Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Who Should I Dress Up As?

I know I'm tempting the green-eyed monster by writing this, but I have to make this announcement: I'm going to the "Philadelphia" Premiere of Star Trek on May 2, 2009. (Philadelphia is in quotes here, because the premiere is actually being held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, which is very close to my home town of Marlton.)

I'm very excited to see this movie, as anyone who has had the misfortune of reading this blog on a regular basis already knows. I'm even more excited I don't have to wait until May 8th to see it on the big screen.

I've been to two premieres/advance screenings before, and I must say, it is an entirely different experience than regular movie-going. The audience attending the premiere consists of people rabidly excited to see the film. The theater has a charged atmosphere about it, and you don't have to worry about any ignorant a--holes talking on cell phones, being obnoxious, or otherwise ruining a cinematic moment for you. Just the opposite, in fact.

My wife and I were lucky enough to see Shaun of the Dead at an advance screening. Every seat was filled, everyone clapped at the beginning and the end, and one out of every two was dressed up as a zombie.

So, in keeping with the customs of the movie premiere, my question is this: who should I dress up as?

a) Captain Kirk (with a rug, of course)

b) Khan (with a fake He-Man chest, of course)

c) Spock (with fake ears of course)

d) Uhura

e) A Jedi Knight (to piss off the Trekkies, Trekkers, and Borg that show up)

f) Other

Tell me what you think by leaving a comment. Live long and prosper.


Special thanks to my sweet mother-in-law, Helene, for winning the tickets by listening to Oldies 98. We love going to the movies together.

Monday, April 27, 2009

You Need To Read...

The Unearthed, according to You Gotta Read Reviews.

Lupa at You Gotta Read wrote a nice review of TU. While I don't agree that the book starts off slow, it is always good to hear someone's honest opinion on one's fiction--it's the only way to improve as a writer.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Danny Noonan

Remember that guy that played Ty Webb's (Chevy Chase) caddy in Caddyshack? Yep, today's his 54th freakin birthday!

Caddyshack just might be the most overquoted movie of all time, but here we go anyway:

"So I jump ship in Hong Kong and make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas. A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I'm a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald... striking. So, I'm on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one - big hitter, the Lama - long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-galunga. So we finish eighteen, and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Laugh Out Loud Humor In Fiction

Humor is tough to pull off in a novel. At least to me, it seems to be tougher to elicit a reaction from a reader than from a live audience when it comes to comedy. Very rarely have authors made me break into laughter; usually, humor in a novel produces the occasional smile.

On rare occasions, I will catch myself actually laughing out loud at a book. Usually, it takes a witty, somewhat ironic first person narrator to draw out this kind of response from me. Perhaps that says more about my own sense of humor than anything else.

Here are a few examples of books that have made me laugh out loud...

Nelson DeMille is excellent with humor, especially in the book Plum Island.

Paul Neilan wrote Apathy and Other Small Victories, which is sort of like Office Space as told by a raging nihilist. Paul's blog, though it hasn't been updated in awhile, gives you a feel for his humor, which definitely is not for everyone.

I only very recently came across Colin Bateman, who unfortunately is not that well-known in the US, but who is huge in the UK. I'm currently reading his debut novel, Divorcing Jack, and it's absolutely hysterical. Reading in bed the other night, my laughter woke my wife when I came across this little gem of a passage:

"We made love on the floor. It was nice. We had a bit of an argument about the lack of a condom. I volunteered to use my sock. She thought that idea was a) disgusting; b) stupid. Socks weren't watertight, or whatever. She said, "You wear a sock, not only will I have a baby, it'll come out wearing a bloody jumper." We compromised on my withdrawal.

I didn't. We British don't withdraw from Ireland."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Promote, Promote, Promote

Here we go with Round 2. Everybody had a lot of fun with this last month, so let's see if we can top it this month.

Promote whatever you want by leaving however many comments you'd like.

There is only one rule:

You can't promote anything for me.

I'll leave this post up for a couple of days.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

This Man Listened to His Wife

I don't read much sci-fi, but in the last year I've read several novels by Jack McDevitt. Specifically, I got hooked on his Academy series, which mainly follows Priscilla Hutchins, a pilot of superluminal vessels. Similar themes and motifs run throughout McDevitt's novels, the main theme being that of first contact with an alien race or the artifacts left behind by them. McDevitt takes what I call a realistic approach to first contact: if there is anyone else out there, surely the odds are against us finding them or them finding us and even more so, the odds are almost nil that both races would be in existence at the same time given the vagaries of the universe, of the creation of life, and of evolution.

McDevitt excels at raising all the big questions one expects in any good science fiction story, and not unlike Dostoevsky, offers multiple views of every philosophical question raised by the narrative. The philosophy also never detracts from the overall sense of adventure in his stories: the universe is an enormous, wonderful, incomprehensible, and oft-terrifying place.

Thanks to wikipedia, I came across this little tidbit on McDevitt. Apparently, he wrote a short story that was well-received while attending LaSalle University. I don't know if at the time McDevitt wanted to write for a living or not, but certainly it must have been a possibility in his mind. Then, however, he read David Copperfield, and Charles Dickens's prose so intimidated him that he gave up his own writing. Some twenty-five years later, his wife encouraged him to try fiction again, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Of the ones I've read, my favorite McDevitt novel is Omega, which I believe works as a stand-alone even though it's technically the middle story in a series.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An Icon of Suspense Writers

Before Tom Clancy, before Ken Follett, before any of the other suspense writers you may have heard of, there was the one and only Frederick Forsyth.

Forsyth, a former journalist, started writing suspense novels in the late sixties. In Wellesean fashion, his first major publication, The Day of the Jackal is considered to be his best novel. Many, in fact, consider it to be the quintessential suspense thriller. TDOTJ follows two men, the first an assassin hired to murder the then French President Charles De Gaulle, the other a detective charged with tracking the Jackal down. It's easily one of the best books I've ever read and manages to succeed as a thriller despite the fact that the outcome of the story is never in doubt: in real life, De Gaulle was never assassinated.

It still amazes me that Forsyth was able to create so much tension in a story that could end only one way. If I ever figure out how he did it, I'll be in danger of becoming a very rich man.

Over the years, Forsyth has treated us with many other great suspense novels, and he is lauded primarily for his realism and meticulous attention to detail. To Forsyth's credit (?), there existed for several years a scheme for acquiring a false identity and UK passport called the "Day of the Jackal fraud" because of a loophole in British security that Forsyth identified and exploited for use in his novel.

One of my other favorite books of his is The Fourth Protocol, published in 1984 and later made into a decent movie starring Michael Caine and Pierce Brosnan. I still remember the experience of reading TFP, more so than most other books. I was no more than thirteen years old, and over the course of three or four days, I literally took it with me everywhere I went. I even remember reading it at the dinner table.

If you want to learn how to plot, I'd recommend picking up one of Forsyth's books. Be forewarned, though. He is such a master that you'll need to read it twice to be able to dissect it properly for study. During the first reading, you'll be too swept up in the plot to step back objectively and analyze it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Movies I Want To See This Summer

It's now the middle of April, which means the season of the blockbuster is upon us. In no particular order, here are some of the movies I want to see this summer...

1. Star Trek. I've already posted here and here about this movie, so I won't say any more now.

2. Terminator Salvation, because I have to see if Bale's performance is good enough to justify the ridiculous on-set rant. Okay, nothing could ever justify something like that, but still, Bale's capable of being a great actor (The Machinist, anyone?) and it's a Terminator movie.

3. Funny People, which stars Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, and Eric Bana. Sandler has been very good in his more serious roles, like in Punch Drunk Love and Reign Over Me. Based on the preview, it looks like this one will have decent drama and lots of laughs, but without descending into some of the more silly humor.

4. Whatever Works. If you haven't heard of this movie, here's all you need to know: Woody Allen directs Larry David.

5. X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

6. The Taking of Pelham 123. Call this one morbid curiosity. I absolutely love the original with Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, and I want to see if Tony "I have to stylize every single shot in a movie" Scott pulls off a decent remake. I was skeptical, and still am, of this being a good film, but the trailer has got me wondering.

7. Public Enemies. A film about John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, and J. Edgar Hoover, directed by Michael Mann. Need I say more?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Adrian McKinty’s Dead Trilogy

This is a repost in honor of the upcoming April 27th release of Adrian McKinty's kick-ass thriller: Fifty Grand.

You need to buy these books:

Dead I Well May Be
The Dead Yard
The Bloomsday Dead

Yes, I’m serious. You need to go out and buy these books.

Adrian McKinty is a great writer and a great storyteller. With most fiction, you’re lucky if you get one or the other. If you want to marvel at lyricism, clever turns of phrase, and complex, murky characters, you read the literary. If you want to escape and go on a thrill ride, you read the commercial. But you need not pick and choose with McKinty. You can have your cake and eat it too.

McKinty’s stories have been described as literary action thrillers. As accurate as that may be, the description doesn’t do his novels, or his prose, justice. Simply put, the guy knows his way around the keyboard. His approach to storytelling is quasi-conversational. You feel like you’re sitting down to a pint with him at the bar as he unveils the latest in a long-line of misadventures. But at the same time, his stories abound with moments of sheer literary brilliance that no amount of alcohol could produce.

McKinty, I suspect, is a guy who’s lived quite an interesting life, and his writing is all the more informed and hard-hitting because of it. No ivory towers for this author.

I’ve just finished his Dead Trilogy, three stories chronicling the life and times of his wonderfully-flawed, but cool-as-hell, protagonist Michael Forsythe. I’m tempted to call the character an author surrogate, but that would be presumptuous on my part. Forsythe is complicated, brooding, at times frightening, usually one step ahead of a bullet, exceptionally violent, but always likeable. I can’t decide if he merits a classification of hero or anti-hero. But that’s what makes him so damned great.

The three stories are ostensibly action thrillers, but unlike most other commercial writers, McKinty never falls into the typical trappings of the genre. Dead I Well May Be and its two sequels (The Dead Yard and The Bloomsday Dead) are not repackaged variations of each other. Thankfully, Forsythe isn’t charged with tracking a different serial killer each outing. He’s not approached by a gorgeous blonde and asked to investigate the disappearance of her husband/boyfriend/brother at the beginning of every story. He’s given different task in each tale and the unique challenges he faces serve to round out his character. Don’t get me wrong though: all three books are replete with carnage, mayhem (in the literal legal sense), double-crosses, twists, love, sex, and violence.

McKinty’s prose fires on all cylinders. And he pulls no punches when it comes to plotting. There is violence in his world, and more violence, and more violence, but it always serves the story. Along those lines, McKinty takes a lot of narrative risks, especially in The Dead Yard, but they all pay off. He allows the story to go where it has to.

Each Dead Trilogy novel contemplates its own issues, speaks its own voice, and has its own narrative drive. By the end, you’ve gone on quite a journey with Michael Forsythe, from upstart mobster, to mole, to detective of sorts, as McKinty unleashes his prose on us. I can’t recommend these novels enough.

Now seriously, go buy these books. Or you're in for a Belfast six-pack.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Join Rita Vetere's Monthly Chat!

My good friend, Rita Vetere, is hosting her monthly chat on Monday, April 13th at 8:00 PM EST. Stop by if you get a chance.

This month, fellow Lyrical Press authors Grayson Reyes-Cole and Barton Paul Levenson will be Rita's featured guests.

Please check out Rita's website, as she has information about her UPCOMING BOOK SIGNINGS too! If you're in the Toronto or Woodbridge areas, you might just get a chance to meet the author herself soon!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Your Civic Duty: Get Wolverine To Come To Philly

The studio that produced X-Men Origins: Wolverine is running a cool promotional: it is allowing fans to vote for which city they want the film to premiere in.

Go to this link to vote.

As it turns out, Philly is one of the cities on the list of possibles. (hint, hint)


If I'm conspicuously absent from the blogosphere over the next few days, I apologize in advance--the Masters Tournament starts today and I'll be glued to the TV over the next four days.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Drive For Show, Take Lessons For Dough

Amateur golfers everywhere, heed my advice. Do NOT spend hundreds of dollars on a new driver for that extra ten or fifteen yards you'll get off the tee. Chances are you'll only see those extra yards for a very short while. This is all related to the First Use Rule: the first time you try any new golf clubs, you will see dramatic improvements instantly. But these new-found skills will quickly fade away and you'll go back to hitting the ball like you always did. This is all probably distantly related to the Placebo effect.

For the love of god, you don't need a new driver every season. Trust me on this. Instead, take the four or five hundred dollars you were going to spend and put it toward a series of lessons. A set of decent lessons will cost you half that money. You can use the remaining money to pay for balls at the driving range instead, since you'll want to practice what you've learned in your lessons. Or, if you absolutely must have a new club, take that remaining money, get creative, and find that driver you're looking for used at a golf store or online.

Too many people spend all their money on equipment, which most of the time doesn't have any lasting impact on their golf games. Sure, if you're playing with a brassie, a new driver will help your game a lot. What I'm talking about here are the guys who, every March, are stopping in the pro shop to test out new drivers.

There are also golfers who spend hours and hours at the driving range, honestly looking to improve their games, but who for various reasons refuse to take lessons. All they usually end up doing is ingraining bad habits and bad moves into their swings; in effect all their practice is making them worse!

Take lessons. I understand the desire to "do it yourself," to be able proudly boast you're "self-taught." There are professional golfers who are self-taught, but I seriously doubt they never traded tips and advice with their buddies while on-course or at the range.

Ben Hogan was renowned for how much practice he put in and figuring out the golf swing on his own. But at various crisis points in his career, he received some good advice from his fellow touring pros that helped him out in the long run. And I'll bet most of us don't have the time Ben did to spend eight hours a day at the range.

And if you still think you can figure it out on your own, consider this: Tiger Woods takes lessons. He's taken lessons ALL HIS LIFE. If Tiger doesn't feel he's "better than taking a lesson," then you shouldn't feel you are either.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Masters Week Is Upon Us

It's Masters Week, the season's first major tournament and my personal favorite. As with all sporting events, there's an unwritten law that we must try to predict the outcome.

Tiger is the favorite, naturally. He has to be.

As for Phil Mickelson, he was driving the ball better than he ever has before this year, that is until this week's Shell Houston Open where he missed the cut by a long shot. Still though, Lefty always has a shot at winning any time he tees it up. If he gets his driver working again, watch out.

I'd love to see Ernie Els finally win a green jacket. He's been my favorite player ever since David Duval dropped off the radar. The Big Easy has the best golf swing in the game right now, and he gives Sam Snead a run for the best golf swing ever. But he just hasn't played well the last few years, owing to injury and family issues.

Last but not least, you have to like Padraig Harrington's chances. He hasn't played extremely well yet this year, but he did win the last two majors played. Paddy has a chance to become the third player, after Tiger and Ben Hogan, to win three straight major championships. I'd love to see him do it.

Here's some trivia for you: who scored the first of two double eagles at the Masters?

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Most Difficult Super Mario Brothers Level Ever

As a follow-up to yesterday's post on the greatest video game ever, I thought I'd put this link to a great YouTube video up. The title of the post says it all. Someone with way too much time on their hands designed what has become known as the most difficult Super Mario Brothers Level ever. Someone else with too much time on his hands sat down to play it.

And people like us, with apparently too much time on their hands as well, have sat down to watch the guy play the board.

Warning: The guy playing the game narrates his misadventures and tends to curse. A lot. Understandably, if you ask me, as his frustration mounts with each successive death. My recommendation is to watch a couple of minutes of the video. You don't need to see the whole thing to get the gist, and you won't get tired of hearing some guy overuse the f word. And don't watch it at work. Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Greatest Video Game Ever Made

Sorry, Mario. You may be the most instantly recognizable video game character of all-time, and you've been the star in many great games. But none of them were The Legend of Zelda.

The Legend of Zelda was released by Nintendo in America in 1987, and it was every young boy's dreams realized. I was too young at the time and didn't know much about the history of video games to fully appreciate the genius that is Zelda, but looking back now, I see it for the incredibly well-designed game it is. And that's not just nostalgia talking.

For starters, as the wikipedia article puts it, its "gameplay defied categorization." Zelda contained elements of action, adventure, and puzzle-solving. As opposed to being a side-scroller, the screen follows our hero, Link, from a bird's eye view. He has various weapons, faces enemies of varying difficulty, and explores both the overworld and underworld. The land of Hyrule, where the action takes place, is truly a world fully-realized, or at least, as realized as an 8-bit system with limited memory allows.

But ultimately, what Zelda boils down to is this: a boy and his sword, a damsel in distress, magic and sorcery, and the hero's journey. Sure, all this was done to death before the game's release and it's been done to death since, but rarely has it worked better than in Zelda.