Epic.

Paranormal-Collage

This show packs more narrative threads into one 11-minute episode than a whole season of Scandal. The pilot alone contains segments on such paranormal phenomena as Nessie, UFOs, ghosts, possessed dummies, Bigfoot, spontaneous combustion, voodoo, and the Bermuda Triangle. Add to that “behind-the-scenes” clips, commercials, a Twilight Zone-style “featurette,” a musical segment, and a hilariously poetic public service announcement, and you’ve got one jam-packed program. Its show-about-a-show qualities remind me of the great SCTV comedy series of the 1970s, but with the post-modern blender set to “obliterate.” One thing I am curious to see in future episodes is whether some of the narrative threads will be picked up and played out in serial form, or if each episode will be its own unique combination of one-off bits. Either way, I’m hooked.

4. It’s Beautiful to Look at.

Paranormal-Kathe

Like most Adult Swim style shows, The Paranormal Idiot is minimalist in its animation, but it is definitely not minimalist in the thought and care put into its design. The graphic renderings of the actors are elegant (and if you know some of the actors in real life, as I do, downright startling), the backgrounds are realistic and evocative, and the shot compositions are so multi-layered and eye-catching, and make such brilliant use of light and shadow, that they put me more in mind of the best of classic cinema than modern anime. Too many animated shows today are just vehicles for jokes; they don’t do anything for the eye. Art and animation can be expensive and time consuming, but director Tom Barndt shows that high aesthetics are a matter of imagination and skill, not big budgets and studio-level resources.

5. It’s Funny!

Paranormal-Itch

The show’s number one goal is to make the audience laugh, and it does that throughout. Whether it’s the slapstick of Dean’s many beat-downs and strange encounters, the satire of Buddy’s befuddled pitchman routine during commercials for questionable products, or the blackout-style gags with elaborate setups and wildly unforeseen payoffs, The Paranormal Idiot has a joke for every taste. It even has quotable lines like, “That’s too many elbows,” or “I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him at the buffet,” that only make sense in context, but which are fun to repeat in all sorts of situations to annoy friends and loved ones. Yes, it’s a show that keeps on giving.

So check out the video! Be sure to “like” it and share it with friends!

 

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