Chad’s Favorite Fifteen of 2016

I’m ashamed that my list isn’t very esoteric. Every film on here was a fairly mainstream release and all of them have received some level of praise and success. But I didn’t find any hidden gems this year. I’m sure there were some. If you found them, let me know. But here’s my list of my favorite films of 2016, as usual broken into 3 tiers: I. Masterpieces, II. Great Films, and III. Very Good Films.

I.

ARRIVAL (Denis Villeneuve)

Sicario was my favorite film of 2015 and now here’s Villeneuve’s latest, at the top of my list once again. Needless to say he’s becoming one of the world’s premier filmmakers. I normally wouldn’t be too excited about new Bladerunner and Dune films, but with Denis at the helm, I’m now actively looking forward to them. I’m not talking about the actual film too much. I don’t want to give any of it away. Yes, it is a film about a couple scientists trying to communicate with alien visitors. But that is just one layer of this beautiful gut-punch of an onion, and I’d rather you peel it for yourself and cry your eyes out. Lois Lane, Hawkeye, and Saw Gerrera are all great but it’s Eric Heisserer’s screenplay and Villeneuve’s confidence and grace behind the camera that make this one of the best science fiction experiences ever put to film.

THE HANDMAIDEN (Park Chan-Wook)

Park’s best film since Old Boy, The Handmaiden is not at all what it seems. The poster and title and production design and costuming would leave you to believe that you’re about to watch a “serious” period drama, a Korean “Downton Abbey” or something. But The Handmaiden, while having those trappings, is a crazy-as-fuck double-and-triple-cross forbidden-lesiban-love-story con movie. It is fun and hysterical and sexy and entertaining and, shot through Park’s unique eye, a visual treat that I can’t wait to revisit. It’s not a film for everyone, I guess, but it’s definitely a film for me. Villeneuve and Park. Two of cinemas boldest voices. Right here at the top of my list. Who’d have thought?

OJ: MADE IN AMERICA (Ezra Edelman)

The flat-out most compelling thing that I watched all year. There was some debate over whether or not Made in America was a feature film or not, but, despite its 7 hour plus run time, and the fact that most people saw it on TV, it has been nominated for Best Documentary at the Oscars and that makes it a movie. And what a movie. I was a young man as the O.J. saga unfolded, and, like most of America, I was fascinated by it, but Edelman’s documentary is so much more than just a recounting of the “Trial of the Century”. The first part alone, which covers the historical relationship between the police and Los Angeles’ South Central black communities, is an Oscar-worthy piece that seems even more relevant today. Don’t know anything about O.J. Simpson or his trial? Watch this. Don’t know anything about the history of police brutality by the LAPD? Watch this. Still angry that O.J. went free, don’t understand how an obviously guilty man was found not guilty in front of the entire world? Watch this. You will understand. Filled with a dozen stunning “what-the-fuck-did-he-just-say?” moments, each episode will propel you into the next and you won’t be sated until it’s all over. This is not some exploitative true-crime documentary. This is a work of art, a film about so many things, and one of the best films of 2016.

II.

MOONLIGHT(Barry Jenkins)

Nothing I can say about Moonlight that hasn’t been said by its reviews and its run through awards season. Achingly delicate film, anchored by 3 strong actors all playing the same character, with a big assist from this year’s breakout star, Mahershala Ali, in a film that may win him an Oscar, Jenkins delivers a film that will stick with you for a long time.

LION (Garth Davis)

I knew nothing about Lion when I saw it, and I’m glad. A true story about a young Indian boy who is separated from his family and adopted by an Australian couple, this is the year’s best “uplifting” film, and if you can get through the end without crying, I welcome you as my new robot overlord.

SILENCE (Martin Scorsese)

I am admittedly a Scorsese fanboy, him being our greatest living director and all, and I think Silence is a masterpiece, the third and most likely final of his overtly religious works (Marty tends to revisit certain topics three or four times, then give them a rest), Silence is a deeply meditative, slow, quiet, and even-handed film that should appeal to believers and nonbelievers alike. I think over the years, this film my creep farther up my list. Like most of Scorsese’s films, I will watch it many more times over the course of my life.

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS (Tom Ford)

Fashion designer Tom Ford released A Single Man in 2009 and I loved the shit out of that movie. Nocturnal Animals isn’t as strong, or as emotionally resonant, but it is a work of somber fiction that matches my sensibilities well. IMDB summarizes the plot as “A wealthy art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a symbolic revenge tale.” I guess that’s true. Come for the story, stay for the Adams, the Gyllenhaal, the Shannon, and the Ford.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (Kenneth Lonergan)

Speaking of somber fiction, Manchester is driven by a challenging screenplay by Lonergan but will remembered because of the power of Casey Affleck’s soon-to-be Oscar winning performance. It’s an incredible bit of screen acting. And don’t overlook the often-overlooked Michelle Williams. She’s only in a few scenes but she fucking kills it. Not a date movie. Not a movie to watch if you want to get anything else done that day. But a movie you should see nonetheless. Although I’m not sure you’ll want to see it twice.

III.

HELL OR HIGH WATER (David Mackenzie)
Great modern western featuring great modern actors. Nice to see Chris Pine playing a character and not just relying on his Kirk charm to get him through (coughchrisprattcough).

EVERYBODY WANTS SOME (Richard Linklater)
Not a sequel to Dazed & Confused like people wanted, but this film is classic Linklater: there is very little story, it feels like nothing happens, it meanders, and I love it all the more for it.

MOANA (Ron Clements & John Musker)
Moana Will forever have a special place in my heart (it was my oldest daughter’s first movie theater experience) but it is also the best Disney animated film in years (including Pixar). And with songs by Hamilton’s Lin Miranda, I can’t even complain when my daughter wants to listen to the soundtrack over and over.

ROAD TO BUSAN (Sang-ho Yeon)
Snowpiercer with zombies. What else do you need? Go rent it now.

FENCES (Denzel Washington)
Two of the world’s best actors yelling and crying at each other for two and a half hours? Count me in. Washington does very little to “open up” this August Wilson play, but he and Viola are such pure fire you won’t care.

ROUGE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (Gareth Edwards)
It feels good to have a Star Wars film on here. And it deserves it. It was so much more Star Wars literate than The Force Awakens and I felt so much at home.

HIDDEN FIGURES (Theodore Melfi)
A film about three truly inspiring women told in a fairly uninspired way, it’s impossible to deny the importance and power of Melfi’s film, even if I wish he had found a more compelling way to tell it. But these women, though, and these actresses. Man. Worth it just for them.

Just for fun, here’s my list of the BEST TV OF 2016. No particular order, no details. Just a quick list. We all know TV is better than movies these days. Pretty soon these lists will merge as the walls between media crumble.

 

 

 

 

 

LUKE CAGE, ATLANTA, BETTER CALL SAUL, STAR WARS: REBELS, GAME OF THRONES, SILICON VALLEY, BATES MOTEL, WESTWORLD, LAST WEEK WITH JOHN OLIVER, and, yes, STRANGER THINGS, although I didn’t love it as much as everybody else did.

A Thought for Every Thursday – What’s in a Heart?

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday at Tessera Guild I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

What’s in a Heart?

What’s a gesture worth?

What’s the value of symbol, an image, or an idol?

If you think about it, we’re surrounded by symbols. They’re on our cars, on our sports team logos, on businesses, roads, and flags.

Some of these symbols appear to be of more importance than others.

Like how the McDonalds arches are more widely known than the Maserati ‘M’.

Or how the US flag is always hoisted higher on the pole than the others.

Human gestures can also be symbolic. Like remaining silent during a somber moment, flipping someone a middle finger, or standing (or not) during a ceremonial moment.

These symbols and gestures are obviously important to many people, otherwise no one would be up in arms whenever someone else didn’t observe the popular protocol.

Let’s talk about that.

If a person remains silent during a somber moment, does it really, truly imply their respect for the moment? Given how our thoughts are our best-kept secret, is it possible many (or even most) people are thinking about something completely unrelated to the moment at hand?

What about symbols such as military standards, sacred buildings, and flags? If a person stands at attention (or otherwise appears to pay their respects) does it really reflect what’s in their heart?

Is it possible that many of the people giving apparent respect don’t actually give a damn? Is it probable?

And if it were true that some of the people who appear to give respect don’t actually care much about whatever’s happening in the moment, does that mean we’re kidding ourselves when we praise the appearance of respect and turn our noses up at the apparent lack of it?

Because it’s what lies in the heart that really matters, right?

Gestures and symbols are nice things to have, but do they really have the meaning we think they do?

Also…when’s the last time you stood at attention before a symbol (a building, a flag, etc) when no one else was looking?

I don’t know the answers.

Which is why I’m asking you.

* * *

taco-bell

I’m willing to bet a LOT of people worship this symbol…

Past ATFET’s are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Dragoncon 2016 – The Good and Other Thoughts

Last week I talked a lot about the bad stuff that went down at Dragon Con this year. These are obviously not crazy problems, and I completely understand that. More it was as much about having that moment where you just say “this is going to be one of those weekends” and it happened to be this particular one.

That said, I do have some thoughts about the convention below that occurred to me as I was waiting in the fabulous Line Ride(s).

south-park-line-ride

But first, The Good

On Saturday we saw the Legends of Tomorrow panel where I got to see a man dance like he might have been Michael Jackson in a previous life. Considering he plays Hawkman, a character whose whole gimmick is reincarnation, it was somewhat fitting. I discovered that the man who plays Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) might actually be Vandal Savage in real life (or more to the point, just frickin’ owns the role!). I realized that the cast realized they might have a drinking game on their hands with the number of times Kendra (Hawkgirl) says “But I was a barista only 3 weeks ago!” Something Robert had brought up the day before (that I hadn’t really noticed).

legendsheader

Oh, and the complaint about not getting the line in quick enough from last week? Apparently that was not a problem for this panel as we got moving 15 minutes before the panel started and were seated by the time things got started.

Maybe it is a hotel thing?

I sat in a number of writing panels where I either learned something or it helped to reinforce some things I knew, but haven’t yet put into proper practice. I like to think of those panels as a nice way to get recharged for the rest of the year. You have all these people who just want to get their ideas out there, tell their stories, and hope someone enjoys them.

It’s refreshing.

Even on Sunday, we had no problems getting into the vendor’s room, and the extra floor really helped to let things breathe a little bit more. That’s probably the single best thing from the convention expanding into the America’s Mart buildings these last couple of years.

Like I said before, while it might have started out rough, we came home on Sunday with smiles on our faces, already looking forward to next year.

The OTHER

I do have a couple of thoughts about Dragon Con and where it might need to go eventually. Again, I’ve been going to Dragon Con virtually every year since 1993. And I know I’m probably in the minority on this, but during those moments when you can’t move due to the sheer amount of bodies in a building, where you can’t get into a panel without having to wait an hour plus in a line, and where there is even discussion about what a Fire Marshall might require.. it might be that Dragon Con is TOO BIG.

Dragon Con 2016

I’m not sure of the attendance numbers, I do feel that Dragon Con has gotten bigger and bigger over the last 4 or 5 years. When it gets unpleasant for people to be there, that’s not really the goal, is it?

Maybe they should consider a couple of things:

Capping attendance. Not sure if that is through only having pre-sale 4 day passes or something. I know they want to be able to serve everyone who wants to come, but enough is enough.

Or maybe this Con needs to move to a bigger venue. Yes, we all love that it’s in the hotels. It means that when you are sore and tired (and have a room), you can go upstairs and take a rest. But one of the things hotels create are choke-points. The sky bridges are natural choke points. Everyone is in costume, and it’s awesome, but I can’t move from one building to another because there is no flow. So many times it becomes salmon swimming upstream.

This year we were lucky to not have rain most of the weekend. When it rains no one walks the streets and the hotels cannot handle it. It becomes a complete mess.

Now used to be, before the Chick-fil-a Kickoff game didn’t exist, I thought “Hey, move to the World Congress Center, we’d have the space and everything would be in ONE BUILDING (effectively)”. Currently the Con is now in 6 buildings over like 5-6 blocks.

SIX BUILDINGS!

Come on. That is far too many.

Now that the football game exists, I don’t think being over there would be the best idea. We’d be on top of the football tailgaters. And while I love the looks on the people from out-of-town as they gawk at the cosplayers, we’d just be over crowed somewhere else.

So my solution, assuming the World Congress Center would work otherwise, is to move the date of Dragon Con. It’s not unprecedented. Used to be it was in mid-July. If you moved it, you’d be asking people to take that Monday off (instead of having the built-in holiday), but I’m not sure that would really be the issue. Monday is kind of hit or miss most years (we normally use that day to recover, but maybe we’re in the minority). Find that weekend where you are the only BIG THING in town.

Now maybe that would mean a slight dip in attendance, but I’m saying that may not be a bad thing. If there were 5-10% fewer people there… just something to think about.

And there is another benefit, more hotels available for the con goers. You wouldn’t be competing with the football people for rooms. Heck, could it be possible the prices might drop slightly (probably not, but I can dream).

Note, this is not me dreaming of the “good old days”, just trying to make it a little better before it becomes too big (an odd statement to be sure).

Again, maybe I’m just being grumpy. It’s always possible.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Dragon Con/ Labor Day Weekend: Seen Through New Eyes

dragoncon

A couple of weeks ago I made my annual pilgrimage to Dragon Con. Heading to the Southeast’s foremost sci-fi/ fantasy/ cosplay/ comic book/ art expo/ geek party convention is a trip that I always require myself to take.

It’s a release of sorts for me as it allows my inner geek to chill and unwind. It’s like Christmas and Mardi Gras for nerds, and it’s fun as heck.

A place which has created a ton of fun memories including hanging with friends and now family, meeting celebrities, watching my friends run away from said celebrities (a story for another time), spending long hours in ticket lines discussing a host of nerdy topics, finding awesome deals with vendors, and getting my first shot in comics.

So to introduce this fun and crazy world to a newbie was a fulfilling experience, one I found myself enjoying a bit more than I’d expected.

My wife and I invited our nephew to spend the Labor Day weekend with us, which included taking him to his first convention, his first comic book store, and him handing my butt to me several times over in video games.

A quick rundown of the weekend:

Day One: After starting the morning with me getting my butt handed to me in the DC Comics fighting game Injustice: Gods Among Us (the less said the better) my wife, nephew, and I headed down to the greatest convention on Earth.

Yeah, I said it. It’s fact.

Researched by scientists everywhere. 🙂

Most regular attendee’s to the event understand if you wait until the day of to buy tickets for the event, then you’re sort of S.O.L in terms of having to wait in a long line. No biggie, but it just requires you to be extremely patient.

But if you’re my nephew, possible frustration is trumped by excitement as a result of the unofficial parade of cosplay that’s on display. This kid was constantly picking out favorite characters from such animated offerings as RWBY and  Steven Universe. Taking pictures, pointing them out to my wife, and just having a great time in line.

0-steven-universe

This excitement carried on into the day, as he continued to take pictures galore of the event, and had his mind blown when we hit up the vendors area where he bought a Steven Universe sword, and a set of customizable Lego’s.

He was so hyped that we wound up taking him home halfway through the day, as he was filled to the brim with geekery.

Day Two: After breakfast at Golden Corral (where you can find a breakfast of champions for folks like myself who love to chow down) my wife and I decided to take my nephew to the local comic book store in our area. Here was another first as he’d never been to a comic book store.

Are we an awesome aunt/ uncle pair, or what?

This kid’s mind once again was blown as he walked around the shop, taking in all of the superhero related merchandise adorning the store. When I showed him an Avatar: The Last Airbender trade paperback he was extremely excited, as this series and The Legend of Korra are personal favorites of his. The smile that stayed on his face when we bought the book for him will be an image that’ll stay in this ‘ole noggin for a while.

avatarcvr

I tried to keep that  smile in my head as he continued to kick my butt later on in Injustice. Seriously, no one should be that dang good when it comes to that game.

It’s not natural.

Injustice-Gods-Among-Us

Present: Fast forward to a family get together we had last weekend, and my wife calls me into the room to see something my nephew has.

He hands me a Manga that he’s drawing/writing, and as I flip through it I’m getting extremely proud of this kid. Not that I wasn’t before, but this just added like 10K more cool points for him in my book.

So to the organizers of Dragon Con, and our local comic book store: thanks. Looks like you might’ve inspired a future creator to take his first steps into creating comics.

And that’s never a bad thing.

Route 3: Sean’s Playlist

I like music. I like it a lot.

When I’m in my car I’ve got my Cake, Chance The Rapper, The Roots, Red Hot Chili Pepper, Kanye West, or Tito Puente Pandora stations on constant rotation. Music helps get me through the day, long writing sessions, and just Sean-3allows me to unwind.

So when writing Route 3 I’ve created a mix-tape of sorts that our protagonist, Sean Anderson, would have queued up on his MP3 player.

I’ll admit a lot of my tastes influence what Sean probably listen’s too, so hey, sue me. We both like good music.

Below is a small sampling of what Sean rocks out to when heading to school, or saving the day.

 

 

 

LOGIC

Logic – Under Pressure (Album): This guy has me constantly thanking Pandora for mixing him into my Chance The Rapper rotation. With a laid back flow, the Maryland born and bred Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, a.k.a Logic would be a constant fixture in Sean’s ears. Logic’s masterful rapping, including insightful lyrics speaking about his newfound success and struggles could form a great reflection to Sean’s own triumphs and trials.

Added to this, Sean would more than likely keep his head bobbing on his “road trip from hell” to the awesome beats/ production being laid down by legendary producer No ID.

KANYE

Kanye West- College Dropout/ Late Registration/ Graduation (Albums): Ok, ok hear me out. Mr. West has become a sort of polarizing figure for a lot of folks. To be honest with you, I don’t focus on anything with him outside of the music. I’m not big into celebrity news/ gossip, and when it comes to Mr. West, for me, all that matters is the music.

The Kanye that Sean would be rocking out to would be what I’ve deemed “The Backpack-Polo Trilogy” (College Dropout/ Late Registration/ Graduation). Not saying that I haven’t enjoyed any of his work that’s dropped after these three album’s, but for me, and Sean by extension, this is classic Kanye, and includes some of his greatest work.

This was the bashful braggart. The socially conscious/ fun rapper, who could belt slick lyrics laced with lines that would make you think and want to dance at the same time. The backpack carrying, polo shirt wearing, rapper/ producer. For Sean this would be a guy who would tap into the smart swagger that he himeself feels he embodies, but which has taken a hit due to death of his own mother.

Dave-Brubeck-Take-Five-EP-565413

Dave Brubeck-Take Five (Single): Gonna cheat here a little, as this would be
a song that would be suggested to Sean. This would be a track that Charles has slipped into the car radio while he and Sean are fleeing across the country. Charles is a bit of a “old head”, as the young folks say, and his musical tastes represents that somewhat.

So he’s a bit of an aficionado of all forms of music. Ranging from classic hip hop, to bluegrass music, Charles likes a little bit of everything, and this includes jazz. After a few conversations where he’s been able to pick Sean’s brain a bit, Charles decides to pull up Dave Brubeck’s seminal work, “Take Five”. It’d be a track that would keep Sean cool, calm, and collected as hell continues to rain down around him, while also opening new doors of music for our young protragonist.

IZ-WonderfulWorld

Israel “Iz” Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole- Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World Medley (Single)- Even writing about this song gets me all misty eyed and what not.

I can get sappy sometimes.

This for me is the track that I picture Sean’s mother playing for him when he was younger. This was the song that Sean played every night on a portable CD player by his mother’s bedside at the hospital, as she battled cancer. This was their song. This track by the Hawaiian born and raised Israel “Iz” Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole is the type of song that just leaves you feeling good and happy with life.

The song has a melancholy feel, but at points uplifts you. In my opinion, it’s the best rendition of both Somewhere Over The Rainbow and What A Wonderful World that I’ve heard in a while. So, to just find a moment of peace in the tumultuous events that play out in Route 3, and reminisce on his mother, Sean would have this on repeat on his playlist.

———————————————————————-

Hope you enjoyed this trip down Sean’s musical lane.

One question for my fellow writers/ creators: what artists/songs do your characters listen to?

A Writer’s Late Night Rant

Hi folks. Mind if I just ramble a bit?

::silence::

I’ll take that as a yes.

I’d planned on writing about a camping trip from hell that’d I’d experienced as a young lad. Gripping stuff. Hilarious now, though at the time not so much.

I’ll save that one for later.

I decided instead to talk about writing. Not a “laying out the tools/ tips of the trade” post, but more so about my personal experience with the craft. A little “ranty”, but not obnoxiously so.

To understand my love of writing, lets first start with an early obsession of mine: reading. Reading, and I’m not exaggerating, was my drug of choice. Books were, and still are, my narcotic, and libraries and book stores were my corner dealers.

Boy Reading Book in Classroom

I sucked up everything I could get my hands on. The Hardy Boys. The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner. Nancy Drew. The Phantom Toll Booth. The House of Dies Drear. Choose Your Own Adventure books. Encyclopedia Brown. John Bellairs. Mark Twain. Stephen King. Octavia Butler. Christopher Golden. The list goes on and on.

If I added comics to this, we’d be here all day.

Let me give you an example of how deep this went with me: I had the route to my lunchroom  in elementary school so ingrained in my little noggin’, that I could walk the path to the cafeteria, nose deep in a book, without bumping into one of my fellow classmates.

I was that far gone.

In a good way though.

As I continued to read, and read, I found myself wanting to create my own stories. Take my own characters to these fantastical, adventure filled worlds, and just have fun. I knew I wanted to do it.

So I did it.

b2fThere was “Robert’s Time Machine” 1 & 2 (the less said, the better), then came the Double O Dwight series.  We even put on a skit at my school based on the adventures of Dwight and company.

Maybe I got a little playwriting in at an early age? That might be pushing it a bit.

Point being, I wrote a lot. This ran into short stories in middle school, joining my high school’s literary magazine, my college newspaper/ web magazine, freelancing on a regular basis once I got out of college, and now working as a comic book author.

Writing’s been a huge blessing for me, it’s something that I don’t ever see myself not doing.

It’s the thing (my marriage coming first) that I’m most proud of in life. Its something I do well. Its something that gives me a sense of sanity in a world where I’m assaulted by all sorts of B.S on a weekly, if not daily basis.

That’s life for you.

It’s something that, if you commit to it, deserves to be treated with the utmost respect, and love. And sometimes that doesn’t happen, just being truthful. I’ll admit there have been plenty of times where I’ve come home from a long day at the 9-5, and have just thought “no writing tonight. I just want to let my brain rest after dealing with the B.S of the daily burn”.

And believe me, there’s always gonna be B.S.Tired-employee

I will never say that this hasn’t happen, because it has, and it probably will again.

The best advice that I can give in this regard is to Just Do It, as difficult as it may be. Sometimes I’ll write a page, and that’ll be it for the night. And then I’ll write another the next, two more the next day, three more the next day, etc.

But what really gets me back in front of the computer is that same love and desire to tell stories that was sparked in the little kid reading at a library in Dolton, IL. It’s what drove me to break out of my shell and chase stories  for the Atlanta Voice Newspaper. It’s what got me to approach the fine folks of Terminus Media at Dragon Con.

I have so many damn stories that I want to tell. Some of ‘em might be great, some duds.

Some folks will love them, others won’t.

What I’m finding though is that at the end of the day, who can care less about what other people think? I’m still working on staying strong to that line of thinking.

But when such doubts crop up, what I tap into, as it was when I was younger, is that I’m doing this for myself. And to have fun.

Screw what anyone else thinks.

Ok, I wasn’t saying “screw” as a kid, but you get the point.

I wrote for myself.  I had fun. I just did it.

It’s time to write.

writer-laptop

 

Author Interview and New Book Release – Keith Rommel!

Welcome to the latest in our long-running series of creative interviews. We’ll be interviewing creative individuals in the realms of writing, illustration, comics and more. Today we have author Keith Rommel, Long Island native, Floridian transplant, and author of grim new thriller, The Devil Tree!

Let’s get right to it:

Hi Keith! Welcome to Tessera’s latest creative interview. Word on the street is that you’ve got a new book. Please tell us ALL about it.

The Devil Tree is based off of a Port Saint Lucie Florida legend that I like to call the dirty little secret of this otherwise quiet community. There was this serial killer that would kidnap hitchhikers and preferred them in groups of two. He would hold them at gunpoint and make them negotiate why they should live and why their friend, the person he kidnapped them with, should die first. The killer has been noted as saying “Why kill one when you can kill two?” You couldn’t imagine how lively the conversation would get while one pleads for their life and begs you to kill their friend first.”
Bodies were buried and discovered years later.
DT

Awesome cover. Just straight up grim, just the way we like it.

Now tell us about yourself. Give up the goods on where you’re from and how you got here.

I am from Port Saint Lucie Florida and have lived here for over ten years. I’m originally from Long Island and came here to escape the hustle and bustle of the speedy New York lifestyle. I’ve adjusted to Florida living just fine and like it here. I am the writer of eight novels and have penned the critically acclaimed dark suspense Thanatology series. The debut novel in that series, The Cursed Man has been filmed as a major motion picture and is coming out this October, premiering in California. I am the co-screenwriter of the film with producer James L. Perry.

Tell us about your creative process. Do you have a strict method or…?

When I get an idea I do my best to outline it. Once the story is outlined, the writing process begins. The first draft is usually a train wreck but I edit it over and over again, and start adding details and all the characters’ personalities. The rewrites are my favorite part because that is when the story and characters start to take on lives of their own. It is during this process that I either love, hate or sympathize with the major players in the novel.

What kind of stories are your favorite?

I like my imagination being challenged every step of the way. I don’t like knowing the answer to the story after only a few chapters into the book. It is imperative to me when I write my stories that I write a plot that is not only difficult to guess what’s really going on but deliver a surprise ending that is long lasting.

What do you find most challenging about being a writer in today’s world?

The most challenging aspect of being a writer for me is standing out in a very overcrowded market. With technology making it easy for most anyone to be a writer, I believe the only way to rise to the top and build your audience is by being patient, release solid, well-told stories, and put out a finished product that won’t turn readers off. Professional cover, edited inside and a professional layout of the internal text is key. At no point can I afford to appear amateurish. I need to breathe new life into a genre that is plagued with zombies and end of the world conflicts whether pandemic or war.

How can people reach you?

By visiting my website: www.keithrommel.com. I answer all fan mail and questions from aspiring writers myself. There is a tab to contact the author.

How can people get a copy of The Devil Tree or some of your previous novels?

The Devil Tree is available as a hardcover or on your Kindle. It is on Kindle Unlimited and the unique thing about this release is if you buy the hardcover, you get a free download of the Kindle version. They can visit my author page by going here.

And now, from the back cover of Keith’s latest book, The Devil Tree:

Based on the Port St. Lucie Legend
Back in the 1970’s, a series of bizarre incidents occurred at what has since been known as “The Devil Tree.” Beneath this ancient denizen, evil was wrought by a sick serial killer, calling upon forces most evil and dark. People were hung there … and bodies buried there … exhumed by the police. Overcome by superstition, some tried to cut down the tree, to no avail. Since then, it has stood in a remote section of a local park — left to its own devices — quiet in its eerie repose — until now!

Best-selling psychological-thriller author Keith Rommel has imagined the whole tale anew. He’s brought the tree to life and retold the tale with detail only possible in a fiction novel. Action-packed, with spine-tingling detail, this thriller is beyond parallel in the ground it uncovers … one author’s explanation of what may have really been said — what may have really happened — under Port St. Lucie’s “Devil Tree.”

Check out more of Keith’s work:

Author of The Cursed Man, The Lurking Man, The Sinful Man from the critically acclaimed psychological horror series. The Cursed Man is coming soon as a major motion picture. Also available from Keith Rommel: You Killed My Brother (crime) and Among the People (paranormal).

Author site: keithrommel.weebly.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Thanatology.Series

Amazon: amazon.com/author/keithrommel

 That’s all for this week.  

 Special thanks to Keith for appearing.

More is always to come.

J Edward Neill

 

5 Animated Short Films Everyone Should See

Special Friday Edition!

So

I watch a lot of movies.

A LOT.

Let me clarify. From the comfort of my couch, I watch about five grown-up movies every week (Latest top picks: Gone Girl. The Wolf of Wall Street.  Latest disappointments: Foxcatcher. Monuments Men.) But in that same one-week span, I also gobble up about seven kids’ movies. Minimum. You name it, my 4-year old and I have seen it. I look at my DVD collection these days, and my favorite Scorsese flicks are buried under an ocean of Wreck-it Ralph, How to Train your Dragon, and Big Hero 6.

This is not a complaint.

Look. I like most of the kids’ movies these days. I even love a few. But the real treasure, and something both junior and I have recently discovered, are the awesome mini-movies appearing at the ends of almost every Disney and Pixar title. These things are amazing. For me. For the kid. For everyone.

And here are five of the best. Click each one to follow the Youtube link:

LaLuna

La Luna. About a little boy, his dad, and his grandpa. They go to the moon. With brooms. And beards. No one says a word. It’s beautiful.

Paperman

Paperman: my personal favorite. Another short during which no one says a word. I’m the world’s biggest anti-romantic, and yet this one somehow budged my black little heart.

Legend of Mor Du

The Legend of Mor’Du: It might help to watch the full film ‘Brave’ before seeing this, but it’s hardly mandatory. My kid loves this little 6+ minute short more than more feature films. Not surprising considering how dark it is.

Feast

Feast: About a dog, his owner, and tons of good food. I think maybe 10 words are spoken. If dogs were always this fun, I’d have one.

Silly Symphony

Silly Symphony. This one goes wayyyyyyy back. It’s ridiculous fun. And naturally, being full of dancing, prancing skeletons, it’s more than a little weird.

Seriously. Check these out. They’re as good as the feature films they appear with. And sometimes they’re better.

PS: Tessera is currently looking for weekly and bi-weekly bloggers to contribute.  Interested? Need free exposure? Get in touch!

See you next week!

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of the Coffee Table Philosophy series

Creative Interview with Filmmaker/ Screenwriter Gabrielle Aliké Hawkins

I’m going to be straight up with you guys and gals, I’m kind of biased on how much I respect the subject of today’s creator interview. She’s talented, driven, and she’s my lil’ cousin.

Who I’m unabashedly proud of. 😀

Gabrielle Aliké Hawkins has studied the craft of film making internationally in London, on our own shores in the great NYC, and has honed her craft working on such indie productions such as “Alto” and “Global Tides”.  In addition to being an accomplished photographer, Gabrielle is currently conducting an Indiegogo campaign for a sci-fi dystopian short film she’s written and will direct called “Criminals”.

The filmmaker recently took the time to speak with the Tessera Guild about her career, the campaign, and indie film.

Can you start by telling us a little about yourself, your background in film, and just being a creator overall?

I became drawn to the arts at a young age, focusing on dance. After suffering a severe dance injury, I decided to continue my passion for arts and focus on filmmaking. I have always been drawn to films and when I was about 12 years old, I used to write stories that I wanted to see on the big screen. At that time, I wanted someone else to direct them. Then, I realized I could direct the stories I wanted to see.

I have a B.A in Film Production from Brooklyn College and a Certificate of Completion from the Met Film School in London where I studied film producing. I started working as a Production Assistant on music videos and feature films. I recently worked as an Assistant Director on a wonderful feature film called “Alto” directed by Mikki Del Monico.

What drew you to filmmaking? What about the medium drives you to create film?

Filmmaking is such a beautiful and powerful medium. It influences our society. As a teenager, I didn’t realize how much film and media influenced me. How I saw myself on screen or if I didn’t. What I watched influenced how I interacted with people without me even knowing.

That is one of the reasons that I became a filmmaker because I would like to see more diversity on screen. Not just in terms of race but also telling unique stories. I feel that watching a great film is like watching a painting come to life.

Talk to our readers about your short film “Criminals”, and the Indiegogo campaign. What about the science fiction/ dystopian future arena appeals to you as a filmmaker/ screenwriter in terms of storytelling?

I have always been drawn to abandoned buildings and characters that are seen as outcasts from society. There is great beauty in darkness if you can see the light.

The film takes place in 2040. Our characters, Ian and Ariana, are the last surviving members of an underground movement called the E.G.O. A massive manhunt for their capture takes place, in response to their infiltration of the notorious officer program and stealing confidential government files. They escape into the woods fighting to reach their last hope for survival. Will they make it to Nuevo Acuerdo, a society untouched by the government?

 I have always been drawn to science fiction/dystopian future films and novels. Octavia E. Butler is one of my Criminals Movie Posterfavorite authors and her work has greatly influenced me. For this particular film, I wanted to write within this genre because in some ways I feel  as a society this is where we are moving towards, unless we experience a serious wake up call. Climate change, violence and so much more is something that shouldn’t be ignored by the masses.

We currently have an Indiegogo campaign running to raise money for this film. All of the money raised will go to the making of the film. There is a breakdown on the site, and the campaign ends on April 2. Check out the link for more info here.

Is science fiction a particular favorite in terms of film genre’s to create in, or does this include a variety of other genre’s?

Science fiction is one of my favorite genres to watch and write but I am also heavily influenced by other genres, such as film noir and even comedy. So depending on the story, I like to combine genres.

“Criminals” is definitely science fiction but with a film noir touch. I have a super random taste in movies so I think that helps a lot. My goal is to write a film in every genre.

Once I write a story and create the characters then I come up with the genre. I always have an idea of where I want it to go but usually the characters tell me what type of film it should be. For example, “Criminals” started off as a modern drama, but once I knew the characters and developed the story further, the genre had to change.

 A common saying nowadays is that the field of independent filmmaking has become more level, with the advent of new technologies, greater access to information etc. Do you feel that this is the case? Why or why not?

I think there are two ways to answer this question. I think in terms of making an independent film, you do have greater access thanks to digital filmmaking. There are also so many ways for people to watch films now. You can upload to websites, like youtube or vimeo and people can view your work. Also there are so many festivals, that accept many different genres and stories.

However, if you want to have your film in theaters, I think that is still pretty tough for indie filmmakers. Not that it’s not possible, because it definitely is, but it’s harder for an indie film to get wide release in theaters than a Hollywood film. 

Are there any filmmakers, or films that you feel have been an influence on you as a creator? What about those creators, or works speaks to you?

Tom Tykwer is an incredible filmmaker and his film “Run Lola Run”, is one of my favorites. The story is just so different and the moment I saw it I was in love with it.

 Gina Prince-Bythewood directed “Love and Basketball” and most recently “Beyond the Lights”. I love her work because you become so emotionally attached to the characters. I love how naturally she writes and directs human interaction.

 The television series “Breaking Bad” to me was just pure brilliance. The writing, the acting, the direction, just everything. I was blown away by this series and needed a support group when it ended.

 There are so many other films, television shows and filmmakers that I can go on and on about because there really are so many. I love the classics like “All About Eve”, “Alien” to comedies like “Friday”. I love films that make me think and sometimes I just need a good laugh. I am all over the place with the types of films and TV shows that I watch.

 All of these artists work speaks to me simply because it makes me feel something and makes me think outside of the box.

What can fans look for from you in the future, and where can they find your current work?

After this short I plan on working on a web series, and then work on a feature film that I wrote. This would be my first short that I directed so the current work I have has been on some great projects where I worked in other departments. I am also a photographer and my work can be viewed on my website.

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Gabrielle Aliké Hawkins​​​​​​ as Assistant Director on the feature film “Alto”

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Interview With Novelist/ Comic Book Writer/ Bobby Nash

For today’s creator interview installment, we sit down with the prolific, and award winning author, Bobby Nash. The author of such works as Alexandra Holzer’s Ghost Gal: The Wild Hunt, Snow Falls, Evil Ways, Domino Lady: One Shot, and the recipient of the 2013 Pulp Ark Nominee for Best Novel, Earthstrike: Agenda, Nash show’s no signs of slowing down, with a host of other titles scheduled to be released in 2015.

 To begin with I just want to say this: you write like a mad man! And I mean that in a good way. Do you get that a lot? 

I have heard that a time or two, yes. [smiles]. When I decided that this was the path I wanted to travel, I set goals for myself and headed toward them. My stubbornness came in handy with helping me to keep going and I never looked back.

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Tell us about yourself. Where you’re from, what got you into writing professionally, and some of your training.

I was born and raised in Georgia, which is where I still live. I fell into writing, oddly enough, because of my desire to be a comic book artist. Turns out that my art skills leave a little something to be desired, but I was writing stories that I could draw. Somewhere along the way, other artists I knew started asking me to write for them so I decided that maybe I could be a writer/artist. Thankfully, a friend of mine pointed out that writing was my real strength and suggested that I focus on it instead of splitting my time between writing and art. He was absolutely right. Then one day I sold a comic book story to a publisher. It’s been a roller coaster ride ever since.

I don’t really have much in the way of formal training. I’m mostly self-taught, although I’ve picked up some hints, tips, and tricks along the way from others. I took some night classes at UGA focused on creative writing, which were quite useful. We would bring our writing in and read in front of the class. That instant feedback came in handy plus there was the happy side effect of helping me to get past being shy and awkward in front of a room full of people.

What’s the first thing that you remember writing?

WOW. That is a tough one. I wrote some truly horrendous comic book stories back in my elementary school days, but the less said about them the better. I started writing short stories in high school. I remember we used to be given a list of words each week to use in a sentence. I was bored one week so I actually wrote a story and used the words in it. The teacher thought it was neat and encouraged me to keep it up. I had fun doing it and even set up the challenge of ending stories on a cliffhanger that I would have to resolve the following week when we received our list of words. I learned a lot about writing doing that.

Is there a particular genre that you prefer to play around in, and why?

I do like to play in multiple genres, but I always find myself drawn back to crime thrillers, although they can have other descriptions added to them like pulpy crime thriller, action crime thriller, sci-fi crime thriller, you get the point. I grew up with PI’s on TV, books, and movies so I developed a love for the genre. I like solving crimes, at least in my writing. It’s not something I really attempt to do in real life.

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How does a typical writing session work for you? Do you have any “tools of the trade” that you use?

Typical is a relative term. I used to write full time so my day generally went, wake up, write for several hours, take a dinner break, watch TV, write, go to the gym, watch TV or read, bed, then repeat. Now that I’m back among the corporate working life, my writing time is pretty much limited to the weekends, which goes much the same as before. I spend a lot of time sitting in front of the laptop.

Not sure if I have any specific tools of the trade handy. I write on an old laptop using an outdated version of Word. Everything else is just in my head.

You’ve done a bit of screenwriting (the web series Star Trek: Farragut), and acting (Camp Massacre, The Following, Fat Chance). How have your experiences been working in this realm both behind and in front of the camera? Do you feel the practice of speaking in front of your writing critique groups prepared you for jumping into this arena?

Well, I’ve dabbled. I have a few screenplays under my belt, but three produced, two with my name on them and one that I did a script doctor job on that doesn’t bear my name. Each was unique in the way they were worked. Of those three, 2 have been produced and the third, a short film, is in production. It’s a lot like writing comic books in terms of how I set up the pages, focus on dialogue, and things like that. I will say though, that it is really cool to see actors delivering your words. I hope to do more screenwriting in the future.

I don’t think of myself as an actor. Most of what I’ve done on The Following, Satisfaction, Dumb and Dumber To, Halt and Catch Fire, Three Stooges, etc. is work as an extra. That involves a lot of walking back and forth most of SF COI BN banner3the time, but I’ve had some fun times doing it. Working with Kevin Bacon , almost knocking Matt Passmore down with my carry on bag, and standing next to Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey as they did a scene are definitely three of my highlights.

Working as an extra also gave me a chance to meet a real life FBI agent (while I was playing an FBI agent on The Following) and that led to a nice meeting where I got some really interesting insight into the FBI for my upcoming Evil Intent novel. That was a nice bonus.

Learning to read my work out loud absolutely played a role in helping me do this type of work. If you can’t look up and stare straight ahead on a set, you’re no good to the filmmakers. It’s hard to be shy on set.

Congratulations for receiving the 2013 Pulp Art Award for Best Author. Can you talk a little about winning the award?

GG FINAL CVR frontThanks. It was quite an honor. As you know, I’m not often at a loss for words, but when I read off the list of winners on the old All Pulp site, I actually scrolled past it before it sunk in what I had just read. I was literally speechless for several minutes as I tried to digest the news.

Winning an award is an odd thing. Even though you don’t write any differently than you did before winning, having an award adds a little extra something to your work for many readers so hopefully, it helped open up my work to a wider audience. The biggest change is having people refer to me as “award-winning author Bobby Nash,” which is pretty darn cool, but it did take some getting used to as well.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received from a fellow writer?

I don’t remember exactly who told me this, I want to say it was Beverly Connor, but I could be remembering it wrong. Regardless, the advice was that no one was going to care about my work more than me so I should not expect anyone else to promote it more than me. There is a lot of truth in that and it’s one of the reasons I taught myself how to market my books.

What can folks look forward from you in the near future?

Oh, 2015 looks to be a good and busy year. I don’t have dates for any of these yet, but here are some books to be on the look out for in 2015:

Prose: Snow Storm, Alexandra Holzer’s Ghost Gal: A Haunting We Will Go…, V-Wars vol. 5, The Ruby Files Vol. 2, Evil Intent, Blood Shot, Freelancer: The Traveler Sanction, an as yet untitled Nightscape novel, and a few others I’m sure I’ve forgotten.

Comics: the graphic novel adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At The Earth’s Core (art by Jamie Chase), 000 ATEC CVR FRONT smDomino Lady Threesome (a new team-up series I’m co-writing with Nancy Holder with art by Marco Santiago and others), Operation Silver Moon (art by Rick Johnson), Strong Will (co-written with Mike Gordon with art by Wendell Cavalcanti and Rob Jones), All-Star Pulp Comics #3 (a Lance Star: Sky Ranger story with art by Rock Baker and Jeff Austin), and a few others in the works.

Yeah. Looks like a busy year ahead of me.

Readers can keep up with the progress and release dates for all of these projects and more at www.bobbynash.com

Thanks Bobby for taking the time to sit with us and talk about your career.

Thanks Robert.

Let’s All Go To The Movies!

Like many of the Tessera Guild members, I love movies. I love watching them, discussing them, buying them, collecting them, etc. Being able to chill and enjoy a great flick from the comfort of your home is always great. On the flip side, catching a great movie at a theater can also be fun.

Going to the movies has always been an “experience” for me. Whether it be a crappy slog of a film, or a great, bombastic summer time blockbuster, I enjoy catching flicks at my local multiplex. Maybe it’s the high priced popcorn. The trailer’s for upcoming movies. The expectation created when the theater lights dim. Or the collective sigh, laughter, or clapping from the crowd when a movie hits its mark.

More than likely it’s a combination of all of the above, with some other things added to the mix. Whatever it is, I love heading to the theater. So if you’ve got a moment or two, sit back and read on as I do quick run through of some of my most enjoyable experiences at the cinema.

::Cue lights dimming as the projector reel starts::

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Jurassic Park, June 11, 1993

Shortly after my brother and I moved to Georgia, the summer movie season was in full swing. Standing out from the pack like an alpha-movie blockbuster was Stephen Spielberg’s adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel “Jurassic Park”.

Let me lay something out at this juncture: I was never a big dinosaur fan as a kid. Learned about them in school, thought they were awesome looking creatures, but never got caught up in the dinosaur obsession that apparently a lot of boy’s hit growing up.

So with this little nugget of personal history, my mind was still seriously blown when I began to see commercials for Jurassic Park.

Jurassic_Park_posterSpielberg had once again mined movie magic from the awesome depths of Crichton’s popular novel, and created a film that could possibly kick butt on a variety of levels. I distinctly remember going to a sold out show at the AMC Northlake Theater,in Tucker, GA.

As usual, Spielberg killed it. I remember the sense of wonder the first time I saw the Brachiosaurus grace the screen. Or the terror when the T-Rex destroyed  the roof of the SUV with Hammond’s grandchildren in it. And the joy of the numerous Jeff Goldblum-ism’s.

I primarily remember just having fun with my family, as everyone else around us jumped at the appropriate times, laughed during the light parts, and gripped their seats in nervous anticipation of what monster might appear around the next corner.

Thanks Mr. Spielberg.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phanton Menace, May 19, 1999

So we started with the good. Let’s move on to the opposite end of the spectrum.

I was in the home stretch of finishing high school, and it was a glorious time. I’d been accepted into college, I was working with my school’s literary magazine, and life was just friggin’ awesome.

And then there was The Phantom Menace.220px-Star_Wars_Phantom_Menace_poster

Not saying that this one movie destroyed my life, as many fanboys often declare. But it left a sour taste in my mouth when it came to the Star Wars franchise for a while. I’ve always been more of a Star Trek fan, but the sense of adventure and wonder that you get from watching the original trilogy is one that can’t be matched.

The Phantom Menace was billed as being the start of this generation’s Star Wars trilogy, as Episode’s 4-6 were for folks who’d been there at the series’ inception. Episode I was getting face time on MTV, Entertainment Tonight, a Weird Al Yankovic music video, and was just appearing all over the darn place. People were buying tickets in droves. It was insane.

And I’d never experienced anything like this. It was basically pop culture overload to the maxed out level.

So at the time I had a group of friends who were big Star Wars fans, and we decided to head over opening day to see it, right after school. We piled into someone’s car, swerved out of the high school parking lot like maniacs, and made it to the AMC at North Dekalb Mall with plenty of time to spare.

To say that being a part of something like this, on opening day, kind of shocked my nerd senses is putting it mildly. See, I’d always been sort of by myself when it came to such geeky pursuits. Sure I had friends who were into some of the same stuff that I grew up loving, mainly comics. But I found that before I hit middle school it was hard to find those guys and gals who were as hardcore about comics, sci-fi, cartoons, fantasy, videos games, etc. as I was.

fanslineupatSo when we hit the lobby of the theater, and I saw numerous folks dressed as young Obi-Wan, Darth Vader, or even Princess Amidala I thought to myself, “I’m home”. This was further solidified when we were let into the theater, and some of those same fans ran down the hall to get to our screening, as if compelled by the Force itself.

The geek expections were at a heightened pitch, as fans held mock light saber fights in front of the movie screen, and talked amongst themselves with excited voices.

Shortly after, the lights dimmed…….

That familiar word crawl began…….

And………

Well, you know the rest.

At least the light saber fights were awesome.

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The Matrix, March 31, 1999

It was spring of 1998. My cousin Tia was visiting from Chicago, and we’d decided to check out a movie. I’d been seeing a lot of commercials for an action movie with a lot of leather, slow motion, back flips, and the dude from Point Break. I thought it might be ok to check out, as I don’t remember anything else catching my eye. At least if it sucked, I could get a student discount on the ticket, and get a chance to hang with my cuzzo.

The movie was The Matrix.

Everyone in the theater had their collective mind’s blown. I mean, dammit, I’d never heard so much gasping, clapping, excited whisper’s, in a theater before that point. The experience I had watching that flick was a great one, and has only been topped by one other.

The_Matrix_PosterThis particular film has gone a long way in influencing my writing career, but also just kicked so much butt as a film going experience. I think that for most folks the movie was like nothing they’d ever seen before. Sure, Hong Kong martial arts filmmakers had been doing this style/ brand of fight choreography in the years preceeding The Matrix. And maybe a lot of folks saw the mash-up of the goth/ techno/ computer hacker culture hybrid and said “its been done before”.

But to get a movie of such stature, created by two nerdy brothers from Chicago who seemed to have filmmaking swagger for days, was a helluva beautiful thing to watch.

And to anyone who tells me that when they saw Neo fly away at the end of that flick, sort of saying “yeah, you just saw all of this mind bending awesomeness, but here’s a little something extra”, they didn’t collectively clap at the end of this flick, as it happened in my theater, y’all are lying.

And the biggest thing that stands out about this movie is that this came out pre-Internet, or at least pre- SPOILER era. I was genuinely surprised at what I saw, as I feel most folks in my theater were. And our movie going experience was all the better for it.

So those are some of my top movie going experiences. I’ve got a couple of others to add to the mix, but for now, I’ll leave you all with these to reminisce over, Please add your own movie going experiences to the comments below, and hope you enjoyed this.

J Sporting News

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What does this image have to do with the post? Absolutely nothing.

 

It’s hard being a sports fan. Damn hard.

Sometimes I wish I could stop, turn off the TV, take a long walk, and ignore the plights of all my favorite teams.

No. That’s not even a little bit true. I never wish that.

 I’m a diehard Chicago fan (except for the Sox…hate those guys.) I bleed Cubbie Blue, live and die by the health of Derrick Rose’s knee, love and hate Jay Cutler, and boil with pride for the Blackhawks. But whatever team you like, whatever city you’re from, odds are you know how hard it is. To watch someone else’s team carve deep into the postseason, to endure your hated rivals hoisting a trophy, to be excited at kickoff…and completely gutted by the middle of the third quarter. It sucks something awful. We’ve all been there. 

Such is a sports fan’s life.

So let’s start by talking about football. My personal favorite, the NFL. Violent. Barbaric. Crueler on its players than any other game. Gloriously inglorious. Perfect and imperfect.

I love it.

Over the last few years, I’ve heard, read, and endured hundreds of reports and sound bites regarding the health of the NFL’s players. About concussions, CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy,) ragged knees, spinal injuries, and retirements ruined by pain. About how someday it’ll all come crashing down. I’ve followed Peter King’s columns, SI.com, and the metric ton of non-news news ESPN heaps upon us every day.

‘Wear better helmets,’ some cry out.

‘Too violent!‘ claim others.

‘They knew what they were getting into! Look at how much money they get paid!‘ many fans will declare. 

Ultimately, who really cares? Not me. And statistically speaking, not you either. NFL ratings are higher than ever in the history of the game. If any of us are really all that bothered by a game played by wife-beaters, drunk-drivers, and future invalids, it really doesn’t show up on Sunday (Or Saturday, Monday, and Thursday.) This being the case, we should all stand up and ask sports reporters around the USA to let it go. Let’s talk about the game and only the game. Let’s let the drama die. Scrutinize any cross-section of Americans and you’ll find out all sorts of awful details you didn’t want to know. The NFL is no different. If it dies one day due to its violent legacy, so be it. But until then, most of us have proven we still love it when someone gets de-cleated on the gridiron. Especially if it’s Aaron Rodgers

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“This game is hard. Especially when you turn the ball over four times in two quarters.”

 Ok baseball, you’re up next. I’m here to say that I love you. Your purity, your pace, your elegance.

But you’re really getting on my nerves.  

I want to talk about a number. The number is 162. The amount of games each team plays (not including Grapefruit/Cactus League games.) Used to be I loved that on any given day from April-September I could turn on the boob-tube and watch the Cubs get crushed. Used to be I craved the feeling that the season would never end.

Not any more. 162 is just too many damn games. By a long shot.

Would it be blasphemy to say that the average MLB game doesn’t mean a f’n thing? Is it weird that even the most spectacular win or heartbreaking loss only amounts to 0.61% of each season? What if I told you that if each team played two three-game home-and-away series’ with every other team in their half of the league, the season could be a brisk, snappy 84 games long? Does it really take 162 to decide which teams aren’t even the best, but simply worthy of entering a three-round tournament that could take up to 19 more games to find a winner? No. It doesn’t.

Why are NFL and College Football games so damn thrilling? Because each one can make or break a season. Lose one NFL game and that’s 6.25% of your season. Lose a college football game and that’s 8%. Gone. Done. Untouchable. My plea to the MLB is to chop the season in half. Please. Run two 82-game seasons every year if you have to. Have a World Series in July and another in October. But for the love of god, don’t make me watch Cubs baseball (games 108-162) in August and September. We’re already 17 games out. What’s the fucking point?

 End baseball rant. Truth is; I’m really enjoying the postseason. The one-game Wild Card playoffs are kinda sorta what inspired my shorter season hopes. And how about that Royals v A’s game?? Needed new underwear after that one.

 Ok. So lets talk about the upcoming NBA season. Anyone? Ugh. Never mind.

What about hockey? Are Patrick Kane and the boys gonna dig deep and make another Cup run? Or will it be the Kings? The Bruins? Hello? Anyone listening? Oh, that’s right. I live in Georgia, home of exactly seventeen NHL hockey fans.

Good sports things going on right now:
Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Alex Smith, Steve Smith Sr., Alshon Jeffrey, Antone Smith, Eric Hosmer, The f’n Orioles, Derrick Rose’s knee (for now,) the Yellow Jackets, Notre Dame, the Gators sucking, Jeter’s final at bat.

Bad sports things going on right now:

Wife/GF beaters (don’t even deserve mentions,) UGA Football, Oregon Football, everything happening in Jacksonville, FL, the Texas Rangers, the Chicago Bears defense, almost every NFL team’s defense, Geno Smith, sideline reporting, NFL halftime shows, beer commercials, car commercials, mutha f’n GEICO commercials, the Cardinals being in the NLCS, the Packers being in first place, and Lebron getting traded to another team in the same goddamn division as the Bulls.

That’s it for now. Go buy this and this.

Love, 

J Edward Neill

Sliding Back Down Memory Lane

Way back when, in 1995, I did what all the cool kid’s did on Friday nights.

I ran the streets, hung out at the local movie theater, chopped it up until the wee hours of the night at Waffle House, and eventually crept into the house shortly before the roosters did their morning call.

Ok, now that we’ve got the obvious lying out of the way, let’s talk about what my Friday nights were really composed of.

Homicide: Life on The Streets, and Sliders.

Sliders Logo

Homicide: Life on The Streets deserves its own multi-part epic post, as being a trend setter for cop dramas which have come since.

And no, I don’t mean that flashy, pop song laden drivel known as CSI.

I’m looking at you Caruso. Take those goofy sun-glasses off, and stop with the tasteless murder scene quips.

Nope, this post will be dedicated to reminiscing about one of my all-time favorite sci-fi television series’, Sliders.

Let’s travel back to a far off time, when sci-fi/ fantasy/ genre network television shows, were kicking butt, and  fairy tale creatures, vampires, or werewolves were nowhere to be found.

In the wake of X-Files, it seemed to a young kid growing up in Decatur, GA that network television was something of the shiznit when it came to providing a platform for fun, dark, and in some cases cheesy sci-fi/fantasy.

The Fab Four: Sliders Edition

The Fab Four: Sliders Edition

X-FILES. Millennium. Space: Above & Beyond. The Lone Gunmen. M.A.N.T.I.S. The Adventures of Briscoe County Jr. SeaQuest DSV. Hercules. Xena. Star Trek: DS9. Star Trek: The Next Generation. These were a few shows that rounded out my weekly immersion into the awesome depths of genre storytelling.

But for me Sliders, stood out a bit from the pack.

(Separate nerdy note: both Sliders and DS9 were my two favorite sci-fi shows of the 90’s, but today’s Sliders time to shine.

DS9, I got you, homey. Best believe it.)

01-001

Dude, where’s my dimension?

The show told the story of Quinn Mallory (Jerry O’Connell), a San Francisco based grad school physics major, who in his attempt to create an anti-gravity machine, stumbles upon something even more amazing.

Quinn unlocks an ability to travel to different worlds, or alternate dimensions. Parallel Earth’s.

See why a geek like me might get excited by this? Or even why the writer in me loved this series?

Imagine a mirror universe of our own, where due to a small change in the course of that world’s history, technological advancements, etc., these parallel Earths might have taken drastically different routes than our own.

The possibilities are endless in terms of storytelling, and viewing potential.

Without giving too much away about the pilot (which I think still holds up even today), Quinn is joined in his MultipleEarths-300x200adventures to different worlds by his friend Wade Wells (Sabrina Lloyd), his mentor and teacher, Professor Maximilian Arturo (John Rhys-Davies), and the once famous R & B singer, Rembrandt “Cryin’ Man” Brown (Cleavant Derricks) who is accidentally caught up in the wake of Quinn and company on their first “Slide”.

When Quinn attempts to test his “Sliding” machine for the first time, he and his partners wind up whisked up in a 5 season dimension hopping jaunt. Unfortunately, due to a malfunction of the Sliding device (the timer) during the Slide, the group is caught up in a possibly never ending trip to get back home.

Sliders-Ice-World

Ice, ice baby. Too cold, too cold. Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.

Starting with this solid premise, the original “Fab Four” traveled to such places where the Soviet’s won the Cold War, women were the ruling sex, the British Empire triumphed in the Revolutionary War, American’s were migrant workers who were traveling to Mexico for work, global warming had run it’s calamitous course, and so forth, and so forth. These awesome “what if’s” were what had me coming back episode after episode every Friday.

That, and the growing camaraderie between Quinn, Wade, the Professor, and Rembrandt. Though thrown together by forces beyond their control, these actors seemed like a far flung Swiss Family Robinson of the cosmos. Every actor brought their A-game to this series (even in the face of sometimes questionable writing). This made it all the more nerve racking to wonder if they’d ever get home, as I found myself caring about these folks with every subsequent episode.

A never ending quest to get home.....

A never ending quest to get home…..

Added to both these factors was a fun and healthy sense of comedy, edge of your seat heroics, and adventure which all coalesce into why this series was at times awesome.

Now to say that the show sometimes, or in later seasons didn’t keep the same quality storytelling as in the first two seasons, would be a lie. At one point it seemed as if the screenwriters were just pulling from whatever popular movie was at the local Cineplex. Don’t get me started on “Twister” world, “Jurassic Park” world, “Species” world, or even “Zombie” world (actually, that was an awesome, though silly concept for an episode, but I’m kind of biased, being a zombie nerd).

And there were often times where the possibility of meeting your evil doppelganger happened way too many times. I understand that on a parallel Earth, there might be a douche-y version of yourself, who hates everything. But when you use that trope one too many times, it gets a little tired.

There were other episodes or storylines where I was left scratching my head, in certain instances as “Mad Max/ No More H20” world, “Magic” world, or even the storyline that would dominate seasons 3-5, the rise of the Kromagg empire.

The Kromagg’s were in simplest terms, evil, humanoid primate Sliders who were hell bent on the domination of all parallel Earths.

I'm going to pouty face you to death.

I’m going to pouty face you to death.

Yup.

So, don’t get me wrong, as with any show, this one had its minuses, in addition to the numerous plusses to be found. Some sources chalk it up to corporate interference by the FOX bigwigs. Others say it was the behind the scenes favoritism/ in fighting amongst the cast and some of the producers of the show that caused a dip in quality.

Definitely do the homework, and you’ll find some doozies in terms of the behind the scenes drama of the show.

But ultimately, as a kid of the late 90’s who wasn’t inundated with all of this extra info, and plopped himself down in front of the TV to watch the latest escapades of the Sliders, the show was a godsend. Cheesy or formulaic though it might have been at times, there were a host of episodes which kept me entertained, enthralled, and just overall enjoying some good sci-fi.

sliders2I simply enjoyed the idea of a group of travelers jumping from one different dimension, to another dimension, week after week, with the simple goal of getting home always in tow. Add to that, you’ve got some fun action/ adventure elements added to the mix, and the 13 year old Robert was satiated.

So if you’re looking for a fun sci-fi show to binge watch, check out Sliders on Netflix, Hulu.com, and other streaming providers.

Enjoy the Slide.

Episode 4 – Hollow Empire – Night of Knives!!

Halfway through Season One of Hollow Empire…

…life looks dire for the four survivors of the Lichy plague.

Murgul the Maggot gets a visit…and new orders…from the man who nearly executed him.

Cassidy is terrified of Isidora’s latest vision.

Nadya and Marik hide when the Inquisitor comes to Tiev.

And the Crone continues to torment Vadim.

HollowEmpireEP4

Episode Four is out now! Click the skull to buy for only $0.99!!

Oh, and the Smashwords version (for e-readers other than Kindle) is here!

Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

By John R McGuire and J Edward Neill

CO-OP Gaming: The Best Way To Game, Part Deux

So wow, that week turned into a month…..

🙂

And what an eventful month it’s been.

But back to my top two co-op vidya’ games.

3. Halo: Combat Evolved/ XBOX/ Release Date: November 15th, 2001

I’m going to spoil something for you: my last two spots are going to be FPS’s.

Sorry to all the FPS naysayers. I’m by no means a hardcore Call of Duty, or Battlefield aficionado.

So you can breathe a collective sigh of relief that this list isn’t going to head in either of those directions.

Storming the digital beaches of Normandy, or running through the streets of a war torn urban metropolis just doesn’t do it for me.  Never had much fun playing those types of games.

But give me a horde of religious fanatic aliens, and oh yeah, fun times all around.

Not saying that the Space Marine trope hasn’t been done to death, but that’s another discussion for another day.

Halo: Combat Evolved

 

Let me take you back. Back to a somewhat simpler time. The year was 2001. I’d just started college, and my weekends were sometimes spent hanging with my best pal, Phillip.

Phillip was (and I think still is) a straight up, hardcore gamer. Not just a dude who loved playing games hour, upon hour’s on end. This was a guy who truly appreciated video games. He loved gaming. All aspects of the art form.

Some of my most fun times talking video games, and just playing them were spent with the ‘ole Phil-meister.

Dude if you read this: HIT ME UP!!!!!

But I digress. Phillip had gotten the new fangled XBOX, and this little game,  that was soon to become a decade spanning monster of a franchise, Halo: Combat Evolved.

So, in my little world, the FPS genre only included the classic N64 Golden Eye 007 and Wolfenstein.

 

Hang Time (And I'm Not Talking About the mid- 90's Teen Comedy)

Hang Time (And I’m Not Talking About the mid- 90’s Teen Comedy)

My mind was blown open to high h^%* with the galaxy spanning adventure of Master Chief and company.

This was the first time that I saw the XBOX pushed to its impressive limits. Of course we now live in an age where PS4 and XBOX One would blow such a system out of the water, but for its time the XBOX was the shiznit.

With the aide of Phillip, I found myself running across impressive snow draped alien  vistas, battling hulking behemoth’s known as Hunters in frantic close quarter combat, and driving like a bat out of hell on a Warthog as the world went to crap around us.

As with most of the titles on this list, late nights were constantly spent trying to beat this game, and fun times were always had. Even now there are parts from this game that I can still remember, and for a guy whose played a lot of video games in his 32 years on this world, that’s saying a lot.

14 ammo rounds until certain death......

14 ammo rounds until certain death……

But what sticks with me the most is teaming up, and kicking some alien butt, via split screen shenanigan’s. Sure, we’d flip the Warthog over a cliff, or accidentally lob a grenade or two at each other mistakenly.

But after laughing our butts off, and respawning, Phillip and I were ready to push back the tides of the Covenant and the Flood.

Fun times indeed.

Honorable Mentions: Halo: Reach, Halo: ODST, Halo: 2-4

 

 

1. Left 4 Dead/ Left 4 Dead 2/ XBOX/ L4D: October 17, 2008, L4D2: November 17, 2009

Gotta get this out of the way first: I love zombies.

World War Z, the novel, is a must read. The original Night of The Living Dead is a classic piece of barrier breaking genre film making. When people talk about the Holy Trilogy of films, I lean more towards the Romero side of flicks, rather than the Lucas camp.

The Walking Dead (comic series). Return of The Living Dead. Ash. Dead Alive. House of The Dead (as crappy as the flick was). 28 Days Later (and I know they’re not “traditional zombies”, but that movie is a great addition to the zombie movie genre). Capcom’s “Resident Evil”.

And the Left 4 Dead series.

Numero Uno

Numero Uno

 

Numero Dos

Numero Dos

 

I can wax on all day and night about how much I love these two games. About how they rank up there with some of the greatest video games I’ve ever played.

My ride.....

My ride…..

But I know I’ve only got so much space on this blog, so I’ll try to keep it succinct.

Basic premise of the L4D franchise: you’re grouped with three other survivors of a zombie outbreak, and are placed in various scenarios where you have to fight your way through endless hordes of zombies, and other infected creatures.

The game is a FPS which, at least for me, only intensifies the feeling of dread and anxiety which permeates both these games. There will always be countless instances where a swarm of zombies will run at you at top speed (sorry for all you Boyle zombie haters, these ain’t the shuffling ghouls), unless you can dispatch them in enough time with dwindling ammo.

The environments in this game also set a creepy mood, ranging from an nighttime abandoned hospital, to the sunlit French Quarter avenues of New Orleans fame.

Teamwork is essential to this game. Teamwork. Teamwork. Teamwork.

.....or die crew.

…..or die crew.

Now, of course you can just blow your way through each level, with no strategy, just picking off zombies, Tanks, Hunters, Smokers, and Witches.

::Shivers:: Don’t even get me started on the Witches.

But in my opinion, to truly appreciate this game, it should be played with three other folks, with some sort of a plan in mind. Definitely, don’t become one of those ultra tight butt folks who treat the game as if it’s a real life or death mission.

 

Run.

Run.

Have fun with it, but just try to have something of a plan.

Case in point: on the last level of the aforementioned hospital stage, your final fight for survival takes place on the roof of the building. You head here to await rescue from a helicopter, but in the interim, you have to fight the living dead. Final showdown and whatnot.

 

Before the zombies began attacking us, we wound up stocking up on ammo, setting up gas cans as booby traps, and placing ourselves in such a fashion that we could deal out the most damage to the monsters.

Fun times. 🙂

The calvary's on its way.....

The calvary’s on its way…..

Overall this is a must have for any fan of zombies. Even if you don’t play video games, this is the game that should force you to learn how to play.

Imagine having an opportunity to recreate some of your most favorite tense filled, survival moments from any of the Romero flicks, and you have the Left 4 Dead franchise.

There were times in this game where I literally jumped in my seat, while either playing online, or playing on a LAN gaming session with three other friends.

Rumors abound about a third game being worked on by Valve. Here’s hoping it kicks as much butt as the first two installments.

Both games (along with a crapton of DLC/ downloadable content) can be found pretty much in any brick and mortar gaming store, and on Steam.

Honorable Mentions: Game of The Year Editions/ L4D & L4D2

So that’s it for me. If ya can, please drop a line or two in the comments section about your own favorite co-op games. And if you’re ever on XBOX Live and want to run some rounds, hit me up.

 

The Deep, Dark Hills of Eastern Kentucky

justified-details-600x326

(note: This post lists many, many television shows. I am usually a stickler for punctuation and ideally each title would have quotation marks around it. But that would drive me insane and I’m not going to do it this time. I’m sure it will bother me way more than it bothers you. -chad)

The Sopranos started a revolution.

The Wire transcended television and became high literature.

Breaking Bad was an incomparable example of quality, integrity, and sharp, bold storytelling.

Sherlock brought us both the Cumber and the Batch.

Game of Thrones leaves people who would never pick up a fantasy novel salivating every week for more sex, swords, and devastating character deaths.

True Detective was (is)… so mind-bendingly good I’m still not sure if it really happened or if it was a dream.

Mad Men. Six Feet Under. Dexter. The Walking Dead. Rome. Entourage. True Blood. Curb Your Enthusiasm. Band of Brothers. Sons of Anarchy. Girls. Treme. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Lost. Louie. Community. Bates Motel. Hannibal.

We all know it. Several have said it. It’s not the point of this post, but it’s important to say:

Over the last decade plus, television has surpassed film in both cultural relevance and quality.

Most of these shows air or aired on cable, basic and premium, but not all. We are, if you can look past the pile of shit that is reality TV, past the umpteen-million Star Search clones that clog the networks every year, in a Golden Age of TV. An age that could never have been foreseen by Philo Farnsworth and his brother-in-law Cliff (that’s for the Sports Night fans out there – “I can make glass tubes.”)

Tonight, one of my all-time favorite shows is having its fifth season finale. Next season will be its last. It doesn’t get a lot of press or awards (it has won a few) and its final episode won’t generate anything close to the hype surrounding the last stand of Walter White.

justified_raylan_givens_by_mzmarvelous-d7anm18

But Justified is my favorite show on television.

I admit it’s not the best show, but it’s definitely my favorite.

Because Justified is the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of cable TV.

And I love me some peanut butter cups.

In order to explain that (the metaphor, not my love for the candy), I have to briefly mention two amazing shows that I purposely left off the above list.

deadwood_by_jcapela-d4rwf4f

Deadwood. This HBO show had a lot of things that made it difficult to find an audience: it was a western, it deliberately paced, sometimes complicated, and written by David Chase with an almost Shakespearean style of dialogue that was at times impenetrable. I fucking loved it.

It was great to have a full-on, serious Western on TV. A dirty, violent, sometimes sexy, somewhat-based in history, western in which the great Ian McShane claimed the word “cocksucker” as his and his alone for all time.

In ran for three season and ended in a less-than-satisfying way, because they were not 100% aware they were making a series finale when making the season 3 season finale. When it ended, we were promised a TV movie or two to wrap things but, but they never materialized.

Deadwood was so good, but I have never revisited it. Because I know it doesn’t pay off. I know I won’t get any more satisfaction getting to the end than I did the last time. It’s a real shame.

Deadwood went off the air in 2006.

One of the stars of Deadwood was an actor I had already been a fan of for years, ever since his turn as the “good” drug dealer in Doug Liman’s Go. The character he played was real-life Deadwood lawman Seth Bullock.

The actor’s name is Timothy Olyphant.

We’ll call him “chocolate”.

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The Shield. Due to the well-deserved supremacy of The Wire and The Sopranos, the other great crime/cop show of the last decade has been largely forgotten. But The Shield was grade-A amazing damn television. Michael Chiklis’s Vic Mackey was Walter White before Walter White. As a crooked cop who always ended up doing the wrong thing even when trying to do the right thing, he didn’t break bad: he broke worse. And worse. And worse.

It was a boundary pushing show. Taking a cue, I think, from NYPD Blue, it tested the limits of what you could say or do on (cable) television. Watching the pilot, I couldn’t believe the language they were using, even so far as talking about a guy’s “cock”. (And yet, they still never said “fuck”. Censors are weird.) The violence, the all-around moral bankruptcy, it was astounding.

The Shield also aired the most single harrowing scene I have ever watched on television. If you haven’t seen the show I won’t give it away, but, near the end of its run, it does something that is so heartbreaking, so unexpected, and so utterly painful to watch that it kept me up at night. Fuck the Red Wedding. Fuck Buffy’s mom dying. This moment… oh man I wish I could get into it but it would take so much setup… just thinking about it hurts me deep.

The Shield was a hit, especially for FX, and lasted 7 seasons. The finale was quite good.

The last episode aired in 2008.

One of the stars of that show was an actor I had never seen before. He played Shane, a cop that teeters over the edge and becomes a monster that even his mentor, Vic, a monster himself, can’t control. He is the center piece, actually, of that harrowing scene I mentioned above. You may have seen him in the last few years in films like Lincoln, Cowboys & Aliens, and Django Unchained.

His name is Walton Goggins.

We’ll call him “peanut butter.”

Two years after the end of The Shield, Justified debuted on FX. Centered around two Elmore Leonard characters -Raylan Givens, a deputy US Marshall forced to go home to Kentucky where he grew up, and Boyd Crowder, a white supremacist, arsonist, criminal hillbilly scumbag- it is a crime show with a western feel to it.

Who play these two men?

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Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter.

Two great tastes that taste great together.

An actor from one of television’s best westerns and an actor from one of television’s best crime shows starring in a show that is both a western and a crime show.

I was hooked before the pilot even aired.

Dickie_Bennett_infobox_3I could go on and on about the great qualities of Justified but if you haven’t seen it, I want you to experience it yourself. The dialogue is razor-sharp, very much in the vein of Elmore Leonard’s style. In fact, before he passed he said it was his favorite adaptation of his work. The story lines, while not groundbreaking, entertaining as hell and always pay off in satisfying ways. The show runner, Graham Yost, also has an unbelievable eye for guest stars, for bringing in faces you recognize but never feel like they’re stunt casting. Margo Martindale (who won an Emmy for her role). Jeremy Davies. Jere Burns. Mykelti Williamson. Neal McDonough. Patton Oswalt. And, this season, Alicia Witt, Amy Smart, and Michael Rapaport, turning in his best performance since Dick Richie.

But, really, the number one reason to watch Justified is that it’s fucking cool.

Olyphant as Raylan is just fucking cool.

Goggins as Boyd is just fucking cool (in a scary way sometimes but still).

The rest of the supporting cast is fucking cool (especially the great Nick Searcy as Raylan’s put-upon boss).

But they’re more than just cool. The dynamic between Raylan and Boyd is a lot like Alan Moore’s vision of the Joker/Batman relationship (nerd alert!). Or, okay. Both their fathers were criminals. Let’s say, instead, that they were alcoholics. Now. Most children of alcoholics (and other addicts) that I have known go one of two ways. They either eschew the fire water entirely, doing whatever they can to not turn out like their parent, or they fall the same way, losing to the genes that carried down the terrible disease.

Raylan is a man determined to not be like his father. Boyd, on the other hand, has chosen to continue the family legacy. But neither are that far from the other. They both walk a very delicate line and that balancing act is the heart of the show. A good man who sometimes finds himself doing bad things and a bad man who I think sees himself as righteous, even though deep down he knows he’s damned.

Have I mentioned I love this show?

mags-bennettJustified-AvaMichael-Rapaport-Justifiedpicture-of-jere-burns-in-justified-2010--large-picturenick-searcy-interview-02cut-ties

When they announced Justified would be ending after season 6, I was at first sad because I don’t want to see it go, but then was grateful. Because I still enjoy tuning in every week. It’s the first thing in my Tuesday DVR recordings that I go to. And if it can go out providing the same amount of entertainment, without collapsing like The Office or Six Feet Under or, let’s face it, most shows, then I’m all for it ending.

2013-01-05-justifieds4_gatefold

So I guess this has just been a plea for folks to watch my favorite show. I’m sure I haven’t done a great job selling it, but trying to sum up 5 years of a show without spoiling stuff and trying to keep my word count down is nearly impossible. I would rather the uninitiated see for themselves.

I know Game of Thrones just got back. I’m stoked too. And Silicon Valley looks very promising. Veep is great. And Hannibal? Hannibal is about to get real damn interesting. But, after sweeps, after the season is over, if you haven’t watched or caught up on Justified, I cannot recommend it enough. There’s plenty of time to get through the first five seasons before the final one airs next year.

Enjoy this Golden Age. A time when television has never been better. When television is, and I’m speaking as a film nut, a more satisfying experience than nearly any film that hits cinemas. It may not last forever. Hollywood has a habit of fucking up good things (see the indie film boom of the early 90s).

Like I seem to be doing lately, I leave you with a song. “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” is not the theme song to the show, but it is its soul and they often use it to end their seasons. It’s been recorded by many, but here is Brad Paisley’s version, the version I heard first. Not normally my kind of music, but it sums up the spirit of the show more than any words I can conjure.

Reclaiming the Night

Spiking

No skulls this week. I promise.

 

 About five minutes after I publish this article, Super Bowl XXXVVVIIILLYZ will commence. No one on this earth, save maybe the players and coaches, will be more zoned in to the game. For the thousandth year running, I’ve vowed not to miss a single snap, kickoff, punt, or PAT. Yes, it’s true. If I’ve a drug, it’s football. There’s nothing in this world I love more than NFL gridiron barbarism except my son, and even he’s only barely in the lead (kidding). During the NFL season, I eat, sleep, and dream of football. Hell, on Sundays I play football, recklessly abandoning my health to hurl TD’s (and INT’s) over guys twice my size who want nothing more than to eat me and send my body parts to the four corners of Scotland, William Wallace style.

So maybe you can see my conflict of interest.

For five and a half months each year, during prime writing season, what am I doing on Sundays, Monday nights, Thursday nights, Thanksgiving, and a few Saturdays? I should be writing, right? I should be locked in my man-cave, lights dimmed, a bourbon beside me, and my laptop where it belongs, in my lap. And yet, there I am. On the couch. Maybe I’ve got the bourbon, but I’m definitely not writing.

It feels like a strange contrast, these two loves of mine. Football and epic fantasy writing…not exactly the type of match you’d encounter on a dating website. On one hand, I’m in love with the violence of the NFL, the crowds roaring, the bodies breaking, and the beautiful mathmatics swirling in the players’ heads. As for writing, I’m nuts about sitting in the dark and painting with words in the silence. There’re no commercials during writing, no cheeers, no collisions, and no blood (well, maybe a little blood). Football and writing are a marriage based on the principle of opposites attract. One is a game; the other is a way of life. It’s a miracle the relationship has lasted this long.

Writing Dark

See, I promised no skulls this week.

And so, as the NFL season winds down and I find myself with no football to watch until September, I’m happy for it. My nights will be available again. I’ve still got the G man to tend to, but after he’s asleep I’ll have a few moments of freedom to escape to my dungeon and write. I’ll have no temptation to turn the tv on, no dissection of every NFL play disrupting my thoughts. Football is only a temporary mistress. She’s not the kind of woman I’d ever want to marry. She’s too needy, too loud, and too all-consuming. I’ll date her for a few months every year just for the excitement factor, but I’ll be relieved whenever she goes on vacation. I’ve got books to finish. That’s where the real satisfaction is. In the words. Writing is the kind of a woman you can bring home to mom. She’s not flashy, but if you love her, she’ll love you right back.

Until next year, football mistress. Thanks for giving me my nights back. We’ll meet again, but not before I pop off a few hundred thousand more words.

Love,

J Edward Neill

 

Caption Contest – Part 2 of 10,000

Ok loyal Tessera readers, here’s part deux of my 10,000 part captioning series. This week’s prize is a free autographed version of this:

SoulOrbCoverPaperback

To the writer of the cleverest caption (of the picture below, not the book cover) I’ll sign and ship a softcover copy of Down the Dark Path at no charge. By no charge, I mean nada, zilch, zip. I’ll even cover shipping, just because I love ya. This is the alternate cover art edition, of which only ten copies are currently in print. It’s that fresh. Put this tome in a room, and it’ll act like double reverse potpourri, darkening every lamp and candle, possibly even turning your children into demons (assuming they aren’t already.)

Now…as for the picture to be captioned:

Darth G Tessera

Yes it’s the G Man again. All Hallows Eve 2013. Darth Vader. Red lightsaber. Pilots a mean tie fighter. You get the picture. Pun intended.

Last contest’s captioner made me lol. And I never lol. I mean never. It hurts me to even type the letters l-o-l in succession. Imagine my indignation.

So I’m counting on you, friends, frienemies, and strangers. Knock this caption out of the park and win the darkest fantasy novel ever written…by me…thus far. Add your caption in the comments section. Voting ends on Christmas Day, 11:59 PM. And by voting, I mean me lol’ing, which I never do.

Love,

J Edward Neill