The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

My Kindertrauma: Fast Forwards

fast forward symbol

I missed a few things during my Kindertrauma run that I didn’t think of at the time and/or didn’t think worthy of an article. But time passes and hey, it’s Halloween anyway.

The Neverending Story – Gmork

Gmork is an interesting character. He’s really not in the film much and wolves can be as cute as scary. They’re just older uncles of dogs. They’ve been in the war, they’ve seen some shit, but they keep it to themselves.

But Gmork is a personification of dread. The first time you see him is when he’s chasing Atreyu in the swamps of sadness. In that shot, he’s just a blur. You know he’s out there, but not how big a threat he is. Until the end.

The world is crumbling around everyone and then Atreyu comes upon a cave. He has nothing– no luck dragon, no horse, no weapons. And then this big ass wolf starts talking to him. It’s a fear worse than any Jason or Freddy movie because he can see you, but he’s not killing you. But he’s going to. You’re just not the guy he wants to kill. Except you are the guy he wants to kill and he doesn’t know it.

Also, you can barely see him in the cave. I’m sure they did this because of the bad puppet effects (although there’s something to be said for the uncanny valley). But it also means you can’t see any telegraphed moves. You can’t tell if/when he’s going to spring. And then he does and it’s way faster than you expect thanks to his slow “Disney ride” animatronics.

Ghostbusters – Library Ghost

Ghostbusters.net on Twitter: "Ruth Oliver, who played the Library Ghost in # Ghostbusters, was born 104 years ago today. http://t.co/nh9JFPyLvz"

I don’t like jump scares. Especially when I was a kid. Even jump scares I know are coming. So when I watched Ghostbusters, which was often, I had to fast forward through this part, from when they’re about to scare the ghost until I can see them running out of the library.

Also, the hands coming out of the chair grabbing Dana wasn’t my cup of tea. Also played on my fear of being restrained. (Or maybe this created that fear?)

Poltergeist – Clown Puppet/Toy

poltergeist-clown-20008014-1280×0 << Rotten Tomatoes – Movie and TV News

There’s another jump scare here. When the storm is raging outside the window and he’s looking around for where that bumping is coming from. At some point, he looks under the bed, and you expect the jump there, but no. Thinking there’s nothing there, he leans back up.

And there’s the clown in the same cut. (And it’s now it’s a freaky clown.) And it wraps its freakishly long arms around him and starts to choke him. And I forget what happens after that. I think I left the room.

The Brave Little Toaster – General Feeling of Malaise

THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER | GenreVision — GenreVision

This is one of my all-time favorite movies, but man, it’s a study in mood whiplash. You’d think it’s about cute little Disney-fied anthropomorphic appliances. But this shit’s for real. First, the air conditioner suicides/self-destructs. That’s a thing in this universe? You can get so angry you die?

And then the flower falls in love with the toaster. (I think it’s falling in love with it–it might be falling in love with its reflection.) Either way, the result is the same. When the toaster checks back on the flower, it’s dying of loneliness. The hero did that.

Then, of course, there’s the firefighter clown. Everyone’s scared of that motherfucker so no need to go further. (I still think the Poltergeist clown is scarier.)

But most of the malaise comes from two big scenes. One is the musical number in the junk shop and the other is the musical number in the junkyard. Both share the same theme of mortality. One has more of a horror vibe, of sudden random death. The other is about death after a full existence. Each car tells about what they did in their life, the roads traveled, the events experienced. But each one is taken by the grim reaper magnet and compressed into the same cube. Pretty heavy stuff for a children’s movie. I wonder if that’s where I got my crushing fear of death.

Oh, “crushing”! I see what I did there.

Cruella – Thumbs Up

cruella movie poster

I recently watched Cruella on Disney+. It surprised me. Better than it had any right to be. It’s a superhero story combined with a few heists.

I thought it would be stupid and silly given the prologue. Her hair isn’t dyed? It’s naturally black on one side and white on the other? What is she, Two-Face? Her mother is killed by dalmatians and that’s why she hates them? Her trouble-making at school is marked by “spots” on her record? The name “Cruella” comes from a joke name her mom called her? I mean, come on.

But as it goes on, the movie justifies these story points, twists them, and turns Cruella into a people’s hero.

Image

The hardest part is reconciling the cartoon version with this version. I mean, this is a prequel. If you know psychology and watch this, you’re going to have a bad time.

Someone like animated Cruella wouldn’t give gifts, wouldn’t have friends, and wouldn’t own her own dog. The movie explains how rose to power, but not her decline. Someone who has no compunction about skinning dogs for coats isn’t the same person who spent her formative years homeless and pickpocketing or tried to go legit working a minimum wage job.

In 101 Dalmatians, she goes to Anita and demands those puppies because she thinks she deserves them because she’s a fashion genius. She never thinks for a minute she’ll be told “no”. Because she’s one of those people who always got what she wanted. And then she blames everyone else when she doesn’t get what she wants.

That is not the behavior of someone who went to boarding school, whose mother died in a tragic accident, who lived on the streets for ten years, then scrubbed floors while getting stepped on by her boss. Animated Cruella is not a person who understands you don’t get everything you want in life.

So what you have to do is forget about that version. Put the 101 Dalmatians Cruella you know into a foggy misremembered drunken haze. You will not learn how Cruella got so narcissistic and entitled because this movie is about a different character. It’s a movie about a misunderstood prodigy struggling against conformity and totalitarianism in a creative industry. A Lady Gaga or Andy Warhol.

If you treat these as separate movies in separate universes, then you’ll have a better time. Emma Stone and Emma Thompson are great. It’s like The Devil Wears Prada with a big paint can of black & white “STYLE” poured onto it.

That’s what makes the movie–its style. It’s dripping with it, as you’d expect a movie about a fashion designer to be. Its visual and audio design was made with intent. It seems to take place in the 60s and 70s England, so there’s a lot of “mod” sight and sound, like in Austin Powers. But vampy, not campy. I want to listen to this soundtrack. I still think of the set design, the dresses, the clever acting dichotomy of Estella vs. Cruella.

Cruella' review: Emma Thompson out-devils Emma Stone - Los Angeles Times

It’s fun to have a hero who’s not a boy scout, not an eccentric genius inventor, not a super spy… actually just someone female is a boost. There haven’t been a lot of good movies with female protagonists in the past few years. Not only that but she’s a hero who’s a crafter and an artist. Not just a beater-of-ups. She works hard, she puts in the hours.

I think this character might become a new icon, like Maleficent. But she also reminded me of Harley Quinn, especially when she’s whacking people with her cane while wearing an eye mask. (This is a Superhero story, after all.) If Emma Stone wasn’t available, Margot Robbie would have made a great pinch-hitter.

What I don’t understand is why Disney gets totally crazy with its “side-stories” like Maleficent and Cruella and they’re great. But their remakes are dull as dishwater because they either don’t deviate from the source or negate the joy of the original (like Lion King’s expressionless animals or Mulan getting super-chi-powers). It should be reversed. The supervillain origin stories should be by-the-numbers and the remakes need to give something fresh and new, like a cover of a song.

But yes, Cruella. Forget what you may have heard, give it a try. It’s something a little different.

Sweet Tooth Looks Great But Is Horrible

sweet tooth title

Oh my god, I can’t get out of my head how much I hate this show. The first three episodes make it look great, but then the next five A) drag it out like a motherfucker and B) have some characters I can’t stand.

Most of all the kid. I hate this kid. Don’t get me wrong, the actor behind it is fine. The effects behind him aren’t great–his ears don’t look real, they look robotic. They don’t move like real deer ears. But that’s not what bothers me.

Sweet Tooth' Season 1 - All The Songs From the Soundtrack

What bothers me is that the kid is the root of all their problems. He’s the plot mover. Story slowing down? Get him in trouble. The kid is fucking incompetent. He can’t listen to instructions, has no discipline, and not an ounce of self-preservation.

Don’t have fires in the middle of the day. What does he do? Starts a fire in the middle of the day. That one I could forgive because it’s the catalyst for the story. But no, it doesn’t stop.

Maybe you shouldn’t piss off the guy with the gun who’s allowing you to follow him. What does he do? Pisses him off by eating all his food and medicine.

“Sit on the bench and don’t move while I get train tickets.” What does he do? He immediately gets out of his seat and starts wandering around.

“Don’t walk on the bridge, it won’t hold your weight.” What does he do? Immediately walks on the bridge and falls through. (Which leads to a dream sequence which I’ll talk about later).

“Stay still and don’t move or the man moving through the train car.” What does he do? He moves and knocks something over and alerts them. Do you want to die kid? Do you hate yourself (and me) that much?

Now is not the time to look for your stupid stuffed dog, there are guards on the train who will kill you and they are coming in. Maybe don’t wander away? What does he do? You guessed it… (At that point, Big Man is like “well, I know we’ll be too well off if I don’t go for his stuffed animal. Might as well resign myself to my fate.”)

Sweet Tooth (TV Series 2021– ) - IMDb
“Would you just fucking listen to me for once in your life?”

Fucking kid doesn’t think. What is he, ten? I have an eleven-year-old and I would trust her in a survival situation more than the kid who’s half-deer.

And at the very end is the piece de resistance, where he radios the bad guys his exact location. Whenever he starts a sentence with “Don’t get mad, but…” you know A) shit’s going down B) he knows what he did was wrong but he did it anyway. I don’t believe in child abuse but he’s only half-human. Can I half-smack him?

He gets his friend shot. How has he not learned there are consequences for his actions yet? The fact that he’s making mistakes isn’t the problem. It’s that he keeps making the same mistake over and over. He’s incompetent and he’s a liability to his allies.

This isn’t endearing. This isn’t “oh, he’s just a kid”. It’s not like he was never taught how dangerous and deadly the outside world is. AND HE KEEPS DOING IT. By the end of the series, I was rooting for Dr. Robotnik General Abbot to kill him, just to teach him a lesson.

The other character I can’t stand is Dr. Singh. I wouldn’t mind if Abbot gets him too. He’s such a whiny little bitch. He’s always crying about the cure and the medicine and what he has to do and PTSD from when the Sick first started. Bitch, didn’t you ever have a patient die? Medical school is not for the timid. I know, my brother-in-law is a doctor. I hate to be misogynistic, but man up.

Sweet Tooth' Netflix: Ending Explained
He’s ugly too.

He’s so brow-beaten by his wife. I’d rather the series be about her–she seems cool and tough. She’s horrified by what has to happen to get her treatments, but she also does not want to die. And when it comes to me and someone I don’t know, I might make the same decision. Especially if I’ve been doing it for so long.

And he keeps saying “she’s not contagious!” Bitch, how do you know? How do you know you’re not just immune. Or maybe even an asymptomatic carrier? I’m not a doctor and I know this stuff.

They’re hiding, essentially. Hiding in a nice gated-off community that has power and wifi and food and a doctor. And he’s keeping his wife’s Sick at bay with some kind of magic injection, but all it does is stave it off for a month. Then because they live in a neighborhood full of Karens, one of them finds out.

But just before she’s about to tell the world, they accidentally (fortunately?) kill her. But of course, because they love the drama, they hide the body in a freezer instead of A) burying it somewhere nowhere will find it or B) telling the truth because there’s no point to hide anything because the only person who knew about your wife’s Sick is now dead.

That would be the logical thing to do. But if this show embraced logic and rationality, the plot would never move forward. So we have to give characters the idiot ball just to keep things going.

7 Times Someone Caught The Idiot Ball In Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan

So the result is an intriguing first three episodes, and then five more of what I call “crying in front of the camera”. Each episode, when they’re not saving Deer-Kid from his own crapulence, is filled with heart-to-hearts, flashbacks, dream sequences, and whining/crying about their current situation to someone (when they’re the ones who got in that situation in the first place). They’re not character-building moments, they’re filler.

Not to mention, the plot is super predictable. Of course, Gus is a science experiment. You haven’t shown me that “magic” is a thing in this universe so the only other possible explanation is science gone awry.

I wish I hadn’t watched this. All it did was angry up my blood. But everyone was talking about it. Maybe because it’s aimed at a younger audience. Maybe because it’s about a relevant topic at a time we were binge-watching everything. It’s a fantasy-adventure that favors the child audience. But I know helicopters don’t crash into each other because of a virus and you still have to go to work and the world doesn’t end all at once.

Sony's iconic 'Twisted Metal' series is being adapted into a TV show
This is the only “Sweet Tooth” I need

This post may seem a little rushed but I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. And the posts that spew vitriol seem to get more views. I’m no rebel to the algorithm.

I Am Tired of “Protecting” the Unvaccinated

rorschach watchmen whisper no

I am tired of “protecting” the unvaccinated.

Look, there are no undecided people anymore.

The actions of state governments (or inactions, e.g. Texas, Florida) aren’t an excuse. Your leader doesn’t determine what you do. Only you do.

And if they’ve decided not to put a mask on, not to get the vaccine, they’re not going to. Nothing short of devastating personal loss is going to motivate them to do anything. The constant pleas to “wear your mask”, “get vaccinated”, “beware the delta variant” are falling on deaf ears. And I’m sick of hearing it. People are going to do what they want to do. They view it as legislating morality, which can’t be done.

It’s not like the abortion debate, where there are multiple solutions to a single problem and we can’t decide on which solution is morally the rightest. You can say contraceptives. You can say extend it to X weeks but not Y weeks. You can say under A conditions but not B conditions. You can say no abortions period. You can say abortions for some, miniature American flags for others. And all these are legitimate.

Covid is a gun. It’s a cold dead thing that doesn’t do anything but kill you. You can’t argue it might grow into the next Einstein. It’s a bunch of tiny invisible guns shooting everywhere. The vaccine gives you a bulletproof vest. You might still get a bruise, but it will prevent death. If you don’t get the vaccine, you are carrying a gun that’s constantly firing in all directions. Most of all at yourself.

No, either you have gotten the vaccine or you’ve chosen to be a vector for the disease. You can’t be a centrist fence-sitter on this one. There are three options: you can decide to do something, you can decide not to do something, or you can decide not to decide. And the last is always taken by fools and the ignorant. And in this case, option two and three are the same. And those options are putting me and my family at risk. No bones about it.

At this point, it’s the unvaccinated who are suffering most. They put themselves in the hospital. They spit and cough on people going to the grocery store and on airplanes. And you’re telling me to put on a mask to protect them? Funny, I don’t feel much like doing so.

All their beliefs are rooted in conspiracy theories and who’s yelling the loudest, not science. Facts don’t matter to them. They say “You have facts. I have alternative facts. Who’s to say who’s right?” Well, that’s not how discourse works.

Batman Begins - "I won't kill you...But I don't have to save you." (480p) -  YouTube
“I won’t kill you… but I don’t have to save you.”

I shouldn’t have to set myself on fire to keep others warm. I did my time. I put on my mask. I went without local businesses. I stayed away from public places. And now I have to go back to that? For people barely contributing to humanity in the first place?

In American Gods, the protagonist, an ex-convict, says that everyone does their own time.

“One thing he had learned early, you do your own time in prison. You don’t do anyone else’s time for them. Keep your head down. Do your own time.”

-Shadow, “American Gods”

In the context of the book, that means you don’t become involved in anyone else’s situation, or you end up serving their punishment for them.

Doing your own time, in this case, means letting the anti-vaxxers catch the disease and die. Because in this case, that’s the only way they’re going to learn. Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is a novel that takes place in a world where everyone is immortal because people can make back-ups of themselves. After a while, the only population left are those who follow this culture, because those who didn’t… well, they chose to be left behind.

But unfortunately, as we’ve seen in Florida and Texas and Ohio and other “red states”, letting them die means fewer resources for us. We’re seeing full ICU wards, hospital beds full of covid sufferers wishing they’d just gotten the vaccine. Those beds should be ours. And if I get a broken bone or my daughter gets encephalitis, we might not be able to get in. Is that the price we have to pay to wait for natural selection to weed out these refugees from reality?

Maybe. Could be worth the risk. Your freedoms are not worth as much as anyone’s life.

You think your freedoms are worth dying for? You first.

The Books I Read: July – August 2021

bookshelf books

Memory Man by David Baldacci

The first thing I thought of when I read the first chapter was Max Payne. It’s a very old game shaped like a crime noir graphic novel. In it, the detective (who doesn’t have the personality of a family man) comes home to find his wife and child killed by a druggie home invasion (which later turns out to be a conspiracy, but that’s not relevant here).

The same thing happens here–this is a detective novel where the main character discovers the bodies of his wife and child brutally killed in their home. The exception he doesn’t know who did it. Also, instead of John Woo powers, he remembers everything he hears/sees/senses. (The two aren’t connected–he got this ability from a football injury.) But one makes more sense for a written medium. None of this is good or bad, it’s just something I thought of.

The difference is that Max Payne is a send-up. A pastiche. Nearly self-referential. This one is all played straight. And it should be. And it works. And I loved it.

This is the kind of grit I was going for in Black Hole Son and Quake. A grimy emotionless man with an edge harder than steel. One who takes no shit, can’t stand people, but has an ability that makes him indispensable for saving the world. You can be a complete asshole and still help others. Use that hate for good.

I rated it five, but I’d really rate it 4.5 if GoodReads allowed centrist fence-sitters. The answer to the “whydunit” is sort of confusing. I guess it would have to be for someone who can access his life’s record like a DVR. The ending felt thinly tied to the character. You may say you read books for the journey, not the destination. But “whydunit”s are special in that the ending is particularly important.

The Weird Accordion to Al by Nathan Rabin
(unfinished)

Basically, this volume reviews every song ever written and released by “Weird Al” Yankovic. I mean every song. Ever. B-sides and rarities and I think any and every thing released to the public. The problem is–how much can you say about an artist’s work before it starts lacking originality? Even for someone as diverse as Weird Al? It was so boring I actually bought a physical copy and still didn’t finish it.

They’re just reviews. Like the kind you might see on AllMusic.com. So many glowing words just get repetitive. And it’s worse because it’s comedy. Mark Twain said “Explaining humor is a lot like dissecting a frog. You learn a lot in the process, but in the end, the frog is dead.”

I was hoping for content about the creation of each song, where it originated, what it means, how it was constructed. I expected details on the Lady Gaga and Coolio kerfuffles. What was the impetus for “Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung?”–a song about such an antiquated subject? Why does Weird Al write so many songs about creepy casanovas?

Maybe there’s a difference between what I expected the book to be and what the author wrote, which feels like a very long long long fan letter to each “Weird Al” song. And I have no need for that. I already like Weird Al Yankovic, I don’t need to be told why over and over.

For We Are Many (Bobiverse #2) by Dennis E. Taylor

It starts right where the last one left off, so don’t take a long time between reading this one and the last. There is an “appendix” at the back, but it’s not terribly helpful because it doesn’t give much context for the names and places. Fortunately, they’re all pretty much the same character, since they’re, you know, brain clones, since that’s the conceit of the book.

If this were a video game, I’d say it plays the same as the first. Some of the Bobs are working on evacuating Earth. Some are finding new planets. The central one is helping this race of alien hominids survive to become like humans. There isn’t much emotional or relationship drama because of course you’re going to get along with yourself.

All the good and bad of the first book continues in this second one, but there are new developments too. It’s good for us programmers and problem solvers but lacks the increased characterization that would come with a sequel. We get to know the people on the planets more than the Bobs.

It Had to Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
(unfinished)

This was not the book that marketing thinks it is. Judging by the cover and back copy, I thought this was going to be a happy bubbly chick lit like Twenties Girl or Catching Jordan. A wealthy socialite inherits a professional football team! The shenanigans!

No.

First, we start with some grim family drama. The old man dies and his Anna Nicole Smith wife comes in, just as drunk, and her dog pees on the coffin. Less Anna Kendrick and more Christopher Titus. Then in Chapter Two, there’s some a flashback to some rape. Then in Chapter Three, there’s some statutory rape… almost.

Turns out the author fooled you. When you thought you were reading about a teacher taking his sixteen-year-old student back to his place and having sex with her, that was just our hero engaging in some good old roleplay with his ex-wife who he can’t stop sleeping with. Classic chick lit.

Like, what is the point of deceiving us? You present him as reprehensible only to pull away the curtain to show he’s slightly less reprehensible. At least he’s not doing anything illegal like you thought? It’s like showing us a guy thinking he punched his kid, then it turned out it was just a small man. He still punched the guy.

Later this becomes a plot point (in the part I didn’t get to) where he engages in some rape play with her. Except it’s not her, like he thinks. It’s actually with the female love interest. And she’s too scared to say anything because she was previously raped by the football players her dead husband had coached. I don’t know how something like this could happen–it’s just dark. It’s not like her voice changed or they’re wearing eye masks. And there’s nothing about safe practices like safe words or even being slightly worried that this has ceased to be consensual. Very Fifty Shades of Grey.

This is not the book I thought it would be. And I blame the publishers more than the author. The cover shows a girl with balloons against a yellow background or a football whistle hanging between some sultry boobs. Not all this sexual assault. If you’re thinking it’s going to be “oh, how is this Paris Hilton archetype going to deal with all these manly men? Dur-hur-hur…” you have made the wrong selection.

Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer

It’s a fun YA adventure book about a space race. The characters are interesting, but the plot follows a path deeply tread by The Hunger Games. I wouldn’t call it “Katniss in Space”, but it has the same themes of adventure, reluctant heroes, clear lines between friends and enemies, and mass media attention.

It ends on a cliffhanger, and I can’t tell if I care enough to continue. The book just doesn’t seem like it takes itself that importantly, like these are the most important stories in these people’s lives.

The Lake House by Kate Morton
(unfinished)

There are two reasons I stopped reading this before the sample was done.

One: There’s a prologue with no named characters doing something that is irrelevant to what follows. You will literally forget what happened within the next few pages because it has no connection. It’s put in because the first chapter is a little girl trotting around her garden, talking to people. So the prologue has to act as the exciting, “pulling you in” thing. But like most prologues, it can be removed and nothing is affected.

Personally, I think the content of the first chapter is fine in itself. It’s a little girl having random thoughts, which is fine because she’s sixteen we need the exposition. So she talks about wanting to marry the gardener, and then trips on a log, and that she likes this old man but not this old woman. She’s a lot like Lizzie Bennet’s little sisters. It’s flighty and good characterization. But it demonstrates the second reason I stopped reading: so much telling, not enough showing.

The first two chapters are lots of inner monologuing by the main characters of two different timelines. They’re telling you what they already know for our benefit. There’s no dialogue, no interactions, no conflict. Just the POV character alone and infodumping.

And there is way too much of it. Too much detail, not enough story. I know some people like those long descriptive passages that really make you feel you’re in the book. I don’t. I’ve seen what a fancy English countryside looks like. I’ve watched Pride & Prejudice. I have an imagination. I don’t want to put two and two together about why you’re suspended from the force. Just read your performance review letter. Or a news article. Or even better, have a neighbor confront her.

My wife is reading this for book club right now and she has the same complaints I do. The story is just not moving forward. I don’t know who would like this book, but it’s not me.

The House of Wael by Chris Avellone
(unfinished)

I found this in my copy of Pillars of Eternity, which is a video game by same creators of Baldur’s Gate, but unique for being Kickstarted so well. Thus there were lots of free bonuses included. Finally got around to digging into the directory and discovering it (and that was because I was trying to clear space on my drive and found the documentary video).

Free is about what it’s worth. I thought it had potential in the beginning, but the first chapter goes on and on. There’s a whole paragraph about a guy taking a breath.

I guess it’s framed to be like someone discovered some scrolls of Wael, which is a god in Pillars of Eternity. But it reads like someone told this guy to write a novella in a week. I was hoping it would engross me in the game, give some background on events. But this is for the people who like Homestuck, who are either completionists or like Time Sink Fallacy followers.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

This is a good book. It’s a classic high concept romance with a twist — the guy is a quadriplegic and the woman is his personal assistant (non-medical). On the surface, it feels like another entry in all the “Sick Kids in Love” stories I’ve read lately, except these are adults. So if you like that genre but don’t like the juvenility of YA, this is for you.

The writing is good and there’s not much “thinking” (as in the character navel-gazing and whining about the situation they’re in and wondering what to do about it, common in romances and which stagnates the plot).

The best part is Act II, especially the “fun & games” section and that’s because the author really shines in characterization. I feel like she was good at not only forming these characters even if quadriplegia wasn’t part of it, but then also nailed the ailment as well. So I got a sense of learning something as well as being entertained, which makes for a Satisfying Reader Experience (TM).

The book delivers the promise of the premise without bogging it down with common trappings of romance books (like wool-gathering over “do I love him?” “how do I know I’m in love?” “can I be in love?” “should I be?” and so on).

The Swap by Megan Shull

Nuance, thy name is not this book.

This is the same damn “Freaky Friday” story we’ve all heard before. I was hoping that this time there would be something different because it’s a genderswap, something I didn’t get from Cycler. There are so many issues you can explore by putting a boy in a girl’s body and vice versa. Life-affirming issues like that not all guys are horndogs/killers/rough stuff and not all women are crybaby drama queens. But no, this is like a bad middle school play.

The problem is the girl and boy therein are too similar. They both do sports. They both live in single-parent households. They both have friends that may/may not be good for them. The girl’s big problem is that her best friend has joined a Mean Girl Clique (TM) and EVERYTHING out of her mouth is something snide and/or passive-aggressive. Example: (while walking by) “Some people just shouldn’t wear clothes that don’t fit their figure, right?” The mean girl’s name? Sassy.

And the boy is part of a hockey-playing family of four brothers (who everyone gets into Boston College). Their names are Stryker, Gunner, and Jett. And they are constantly using slang. Like not a single sentence comes out that’s not some kind of hockey jargon. I don’t think they have an English class in their middle school. Everything is “Bro got the flow chopped” and “We’re just rippin’ you, Jacko” and “I could sit here all night, quick scoping fools!” Their dad is a maniacal army captain. And he acts more like a serial killer than a strict dad.

This is like an Disney Channel sitcom*–overacted, full of one-note archetypes, plotted poorly, bad hackneyed comedy, characters acting outrageously, no real stakes or pinch points, and the ending is just weird. I think if you’re going to make a “Freaky Friday” book, you’ve got to have more dynamic than just a single characteristic (i.e. age or gender). Like if the boy was a nerd and the girl was popular, there’s more to be explored. But this, I didn’t learn a damn thing from it. Like, what was it written for? To fill pages? To kill trees?

*In fact, it became a Disney Channel Original Movie, so take that for what’s it worth.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
(unfinished)

Basically, I don’t want to read a nine-hundred-page novel. I did it with The Elven. I sort of did it with The Grapes of Wrath. And I’ve found that they’re just not worth the time needed. There are so many other stories out there. There are better stories out there. I don’t want to waste my temporal investment on a story I know isn’t going invest in me. There’s something about readers where they think if you read a long work, you get some kind of medal. Proust, James Joyce, Tolstoy. Big Sunk Cost Fallacy working there.

I think this one fell into that, where it got some kind of Exit Through the Gift Shop hype train because A) foreign writer B) long work C) takes its name from another literary classic. This book has jack-all to do with 1984 by George Orwell. There’s no themes of surveillance or big government or anything like that. It’s called that because the main character thinks she’s in a slightly alternate world and the year is 1984. And the Japanese word for “Q” sounds like “9”. So it’s really a translation foible. It’d be like calling a book “Manimal Farm”, but it’s about the Animorphs.

So like I said, I don’t know the reason for all the hype, why I kept seeing this on my radar. The content is like a puzzle that’s nothing but a white picture. Besides that, it’s just boring. This is the kind of book that just reinforces my point about post-modern literary movement being garbage foisted on us by rich white publishers.

The End of Bill and Bob (for now?)

saint st. bonfacius billboard

So last week I drove down to Hwy 7 and was delighted to be reminded that the first of the month means (possible billboard changes). And nothing delighted me more than to see an advertisement for Grove Bank instead of Bill and Bob’s empty rhetoric. But the real question was… did the other side get the same treatment?

Yes, it did! Now there’s a beautiful sign welcoming you to St. Bonifacius, with a lovely photograph of a bike trail in the fall (see above).

Does this mean Bill and Bob are no more? I doubt it. I’ve seen their tirades come and go before. But now that Biden’s in office and the pandemic is trickling down, maybe they don’t have the supportive social bubble they once did.

My god, that thing’s been up for a year. I was about ready to contact Naegle and see if they were actually paying for all this time up or just no one wanted to put up something new. Maybe I could do a “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” on them. How much could a billboard for a month cost? Three hundred dollars?

I would’ve put up puppies.

Dogs Wallpapers Backgrounds: Happy Puppies Funny Dog Wallpapers Backgrounds

My Three Goals as a Writer

mountain climb goal

I want to be a writer, as you can see from the one thousand plus posts I’ve put up. But I also like to make money, which is why I’m not a capital-“A” author yet. There are only so many hours in the day. So for now, writing is a fun thing until I hit that publishing lottery and get something in print.

But there are other ways to get a steady job in the printed word. I’m too introverted for journalism (except as a columnist or editorial writer) and I’m not fast enough for freelancing. But there are some fun things I’d like to do. Here are three.

I would like to write a porno. I know what you’re saying–pornographic movies don’t have scripts. All you need is a girl and a light and a room. And that’s true. But you know what, some people want a little more. Someone has to come up with why stepsister got stuck in the laundry machine again.

And there are high-end films like Pirates and stuff by Wicked Pictures and Vivid and others. Those Wood Rocket parodies, terrible as they are, have a fair amount of dialogue. And there are erotica films (nice ones like Emmanuelle, not Blue Velvet or Secretary). And I’ve certainly watched enough material to be an expert in the genre.

The Sexy Movie (A Hotwife Romance) Revised: Working Girls: Book 1 - Kindle  edition by Semenov, Cathy. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

I had an idea for a sexy movie based off of Rusalka, which is the Russian version of The Little Mermaid. I think there’s untapped potential in “woman as non-human” market, like Monster Musume or furries. A movie like that would be expensive — make-up and prosthetics and body paint that doesn’t rub off. You wouldn’t want a cheap script to bring it down.

File:May Irwin Kiss.ogv

But honestly, I’d be pretty happy being able to write a script even for a straight-to-video B-movie of any kind. Although I’d most like horror or sex. Hey, I’m setting unrealistic expectations anyway, why not? And someone had to write “Killjoy”.

I would like to be a political speechwriter. There are certain issues I’m passionate about, and I get real sick of not being able to do anything about it. My only options are to vote, which I can only do every four years, or “write to my congressman” which does fuck all. Do Matt Gaetz and Susan Collins act like they read any of their letters? So no, I’m not going to waste my talents on that.

But I’m not extroverted enough to be the guy who makes the change. I don’t have a likable personality. I’m not friendly. I can’t be insincere or dishonest. And I hate long meetings. I can’t be the guy who heads the charge. But I could be the neck that turns the head.

How to Become a Better Storyteller: Tips from Obama's Speechwriter,  Unpacked | by Steve Seager, Storywise | Medium

Being a speechwriter would be pretty cool, I think. I could nudge my ideas while someone else is my mouthpiece. Ben Stein was a speechwriter for Richard Nixon and he has some memorable stories from that time. Certainly some memorable speeches from that time (infamous, but that’s not Ben Stein’s fault). And I’ve heard a Moth story about a speech writer who worked personally with Bill Clinton. He even risked his job for integrity to preserve for what he’d written. And it was just a comedy speech.

No one listens to speeches anymore. There’s no Fireside Chats or “And now a special announcement from the President of the United States.” (I mean, yeah, I’d get hella pissed off when that interrupted prime time TV, but I think bringing back the personal presence of the commander-in-chief is important. Not just a tweet from @PresBiden saying “Get Vaccinated”).

But even if those existed would anyone listen? Today’s speeches aren’t sharp. They’re not brevitous. Their sentence structure is not meant for speaking. They don’t commit to anything. They hedge and hedge so that everyone’s happy and the result is no one is. Why don’t Americans listen? Because they’re not entertaining.

Jon Stewart explains why he quit 'The Daily Show' - POLITICO

But you can be entertaining AND informative. The Daily Show proved that. Last Week Tonight proved that. Fox News proved that. (I said “entertaining and informative”, not truthful.) We need something to get behind. The last memorable political slogan was Obama’s “HOPE”. A single word. That’s silly. We need a “We choose to go to the moon…” We need a “The only thing we have to fear…” The only time I get directed to viral speeches these days are commencements by funny people like Conan O’Brien and Jim Carrey. Books and movies have more motivational political lines than this.

“We burn, you burn with us.”

—The Hunger Games

“You don’t have to be the bad guy.”

—The Lego Movie

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

—Spider-Man

“We are cancelling the apocalypse.”

—Pacific Rim

“Fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me… can’t get fooled again.”

—George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States of America, head of state and government of the most powerful nation in the world from 2001 – 2009

And I shouldn’t have to list any #45 quotes.

At work, the CEO and VPs always make sure to tell us how great everything is and what progress we’re going to make and how we’re going to make our product fantastic. But never about how we’re going to get there. Sounds a lot like today’s promises with no action plans. I’d want to change that, to give confidence to the people.

Ode to Remus/Sirius & Newsies...: remusxsirius — LiveJournal

I like to think I’m good at entertaining and editorializing, as this blog might prove. I’d love to make change, but I’d have to work with someone else. Like in Newsies, where Jack has the charisma and leadership and the guy from Glee tells him what to say. But every time I’ve been a leader I’ve fucked it up. I need to cater to my strengths and eschew being a figurehead. Besides, this way I don’t take the blame when scandal arises.

I would like to write licensed garbage. Okay, garbage is a bit harsh, but I’m assessing my own skill level here. One of my favorites authors is Peter David and some of my favorite books written by him are licensed Star Trek novels. Now I’m certainly not at Star Trek/Star Wars level, but there are all kinds of IP. Every time I’ve tried reading them, it’s always a disaster. I’ve tried Dishonored, Bioshock, Marvel’s She-Hulk, Disney’s Descendants, and even My Little Pony.

There was even a whole podcast dedicated to books about video games (not tips & tricks, like stories). Someone had to write them. I think it would be neat if it was me.

Of course, I wouldn’t want to be a content mill. I have more integrity than that. But I think it would be fun to write something like a Dungeons & Dragons novel. Just a space adventure or Golden Fleece quest that exists outside the realm of canon. I like lots of licensed IP–Marvel, Batman, Disney Princesses, Borderlands, Ghostbusters, Left 4 Dead, Mortal Kombat. I could even do obscure shit like The Evil Dead or Quake or Katawa Shoujo.

In Japan, they have a thing called the “light novel“. It’s just a novella and usually based on existing anime or manga. I think that could be perfect to introduce to the American market. They only seem to like doorstoppers–five-hundred-page behemoths. I don’t know why–it’s like they think a bigger book means more “intelligence points”.

All licensed fiction is fan fiction, just commissioned by the owner of the IP. I think it would be fun to take existing characters or an established universe, fuck everything up, then put it back together. I could do that, even for an IP I’m not too familiar with. Hell, it would be even better because I wouldn’t have reservations about taking chances with characters or plot.

Is Resident Evil 5 Racist and I’m Just Not Seeing It?

resident evil 5 africa settlement

When Resident Evil 5 came out, I remember there was much outcry about it being racist, because you play as a white guy and you shoot a bunch of Black people. What could be wrong with that?

This came about because I was listening to a video game podcast (The Besties) ranking the best Resident Evil games and RE5 didn’t make it past the first round. Mostly because it failed to fix the mistakes of RE4 and didn’t add anything new or innovative (except maybe the co-op).

So I guess you could call this a “Late to the Game“. I played RE5 way after it came out, but not, like, yesterday.

Even in today’s context, I’m not seeing what’s specifically “I’m trying to suppress you because your skin is a different color.” I see “I’m trying to suppress you because you are a monster zombie trying to kill me.”

Resident Evil 5 Map to Be Included in Multiplayer Shooter Umbrella Corps -  GameSpot

They’re IN Africa. There’s going to be Black people there. It’s hard to walk around Africa without running into one or two. If there was a zombie outbreak, I guarantee a few would get infected.

There IS a part in the beginning where a blonde white woman is pulled against her will into a shack and infected with the parasite. It’s “blink and you’ll miss it”, has no bearing on the plot, character model has no name, never shows up before or after. Why is she there? Why did they make her white to stand her out, then do nothing but fridge her?

There’s also a white antagonist named who seems to be a slimy carpetbagger. He’s a “business man with standards” and sounds like Wario if he were less cartoonish. He acts exactly like Chucky, but is more a pastiche of Salazar from RE4–he can’t be taken seriously.

And let’s not forget Booby McGee and Sheva Alomar, the light-skinned female characters who barely look Black despite being African. These aspects make the game “iffy” at best and “terribly racist” at worst. So I’m not saying it’s got a halo on its head.

But when Resident Evil 4 was released no one made an outcry because they were all Spanish people. And it’s not like there’s no similar history of racism and colonialism against Hispanics and Latinos. Is it because slaves came from Africa? But then aren’t you treating all of Africa as a country?

People don’t take time to understand context when it comes to cultural insensitivity, just like Anita Sarkeesian’s analyses. This game was made in Japan. Do they have a history of racism there? Yes, indeedy. But it’s like this:

MrPopoDragonBall.png
Mr. Popo from DragonBall Z

Mostly based on what American troops brought over during the WWII occupation. Japan’s history does not include bringing a whole race of people from one continent to another, enslaving them for three-quarters of a century, then letting them go without a system or compensation to “pull themselves up.” (In fact, instituting several social programs and laws to ensure they never gain political or financial power.)

So when they try to duplicate past success, they think “Well, going to places other is working out. We went to the South Pacific and Antarctica in Code Veronica, and Spain in Resident Evil 4, which was a smash. Where could a zombie outbreak occur with interesting visuals and is somewhere Umbrella’s money can create a foothold? How about Africa?”

The Scramble for Africa | Mr. Leverett's World History
Just imagine Umbrella is one of the guys tugging at the edge.

Now this is a case of treating all Africa as a country, which might make me seem hypocritical since I just accused you of it. But we’re not talking about literary treatment, we’re talking about racism. Why would you think Japan’s intent is related to American slavery? Do you think Resident Evil 5 was meant to sell to Proud Boys and right-wingers who get their jollies off shooting Black people?

Now I’m certain some of those sick types bought Resident Evil for that reason. But once you put art in the world, you aren’t able to control what other people do with it. No one wanted My Little Pony to become the fandom for unwashed convention-going demi-misogynists with obsessive tendencies.

Conservative brony: justneckbeardthings

Would a Resident Evil where it all takes place in Detroit or South Central Philadelphia be racist? As long as the number of zombies reflects the demographics of that city, I don’t see how. A Resident Evil that takes place in Madison, Wisconsin and all the zombies are non-white — that’s racist. Because it’s lying about the true nature of the setting to induce a certain reaction (that of racist delight).

I might have put my foot in my mouth on this one, but please, tell me what I missed.

Cragun’s Resort Review

cragun's on gull lake resort

I just got back from a three-day stay at Cragun’s and I feel like I have to take a vacation from my vacation. The food is disgusting. The accommodations are outmoded. Everything feels muddy and grimy. I know it’s a lake resort, but the inside shouldn’t feel like the lake.

The first night, I was woken at 2:30 AM by the people next door, loudly clapping and drunkenly singing. We immediately called the front desk. They did nothing.

I know they did nothing because the walls are thin enough I would have heard a knock at their door or a phone call. But they continued for another hour. And this is after they had gotten a first noise complaint at ten o’clock for their loud music. This tells me the staff is undertrained and undermotivated.

Soundproofing Thin Walls Between Apartments | Fix Shared Walls

The resort layout is confusing, and there aren’t enough maps or signs to guide you. I have never seen so many people wandering the halls and asking me where something was. Cragun’s caters to large groups like reunions and weddings. The rest of us are left on our own.

My room was on the first floor of one of the Lakeside Lodge rooms. If you bring any of your own lake equipment (such as paddleboards or inner tubes), the first floor is convenient to store belongings on your balcony, then take them to the beach. But the second or third floor can only hang their beach towels to dry.

Sheets, towels, and other amenities are not changed every day–according to “policies agreed upon by the hotel association”. I’m fine with that–it saves the environment. But there is no place to hang them up. Between swimsuits, beach towels, bathing towels, life vests, and other clothes, you will run out of space immediately. This may be a Covid regulation, but the hotel is forcing the burdens on the guest. The television guide was outdated and the internal TV guide didn’t work.

Rooms with Fireplace, Lake View & Loveseat | Cragun's Resort

Speaking of entertainment, television was preferable to the “many” activities. Because, while there were a lot, we didn’t want to do any of them. Anything you want to do, they nickel and dime you. Disc Golf costs $5 per person just to “rent” three frisbees. That’s $20 for a family of four. Twenty dollars for Disc Golf! On a small unkempt field full of weeds and deer poop. Paddles for the Ping Pong table had been stolen and the pool table had been jammed with baseballs. And ping pong balls come from a vending machine.

Anything that’s free is just a glorified scavenger hunt. The board games are basic. The crafts are meant for preschoolers. So if it rains, bring your own entertainment.

Restaurants in Brainerd MN | Cragun's Resort on Gull Lake

Food is substandard. There are two breakfast restaurants. One is a buffet. The first day we were there, they ran out of bacon. As soon as they resupplied the bacon, they ran out of plates. When they restocked the plates, they ran out of coffee cups. Then potatoes. The sausage in the sausage gravy tasted like cut-up hot dogs. The eggs were square-shaped. The orange juice was “Juicy Juice”. Do you know what the first ingredient in “Juicy Juice” orange juice is? Hint: It’s not orange juice.

The other place has breakfast burritos and breakfast sandwiches that are reheated and taste processed to hell. The meat in the sandwiches is “meat of the day”. I don’t know how they expect to compete with chains with service and food like this.

Cragun’s is only good if you bring your own lake gear (e.g. a boat, jet ski, paddleboard, etc.) or plan to golf the entire time. This resort can’t get the little things right. And if they place so little value on the little things, how much can they care about the big things?