June 22, 2017

Action Adventure During the Tokugawa Shogunate

Taking a break from the fourth Dunwich Committee on Student Safety story and trying to make a submission deadline with an action-adventure tale set in Japan during the Tokugawa Shogunate:

After two young children witness a brutal murder by a powerful gang, a komusō (wandering mendicate Zen monks known for wearing reed hoods and playing bamboo flutes) tries to see them safely through a dangerous forest to the Shrine at Nakazama for a secret rendezvous with the local magistrate and his men.

June 21, 2017

Third Dunwich Committee On Student Safety Story

Just your average day in Dunwich...
Finished the third Dunwich Committee on Student Safety story and sent it off to the first round readers. One more of these to knock out, then I'm going to take a short break from my version of Lovecraft Country.

June 15, 2017

Santa Clarita Diet

Last night, I finally gave Santa Clarita Diet a watch.

I loved it.

It's so good. It's funny. It's clever. It's a little absurd. It also manages to be sweet and accurately portray what it's like to be married for a long time and still like each other...well, except for the zombie thing...

June 14, 2017

The Free State of Jones

Watched The Free State of Jones last night.

Sometimes it was a little stiff and plodding. And it probably should have been a miniseries instead of trying to compress years of people, events, and material in 2 hours and 20 minutes. But I liked it a whole lot.

Even if exact reasons and circumstances of "The Free State of Jones" are still up for debate among historians, the film was incredibly fascinating. Anymore, I’m constantly struck by all the little bits of history that never come up in school and how what we are taught about history tends to be a contrived narrative with a very particular purpose.

May 31, 2017

Dunwich Committee on Student Safety

Just finished another story featuring my Dunwich Committee on Student Safety. It's with my beta readers now, then it hits the submission rounds. Now we move on to the next story...

May 24, 2017

Thoughts On Wraith: The Oblivion

Talking about World of Darkness Games from White Wolf always eventually leads me to Wraith.

I loved Wraith: The Oblivion—LOVED it! I have nearly all of the books released for that line. I think I might have been the only one because that game line never sold particularly well. Most of my friends either never played it or just didn’t like it. I think I only ever managed to play it three times (always had to run it) and never for very long because the players found it depressing.

As much as I loved it, here are the problems I saw with W:tO:

  • It can be relentless depressing and most people play a role-playing game for some kind of escape and to have fun.
  • The players also playing each other’s shadow was a great idea, but hard to do well and often lead to player-versus-player drama.
  • So much about Wraith is character-centered and character-driven that group play was very difficult to pull off or explain.
  • The whole flavor of the game with the Kingdom of Stygia, the Death Lords, Charon and the Ferryman, and the Tempest was all great great stuff but like so many of the games that came after Vampire, most people seemed to have a hard time grokking how all the pieces fit together with the real world, the Shadowlands, and the places out in the Tempest.

I think of all the classic game lines, Wraith could most benefit from a complete overall. Here’s what I’d do:

  • Not make the game so relentless bleak.
  • Instead, play up the creepiness and weirdness. GM to Wraith-Player: “When you go downstairs, there is now a brand-new door in the middle of the living room. The living family who inhabits the house you died in does not notice the door. A part of you wants to go over and open the door, but the other part of you that refused to submit to death knows you must never ever open that door.”
  • Release an initial supplement detailing one-on-one play.
  • Make it easier to affect the living world. “Oh yeah, this is so fun just standing here not being able to do anything, especially after playing as a vampire/werewolf/mage.”
  • Or structure the game different. Maybe instead of playing each other’s shadows, half the players are playing humans the wraith characters are connected to. You could make it so it’s the mutual play of unresolved passions and desires that leads to a wraith, both the wraith’s and their human’s.
  • Come up with a different central conceit to hang group play around that connects the players together. Maybe wraiths awaken in the underworld and need to find/fight their way back to the land of the Quick?
  • And/or release supplements that provide different structures/modules to hang group play on. I always had the best luck with that when I was trying to convince people to play Wraith. ("You're all victims of the same serial killer. You all haunt the same house, each of you having lived there in different time periods. You're all the ghosts enslaved to the same Giovanni.")

May 23, 2017

New World of Darkness Editions

There’s going to be new editions of the World of Darkness tabletop RPGs, or at least for right now a 5th Edition of Vampire: The Masquerade and a 5th Edition of Werewolf: The Apocalypse. (The anniversary editions from Onyx Path are the 4th editions)!

I played a ridiculous amount of WoD games—a ridiculous amount. And while I came to like other games from White Wolf more and discovered other games outside of White Wolf I probably like better overall, V:tM is what got me into tabletop RPGS. And a vampire LARP is even how I met the lovely wife.

So here are my main hopes and dreams for the new WoD lines as a whole:

  • Decide whether the meta-plot matters or not and stick to the decision
  • Decide whether the different game lines mesh or not and stick to the decision
  • If they do mesh, adjust the cosmology so the different worlds make sense together.
  • If they do mesh, publish rules for how the different powers interact and affect the different supernatural creatures
  • Free the other game lines up a bit from having to fit in the V:tM template --They all could have been slightly better games if they didn’t have to be: Group A has X number of whatevers and they are opposed by Group B with X number of whatevers
  • Make sure all parts of the central conceit of the game are understandable and don’t leave you shaking your head as to what’s the point again:
  • See most of Changeling the Dreaming
  • Wait? Hasn’t the Technocracy basically won already? Then why are we fighting them?
  • So as werewolves, we’re against the progress of man and society?
  • Back off on the incessant New Age, crunchy granola gobbledygook.
  • Axe all the terrible stuff that highlights the worst parts of gaming and being a gamer. 
  • No abominations ever
  • Never release anything like Dirty Little Secrets of the Black Hand—ever
  • Remember to keep some humans and some mystery in the world, so ease up on pumping out new “monster-of-the-week” bloodlines, etc.

May 19, 2017

Political Post: As Cherry Pie

One of my writing goals has been to try to focus my political thoughts into essays that I submit elsewhere.

My first piece is up at https://riserevolt.org/.

And before you go read it, because I have a good feeling it's gonna anger a lot of people, here’s what I’m trying to get at it with it—I'm not advocating violence, what I'm trying to point out to you is that wishing something isn’t so, doesn’t make it so.

The elites want you locked into a mode of thinking, right? About everything. It’s only when you’ve acknowledged the truth, that you can deal with something meaningful--in this case, that's having a conversation about how to get around violence effectively.

Because what most people do when they "protest" is mimic a fictional construct, so it’s utterly meaningless and mostly accomplishes nothing other than maybe making them feel better.

Read my thoughts here: 

May 17, 2017

Marvel Flavored Dreams

When I daydream about writing comics, if the dream is Marvel flavored, it's either this: 

Or this:

May 12, 2017

The Mummy and the Universal Monsters Universe

The Mummy? Hmmm… I get it. I do. These sorts of “creative” decisions about properties come down to simply what the suits think will make them the most money, right? What you as fan think will make a good story doesn’t matter. What you as a fan think about the integrity of the characters doesn’t matter. Kill your internal monologue—it’s always what the execs think is going to pull in the most money.

Universal looks around, they see all these connected film franchises that regularly pull in around a billion dollars, and so they naturally want their cut and their monsters movies seem like a good place to start.

Once they start looking, what do they see? Del Toro’s Crimson Peak was a complete failure, Dracula Untold with Luke Evans fizzled at the Box Office, The Benicio Del Toro attempt at The Wolfman was another flop, all their big plans for Hugh Jackman’s Van Helsing (including a TV show called Transylvania) were shelved after those box office returns, and finally they come to The Mummy franchise with Brendon Fraser.

So next it becomes, “…all those superhero films are action heavy and so is Star Wars…” So naturally, they decide to kick off their Universal Monster Movie franchise with an action-adventure The Mummy with some horror elements.

But here’s the thing: yeah, I think the new version of The Mummy looks like a fun action-adventure film with some horror elements. And Tom Cruise is the male hero so I’m sure they’ll be at least one really-involved and cool stunt sequence that he and Christopher McQuarrie came up with and that Cruise trained for 6 months to be able to pull off. But despite all that…

...I’m not really sure if this is the best way to kick off a successful Universal Monster Movie franchise. The big problem is there really is nothing unique to the Universal Monsters. Anyone can make a Dracula film, a Frankenstein film (like Fox did with their version of Frankenstein that featured McAvoy and Radcliffe), or a Mummy movie without any interference from Universal as long as they’re not plagiarizing a script or using those unique character looks that they’ve trademarked (so no green skin, flat-topped Frankenstein with neck bolts or black beehive with white streaks, gossamer-gowned Bride of Frankenstein unless you want to get sued).

This is why I don’t think too many people are exactly scrambling for a new classic monster movie that wasn’t born out of something fresh…like Penny Dreadful which made use of all those same classic monster characters pretty expertly in a character-driven story that included some great takes and new twists. Plus, Penny Dreadful’s story was cohesive and complete instead of being cobbled together by a bunch of different writers hired for different parts of your franchise.

There's also the issue of the action-adventure focus over the horror, the modern setting over the past. Seems like a sure-fire way to disappoint people who might want a classic monster movie that’s maybe scary…? I mean, do you really want to see Frankenstein smashing through a tank when you have The Hulk? Besides that, I'm pretty sure that Fox is working on another version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Lastly, starting right away at the big scale we see in The Mummy trailers means you’re either going to have to keep upping the ante for each successive film before you’ve built real interest or you’re going to start big and then have to backpedal to something quieter. These sorts of films with tons of effects and big action sequences all lead to big budgets which mean the films must get big box office returns to even break even. So I'm not sure I see all this really leading anywhere except for maybe another couple of action-y movies for Tom Cruise to star in.

What would you do with the Universal Monsters franchise?

May 11, 2017

Nephilim: Occult Roleplaying

I know it's had multiple editions in France and I remember reading something about a legal issue with the rights after the original company went out of business, but, man, someday I'd love to work on a new English edition of Nephilim.

May 10, 2017

The Problem With Doctor Who

The 10th season of the new Doctor Who is now underway. Despite tons of buzz about this seasons being the best DW has been in a long time, it will be the last with both Capaldi and Moffatt.

As we get closer to a new Doctor and a new showrunner, I see a lot of talk about what went wrong with DW and why the ratings have declined. Most of the talk seems to center around either the writing under Moffat or the Doctor as played by Capaldi, or some combination of both with varying degrees of chief responsibility.

I know both contributed to my decision to stop watching DW until there was a new Doctor and a new showrunner--(the stupid, stupid scene with the Doctor playing electric guitar on a tank was when I decided I was done even trying). A few articles have also mentioned the trouble with the companions under Moffat (the most insightful one I saw wisely pointed out that Moffat spent too much time making Clara special and not enough time making her likeable). And one mentioned what they considered to be timeslot mistakes by the BBC.

Truthfully, it’s probably a combination of all those. But something else that I don’t think has been discussed really is the general lack of understanding how an audience likes to consume it’s entertainment. Splitting seasons up and having large gaps of time between episodes or specials or even the next season isn’t conducive to binging, especially considering a show doesn’t appear on a streaming service until quite sometime after the entire season is done. With so much good programming to binge, having huge gaps of time between seasons of show makes it lose both excitment and interest. And speaking of streaming services—the absolutely biggest mistake, I think, the BBC has made in ensuring the continued success of DW was signing that exclusive contract with Amazon Prime for American streaming rights and removing DW from Netflix and Hulu.

April 24, 2017

Dimension 404

Been watching Dimension 404, which is Hulu’s answer to Black Mirror by way of Freddie Wong’s company RocketJump. While it’s chocked full of a whole bunch of familiar and famous faces and features opening narration from Mark Hamil, in terms of writing and production it’s a very poor answer to Black Mirror. It lacks Black Mirror’s cleverness, social commentary, pacing, and sense of foreboding.

The second episode, for example, stars Patton Oswald and Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland in what is supposed to be a scary parable of teenage conformity and instead ends up being dull, predictable, and more than a little cheesy.

I was trying to think of a good comparison and then I saw someone say it’s like comparing Are You Afraid of the Dark? to The Twilight Zone and that really sums it up pretty well. 

April 20, 2017

Iron Fist: Final Thoughts & Next Seasons Hopes

Finally finished the last episode of Iron Fist. Is it amazing? No, it’s not. But it’s not completely awful. There was the shadow of something really good there and there's still potential. When Iron Fist fires on all gears, it manages moments of real fun and feels like classic 80s-era Chuck Norris/Van Damme cheese.

If you take a moment and really consider it, the showrunner and the writers had an unenviable task. Iron Fist is the last show before The Defenders so it had big shoes to fill. It also also had to tell its own story, shore-up connections to the other Netflix shows, and be sure it set-up some things that would be needed for The Defenders.

Regardless of any of that though, there will undoubtedly be a second series of Iron Fist. Despite being panned by critics, it scored big numbers for Netflix. So here are my thoughts on how to make second season better:

Pacing—beyond anything else, if they fix the pacing it will help the show immensely because the pacing was terrible. Just terrible. The whole thing with Rand Enterprises and the Meechums that eats up so many of those first episodes should have taken maybe an episode. Not to mention by the time the climax came in the last episode, it lacked punch.

Excitement—an unstoppable martials arts master, a lost city, ninjas, a form of super-heroin, a dark secret of immortality that can bring people back from the dead? That all sounds like the makings of non-stop awesome. But somehow, Iron Fist manages to often be boring. Absolutely positively boring. There were a couple of episodes that felt like they went on forever to the point where I’d pause the episode to see how much time was left. Yes, I get Danny’s enemy this season is ultimately himself but you can stick to that theme and not be boring. Season 2 needs to up the excitement and the action factor by like 10 fold.

Fight choreography—Fight choreography for television programs has come a long way, a long way. If you’re going to have a show about an immortal weapon, the fight choreography needs to be top-notch. Iron Fist’s choreography was so-so at best and sometimes really kind of awkward, especially since I watched the first season of Into The Badlands right before I started it. Some of that can be fixed by giving Danny his mask so they can have an actual martial artist doing the bulk of the fight scenes instead of Finn Jones looking like he’s trying really hard and hoping his arm is in the right place.

Danny Rand—I like that Danny is often earnest. I like the on one level his growth is stunted and he’s still a kid. I like that he suffers from PTSD. But somehow, and maybe this one is just me, he manages to often be unlikeable and kind of off-putting. That needs to be fixed. (Daredevil Season 2 had the same problem though—Matt Murdoch was the least interesting character and it’s supposed to be his show.)

Mysticism/Buddhism—There are plenty of legit schools, sects, treatises, concepts, and ideas from real Buddhist esotericism that Iron Fist could have drawn from and used in the show: vajrayana, mantrayana, shugendo, shingo, kuji-kiri, mikkyo, etc. But even when they pulled out made-up Hollywood-Buddhism-like-new-age-double-talk, it was weak sauce. And the mysticism angle can easily been used to allow Danny to communicate with the previous Iron Fists to reinforce the idea that the Iron Fist is a title and role that transcends race or sex.

April 14, 2017

Politics: The Mother of All Bombs

Yesterday the US dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in a combat operation. The tunnel complex being bombed in Afghanistan was financed by the CIA during the the 1980’s bankrolling of the mujahideen’s conflict against the Soviets—the very same conflict where Osama Bin Laden first cut his teeth. Since that conflict the complex has been used by everybody from drug-smugglers to ISIS. The foreign policy of the United States generates unrest and conflict with long-term consequences that it must later go and confront, creating a Möbius Strip of suffering and death that only benefits corporate interests and the unquenchable greed of the elites.

Yesterday, however, also marked the 98th anniversary of Eugene V. Debs' imprisonment for sedition. Debs was a union organizer, founding member of the IWW, 4-time Socialist candidate for president, and a Hoosier. He was arrested and convicted for speaking out against the Wilson administration, World War I, and urging people to resist the draft in a speech he gave in Canton, Ohio. What Debs said in Canton, Ohio, is just as true today:
"Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. In the Middle Ages when the feudal lords who inhabited the castles whose towers may still be seen along the Rhine concluded to enlarge their domains, to increase their power, their prestige and their wealth they declared war upon one another. But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street go to war. The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another’s throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—especially their lives.

"They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people.

"And here let me emphasize the fact—and it cannot be repeated too often—that the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace."

March 31, 2017

Space Jesus is Dead

Justice League trailer? Yeah, I'll pass. Looks like more of the same.

I loathe the whole Snyderverse aesthetic. There's no sunshine or color. Everything has that fascist state feel: enormous and symmetric with sharp edges. The people all look depressed. The heroes all look jacked, cut, and/or mean.

And while it's supposed to be a joke, there's no more appropriate response to "what are your super powers again" from the Snyderverse Batman than "I'm rich." This is the world of the Ayn Rand dude-bro hero after all.

Space Jesus is dead.

March 28, 2017

Buckaroo Banzai

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is currently available to stream on Hulu. I haven't watched it in years, so I gave it a viewing over the weekend...only to promptly remember why it had been years since I've seen it.

I know this film has a cult following and I know a lot of geeks love it but I just don't get it. I really do not understand it at all. In fact, not only do I not get it, but I think it might be one of the few movies that I actively dislike. The film has a great cast and promises to be the adventures of this 80's-version of Doc Savage where the Man of Bronze and his Fabulous Five fight aliens when they're not rocking out in a band. Instead, the film delivers something dull, boring, frustrating, and all-together unfunny.

Honestly, it's probably also one of the few movies I wish they would actually remake. Or that they'd just hand the property over entirely to someone else.

March 25, 2017

Deutschland '83

If you like spy fiction and don't mind subtitles, Deutschland 83 is very good. It's about about a young border patrol guard pulled from his post by the Stasi and set to the West Germany to discover intel about new nuclear missile deployments by NATO. And it has a great 80s soundtrack.

March 24, 2017

Into The Badlands

Into The Badlands is now on Netflix and it's awesome. Season Two is currently airing on AMC. This is the post-apocalyptic martial arts epic that I always wanted.

March 23, 2017

A Dog Named Grasmsci

Been reading Gramsci (thanks to SPACED!). While I’m still parsing everything in his Prison Notebooks, what I understand about his theories of the hegemony and the intellectual (traditional and organic) make a ridiculous amount of sense to me. Can you call yourself a Gramscist? A Gramscian?

March 22, 2017

Mask versus mask

Another older story of mine is now available to read for free on Wattpad. This one has luchadores! Check it out here: MÁSCARA CONTRA MÁSCARA

March 2, 2017

You Can't Inspire A Construct

Look at the headline: “Trump Inspires The Dow to 21,000”.

This is what’s wrong in America. We treat anything to do with the free market like it’s a person or a force of nature to be appeased with blood sacrifice and rain dances or, hell, like it’s fucking magic that’s going to fix everything (“Dear Free Market, bless Mommy and Daddy and…)

But it’s not. It’s simply a construct. And you can’t “inspire” a construct. I mean, think about it. Seriously, now. And since it’s a construct, it functions however it’s set up to function and that’s in a way that’s not mutually beneficial or even fair to everyone.

Notice too when the free market functions well, it’s always framed in those kinds of terms: inspired, encouraged, invigorated, fueled by hope. Like the Dow was just really sad and disheartened and all it needed was a little encouragement to do what we always knew it could do it, to work at it’s potential. But when the free market goes badly it’s back to being talked about in more inanimate terms. And that’s absolutely purposeful.

February 23, 2017

The Method Now Available For Free

The second Hollywood Noir story featuring Terry Bledsoe is now available for free on Wattpad. "The Method" originally appeared in print and eBook formats in the Crime Factory: First Shift anthology.

Read it for free here!

Phil knows. Phil definitely knows.

February 20, 2017

Maiden's Prayer Out of the Darkness

Another long-unavailable story I wrote years ago is now up for free at Wattpad. "Maiden's Prayer" was my first story featuring Terrence Bledsoe and/or Ella Dodge (the second story is available in Crime Factory: First Shift). I placed my Hollywood fix-it man story years ago (long before Ray Donovan) at the now-defunct Darkness Before the Dawn.

Read it for free here.

Battle of the Planets

With the success of Netflix’s Voltron re-imagining, I keep thinking about one of my all-time dream projects…writing for a new Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (or Battle of the Planets or G-Force, if you prefer one of its many other titles/incarnation) anime...or manga...or comic book...or light novel. Hell, I just want to write Gatchaman.

February 17, 2017

The Temple of Techno

"Japanese priest and techno DJ, Gyōsen Asakura, has created a temple devoted to techno. "Based in Fukui City in Japan, the Shō-onji templed throws 'techno memorial services' with Asakura leading the monthly Buddhist-style ceremonies."

February 16, 2017

The Taking of Tiger Mountain

Finally watched Tsui Hark's The Taking of Tiger Mountain on a Netflix. It's a ridiculous amount of fun. It's basically an Alistair MacLean novel set in China after the surrender of the Japanese during WWII. So if you're a fan of those "men on a mission" movies they don't really make anymore, you need to check this one out.

February 15, 2017


Is it really that Americans are particularly "anti-intellectual" or does most of what we tend to label "anti-intellectual" have everything to do with frustrations over class, rising income inequality, and college becoming ever more unafforable?

Personally, I think it's the latter.

January 19, 2017

What Cause Us The Most Trouble As Human Beings?

I think the thing that causes us the most trouble as human beings is our reluctance to deal with things simply as they are. Seriously. You name it. Whether it’s a situation or someone’s behavior or your relationship or your job or your living/work situation, chances are the thing that causes you the most grief comes down to not seeing it all clearly, as it is, simple and without judgment.

You know, all too often we want something a certain way when it’s just not that way, but we continue on as if it were and cause ourselves nothing but more and more difficulty. Or we become so focused on how we want something to be that we can’t see anything else and something that we could fix or change or even just feel bad about then let go never gets resolved.

I see this all the time in the day job. Someone comes to our office with a situation, I lay out the options and those aren’t the options they wanted so they go barreling off doing something else or spending all their time making a fuss about something that cannot be changed, instead of just solving it right now and moving on. Chances are you probably see someone doing this exact thing when it comes to relationships. Whether it’s how they want their partner to act or something they want their partner to do or stop doing, I bet you’re sitting on the sidelines thinking, “That ain’t gonna happen” or “Do you now know who you married?”

This is even something that you see a lot in Bob’s Burgers. It’s Bob’s character flaw—totally connected to his inability to not let things go (Gene calls him on this in the episode “L'il Hard Dad"). Next watch through, pay attention to how often the conflict of the show arises because Bob acts as if something is a certain way when it clearly is not.

Now, it's important to note, that this is not me saying we shouldn’t feel our feelings, right? Or even vent our frustrations (“Man, if so and so would just—” or “If the train ran through the south of town instead of—”) You should feel however you feel. I mean, feelings aren’t the problem, it’s how we relate to them. Denying them isn’t helpful to us, nor is letting them run our lives. But it's important to remember that just because we feel a certain way about something doesn't mean it's going to change or go away. That comes down to our actions.

January 18, 2017

January 17, 2017

The Story of God

Hulu added the first season of The Story of God hosted by Morgan Freeman. It's worth a watch if you're interested in this type of thing. Each episode has a theme (Creation, Death, Evil, etc.), then examines what different religions believe and how the idea has changed historically.

January 10, 2017

Frank the Pug's Morning

Frank takes it easy in the morning. He moves from the bed to the couch.

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