Thursday, May 31, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
The Good, The Bad, and the Putrefying
Another person gets it about zombies!
Respectable, but I should've done better. But I bet you can't do better. Bring it.
On the other hand, here's a totally different kind of quiz:
Your Score: Unaffected
Result: 22. Your score isn't an achievement, it just is.
Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at Cambridge's Autism Research Centre have created the Autism-Spectrum Quotient, or AQ, as a measure of the extent of autistic traits in adults. In the first major trial using the test, the average score in the control group was 16.4. Eighty percent of those diagnosed with autism or a related disorder scored 32 or higher. The test is not a means for making a diagnosis, however, and many who score above 32 and even meet the diagnostic criteria for mild autism or Asperger's report no difficulty functioning in their everyday lives. You scored less than 32. Make your own assessment of that
|Link: The Asperger's Syndrome Test written by beachbummer on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test|
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Awesome blurb from Da Man!
"Dying To Live is an engrossing, exciting read - a zombie novel with heart and brains. A high-octane, thinking man's horror novel with beautiful and gruesome imagery. I absolutely loved it!" Brian Keene, best-selling author of Dead Sea, The Rising, and City of the Dead
I can honestly say I probably wouldn't have a career in fiction right now if it weren't for him. He did so much to revive the genre a couple years ago, and point it squarely at zombies, that it has made it possible for people like me to sell our little novels and stories and get a start.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
GREAT review in Dark Realms magazine!
Just when you thought there was nothing left to write about the groundbreaking zombie films of George Romero, along comes Gospel of the Living Dead. It quickly becomes evident that the author Kim Paffenroth has a true love of the films of Romero as he thoroughly analyzes each of the films and even some of the spin-off's and remakes. Prior to George Romero's 1971 landmark film Night of the Living Dead, zombies were primarily associated with voodoo rituals and witch doctors. Romero created a new genre of urban horror, inspiring the revolution that followed. Paffenroth looks at these films from a religious, socio-political and emotional perspective. Referencing racism, sexism and other pertinent social commentaries, this book makes you look at Romero films, and horror films in general, in a whole new light. His parallels to Dante's Inferno amongst other classic tomes, creates a very unique view point that conveys subtle moral undertones. Gospel of the Living Dead is not only a must-have for the hardcore Romero and Zombie movie fan, but it is also a well-researched and intelligent analysis that will give them food for thought.
Thanks, "Buzz" (the reviewer's only identity as listed in the mag)!
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
But with only one Romero-related question on the quiz, I was pleased to get 9/10 right!
Monday, May 21, 2007
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Another Amazon Review!
Going into DYING TO LIVE with the knowledge that its author is a theologian with a rich, well-read imagination, it was difficult not to pick out the many allegories and allusions in the book, and to consider the story's deeper implications. But this didn't at all detract from the gripping thrill ride that the novel is. A lot of reviewers have already called DYING TO LIVE a thinking man's zombie novel, and it is, but it's packed with as much viscera and action as it is philosophy.
Many of the horrors described in the story - set about a year after a zombie apocalypse - are experienced in hindsight as memories recalled by the different characters, who explain how they came to exist in the new world carved out by the undead plague. In this way, a lot of these stories are told sort of like parables, though Paffenroth doesn't thrust any firm conclusions in your face when he asks his questions about human nature. Rather, he allows the characters to wonder at open-ended mysteries along with the reader. The story's messianic figure, Milton, is not a definitive answer to the world's problems, but a reluctant messiah who actually raises more questions than anyone else and has little understanding of his ability to strike fear into the undead.
But again, there's so much action-horror to be had that the book doesn't ever get lost in its thinking side. The narrator, Jonah Caine, and his newfound friends go up against plenty of nasty zombies as well as nasty humans, and the brutality visited upon protagonists and antagonists alike is unflinching. Paffenroth pulls off some of the most disgusting, horrifying imagery in any zombie tale I've read, and without any tendency toward shock value. It just is what it is.
In the end, various characters are just beginning to understand their roles in the new world. In particular, Milton's perception of himself and the undead is fascinating but I don't want to spoil anything. READ THIS BOOK and trust that you'll never encounter a bump on the long, gory ride. There's a lot of room for a sequel here, but the story still has a feeling of completeness and invites a lot of reflection. That'll give your brain something to chew on until the sequel (with its own variety of brain-chewers) does come along, which I hope is sooner rather than later.
The Time Sink That Is YouTube
Friday, May 18, 2007
Kidding. A lot of coffee. A few donuts, and yes, some booze. But then those passages need so much going over that it's not especially productive.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
I was trying to think of the common thread for today's musings, and I decided to focus on three recent horror movies I've seen in the theater - Grindhouse, The Reaping, and 28 Weeks Later. The first one I really liked, the other two I was slightly to very disappointed in. (It should be noted, I'm not much of a predictor of box office success: Grindhouse completely bombed at the box office.) Partly it reinforced for me the observation that the sheer quantity of blood and viscera on screen has little to do with the film's quality, its underlying meaning, or how disturbing one would find it. As a side note, this also means that our current ratings system is completely useless, as it only rates for outward, visible acts, not inner meaning or context. (This was brought home to me very graphically a few years ago when I took my small son to see The Hulk, which was rated PG13. Yes, there's no blood on screen, but that hardly outweighs the fact that Dr. Banner's dad stabs his mom to death in front of him!! That's very disturbing, regardless of the lack of fluids on screen.)
Anyway, to return to these three films: Grindhouse has more fluids on screen than the other two combined. Heck, it probably has more splattered all over than everything in the last year combined. But it is a funny, irreverent film; at a stretch I might even call it uplifting. At least, by the end of each of its halves, the bad guys are dead, and by the very end of the film, I and most of the theater had been screaming with laughter for the last 20 minutes, through the credits, and all the way out to the parking lot. But the other two movies had that kind of unreflective, reflexive, automatic kind of nihilism that I refer to in my blog entry's title as the lite version, and which seems to be the dominant way to make a horror movie (and probably has seeped over into other genres as well). It's not real nihilism, the kind that brings despair or rage, but just a completely uncaring, callous shrug that the people we've watched for 100 minutes will all die horribly anyway, evil will triumph, and none of the characters' heroism or sacrifice or love or hate or betrayal make any difference whatsoever. I know it's the film makers' way of being edgy or dark or whatever, but I think it's just lazy story-telling. Invest me in the characters, make me care, give me a plot that's not utterly predictable (and neither The Reaping nor 28 Weeks does any of these things, either), and then if you want to kill off the main characters or end the world as we know it, then that would be real nihilism, and it might be interesting. This is just a cop out for some cheap effect.
And to relate this to Christianity and film: it's not the outward trappings - the gore, the wizardry, the swear words - that make a film (un)Christian. It's the heart of the film. And, as Flannery O'Connor often observed about writing, a tale has to be first and foremost well-written, before one can debate its merits as delivering a Christian message. I don't think nihilism lite tales are ever well told, and they are also never compatible with a Christian world view. But a gore fest like Grindhouse might not be for the squeamish, but it's an entertaining film, and there's nothing particularly un-Christian about it.
See what the other synchrobloggers have to say on Christianity and film:
- Adam Gonnerman pokes at The Spider's Pardon
- David Fisher thinks that
- John Morehead considers
Christians and HorrorRedux: From Knee-Jerk Revulsion to Critical Engagement
- MariekeSchwartz lights it up with Counter-hegemony: Jesus lovesBorat
- Mike Bursell muses about Christianity at theMovies
- Jenelle D'Alessandro tells us Why Bjork Will Never ActAgain
- Cobus van Wyngaard contemplates Theology and Film (asart)
- Tim Abbott tells us to Bring your own meaning...?
- Sonja Andrews visits The Good, The Bad, and TheUgly:Christ in Spaghetti Westerns
- Steve Hollinghurst takes astab at The Gospel according to Buffy
- Les Chatwin insists We Don't Need Another Hero
- Lance Cummings says The Wooden Wheel keeps Turning
- John Smulo weaves a tale about Spiderman 3 and the Shadow
- JoshRivera spells well with Christian Witchcraft
- Phil Wyman throws out the Frisbee: Time to Toss itBack
- Sally Coleman rushes up with Making Connections- films as a part of a mythological tradition
- Steve Hayes ponders The Image of Christianity inFilms
Jerry Falwell's Death and Irony
One actually posted "Well, it's not like I wanted him to be tortured to death." Oh. My. God. You want points because you don't want to see your enemies tortured to death? You just want them to die quickly? Now that's some enlightenment and tolerance to be proud of. Wow.
Were people always this stupid, and they just couldn't advertise it as easily, or did the Internet actually make them more stupid?
Monday, May 14, 2007
Even the Atheist Likes It!
I can't complain about an evaluation like that!
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Live Free or Die Hard
You've Got to Like Splatter
As I have never seen a game where the chief thing to get more difficult with each passing level, is that the body parts and blood that are smeared all over the ground in front of you make it increasingly difficult to pick your targets out. That's splatter.
Some More People Who Clearly "Get It"
So, maybe it's time to send a big shout and thanks to all those teachers who had to put up with my literary efforts in high school, which was the last time I wrote any fiction. To Mrs. Holladay and Mrs. Terry, who taught me grammar and syntax (and Mrs. Terry, sorry for being such a pain); and to Mrs. Shankland and Mrs. Sharp who let me run the literary magazine w/o turning me in to the authorities for being a crazy teen obsessed with death, killing, and the end of the human race (anyone who remembers their high school literary magazine - just think if you tried to publish that stuff today in a post-Columbine, post-VATech world) - THANKS!
28 Weeks Later
The end of the zombie craze?! Oh no! (Given the reviews, probably not, though given that my multiplex had it on the smallest screen on opening night while Spidey was on four screens makes me wonder.) Or the gauntlet has been thrown down for a new generation to revive the genre?! Oh, now I like that scenario much better! Wish me luck!
Saturday, May 12, 2007
The Week Began and Ended with Emails
End of the week: email from one of the biggest names in horror fiction, out of the blue, saying how much he loves D2L and he'll get me a real blurb in the next day or two.
On balance, a pretty good email week.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Thursday, May 10, 2007
This Guy REALLY Likes D2L!
But a moment of modesty. I think D2L is a solid piece, but it's a simple, straightforward story. It's episodic before the final sequence comes into view, and then it unwinds pretty quickly. You could summarize the whole plot in one sentence. Descriptions of scenes and setting - sometimes a little flat, I think. So plot and description I have to work on. I know that.
BUT... okay, you want me to say what I did work on and what I think I did succeed at? Did I work on dialogue and some of the images till they were crystalline perfection - sharp, cold, cutting, heartbreakingly beautiful - like an Arkansas Black Diamond? (I don't know if there is such a thing, but it sounds cool.) You bet. I was here at the computer late at night working on some things over and over. Dialogue and symbolism appeal to me, and I often think other authors do dialogue poorly, so I wrote and rewrote those parts endlessly. I showed them to some of my academic colleauges in English and worked their comments in. People in D2L sound like they do in real life, on those occasions when they're thinking about every word. Thoughtful, careful, but realistic. And the imagery and symbolism? THAT scene sticks out as one where the imagery is particularly dense, but there are plenty of scenes that stick with you and make you pause with a chill or a sigh.
Okay. So I do some things well, and I'm working on the rest. That's all an author can do. Try to be better.
God on Nightline - Part II
Atheist assertion: Religion causes wars and violence.
Fact: People cause wars and violence. People are so stupid and evil that they'll cause wars and violence over practically anything. The bloody wars of the 20th century weren't about religion. And in the personal realm, apparently most people who are attacked or murdered have as their assailant someone who claims to "love" the victim (spouse, parent, child, sibling). So under this reasoning, "love" is bad.
Atheist assertion: You can't prove Jesus existed.
Fact: I'm not sure I can prove that anything exists, except what's in my immediate field of vision. But let's forget such extreme skepticism and just have a more regular proof:
1) the Romans crucified thousands of Jewish men in Palestine in the first half of the first century;
2) "Jesus" was a very common name at the time;
THEREFORE - it seems very likely that a Jewish man named Jesus was crucified in the first half of the first century.
HUH? (You say.) You heard me. You didn't say I had to prove Jesus did and said everything reported in the New Testament (which can't be proved and is a matter of faith). So get over it: a man named Jesus lived in the first century and was crucified by the Romans. Christians believe other things about him that you can disagree with. In fact, Christians believe a great many things about him about which they disagree amongst themselves. Disagreement is good. It makes us think more carefully and subtly and let's us develop new positions. Try it.
Christian assertion: This whole mess is cause by you people believing in evolution.
Fact: No, a lot of animosity against Christianity is caused by Christians behaving like illiterate, irrational fools, and then forcing their beliefs on others. Evolution is a scientific theory with a lot of evidence to support it, and a smaller body of evidence against it. Get over it. To say that God could only make life in the way you imagine it and not through some process that you find disturbing is the height of arrogance and ignorance. And God doesn't like those qualities.
God on Nightline
"Beauty! Perfection! Goodness! Truth! Explain that as one big accident, Atheist Boy!"
"Cancer! Birth Defects! Drought! Famine! Explain that as the act of a Loving Creator, God Boy!"
That's where the debate's always gotten hung up, it seems to me. So Pascal (and similarly Qoheleth and others) will always have the last word: it's a gamble - a 50/50 gamble with your life at stake. Welcome to the Real World. Thanks for playing.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
I Learned How To Do Something New This Morning!
Why, you ask? Because, believe it or not, the back and forth emails with a disgruntled contributor to History Is Dead would NOT end, and this was annoying me. It seems "No, I don't want to discuss your story with you any more" just wasn't part of her mental world, not a statement of which she could fathom the meaning or implication. Perhaps this is because the "you" in the sentence automatically translates in her mind to "Most important person in the universe, whose needs must be immediately and unquestioningly met." Or is it because "your story" in that sentence is automatically rendered as "Most amazingly brilliant piece of prose of all time that only a Republican, puritanical, arrogant idiot could not fall in love with on the first reading"? No, wait, I know: it's because the "I" in that sentence clearly means "Your personal servant who has nothing else or better to do than cater to your every whim, agree with everything you say, and repent of all his misdeeds and lack of enlightenment." Yes, now I see.
But, of course, I'm the bad guy. "So say goodnight to the bad guy!" (Man, I always wanted to say that! Now I've had my chance! See - something good comes of every situation in life!)
Monday, May 07, 2007
Horror Fiction Review
Jonah Caine is struggling to survive in a world overrun with the undead when he stumbles upon a museum that’s inhabited by human survivors. He joins their ranks (which is headed by a mysterious, prophetic man named Milton), and everything seems to be going fine until they run into another group of survivors who aren’t on the same level as they are.
Although the plot is your standard apocalyptic, end-of-the-world zombie deal, Paffenroth makes it his own through the interesting and very believable characters; Jonah, “Popcorn,” and Tanya make a great zombie-bashing team, and Milton’s musings on theology and philosophy are fresh (and more importantly, never dull). Milton also holds a special power over the undead, which adds a nice little twist to the tale.
Most horror fans will probably feel like they’ve been here before, but zombie aficionados will be pleased to know that the author really lets loose with the splatter and suspense: one scene dealing with a hospital rooftop, a stuttering helicopter, and an army of approaching zombies will have you on the edge of your seat; gore and scares rarely occur this effectively in a genre novel.
I’m looking very forward to a sequel.
Don't Argue with the Editor
Another Mystery Amazon Review
The dead walk and humans hope to survive, but things are not that simple. There are a million stories that could be told in the backdrop of a world infested with the walking dead, and there are points-of-view that are as varied as snowflakes as they are added to a story's woven web. That is the case with Dying to live, where we find ourselves following in the footsteps of a character that is well worth following and thinking about more than just bullets, Twinkies, and how fast a zombie can move. Here we find people, some of them beautiful ballads and some terrible things, also moving and vying for survival. In fact, this is a tale about humanity just as much as it is about the undead and, delightfully, it turned out to be something I am happy to have read. A lot of things become points-of-interest on the map of thinking in a world littered with undead, and questions about people are oftentimes overlooked even though they are the points that really have relevance here. In fact, if the world were to become a playpen for the undead and breathing a premium, the human condition would play an interesting role in the societies - or distortions thereof - that begin to appear everywhere. Sometimes this would lead to something that could only be described as a simplistic in its functioning madness, like one described in the book that was built by convicts and that worked only because of thick walls and blocked access, and other times they would be more beautifully attuned to the dynamics of living because of the million little coincidences that take paper fortresses and turn them into viable institutions. That was one of the interesting parts of Dying to Live, the million little coincidences, and it was also one of the reasons the book was magnetic enough to make me want to keep reading it. The random contact, the terrible things that happen while propelling people forward, the little strands of good luck in a world that seems so without; these things came together with really good writing and made the tale of one man a bit different in a market saturated by "classic": zombie tales. From his modest beginnings where we found him waking in a treehouse and telling us how he wished he could smoke so zombie battles would seem almost cinematically cool to the explanations of how he took out driver's licenses and other forms of identification so he could apologize to those he had to kill, we see a world at its worst and yet some of our characters at their best. I liked the way that came into play and how other characters also came into the story, to, making my mind's eye teary as I learned more and more about the cost of certain types of survival. Normally I am apathetic toward the people in these situations, figuring they will fall by the wayside and be awash in a world of teeth, and also because I cannot feel their pain and cannot understand their reasoning. When I read Dying to Live, however, I found myself connected with the characters and sympathetic to their plight. In a few cases I even mourned the crossing of a character into their paper graveyard, finding the costs of love in their world high and the writing a beautiful touch. That made the beautiful to me, because I rarely get to find connection in anything involving 2-D living. If you are looking for something different in the genre of reanimation, you should try Dying to Live out because it really does give you features you rarely find but most certainly seek. There are plenty of zombies here and I don't want to make it seem that way, either, but the tale of the people is much more the issue and that balance is something refreshing. Even people who are not fans of the genre could find something here, albeit a bloody and terrible something that might make you a bit squeamish. I recommend this highly, and thank the author for giving me something that made my sleepless nights better. Life comes at a high price and remembering that is beautiful when obtained in a vicarious sense.
Thanks! I was afraid at times I was overburdening the reader with all the "extras" of survivor stories and not enough killing, but it looks like for some I've struck the right balance.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Happy Birthday Sigmund
If my father were alive, I'd send it to him, as I think it's interesting and he'd find it interesting, and he'd respond that "It confirms everything I've said about Christians - that they are PSYCHOTIC ASSHOLES!!! IF YOU DON'T LIKE MY SAYING THAT, YOU CAN CORRESPOND WITH SOMEONE ELSE!!!" I hope he's happy with that opinion, wherever he is, or has developed a better one in the meantime.
But, I don't think that's the point of the essay, and I found it a very eloquent call for introspection and humility.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Possum Death Spree
Laughed till it hurt.
It matches you up with action heroes (but not just comic book superheroes). I thought sure I'd get Batman, but I got Maximus, who is pretty cool.
A Large, Red Ant
Friday, May 04, 2007
Random Thoughts at Dunkin' Donuts
- Gal is walking in ahead of me. She's a cashier from the CVS next door. Another regular greets her. She says back, "Oh, yeah, I had to take a break and get something to eat! I've been working for THREE HOURS!" Oh. Wow. Three hours. One hundred and eighty minutes there, on your feet, in the grueling sweat shop that is CVS. Like that is some huge accomplishment or sacrifice. Like she's worked two shifts in the mines. My God. I don't even know what our new Chinese and Indian overlords are going to do with us when they take us over, we're so damned lazy.
- Going out, I see my car. Just washed it earlier today. All the chrome shining. That graphite finish (total serendipity - I never would've picked that color, it was just what they had on the lot, but it looks SMOKIN') sparkling in the last rays of the sun. And I thought, you know, you really do like your car better than your woman. It's human nature. Well, it's man's nature. And I thought again how I want to be buried in it. But I thought of the logistical problems. I mean, I know there are laws against just sticking someone in the back yard (regardless of the receptacle) and I don't know how they're going to take to lowering a PT Cruiser into a hole in a "regular" cemetery. But then I thought, wait, once you're cremated I think they can do whatever you tell them (ahead of time) to do with you, so where's the problem with setting the urn on the front seat and burying it in the back yard? Heck, it could be quasi-Egyptian, with all kinds of goodies and trinkets all around the back seat. I'm set!!! I just love it when I solve a problem.
Another Satisfied Customer
I just finished Kim's "Dying to Live" last night. What an incredibly intense story!! I was enthralled from the beginning but when (and I don't want to give away anything) they make their journey to the other survivors and what happened there, THAT Mr. Paffenroth was one of the most INTENSE and heartwrenching pieces of literature I have ever read, zombie or not!!! You have such a talent with words that I was actually sickened and then so freakin' angry that I wanted to reach into the book and physically take part in the vengence. My god! Folks this is just an amazingly well written story. Get a copy today. This very instant. Unbelievable!!
He'll be posting it on his Pod soon: http://dr-pus.podomatic.com/
Thanks! I remember writing that scene, late on several nights in a row last summer, and I remember how worked up I got about what was happening, really immersed in the action, and how angry I got with the characters and what they were doing, that there was no level of violence I could bring down on them that would satisfy how much vengeance I wanted to wreak upon them. And I'm glad that came across.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Hope for this Country?
It has been there all day, with Bush-bashing people piling on, and no one speaking up in defense of the Commander Guy. Is there hope? Have we awakened from this long nightmare?