A bygone age

Last night I did not video game as late as usual because I was suffering from pulled muscles that made sitting forward uncomfortable. I ended up surfing the channels on my TV looking for something to watch while I waited to unwind and get ready for bed.
On TCM (Turner Classic Movies) I spotted something that could have been a low-budget horror film from the late 50’s or early 60’s, but alas it was what looked a murder mystery. (Turns out to have been Girls On The Loose)

For the first time in years I thought about my Saturday night as an adolescent in Ft. Pierce Florida. Every Saturday night at 11 pm the local TV station would start Creature Feature. A double bill of horror and genre films that would play into the early morning hours.

I saw many an entertaining movie late Saturday night with a bowl of popcorn by my side. It was on Creature Feature that I first saw many classic movies such as The Creature From The Black Lagoon and quite a few of the Roger Corman ‘Poe’ Movies from the sixties.

Those days are gone. Late night TV now is a collection of infomercials — one of the sins of the Reagan era — and second rate TV shows. There isn’t much in the way of a Creature Feature with classic and cheesy movies I haven’t seen before. Now I know that we have DVD, Blu-ray, Movies on Demand, and Instant View movies on Netflix and I utilize all of those in my movie watching habits, but there is a real shortfall in this aspect of home video. It only shows me movies I have asked it to show me.

I never get surprised or exposed to a new movie this way because I search out the films I want to rent, buy, or view. Oh there is the occasional that I find by surfing the sites or rarely one that is recommended to me by the software actually looks interesting, but this is a different dynamic than the Creature Feature.

Every Saturday night I would lay back on the couch, the rest of the house asleep, and I was watch a genre movie. I usually knew no more than that when the features started. It was genre and that was enough to spark an interest. Sometimes the movies would be so bad or dull I would go to be, most of the time the movies were forgettable and have now been forgotten, but occasionally the movies would leave an impression that echoed through the decades.

I remember watching Planet Of Vampires on Creature Feature, a stylistic though flawed Italian SF movie. Years later I found it on DVD and bought it for a friend. We watched the film and man the makers of Alien were clearly influenced by this movie. Sadly I did not buy a copy of the DVD for myself and it is now out of print. I never would have seen this movie had it not been for Creature Feature.

This is terribly saddens me. Young people growing up today will not get the same exposure to the classic genre films that I got. They’ll see remakes of the really big name movies, such as The Day The Earth Stood Still, and perhaps track down the original, but that random sf/horror film of the weekend is a thing of the past. Many films that are not classics are going to be rarely seen just because of the death of Creature Features across the country. While The Killer Shrews is a film with more flaws than charms I am still happy that I saw the movie and when it turned up in a 50 movies boxed set I bought I was happy to watch it again.

Perhaps this is why I am a fan of our local club, San Diego Vintage SF, though my life has made it tough to attend in months. Every month a genre film from before 1968 is shown, along with a serial and cartoon. (Frankly I could skip the serial as it was never part of my movie going experience.) However SDVSF does not make up for the Creature Feature.

It would be wonderful is TCM did a regular program dedicated to SF,Horror, and Fantasy films. They already have these movies and they play them, but not as part of a generalized programming about them with a host, introduction and such. There is a richness in the genre and it extends beyond the recognized classics. A treasure likely to be rarely seen and forgotten with the years.


No Fear

The title of this post is a play on Andrew Sullivan’s ‘Know Fear’ when posting about Sarah Palin.
Sullivan is quite concerned — putting it mildly — that Sarah Palin is going to run for, and win the republican nomination for President. He obsessed on her since the half-term governor was selected for McCain’s running mate.
This week, with Sullivan on vacation, there has been a minor explosion of Palin news as her daughter and estranged boyfriend announced that they were a couple again and planning to wed.
I have no interest in Bristol Palin’s personal life. She’s profiting well from her notoriety I do not blame her in the least. Grab the money while you can. She’s not robbing, scamming, or stealing from anyone so I really don’t care.
However I expect that when Sullivan returns there may be several posts about Levi Johnson — the boyfriend — and that his silence has been bought.
You see Levi had made a series of scathing attacks on Sarah Palin while he was estranged from Bristol and his child by Bristol. Sullivan, blinded by his obsession, (And that’s the problem with obsession it always blinds you) just ate up all the hints and stories Levi told.
Family fights can be nasty brutish affairs full of lies and distortions from all corners and only a fool gets involved in on if he does not have to.
Now, with Levi’s retractions, Sullivan is looking even more foolish on the Palin-front. (He’s also been obsessing on the Trig is not Palin’s son conspiracy. I reject that theory. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and there is no proof there.)

Sullivan can be an engaging and thought writer, but on Plain he’s as fear struck as the those running around screaming socialist at everything Obama does.

I have no fear of Sarah Palin. I have no expectation she will run — as I have mentioned in earlier posts — I have no expectation that if she did run she would win. She is an entertainer who has found her niche and will grow rich from her audience.


Movie Review: Predators

Last Sunday morning a friend and I took in the movie Predators at the local multiplex theater.

I’m a big fan of the original film. I think Predator was a near perfect summer action movie. The sequel, Predator 2, I saw in the theater and frankly it bored me and I have scarcely any memory of it at all.

The Alien V Predator movies are an even further step down, so when I heard that Robert Rodriguez was getting a crack at revitalizing the franchise I was interested.

I particularly liked that he planned to ignore all the films in the franchise save the first one. This movie is the direct sequel that should have been

If you have seen the trailers and the commercials there won’t be any spoilers in my review, however some plot details, one in said previews, are going to be mentioned.

Rather than rehash the first film by having a Predator return to Earth, as Predator 2 did, (I remember that much.) Rodriguez has the Predators scoop up a number of humans and drop them into a hunting preserve. He wastes zero time in getting the plot started. There is no build up, os scene setting, or even recap of the previous movie. The characters and the audience are dropped straight into the action.

We quickly meet our cast of international characters, and without hesitation the game is on.

The action comes fast and furious — some times a little too fast. We lost one character about a thrid of the way through the film and I had totally missed that he got killed.

Still despite the fast action and the non-stop gunplay, the producers, writers, and directors find time for actual character moments. In fact I dare say this film has more character in it than the first film. We can certainly trace an evolution for Adrian Brody;s character and see the changes he undergoes much more than anything that happened to Dutch in the first film.

Frankly I enjoyed myself and for matinee price I certainly got my money’s worth.


A moment from last night’s D&D game

So Twice a month I run a D&D (3.5, not 4.0) game. This particular campaign has been going for something like five years now and is about the reach its conclusion.

I just wanted share my favorite moment from the game last night.

The characters were having breakfast in a besieged Dwarven city under the mountain. From the kitchen they heard a violent disturbance. At once they sprang into action and one, a barbarian,  of the characters rushed to spot next to the kitchen door. A moment later a woman wielding two bloody scimitars came through, the barbarian swung and player confidently announce his roll to hit was a 37. (For those who do not play you general a number between 1-20 and add you modifiers to determine you roll to hit, 37 was an exceptionally high number to generate.)

The player was confident he scored a hit and I throughly enjoyed the look on his face when I announced, missed.

He turned to the others and said something along the lines of, “Oh, we’re in trouble.”


What an in process Manuscript looks like.

So I’m going over with for I am calling my 1.5 revision. Every page that I am editing has been edited once already. However in the case of some of those pages that first edit was several months ago and ideas I ha about the novel have evolved since then.

Here is a peek at just how massive the edits are, even after a complete pass.

I do think that my life would be easier if I could somehow learn to wtire it correctly the first time.

Of course that really isn’t possible. Aside from the spelling errors and typos that need to be found, there is the little matter that I really don’t understand my novel from my own outline. It is the process of writing the novel that teaches me what it is really about and what I really need to concentrate on.

What made sense three-four months ago is no longer the themes I am pushing.


A post Westercon report

There is one bit of data I learned at Westercon that truly was depressing.

In the Mohave desert right now, a new industry is being born. Passenger Spaceflight. In the Mohave you will find companies like Virgin Galactic and Xcor racing to establish the first safe, reliable, passenger service to space. Both companies are looking forward to at first sub-orbital hops, but much more could be had further down the road.

This is truly the American spirit. Bold visionary people, taking enormous risks as they build something new from the ground up.

When asked about regular operations and where the Lynx spacecraft would launch from, a member of Xcor told us that due to the business climate it all likelihood the company would move from California. The government climate makes it too difficult form the new industry to be born here. They can get their R&D done here, just as Rutan has with Spaceship One, but it looks like New Mexico is ahead of the nation in the race to make it an industry.

That is truly a shame.