Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Zombie Song

    I have had this song stuck in my head since I first heard it a week ago, so I need to inflict it on as many other people as possible.  It is The Zombie Song from How It Should Have Ended on YouTube.

Friday, May 17, 2013

My First Anthology

    I got my first story idea over 20 years ago in my Freshman year of High School.  Since then I've written about 30 short stories and one novella/short novel (not sure where the word count puts it, wrote it on a manual typewriter).  At the advise and encouragement of my Mother I decided to self-publish my first anthology.  It is short, only 87 pages and 8 short stories.  It's just something to pass a bit of time on a slow afternoon with.  The stories are a mix of fantasy and science fiction, in modern-day and fantastic settings.  I think that these are the best 8 stories I've written and would not have to jump off a bridge if a stranger read them.

    If you have a Kindle, you can find it here (it costs a whopping 99 cents):

    For those without a Kindle, here is a link to a PDF version.  I do have the donation button on the right side of this blog and would ask for the same 99 cents it's listed for on the Kindle store please:

    If you have any thoughts on it, feel free to leave a comment below.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

YouTube channels to kill time with – as if you weren't already

    I have not been a big fan of YouTube. There, I said it, let the rotten fruit throwing start now. While I realize most everyone else on the planet has been glued to it, I have just recently found a couple of channels I like watch. So here are a few YouTube shorts I am, and you should be, watching:

Cinema Sins

    As the tag line says, “no movie is without sin.” In generally 4 to 7 minutes you can see some of the things wrong with your favorite movie. Which is not to say that the movie is bad, every movie has problems and plot-holes. Cinema Sins is a series of short (1-2 second) scenes from a movie and a voice-over describing what is wrong with it. Which is great fun to watch and chuckle along. Think of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on fast-forward.

How It Should Have Ended

    Another series of short clips, this time animated, about, well, how a movie (or game) should have ended. Great fun, and when Superman and Batman discuss movies at the cafe it is fantastic. There are over 100 as I write this, so be warned you may kill far too much time laughing should you choose to visit this channel.

Feminist Frequency

    I love the Tropes vs Women series on this channel. Each video presents a common plot device in movies or games that are used to portray women in a bad light. For example the classic “damsel in distress.” Why don't we see 'princes in distress?' (or even 'princes gone wild'?) It is hard to find a well-written female character in, well, anything. What I like most about this series is that it is not an angry, evil-men-are-abusing-the-image-of-women series; rather, it takes an honest look at unconscious trends and metaphors that have crept into popular writing and asks why people don't write better. I have to admit that even looking at my own stories I have found myself not writing the quality of female characters I should. So it is an eye-opening series for any writer or person interested in art.

    I'm sure there are many, many more YouTube channels that are worth following, but these are the only ones I've bumped into so far. If you know of another, feel free to leave it in the comments section below.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Movie Review: Iron Man 3

The Homeless Nerd Reviews:
Iron Man 3

At a glance- if you don't know the armor-wearing billionaire genius philanthropist playboy Tony Stark and his Iron alter-ego then you've been living in a cave for the last 5 years

What is it? Back again after solid successes with Iron Man 1 and 2, then a blowout supporting role in The Avengers is our favorite smart-alec inventor. Superhero movies have always been a second-class citizen in the film world, and tend to only last for 3 movies then get canceled or re-booted. So how does our third outing fare? Well... fantastically.
     I have always been a fan of Iron Man. I mostly read the comics way back when, from the original through the Jim Rhodes days and ending about the Red and Silver suit after Obadiah Stane's takeover. Which if you haven't read the comics gives you an idea of how they have altered the original story for the movies. I was a huge fan of the first movie, and liked the second one (which many others seem to disparage), so I was hopeful going into this one. It did not disappoint, and on an interesting level. You go see a movie like Iron Man, and like the character, for the “Iron” part – the cool super-suit of armor and gadgets. Which was a formula that worked great the last few movies. This one however, does a wonderful job of expanding that theme. This movie is really more about Tony Stark than it is about Iron Man.
     One of the wonderful things is in its opening minutes. We watch movies to see heroes going off and doing amazing deeds, but what few movies ever show is what happens afterwords. After the dragon is slain, what does a now ex-dragon-slayer do? What kind of a mark does that leave on a person? After all, we know from real life that the people who go out and do amazing and unusual things, like soldiers and police and firefighters, can have a hard time adjusting to normal life when the flames die down. This is how we meet Tony Stark, who is struggling with fighting aliens and meeting Gods of Thunder and guys who turn into giant green rage-monsters and, well, having his world turned upside-down again. It has left him having trouble sleeping and with his relationships. Which is a great humanizing look into the metal hero. We also have Tony's past coming back to haunt him again. This is a great thing about Iron Man – comparing him with another hero, Spider-Man. Spider-Man is warned that “with great power comes great responsibility” - something Tony Stark never learned as a boy. He's lived a very wild life, and it has made him his own worst enemy: his weapons get turned against him in his original capture and injury then again fighting armored suits built with his own technology, followed by the device saving his life slowly killing him, his actions turn his friends against him and nearly ruin his company, on and on we see his fast and loose lifestyle come back to haunt him. It makes him a very real character as he struggles to deal with the problems that he created himself. This movie takes that another step and builds on the wonderful theme of the hero who can beat every outside foe, it is fighting himself that is his greatest weakness (something the writers of Superman would do well to meditate on).

The acting- Robert Downey Jr is, without a doubt, Tony Stark. It is almost impossible to imagine anyone else doing the role with all the style, flare and mix of braggadocio and vulnerability he has brought to the role. Gwyneth Paltrow is great again as Pepper Potts, and she seems to get better with the role in every appearance. Don Cheadle returns as James Rhodes and I would love to see him in a spin-off movie, he has had so little time on screen to play a role I think he would be great at. Jon Favreau also returns as Happy Hogan and is still the great plucky comic relief, though he gets a little less screen time then in previous movies. All of these actors were great at their roles and continue to deliver.
     New to the franchise are Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian, a fellow scientist Tony once snubbed who returns with an invention of his own. Mr. Pearce is a great villain who's diabolical plot was something I liked. Clever in an evil way. And Ben Kingsly is The Mandarin. I was surprised to hear that, in the comics the original Mandarin had 10 magic rings. As an opposite to Tony, the Mandarin used magic and people instead of technology and suits. So I was wondering if they were going to try to throw some magic into the mostly tech series, which sounded tricky at best. Thankfully they did not, and the movie Mandarin's magic is a very wonderful little plot twist. This was a great role in my opinion, though I'm sure some will disagree. There is no disputing that Mr. Kingsly is a great actor though.
     Last I want to mention two others. First is Ty Simpkins, a talented 12 year old who has a small but memorable role in the movie as Harley Keener. I want to give credit to him and the writers for his part – typically I hate kids in movies. They tend to stupid roles as either annoying brat or budding super-genius (which is just annoying in a different way), in this move though he is a great little comic relief part. Secondly is Paul Bettany as the voice of the super-computer Jarvis. While not integral to the plot, Jarvis provides such great comic relief as the straight man and his distinctive voice.

The story- the movie opens with a flashback to 1999 and a young Tony Stark doing something he says in voice-over will come back to haunt him. He is at a party and meets the attractive biologist Maya Hansen while making fun of the disabled nerdy Aldrich Killian. Cut to the present where we see Tony having trouble sleeping, haunted by the alien attack of The Avengers, and a new terrorist called The Mandarin is making threats and killing people. I really don't want to go into the storyline of the movie, it is meant to have some plot twists that I'd rather not spoil. I will say that we see brash and arrogant Tony Stark as a much more flawed and vulnerable person than we have seen previously. There is no final robot-on-robot fight (though of course, the suit makes its appearance), this story is focused more on Tony the man. We get to see him go MacGuyver and build some improvised gadgets, banter with a kid (who is, surprisingly, a good addition to the story unlike most kids in movies) which lets us kind of see Tony looking back on the better parts of his younger self while fighting his worst nature that got him into trouble in the first place.

My recommendation- see it on the big screen, worth full price

P. S.- yes, being a Marvel film there is a small clip after the credits that is totally worth waiting for