So far this season…

Monday:
Chuck hasn’t yet caught me.  I’ve stopped recording it on our DVR and have been watching it online at NBC’s website.  I’m not entirely sure what it is about this show that’s bugging me.  Maybe it’s just that it’s geared more for gaming nerds than nerds like me, those that I sort of think of as "second wave" nerds.  Our fathers played Chainmail, we played tabletop Dungeons and Dragons, kids these days thing World of Warcraft is somehow role playing.  That in itself doesn’t bug me, though, but Chuck seems only to focus on the video game nerds.  It occasionally nods elsewhere, like a brief in-passing mention of a Linux installation, but there isn’t much of it.  Also, Zachary Levi doesn’t say "nerd" to me.  Zachary Levi looks like a nerd the same way that Jenna Fischer looks like a nerdgirl, or Anne Hathaway looks fat in The Devil Wears Prada.  It’s nice to see Adam Baldwin back in action, but that’s about it.  I’m also sort of tired of shows that just play into adolescent male fantasies of women.  I’ve known plenty of beautiful women, but very few of them were martial artist ninjas or international terrorists.

Heroes continues to intrigue me.  I’m not surprised that a number of fans are dissing the second season; it’s just as I predicted would happen.  Expectations for this sort of show always rise faster than can realistically be delivered.  What’s funny is that different camps of fans decry different aspects of the show: some say that Matt’s storyline is the only good one in a mashup of comic book cliches; other says that Peter’s storyline is intriguing but Matt’s is maudlin and frustrating.  I like that the show continues to evolve, and the characters continue to develop in ways that seem consistent.  At least, to me they do.

I still like Journeyman and each episode draws me further in.  There’s a good deal of relationship angst and drama, but I like that, for once, the characters are up front with each other and dealing with the drama in open ways, rather than being deceptive and duplicitous with each other.  Dan initially tried to hide from Katie that he encounters Livia when he goes traveling, but when she confronts him, he is open and honest with her about the situation.  Katie tries to deal with the situation as best as she can, but with predictable frustration: how tolerating can you be when your spouse ends up traveling back in time on the same night as the huge fancy charity ball that you’ve organized and he’s promised to attend with you?  Dan’s relationship with Livia is explored in a way that makes sense to me.  And so on.  It’s a good show about good but flawed people caught up in a lousy situation.  There’s also an interesting subplot developing involving a scientist from 2007 who is able to call Dan’s cell phone, even though Dan is back in 1997.  Something deeper is going on, and that always draws me in.

Journeyman has its flaws, of course.  The thing about the cell phone — how can a cell phone, even one contemporary technology-wise to the time Dan has found himself in — function when the account it’s attached to has presumably not been created yet?  This doesn’t make sense to me.  Neither is the issue of paradox ever explored; when Dan goes back in time and saves the life of someone who has apparently died, the issue of everyone’s memories changing isn’t investigated.  I can live with these faults, though, simply because the relationships are realistically and interestingly portrayed.

Of course, it’s probably because this show is more about the relationships and the effects of Dan’s random time jumps on them rather than on the gosh-wowie factor that the show may be doomed.  Rumor already has it that it may be canceled and Medium put into its place.  Medium isn’t a bad show, and again it shines in how it portrays the effects of one character’s strange experiences impacting their relationships.  But it just isn’t as solid as Journeyman is.

And I still say that Kevin McKidd looks an awful lot like John Simms.

Tuesday
I still like Reaper.  It’s still a goofy show with clever touches of Kevin Smith and Ray Wise as the best devil I’ve seen on television since Roddy McDowell did it in a few episodes of old school Fantasy Island.  I do wish they’d do something more with Andi, though.  Her role as the ongoing romantic interest for the main character is in danger of growing stale and boring.

Wednesday
Pushing Daisies is still my favorite new show this season.  Last night’s episode featured a Chinese man who was the grandson of a Confederate soldier and who spoke with a Southern accent, and a swordfight.  I love these kinds of weird little details.  Jim Dale as the narrator is funny as well.

Bionic Woman, though, isn’t doing much for me anymore.  I think I’m a little tired of the premise, which is sort of a mashup of the original Bionic Woman premise with a whole 21st century corporate/terrorism zeitgeist which is starting to bore me.  The muted color palette and shaky cameras are too reminiscent of Battlestar Galactica and definitely show David Eick’s influence.  Being David Eick isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and Battlestar Galactica is, of course, brilliant.  But this is a different show and deserves its own style.  And Jamie Sommers as a character just isn’t convincing me; after a life as a surrogate mom to her younger sister, working at a bar to barely make ends meet, she slips far too easily into her role as international super spy with a conscience.  It fails to convince me.

The only thing, really, that’s keeping me going with this show is Katee Sackhoff as Sarah Corvus.  She does psychotic/evil very well, and is sufficiently creepy to keep me guessing at her motivations.

Thursday
I don’t watch TV on Thursdays; I catch up on The Office on NBC’s website.  There’s something about this season, though, which is jarring me. I’m amused by Ryan, the temp/business student who’s suddenly promoted to vice president and has no clue that he’s in way over his head and whose style of management seems to have been lifted entirely from a late 90’s dot-com business plan.  Corporate parties by webcam?  They were a bad idea in 1999, and they’re just abysmally moronic in 2007.  It just seems like everyone has gotten stupider and meaner this season, so the humor just isn’t working as well for me.

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The Lord of Nightmares: The Blog

I’ve put up an Official Blog for The Lord of Nightmares, my 2007 NaNoWriMo project.  You can find it here:

The Lord of Nightmares

Enjoy.  Subscribe.  Peace out.

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Halloween Decorations

Today we finally went to the Halloween store that my friend Kent manages and picked up some minor decorations for our house.  Jennifer wanted subtle.  I wanted a full on graveyard, with skeletons popping out of the ground and ghosts flying around.  Eventually we compromised and picked up a graveyard kit and some cheesy plastic fencing.  We set up our little graveyard in our front yard, near the steps.  Here are some pictures (click on the thumbnails for the larger version):

Graveyard 1

…and another picture from a slightly elevated angle so you can see some more of the details:

Graveyard 2

I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  I didn’t even try to push for a pirate cemetery theme.  I like it, though; I think it definitely says, "Hey, there’s a horror writer living in this house, wouldn’t you like to go up and meet him?"  And I really think we ought to invest in a light or something to hide under the stairs that would illuminate the little graveyard just a little bit at night.

I still don’t know for sure why the Lightbox script isn’t working properly on my website; it works fine on the front page, but not on any of the blog pages.  I suspect it’s because I’ve got so much CSS stuff going on, the poor little lightbox script is just getting confused.

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Pictures from the new house

Today is a gray, rainy day marked by a serious asthma attack this morning that kept me at home.  I’m going to spend the day relaxing and sucking on my nebulizer, but I also had to take a couple of pictures of the view from our new home.  I just happened to glance out the window and was struck by how pretty our neighborhood is.  I only took a couple of pictures because the battery in my camera is running low.

(Click on the pictures for full size versions.  The effect is better if you go to this entry on my blog instead of reading it through a feed reader or LiveJournal.  And for some reason the Lightbox script isn’t quite working right.)

First, here’s a picture of the street in front of our house, taken from the bay window in our living room.

View from the bay window in our living room (thumbnail)

I was really struck by the colors (which I think are sort of washed out in this picture).  It actually looks like it’s autumn around here, doesn’t it?  And, of course, Halloween is coming, which means some of our Halloween decorations are up as well.

I love Halloween; makes me think of ghosts, ghouls, zombies, werewolves, vampires, all that wonderful stuff.  Of course, as my mother was quick to point out recently, most holidays get me in that mood: Halloween, Christmas, Arbor Day.  You know how it goes.

This second picture is actually from our dining room window and looks into our neighbor’s back yard.  Nothing incriminating there, no worries:

View of our neighbor's yard from our dining room (thumbnail)

Again, the colors, which are washed out in this picture, are just brilliant.

I love that we live in a neighborhood like this.  In Dixon (and Woodland and Davis before that), I never got to see such tree plumage from the houses I lived in.  In Dixon, our neighborhood was so new that none of the trees were big at all.  They were still scruffy puppy trees, determined to show their greenery all year round (except for our neighbors, who had an unhealthy attraction to palm trees).  Our new neighborhood is much older, dating back to the 19th century (it was annexed by Sacramento in 1911), so it’s had time to build up some character and some serious elm trees.  This makes me happy.

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Nobel Prizes

I don’t know much about how the Nobel Prize committee works, and normally I don’t follow most of them, but there are at least two this year that struck me.

First, I was intrigued to see that Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize for Literature, which is significant because it’s the first time that I’ve actually read a book by a Nobel recipient while the author was still alive.  Technically, Doris Lessing is a science fiction writer, in that her novels almost always include elements that are science fiction-esque, but you won’t find her books in the science fiction section of the bookstore; they’ll be in the literature/fiction section.  I read one of her books once, but to be honest I couldn’t quite get it.  I found her style obtuse, dense, difficult, almost incomprehensible.  In short, it was Literature, with a capital L, and definitely Nobel Prize quality Literature.

Second, I was pleased to learn that Al Gore has received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming.  I’ve been impressed with Al Gore lately; I’ve always sort of admired him (my admiration tempered by the fact that he was still a politician), and now my admiration feels more justified, just like when Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize.  I’m interested to see how Gore’s award will be reported in, say, Fox News.  Will they note that the Nobel Prize Committee is filled with a bunch of left wing commie pinko radicals who also gave the Nobel Peace Prize to peacenik nuts like Jimmy Carter, Yassir Arafat, Aung San Suu Kyi, Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King Jr., and others?  Or will they grudgingly admit that there might be something to this whole Global Warming thing after all?  Personally, I’m expecting the former.  There are still a lot of folks out there who see this whole global warming thing as a conspiracy against American business interests (how this logic works I’m simply not sure, since it’s the sort of challenge that American businesses are quite good at meeting), so perhaps Gore’s receiving the Peace Prize will simply vindicate their notion that the Nobel Committee is full of whack jobs and loons, just like their founder, Alfred Nobel.

In other news, I’m signing up for Blog Action Day, which is Monday, October 15.  Plus, I’m continuing to accept donations for the Office of Letters and Light through; check out the link below.

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The Terror Begins

Halloween is almost here, which means that in addition to the ghouls and zombies and mass murderers and aliens, the politicians are slowly crawling out of the woodwork to start peddling themselves as somehow "qualified" to lead the nation.  Even though the election is still over a year away, there are still plenty of reasons to be afraid: Mitt Romney, Hilary Clinton, Rudy Giulani, Ron Paul, Mike Gravel, Jon Edwards, and more.  Barack Obama doesn’t scare me as much as most of the others, but I still believe that Douglas Adams said it best: anyone who is actually capable of getting themselves elected President should under no circumstances be allowed to have the job — unfortunately, though, there seems to be no other way of getting a willing person into the position.

There are, however, a couple of candidates I’m willing to support, for several reasons.

First of all, there’s Bruce Campbell.  While there has yet to be an official "Bruce Campbell for President" site established on the web, a Google query on the phrase ‘Bruce Campbell for President" still yields quite a few results.  For the past few years, our nation has been engaged in a war on terror, but the average American is actually more likely to be attacked by a zombie or a reanimated corpse possessed by some sort of hellbound demon than by a terrorist (no matter what the Department of Homeland Security says), and no one is more qualified to take the Deadite threat head on than Bruce.  Since Ash isn’t a real person, we can at least settle for The Chin.  (By the way, has anyone else heard about a possible Jason vs. Freddy vs. Ash film?  I think it’s a fine idea; Universal has been throwing monsters at each other since the Wolfman met Frankenstein’s Monster in 1939.)

However, if current trends toward autocracy and authoritarianism are more to your taste, you might want to consider voting for General Zod.  He, at least, will be an honest despot.  Some might think that Lex Luthor would be a better choice with his business acumen, but Zod has a stronger record of intergalactic tyranny.

Who else would be your choice?  Personally, I’m going to recommend Bruce Campbell.  But this is a free country, and we have historically gotten the Presidents that we deserve.

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Soon, the fun will begin!

If you know me at all, you know that every year I participate in National Novel Writing Month.  This year, instead of just writing a novel, I’m going to increase the insanity by acting as one of the two Municipal Liaisons for the Sacramento area, which means helping to herd all the crazy participants in the area and helping to make the experience fun and exciting and memorable for them as well.

But on top of that, I’m also going to participate in this year’s Write-a-Thon — the Night of Writing Dangerously.  This is a charity event, and donations will go to the Office of Letters and Light, which sponsors NaNoWriMo and similar programs.  I really like that the OoL&L puts an emphasis on young writers: kids in high school and younger.  Kids who are sitting at their computers writing novels may be kids who are not getting their homework done, but they’re also kids who are exercising their creativity, their imaginations, and not playing MegaBloodDeathFist2007 on the XBoxes (not that that isn’t a fun game).  It’s a cause I believe in.

So how do you participate in this charity you ask?  Glad you did.  No, seriously.  I am.  Simply go to my donation page (at http://www.firstgiving.org/richardscrawford), where you can find out how to donate, and do so securely.  And since the Office of Letters and Light is a 503(c) non-profit, you donation is (I’m about 90% sure of this) tax deductible.

And what does donating get you?  Well, nothing tangible, I suppose.  A good feeling about yourself: that warm, fuzzy glow you get whenever you know you’ve done something that gives you Instant Good Karma.  Oh, and what the heck: if you donate any amount whatsoever (as small as one cent, as much as the full $200 I’m looking for), I’ll put your name in the novel somewhere, thus guaranteeing you immortality and fame and fortune should I ever manage to finish the novel and sell it.  Usually, I simply name a character after you and kill them off in a manner of your choosing, and I am happy to do this (it’s turned out to be pretty popular in the past; for some reason, people enjoy dying vicariously this way).  I understand, though, if this is a gift not particularly to your taste, so I’ll figure out something else if you like.

Seriously, though, I’m hoping to make it to $200, and I’m hoping for more than one cent donations.  I’m not sure I’d like coming up with 20,000 unique and interesting ways to kill off minor characters.

To keep me honest, you can follow my progress on the NaNoWriMo site here.  There’s also a link off the front page of my site (http://www.mossroot.com, if you’re reading this through some sort of feed aggregator or through LiveJournal, MySpace, or FaceBook).  And I will be certain to keep you all updated on my progress through this blog.

Okay, I think that’s it for now.  So long, and thank you for your continued support.

Musical Interlude, with Zombies

Update:  Well, apparently that’s not actually Jonathan Coulton himself in the video.  Just a guy who’s very good at lip-syncing.  That’s okay.  I still approve.

One of the things I really missed about Dragon*Con this year was Dragon*Con TV, the in-house tv network that shows parody commercials and "bumps" reminiscent of those done by AdultSwim on the Cartoon Network.

Apparently, this year they added music videos to their repertoire.   Among those videos was this one of "Re: Your Brains", one of my favorite songs (because it’s got zombies), by one of my favorite singers (Jonathan Coulton).  Here it is:

No, I don’t know what it is about zombies that amuses me so much.  As a horror trope, they’re overdone to the point of cliche, almost as bad as vampires, and almost every zombie movies has pretty much exactly the same plot: zombies rise up, people defend themselves, lots of people die and get eaten, and at some point a loved one gets turned into a zombie: a spouse, a child, a co-worker, whatever.  And as my friend Beth pointed out, my fondness for zombies seems to be at odds with my dislike of the Bush Administration.

Maybe it’s just me being trendy.  I don’t know.

Whatever. Check out the video. Be amused by it.

False Memories of Bad Movies

Hellraiser 1Last night I got it into my head that I wanted to watch the Hellraiser movies again.  There are eight such movies out now, with varying degrees of suckitude (the rule of thumb with such film franchises is that the higher the number of the film, the lower the quality; Nightmare on Elm Street 5 was worse than Nightmare on Elm Street 4, which was worse than Nightmare on Elmstreet 3, and so on).  I’d seen the eighth film, Hellraiser: Hellworld on the Sci Fi Channel recently, so I knew what sort of depths the franchise descends to.  Not even the presence of Lance Henrickson in that film could make it enjoyable.  On the whole though, I remembered the films as being an interesting examination of pain, pleasure, morality, and so on.

So I watched Hellraiser, the original film.  It was tolerable.  The special effects were cheesy, as were the costumes and hairstyles, but it was made in 1987, so what the hell.  Some elements made me uncomfortable — not in a "Wow, this is disturbing imagery" sort of way, but more in a "Wow, I sure hope my neighbors don’t catch me watching this" sort of way.  Nothing really bad, you know, but I did just move into a new neighborhood and I’d rather wait awhile before my reputation as a freak has a chance to settle in.

But most of the time watching Hellraiser, I was thinking about Hellbound: Hellraiser 2.  I’d seen that film when it came out and a couple of times since, but it’s been easily ten years or more since I saw it last.  I just remembered that I had enjoyed the film, that I’d thought the imagery was more intense, the storyline better, and so on. I was, in short, remembering it as a pretty good film.

Hellbound: Hellraiser 2Man, I don’t know what I was thinking.

Hellbound, in case you don’t recall, starts off almost immediately after the events of the first Hellraiser film.  At some point after attempting to burn the puzzle box in a vacant lot, Kirsty Cotton was picked up by the police and dumped in the Channard Institute; her boyfriend, Steve, who only had a one film contract, was able to convince the police that even though he, too, had just come from a house full of mutilated bodies and was raving about demonic beings, he was perfectly sane and quite able to go home.

It turns out that the Channard Institute is run by an evil psychiatrist, who’s not above allowing incurably psychotic patients mutilate themselves if it helps him summon up demons that can take him to hell to experience pain or whatever (Channard’s motivations are never entirely clear).  He does this once, in fact, summoning up Kirsty’s demonic stepmother, Julia, who for some reason made a pact with Leviathan, God of the Underworld, to return to Earth (the motivations of both Julia and Leviathan are also left as an exercise for the viewer, apparently).  Channard then brings another patient from the Institute, a young woman who has a penchant for solving puzzles (we’re never told why she has this quirk, but she’s insane, so I guess that’s okay), and this woman, Tiffany, solves the puzzle box and opens the gate to Hell.  The Cenobites are summoned again, and instead of going after Tiffany, they go after Dr. Channard.  Pinhead intones, "It is not hands that summon us, but desire."  Of course that did nothing to stop them from going after Kirsty in the first film, or anyone else who might have found the puzzle box and opened it by accident.  It’s just that Channard was evil or something.

Meanwhile, Kirsty goes through the same doorway back to Hell to rescue her father, who was murdered in the first film.  She doesn’t find her father, but her father’s murderer, the heinous Uncle Frank, who is being tormented for all his crimes.  And…

Well, it all kind of goes like that for awhile.

The special effects are better in this film, true, but the film is hampered by a cast of characters, human and demonic, who just sort of wander around doing things with no real motivation.  Oh, it also includes the most boring supernaturally charged fight scene in the history of horror filmmaking.  Channard, transformed into a monstrous Cenobite, shows up and encounters Pinhead and his crew.  "Oh, good," Channard says, "a fight."  Then Pinhead and his crew all stand silently and are killed one by one without even putting up a fight.  It annoyed me; if I was among a group of people who were being killed off one by one, I’m smart enough to at least run away, and I’m not even a demonic pain entity from beyond Hell.  Oh, and such entities can apparently be killed, which sort of takes the threat out of them.

It’s a bad movie.  I suspect it was always a bad movie.  So why did I remember it as a good movie, one of those rare instances when the sequel was superior to the original film?  I have no idea.

Has this ever happened to any of you?  Have you rented a movie that you remembered as being really awesome, only to be blown away by its sheer badness?  Share your experiences.

Things that Bug Me

Things that bug me:

  1. Oppression bugs me.  Despite all the problems I have with the current Administration, I recognize that I’m damn lucky to live in the US, where (for the most part) the average person can’t get thrown into jail or sent into hiding for blogging against the government’s policies.
  2. Government Orchestrated Murder bugs me.  Hundreds dead in a brutal government crackdown.  That bugs me.
  3. And as if government crackdowns weren’t enough, pre existing brutality bugs me as well.
  4. Ongoing random arrests bug me; hundreds hauled away for "questioning".
  5. Nationwide starvation bugs me.  The poorest are always the ones who suffer, even as food prices soar and a corrupt government siphons off all the nation’s riches for itself.
  6. Violent government response to peaceful protest bugs me.

I’m also bugged by the fact that I can sit here, comfortable in my job and nice home, overwhelmingly wealthy in comparison to most of the rest of the people on the planet, while millions of people worldwide, and not just in Burma, suffer starvation and oppression and violence.

And most of all I’m bugged by the fact that I can’t do a damn thing about any of it, except link to the following website, and hope that somehow my voice can do a tiny little bit of good.

Free Burma!