Saturday, December 26, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Season

The desperation of the night before Thanksgiving, the promise of the day to come.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Feels Like the Last Time

Haunted Disco, Farmland Indiana; photo snapped by my daughter on a tour of Ghost Sites of Randolph County last night.

Speeding Bullet

Odd photo my daughter snapped of me at a Halloween party last night at our house of my lame Superman costume. She thought it was a "just being a nerd" costume, which isn't a costume at all.

Don't Cross His Path

For Halloween, a black cat; Pluto, a stray we rescued and appropriately named after the Lord of the Underworld, in his favorite hangout "The Hobo Shack."

Dogs and Cats, Living Together

On Halloween, the laws of the Animal Kingdom are suspended.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

They Were Dancing, And Singing

Birthday card given to me that blasts "Play That Funky Music, White Boy." Kids say this looks like a picture of me on cover.

The March of Time

Picture I found at my parents' house of me in 1971, taken on my birthday in 2009. Daughter laughing while taking photo.

All Creatures Great and Small

What Empty Nest Syndrome looks like. Getting ready to walk my one-year-old Westie with the help of a six-week-old stray kitten while my fifteen-year-old Tabby looks on sourly from off camera.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Find A Girl With Faraway Eyes

My contest for "The Girl Who Played With Fire" is finally over and a winner has been chosen. The contest has taken a bit longer than expected, now that I check in on my blog and see it's been a while since I posted. In my defense, the novel is a pretty chunky 500 page opus and I have been fairly busy (though I was trying to read it quickly as per the rules clearly outlined here).

The good news for our lucky winner is that my close friends at the Farmland Public Library got it to check out (probably for me; I have gone to this nice little library for 15 years and they are beginning to know what I might want to read, a plus for small-town living) so I decided to quit reading the copy from Knopf and finish the library's (though I think I am also the first one to read it as well).

Without further ado, the winner is Rue, and as soon as she emails me her address she will receive a nice copy of Stieg Larsson's latest that was only a little bit read. For sore losers, I have some odd little "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" tattoos that Knopf sent along and I will be glad to give one to any contestant that asks.

Thanks for playing! Until later I am at

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Got To Move To The Trick Of The Beat

I have read almost 200 pages of The Girl Who Played With Fire this week, so the contest is well underway (scroll down for details). Lots of good book ideas have been submitted via email and by posting below. As the contest ends when I am finished reading this book, and the book is about 500 pages, I figure you have another week or so to enter. I am trying not to read the prize while eating or sitting on the toilet for the contest's sake.

For those who can't believe I passed on going to GenCon, the world's premiere D&D event, to talk about social media at a conference will find photographic proof here and here as well as further evidence here. As a dude who got an electric typewriter to go to college in 1984, forsaking his manual one, I still have a lot to learn, but it was nice to be asked to talk and be amongst the young hipsters who will one day snatch my job from me and leave me broken on the side of the information superhighway.

Plenty going on; until later I am at

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Long and Winding Road

Think b-movie screenwriting is easy, grasshopper? Several years ago I wrote a script I called "Hellshocked" about a group of WWII GIs forced to spend the night in a haunted church behind enemy lines. This was shot and put forth for distribution as "Black Mass." It was sold to the overseas market and did well in Japan as "The Da Vinci Curse" with footage from another already-completed film spliced in. That version came back to the U.S. as "Dead Knight" but didn't get much traction. Now that film has been cut with about 15% newly-shot footage (with another writer) featuring werewolves. Yet through it all my cameo getting machine-gunned straight up in the face has survived.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Night with the Bums

A photo from my third stop on my quest to visit six ball parks this summer, breaking my old record of five, set a few years ago in a bout of Nerd Extreme Sports. Here I am at the Traverse City Beach Bums; a ballpark that looks like an outlet mall on the outside, but the baseball is plenty enjoyable inside. Last week I visited the Richmond RiverRats as my fourth stop at historic McBride Stadium. Strangely, the former Richmond team moved to Traverse City. Even stranger, at one park they yell "Go Bums!" and the other "Go Rats!"

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Awake in the Heartland

I was sitting in the barber's chair reading TIME Magazine yesterday when I read this column from one of my film reviewer heroes, Richard Corliss, and for the first time felt compelled to write a Letter to the Editor.

Mr. Corliss,

I am a longtime fan of your work but take issue with your portrayal of Netflix in your recent article.

It is too easy to draw a parallel between the rise of Netflix and the fall of the local video store such as the one you mentioned in Manhattan. However that theory is contingent on the fact that you ever had that option to begin with.

I live in a town with the unlikely name of Farmland, Indiana, in which the closest video store is a Redbox at a McDonald's in a town ten minutes away and the closest Blockbuster is in the nearest city thirty minutes the other direction. There is also where you can find the closest movie theater (that you can't drive your car right up to the screen). I am fortunate to live on a road where the cable service runs past, connecting two towns, but many of my neighbors rely on spotty dish reception or digital rabbit ears.

Netflix is a godsend to me, a person who graduated with a film major in college (reading Film Comment voraciously at the college library), works peripherally in movies and film festivals, and yet lives in several square miles of cornfield. I am also a voracious reader and probably get a second strike for loving Amazon and my new Kindle. The proximity of a hip bookstore to my home does not bear discussion.

Those of us who live in the vast Flyover Country between our two coasts have learned to live without the instant gratification our metropolitan brethren yearn for but do still smart at those who take our cultural lifelines to task.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Me And The Girl Who Played With Fire

Not, as one might suspect, the title of my wife's autobiography but instead the new Stieg Larsson book, which astoundingly Knopf has entrusted me to give away on my blog; one of only 250 bloggers to snag one, so look sharp. Whether I might have been #249 is only speculative. Contest rules below.

Tattoo You

Every once in a while a plugola scandal wafts through the blogosphere--a blogola scandal, if you will--where somebody is blogging merrily along about how great a movie or gadget is and lo and behold it comes out that somebody might have given that something to said blogger for free, contingent of course on them blogging merrily about it.

I can promise that everything you read on here is my own two cents given freely, though loyal readers might suspect that there aren't a lot of people willing to give me freebies to blog about grassroots microcinema, obscure b-movies, old paperbacks, underground comics and zines, and the like. As Blogalicious once pointed out, I am prone to writing about "very weird and unpopular b-movies and comics"--many of which, as it happens, are my own.

That being said, I have been offered a DVD or two from time to time, though some Amazon and Netflix reviewers who have longed for my death--or at least a long incarceration in a b-movie Gitmo of some kind--might speculate that I would more likely be offered blogola to not mention their movie at all. Nonetheless I am glad to have stayed clear. The next time you see a horror or sci-fi movie getting talked about all of a sudden on all of your favorite genre blogs, you might stop and think about why. I'm just saying.

All this is a preface to the fact that Knopf emailed to ask me if I wanted to be one of only 250 bloggers to give away a free copy of The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson.

This is cool for a number of reasons. Loyal readers know I read and loved Stieg Larsson's first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and have pimped it mercilessly to the general reading public that I come across on the interwebs and in real life. I have nothing to gain professionally by sucking up to Stieg Larsson as Stieg Larsson is, unfortunately, dead and his books are being published posthumously.

I also liked that Knopf trusted me to give this book away and not ferret it under my pillow. Even though my name is going to be entered for a chance to win the third book for my very self to keep I have never done well in Vegas and am not holding out hope.

Even better, I get to come up with my own contest.

My first thought was that I would ask people to send in a picture of them holding a copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and then I would put their names in a hat and draw one at random. That wouldn't mean that they had read it, but I think they should know it exists before trying to mooch the second one off me (Knopf, actually). And I believe if they read a teensy bit they would probably get hooked like I did.

But my wife nixed that idea, saying she thought I would get a lot of weird or inappropriate photos. She was right; I had simply forgotten how many hot young things flock to my blog regularly to read about old D&D games I have played and what comics I like and what I thought about the new Star Trek movie.

So she suggested a wiser alternative. Send me a list of five good mystery/noir/thriller books. Don't send me your top five because I probably have already read them. In fact I read five pretty good books last week on vacation and can on average read four or five a month. If you happen to include a couple of Scandinavian thrillers in there I will write your name down twice as I am trying to find some more of those for myself. If you don't know what I'm talking about, here is a current list of good ones I have already read:

1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (natch).
2. The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo
3. Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason
4. The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Erickson
5. Missing by Karen Alvtegen

Yes, I know there is no Henning Mankel or Karin Fossum on this list, I haven't read their works yet and that's why I want a recommendation.

So. A list of five books. Make it worth reading or I throw your crap in the trash. Your name can go in the hat twice if you include Scandinavian authors. I will pull the name out at the end of the contest, which will be when my ass finishes reading the book for myself. Knopf didn't say I couldn't read it! So your book is slightly used by me. It's free, what do you want?

Send contest entries to Good luck!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Bright Lights, Small City

Live from the Traverse City Film Festival. We stood for an hour in a standby line outside this cool theater and just slipped in for a midnight showing of the crazy Norwegian zombie flick "Dead Snow." A soon-to-be cult classic. Had the added benefit of seeing Michael Moore and Jeff Garlin hanging around outside.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

She Rides A Crimson Shell

Last year, I visited the BlogIndiana Social Media Conference in Indianapolis and had my mind opened to the Next Big Thing. A long-time believer in microcinema and grassroots DV, I saw a new model coming that I would need to know about to keep my day job afloat (as well as my humble, fragile screenwriting career loyal readers come here to learn about) and wanted to sniff out more about it. Astoundingly, this year I will be speaking at BlogIndiana. Is my entry into these hallowed digital halls signalling the death knell of Web 2.0? Only time will tell.

I am getting dangerously hooked not only on my Kindle (just snagged some inexpensive Allan Guthrie noir) but, a magical place where you can get rid of modern trashy paperbacks you don't want any more and trade them for golden guilty pleasures like Samuel R. Delany and Day Keene. This site is a vast improvement over, in my opinion, which I often referred to as "Book Throwing Away Club."

The good news for me is that usually a big spate of reading forecasts the brain food for a long bout of writing, so stay tuned. Until later I am at

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Teeth of a Hydra

My wife bought me a Kindle for Father's Day/birthday/maybe a piece of our anniversary and I would like to think it was out of undiluted love but it was more likely because I just own too many books. My recent obsession with replacing all of the Gold Medal paperbacks of my youth (and then some I hadn't heard of because ebay- and in fact the interwebs--had yet to be invented) has only magnified this issue. A dire threat was issued that we would need a new bookshelf to hold all of the books but I thought that was a helpful suggestion and went out and bought and built yet another bookshelf.

Thus a Kindle, which holds quite a few books itself and is smaller than the new bookshelf.

There are many of my reading brethren who are philosophically opposed to the Kindle because they like the look and feel of paper. These are, basically, the same people who pretend they don't read tabloids or watch reality television, and I once numbered myself among them.

But it is hard to pass up the convenience and ease and relative inexpense of downloads with the Kindle, and I found that I could actually read off of it pretty easily (as a person who does not like to read anything longer than a blog post on a computer screen). I soon had a new dark mistress.

The first book I downloaded was "Pygmy" by Chuck Palahniuk followed in quick succession by two Hard Case Crime novels, "House Dick" by E. Howard Hunt and "The Murderer Vine" by Shepard Rifkin. $20 of Father's Day money gone. I was happy to find Hard Case Crime on Kindle but was disappointed two books I was looking for--"The Savage Detectives" by Roberto Bolano and Denis Johnson's "Nobody Move"--were not yet available.

The Kindle people are diabolically clever by offering up all kinds of free downloads, mostly of classics but plenty of other stuff to get you hooked, like "Assassin's Apprentice" by Robin Hobb and "His Majesty's Dragon" by Naomi Novik, both of which I had already read and admired and both the beginning of addictive series. Joseph Finder's "Paranoia" is up there free, as is "Elric: The Stealer of Souls" by Michael Moorcock. I downloaded a couple of freebies that I probably wouldn't buy but might try for nothing, which I am sure was the plan, like "Manifold Time" by Stephen Baxter and "Blood Engines" by T.A. Pratt and "Weapons of Choice" by John Birmingham. Then, while nosing around, I broke down and spent a few thin dollars on "To Kiss or Kill" by Day Keene and "Leaves of Grass" by some dude.

Suffice to say I am ready for my beach vacation in a few weeks. Give me a shout at

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Imaginary Blonde

Longtime readers know about my fascination with the detritus of a misspent youth; 70s comics, Gold Medal paperbacks, late-night creature features, musical one-hit wonders, and the like. Those who, like me, peruse the dustbins of history for forgotten lore know that it is not so much the acquisition as the hunt.

For instance, recently I went to a party at a friend's and came across a box of comics his mother had chucked out of the attic and told him to get rid of. He hadn't gotten around to throwing it away yet and I peeked in out of curiosity and found a whole slew of 60s-era Marvel Comics with single- and double-digit numbering and titles like Uncanny X-Men and Daredevil and The Amazing Spider-Man. Yes, the little voice in my head told me to casually offer him $20 to take the box off his hands but I couldn't do it.

Even more recently I was visiting a little antique store my wife had dragged me into and I happened across a stack of old magazines. The old man running the shop told me a 99-year-old man had recently passed away and the proprietor had been given the opportunity to sort through his junk and see if anything was worth saving.

My eyes landed on Manhunt Detective Story Monthly #1, January 1953, with stories by Mickey Spillane, William Irish, Kenneth Millar, Richard S. Prather, and Evan Hunter, among others. If you do not recognize these names, please leave this blog immediately and go to Google, then come back when you are educated, grasshopper. Right behind this one was issues 2, 4, and 9, featuring Richard Deming and David Goodis and Ross Macdonald (as I said, Google).

All for a thin dollar each. The proprietor must have seen my bad pokerface because he hesitated to sell them at the eleventh hour, but without making a quick trip to ebay couldn't figure out how not to sell these to me.

Later I checked out ebay myself, and suffice to say could make back my $4 rather easily. But these are made for reading myself, looking at the covers and thinking about that quickening of the pulse when I saw them on the dusty shelf.

I'll be out nosing around, but can be found at

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Down Side of Up

Cinema Minima, a film site I have a lot of respect for in the independent/grassroots film world, recently remarked on a slow news day "Not 'Hollywood Independent'--writer John Oak Dalton is the real thing." Let this humbling statement not proceed the death knell of American Cinema.

Despite this great affirmation, like the stoic (which unkind reviewers might refer to as wooden) star of "Drag Me To Hell," I have started to wonder if I am under some sort of gypsy curse.

Both of my cars died within four weeks of each other, leaving my wife and I stranded in different cities. I cut through the ball of my thumb again while slicing a bagel. The garden hose on the outside wall leaked into the house and I came home and found the plumbers had to cut a big hole in our kitchen wall. We hiked around, as is our tradition, on Father's Day and saw a big timber rattlesnake sunning itself on the trail. Though we did not see it was a timber rattlesnake until we looked on the interwebs, which we did because when my wife (who believed it was a grass snake) poked it gently with a stick and said "Go away, honey," it rattled at her.

I do have to admit I watched "The Seventh Seal" again the other night and maybe that's where it all started. You watch a dude play chess with Death and you sort of have to take what comes. But with its eye-popping black-and-white cinematography, clear-eyed scripting, and a hard-assed performance by Max von Sydow, it is worth it. The down side is that you remember that most everything made today is disgraceful crap in comparison.

Even though I love this movie, I still love "The Bicycle Thief" more and wish I could make a movie like "Alphaville." If you have not seen these three greats, shut off the internet, set aside your Will Ferrell movie marathon, and get to work. Then come back when you get it done.

Until later I am at

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Taking a Hike

For three years running we have gone hiking on Father's Day. This year, Roush Lake State Recreation Area and Salamonie Reservoir, both near Huntington, Indiana. Wife, puppy, and new Kindle in tow.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Revenge of the Great Cornholio

Field-testing, for the first time, the Colts cornhole boards I made for my father-in-law in the sub-zero weeks before Christmas. The event was the shared birthday party my in-laws held for my kids, now aged 21 and 25. Time marches on.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Good Morning, Campers

Summer Straycationing at O'Bannon Woods State Park in southern Indiana this past weekend.

Albino Raccoon Captured

If you don't think I could have gotten any cooler after this photo was taken, on Monday I was fitted for a mouth guard to wear at night so I don't grind my teeth.

One Less Artery to Worry About

I asked my wife to take a picture so I would always remember this steak, a good two to three inches thick and as red as Mao's little book. Great camping memories.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Be Careful Not To Touch The Wall, There's A Brand New Coat of Paint

The hipster pinnacle for a midnight movie-loving kid like myself growing up was Fangoria Magazine, and I'll never forget when I first saw my name in its pages. And it never gets old.  You can check out the trailer here.

Careful readers see that I got some "Memoir 44" in over Memorial Day and actually won against my brother, a rare victory but tainted somewhat by the fact that I knocked the Allies off the beach on D-Day.  Somewhere, a parallel universe is in peril.  But I also got in "A Touch of Evil," also a very good but very different horror-themed board game.  Old fans of this blog, check it out.

And check out this guy, who, like me, apparently enjoys a Gold Medal paperback from time to time (and I am trawling away on ebay trying to replenish my stock, an old fave company that you used to be able to throw away by the handful and now has disappeared off of used book shelves in favor of big thick Tom Clancys and John Grishams).  (Best not follow that link at the office).

Feeling linky today; more later at

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More Memorial Day

My brother and I playing the entirely excellent and fun World War II board game "Memoir 44" on, appropriately enough, Memorial Day.

Storming the Beach

Game's eye view of a D-Day scenario, which I would normally be glad to win but as I was playing the Nazis on Memorial Day I hoped a parallel universe didn't fall somewhere.

Friday, May 22, 2009

It Was Just Like A Great Dark Wind

Ever since I was a kid I thought it would be cool to have my own personal Code of Honor that nobody else understands.

I think it began when I read Raymond Chandler's "The Simple Art of Murder" and these immortal words: Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.

This code has taken many forms over the years and continues to evolve, with the latest addition having come since my daughter went to college. Now every time I hear the song "Sara Smile" by Hall and Oates I have made an unbreakable vow to call my daughter; even if it is at 7:15 a.m. while I am driving to work. This song has been one of her favorites from when she was a little girl and it always reminds me of her.

But I haven't heard it enough, even though I listen to a lot of oldies stations, so I have expanded this vow to include every other Hall and Oates song except for "Maneater" which I would rather listen to radio static instead. But that didn't quite cut it so I have expanded to include the song "Baby Come Back" which is actually by Player but sounds like Hall and Oates. Then "Sara" by Fleetwood Mac and "Sara" by Starship. Then every other song by Fleetwood Mac and Starship except for "We Built This City" which I would rather drive a pencil into my ear than listen to.

The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.

Until the next song, I am at

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Was Feeling Kinda Seasick

Sadly my pal, filmmaker Peter O'Keefe, just earned another lap in the Lake of Fire.

In other entertainment news, I am watching "Parks and Recreation" closely. Not because I hope that they realize they can improve the show dramatically by allowing Rashida Jones to wear a pantsuit like her mother, Peggy Lipton, was so famous for in "The Mod Squad." It is more to be on alert for unfavorable portrayals of Hoosiers.

Loyal readers may recall my campaign against "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," who made fun of my alma mater's basketball team with an ill-disguised jab at "Muncie State," thus inspiring my ire and ridicule. Few things have drawn as much attention to this blog from other sites (except for when I wrote about how my wife saw Maura Tierney and Goran Visnjic in Chicago taping "ER," drawing links from many Croatian "ER" fans), and my jibes at the shaky plotting and leaps in logic were surprisingly repeated on some TV fan sites.

All I can say in retrospect is that I am still blogging and "Studio 60" is off the air. Whether Aaron Sorkin is still weeping bitter tears at night over my witty and incisive posts, I have never learned.

So far "Parks and Recreation" is doing okay. They have accurately portrayed Hoosiers' love for Bobby Knight and Larry Bird, though they have overlooked other Gods in our Pantheon, among them Reggie Miller, Steve Alford, Bobby Plump, and the newly-elevated Peyton Manning.

But one thing.

We do NOT wear brown suits! At least, I haven't seen any since I visited my dad's Kiwanis meetings in the early 80s. Our great Flyover Country does get regular delivery of Old Navy clothes!

I will continue vigilantly monitoring potential defamation of Hoosiers; until then, I am at

Monday, May 04, 2009

You Are The Magnet

Getting into the groove on my new job and spent a pleasant weekend with my wife for her birthday.  We went to Vera Maes, one of our favorite spots, and afterwards a showing at Ball State University of "The Full Monty," which was a very good student performance.  It was closing night, and though there were rumors of the full monty to be on display "for one night only" I only saw a couple of bare(ish) buttocks.  Not that I'm complaining.

I did have an excellent Savannah pork chop at Vera Mae's.  I have known a lot of fine pork chops in my time and I would say this was in the top five.

I have a feeling I am going to have a baseball summer.  I have been reading the very good book "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis about how the Oakland As have built winners with no money and it got me interested in baseball a bit more this year.  About five or six years ago the stars were in alignment and in one summer I ended up at the Cincy Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Fort Wayne Wizards, and Indianapolis Indians.  I ended up winning some Indy Indians tickets on a TV Auction last fall and cashed them in a few weekends ago on a very pleasant night at Victory Field after a really good meal at Weber Grill.  It was the kind of meal that men fantasize of where there are four kinds of meat served and not one green leaf in sight.

On my summer wish list is Indy Indians (one down), the new Fort Wayne Tincaps, the new Richmond Riverrats, the Dayton Dragons, the Reds (I haven't been since their new stadium), and maybe for good measure the Cubs or Sox.  And, if I can reach the far ends of the state, the South Bend Silverhawks and the Evansville Otters.  If I can make any combination of at least five I will beat my previous record.  Something a boy can dream on.

Getting very interested in keitai shosetsu.  Google this if you don't know what I'm talking about.

Until later, at

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Curse It Is Cast

My blogging has slowed down to a trickle of late, though I have been able to keep up with Twitter at a mere 140 characters at a time (and if you aren't on Twitter with me, Oprah, President Obama, Ashton Kutcher, John Mayer, and millions of others, why aren't you?).  I've also done okay keeping up on my reading.  

Perhaps the sluggish blogging was the letdown from reaching 1,000 posts at about the same time as my fifth anniversary of this humble site (which, scarily, is something close to a post every other day for the last half-decade, for loyal readers and poor mathematicians).  

Perhaps it was also the long winter, breaking a filling and getting a root canal, breaking the root canal, hosting the Chamber of Commerce at the office, then changing jobs, getting the flu (hopefully it wasn't the damn swine flu), having my wife get the flu (ditto), presenting at a conference, the end of a semester teaching video production, and a few other events I am forgetting as things are a bit blurry around the edges at present.

What else could have kept me from blogging about Watchmen, a cinema event I have waited for for several decades? 

Astoundingly, I find myself, while googling away, in the humble minority amongst fanboys in my unstinting praise for this film.  Why comic book fans have not marched upon Hollywood and pledged unyielding fealty to Zack Snyder I have no idea.

For a graphic novel long thought to be unfilmable, so much was there, including dialogue and even shots framed right from the comics.  Great casting and a reverent rendition.  The use of music and the idea to keep it in its 80s time frame were sure-handed.  The DVD release of extras, done practically concurrently, was innovative.   The opening gave me chills.  I think they actually improved the ending.  I honestly don't know, unless it was made into an HBO miniseries of something, how it could have been done any better, or by anybody else, or at any other time in the last twenty years or so.

My dream of Watchmen was realized.  My dream for the other milestone graphic novel of that era, The Dark Knight, may never come to pass, as too much time has marched by, and with it my fantasy of Clint Eastwood or Michael Douglas playing Batman and Arnold himself playing Superman, and wouldn't that have been a cool movie?

But one little thing about Watchmen scratched at the back of my mind.

At the end of the book (twenty year old SPOILER), asked to tarnish his curious code of honor to prevent the world spinning into Armageddon, the vigilante Rorschach utters the immortal line:

"Joking, of course."

A tagline for every disenfranchised comic book-reading, Star Trek-watching, D&D-playing dude of that era, and one my friends and I would utter when our own curious codes would be challenged or questioned.

"Joking, of course."

A line for the ages, missing from the definitive unfilmable film--which is why I must only give Watchmen a nine and a half.

Who's ready to go see Star Trek?

Give me a shout at

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sweet Peter Rottentail

Every year my pal Tim Shrum, de facto president of the Polonia Brothers Fan Club, bakes a cake based on a classic Polonia Brothers movie. Whether he has other issues or not, I'm not sure. Once again this year Tim picked one of my own scripted projects (after doing "Among Us" before). Strange enough to have a script turned into a movie, but then turned into a cake really takes--well, you understand. Thanks, Tim!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Bright Elusive Butterfly of Love

I think I am officially the last comic-book nerd in America who hasn't seen Watchmen, a condition I hope to correct tomorrow when my son and I take a third stab at going.

In the meantime, I am off to the Phantoscope Film Festival today, in its third great year with perhaps the strongest lineup yet. If that is because I was not invited back to the roundtable discussion and in fact will spend most of the time either behind the projector or behind a camera taping the event is for the reader to decide.

See you at the Fest, or you can always catch me at

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Pounding of the Drums, the Pride and Disgrace

Thanks to the folks at HorrorBlips, who dubbed me one of "the Web's most popular horror news, videos, and blogs," even though I think this is the longest I have gone without posting since I started five years ago.

So I broke out a filling and had to get a root canal and then, while enjoying a nice meal at this restaurant in Ohio, broke my root canal and then had to go get a crown put on. Some script money I just made went right into my mouth instead of up my nose like my Hollywood brethren. Went through Cincinnati in a Vicodin haze but enjoyed a visit to Jungle Jim's. Cars breaking down, puppies vomiting up, FAFSAs and taxes, drama all around, a rain of frogs. A trip to Memphis for Spring Break drizzled down to a good piece of pie at a diner yesterday in Centerville, Indiana. Now here I am enjoying some nice fresh scones my wife baked this morning and getting back on the beam.

On my "Nerd Bucket List" for 2009 I have been doing alright amidst the chaos. I bumped into filmmaker Zack Parker, both of us getting an oil change at WalMart in Richmond Indiana, and gave him that script coverage I promised; I supposed that's what living in L.A. must be like. I am getting caught up on emails and am catching up on writing recommendations on LinkedIn like I promised. I still have more to do but am doing better than I was.

I have been foiled twice in going to see Watchmen with my son, but we are going to try again next Sunday. I loaned him the graphic novel to read and he, like legions of comic book fans before him, got blown away. But probably not as much as we did way back in the day.

It's hard to describe to somebody today what it was like when we saw it on the shelves. Back then in the 80s you might get a Hawkman and Atom team-up where they fight a gorilla with a robot brain. Then all of a suddent there's this dark, apocalyptic story like nothing we'd ever seen (of course, we had not seen 2000 A.D. yet where all of this was going on prior).

The first time I saw a Watchmen comic it was lying on a table at my old pal Eric Mayse's house, who later went to work for Todd McFarlane (curiously, the toy figure Cornboy was based on him). It was the final, death-dealing issue (which was fine, as I always like to read the endings first in books) and I could not fathom some of the last few pages in the context of what I was reading at the time. Suddenly it seemed okay to read comics again and I didn't have to pretend I was buying them for my son.

I think it's interesting how Alan Moore has become more sunny since then, especially his milestone Silver-Age musings in Supreme (which I think deserves wider mainstream recognition). Moore, like the rest of us, got milder and more philosophical over time; though he spawned a decade of darker and more violent comics, and I wonder what he thinks about that overall today.

Last week I finished judging the Phantoscope Film Festival, and think we will have a good lineup this year. If I don't see you at the Fest this Saturday, you can always catch me at

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Remembering John Polonia: One Year Later

It's hard to believe it was one year ago today that b-movie filmmaker John Polonia passed away. This is what I wrote then:

John was an incredibly funny person who enjoyed home and family life and could talk movies with a great fervor. He turned this love of movies into a memorable filmmaking career.
John was a good friend to me and a lot of other filmmakers. He was a great lover of cinema and had a vast collection of movies stored on the shelves of his home and in his brain. He had a dream to make movies and lived that dream every single day since his teenage years. I spoke with him a few weeks ago about a new project I would rewrite over one of his scripts and he was as excited about these upcoming prospects as he was about every project.
I think we are too close to the Polonia Brothers' legacy for it to be properly measured. They first got distribution as teenagers and are noted for having one of the first shot on SVHS features to be accepted at Blockbuster. They produced and directed more than 30 features in 20-some years that were distributed direct to video. They were incredibly prolific and successful together and embraced a large fan base while being courteous to foes. Their role in the rise of VHS rentals, the mom and pop stores, the SOV era, and then the direct-to-video DVD boom, will have to be noted much farther down the timeline to see what they have really meant as people and professionals.
I can say in total honesty I have never met anyone like John. When I first saw "Blood Red Planet" I knew the Brothers were special as very unique filmmakers and I later came to learn they were incredible individuals as well.

You can read my original posts, with photos, blog comments, and links to other tributes, here, here, here, here, and here.

I was thinking about the last time I saw John Polonia. My family was returning from a trip to the east coast and stopped in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania on the way back to spend the night and visit with the Polonia Brothers. John and Mark and I sat on John's porch late at night and talked about movies.

Even though John knew about the Polonia Brothers Fan Club and various reviews and all the people they knew and helped in the industry he always took an ironic tone with their fame/infamy. But I think he would have been pleasantly surprised at all of the website memorials and tribute videos on YouTube and so on that came out in the wake of his death.

At the viewing, I could just imagine John looking at all of the former cast and crew people there and saying, "Let's make a movie." It was the main sentiment he shared at a surprise birthday party that was thrown for the Brothers a few years before. I have no doubt that in that long weekend he could have cooked up a good one.

John was, ultimately, a family man who lived in a small town, down the street from his twin brother, who loved making movies. It was a purity of purpose and surety of self that I aspire to.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I Keep Holdin' On Enough To Say

I have been slow on updating this humble blog lately, what with a friendly little root canal and a cozy sore throat keeping me away from the keyboard as of late. But I have been doing quite a bit of reading in my attempt to once again read 50 books this year.

If I seem suddenly cooler it is because I am updating from my new (to me) Mac G4. Now, to the mailbag:

New reader Adrienne writes that she is not an Oscars fan, but "maybe we'll start when you're up for an award...It's genuine, you are our best hope." Sadly, Adrienne basically wrote that she has to throw her television in the dumpster.

Loyal reader Jim writes "Just added Among Us, Peter Rottentail, and your other films to our Netflix disc and Watch Instantly queues." As Jim is Adrienne's husband, I fear his television is going to end up in the dumpster one way or the other.

Seriously, though, I hope they enjoy them, and I appreciate Netflix for putting them up there; and for delivering me a steady stream of DVDs at home, a welcome treat when I live half an hour from the nearest Blockbuster and ten minutes from the nearest video store of any kind, which is a Redbox at a MacDonald's.

New projects always bubbling; until later I am at

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Run, Red Wolves, Run

Taping "Red Wolves Rundown" at the WCTV studio on the IU East campus with my video production class.

Leading the Pack

Corrupting the minds of the next generation of television professionals in the control room of WCTV, taping "Red Wolves Rundown" at the IU East campus.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Devil Jumped Up On A Hickory Stump

One day the barber shaves your earlobes, the next you decide to buy a corduroy jacket, then the next day you think, "You Know, England Dan and John Ford Coley had some good songs," and then the day after that you think you might look good in a sweater vest.

I am old and tired, it is February, it has gone from a foot of snow to tornadoes, and I have to have a root canal Tuesday.

On the bright side, for my readers who are horror fans, it is Friday the 13th. Those who have been, from their own perspectives, blessed or cursed by seeing a number of my movies might be surprised to learn that I missed pretty much all of the slasher genre of the 80s and thus do not feel the same resonance that some do at this holiday. I grew up on Japanese rubber monsters, Italian sandal epics, Mexican wrestling, and Russian Sci-Fi, but I had a long layoff from genre stuff in the 80s when I went to college and actually studied film. instead turning my mind towards Italian Neorealism, French New Wave, and so on.

In the late 90s I smelled a trend, like the boom of the mom and pop video stores in the late 80s that gave rise to many of my peers launching their careers when the content-starved VHS pipe opened up. I thought the same thing would happen again with DVD, and I felt that genre projects would be most needed. I was right, though loyal readers know I have been wrong; I once said that CDs would never catch on, as they were "just little records."

I gave myself a crash course in horror, and though I have still some gaps in my knowledge of giallo and Paul Naschy werewolf movies I think I was able to get caught up. I still don't understand the slasher genre, though those raised in the 80s probably feel that same twang that I feel about the original 70s Dawn of the Dead (I know the remake's supposed to be decent, but still).

That being said, if anybody wants to see the new Friday the 13th, I'm game (But I'd rather see Coraline). I try to follow trends and study likes and dislikes for future projects. As I have said before to loyal readers, writing is a craft that can be learned. It is not achieved by sitting under a tree in your boxers waiting for the muse, or, as I know some have speculated about my work, banging your butt cheeks up and down on a keyboard until a script coughs out.

Along the way, I became more of a fan again (Which was why I was thrilled anew when Fangoria mentioned me here). A good thing, because one thing I have learned about genre fans is that they can smell a rat. If you think genre writing is easy and anyone can just "bang it out," the fans will know. The other side of that is that genre fans are the most loyal fans there are (as seen by this very blog which, unbelievably, thousands have returned to from time to time). No less a person than screenwriter Michael Tolkin taught me that (he also once wrote me an email, believe it or don't).

Along those lines, some potentially interesting projects on the horizon; until later I am at

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Lookin' at the Devil, Grinnin' at his Gun

If I might put on my day job hat for a moment, I think it is a good thing the digital transition has been moved. If you are reading this blog, or follow me on Twitter, or are my friend on Facebook, or are my colleague on LinkedIn, you are fine with the digital transition. But there are millions of people that aren't. Many of them I talk to every day, who don't know what's going on. There are many, many technically naive people who would be left out in the cold. Allow me to give some anonymous examples:

ANONYMOUS DAD: I need to use the internet at your house. Is it the same internet we have at work?

ANONYMOUS SON: Dad, it's the same internet.

ANONYMOUS FATHER-IN-LAW (OVER PHONE): I can't get the internet to work.

(Anonymous son-in-law tries to troubleshoot)

ANONYMOUS SON-IN-LAW: Wait, aren't you on dial-up?

ANONYMOUS FATHER-IN-LAW (OVER PHONE): Yes, I'm trying it right now.

ANONYMOUS SON-IN-LAW: You're going to have to hang up the phone now.

ANONYMOUS PROFESSOR CALLING HELPDESK: I can't find a video projector in this classroom.

ANONYMOUS HELPDESK PERSON: Did you look on the ceiling?

ANONYMOUS PROFESSOR CALLING HELPDESK: All that's there is something called a Toshiba.

And so on, some too painful to recall.

I was asked to serve as a judge for the Media Arts panel for the Indiana Arts Commission again this year, helping award grants. I hope it does not speak to the state of art in Indiana that I have been asked to rejoin this august group. I enjoyed judging before and am happy to serve.

Under threat of a junk-punch from the ghost of Bruce Lee I have sworn to catch up on script coverage I have promised as well as emails I owe between gaps in my latest (nondisclosure) script rewrite (Hint: The Christian Bale rant making the rounds right now holds a peripheral, tertiary clue). So until later, I am at

Monday, February 02, 2009

Indiana Wants Me

Waiting to get notes on a nondisclosure script I shot through the ether, and in the meantime trying to catch up on The Tudors, read smarter, return emails, nurture my new Facebook account, give script coverage to people I promised some to.

Respect to my Hoosiers for all the mad pub the Crossroads of America has been getting lately.

First we have Katie Stam, the first Hoosier to be Miss America.

Then we have Skeeter Hines, perhaps not a household name yet but a former student of mine who worked on the prize-winning Doritos ad that aired during the Super Bowl. Oh, also the other dudes that worked on it were Hoosiers.

Indiana: More than David Letterman, anymore.

It is now February, and not a moment too soon. A big-ass load of snow dumped on us a few days ago and then drifted over all weekend; though not before I got to eat at a very good restaurant Saturday night.

Until later, I am at

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Changing of Sunlight to Moonlight

I haven't done a meme in a long time; this is one that I did that is popping up all over Facebook like meth labs in the hills of Kentucky. And is about as addictive. So, here's 25 Things About Me:

-I met my wife on a blind date in January 1987 and we were married that October.

-I have been knocked unconscious a lot, including every job I ever had (except the last one, where I passed out, and the current one, which the meter is still running on).

-I was the first person to win a Letterman Scholarship at Ball State for scriptwriting. When I stood up to accept the award, being a young smartass at the time, I thanked the Smith-Corona typewriter company and the creator of White-Out.

-I was given tickets to the Letterman show as part of the scholarship and my wife and I went to see the show in 1988. The studio was smaller than you would think. The guests that night were Isiah Thomas, Chris Elliot and Terrence Trent D'Arby.

-Much to the chagrin of practically everyone I talk to about it, I always read the last chapter of a book before I start it. And no I did not get that idea from Billy Crystal in "When Harry Met Sally."

-I have been involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters since 1987 and have had three Little Brothers. The one I have now is 13 and the first one I had is now, unbelievably, 34.

-As an adjunct faculty at Ball State University I was the advisor for a student group that produced a minority public affairs program. I am still proud that they named their annual Outstanding Leadership Award after me.

-I was flattered to see that the short films "The Hook" and "The B-Team" both have characters named after me.

-I was the Ball State Daily News Freshman Writer of the Year in 1985. I had not yet learned to type and wrote all my stories in longhand.

-My nickname in high school was "Ace."

-I have never learned to play Solitaire and don't understand a lick of it.

-I also could not blow a bubble with a gun to my head.

-The very first movie I ever remember seeing is "The Barefoot Executive." The first movie I saw when we got HBO as a kid was "The Last Remake of Beau Geste." The first R- rated movie I saw was "Alien."

-My favorite comic book character growing up was, for whatever reason lost in the dustbins of history, the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick. I used to call him "Pot Head Flash" before I knew the subtle connotations there, as he wore a winged Mercury helmet. It is still my favorite superpower.

-When I was a kid, there were three measures of coolness: seeing Star Wars at least 13 times, being able to go see the R rated version of Saturday Night Fever instead of the PG version, and being able to stay up all night watching Sammy Terry. I only could do one of these.

-In general I do not like to watch a movie over again, nor do I like to start watching a movie if I miss the beginning.

-I listen to ELO's "Out of the Blue" and The 5th Dimension "Greatest Hits on Earth" over and over when I need inspiration.

-I have probably read "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller more times than any other book.

-I loved "The Prisoner" TV series so much I never watched the last episode because I never wanted it to end.

-I have walked on the Great Wall of China and stood in Tianenmen Square a year before it took on a new meaning.

-The first record I bought for myself was "Dark Side of the Moon" by Pink Floyd from a garage sale across the street--it still hand the stickers in it. The first one given to me was a .45 of "King Tut" by Steve Martin by my friend Todd Merickel in 7th grade. The last 8-Track I bought was "Wings Greatest Hits." The first cassette I owned was Tom Petty 'Hard Promises." I played it with the 8-track adapter. The first CD I owned was "Ten" by Pearl Jam.

-To my secret shame, the first rock concert I went to see was Adam Ant, with The Romantics as the opening act, at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis.

-Like most teenagers in the early 80s, I was briefly in a punk band. It was called The Johnnies.-

-With a friend, I hosted my own cable access show in Muncie, Indiana, called Back Issue. It was about comic book collecting, and we produced around 75 episodes circa 1997-2000.

-I have always drawn my own comics, made my own zines, shot my own movies on Super-8 and video. I now know this is called DIY but we used to call it being a nerd.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

High on the Mountain of Love

Tonight the snow is falling heavily and I am tucked in reading, relaxing, after firing off the first draft of my nondisclosure sci-fi script last night. This one had evil clones, killer robots, one mushroom cloud, a planet or two blowing up, and a sinister android who I couldn't help but imagine wearing a foxy pantsuit like Julie Lipton wore in The Mod Squad. The usual fare.

This wise movie veteran congratulated me on getting the script knocked out, rightfully calling it "Draft #1." There's always a lot more work to do.

My O.M.G. Tim Shrum (in this case, meaning Original Microcinema Gangster) gave me a shout out here, so I am giving one back. If you like my blog, his is ten times better.

Until rewrites, I am at

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Third Rate Romance, Low Rent Rendezvous

2009 has been cold and miserable so far, and disasters seem to lurk around every shadowy corner, but this morning I am sitting in front of the fireplace while the snow gently falls outside and all seems peaceful with the world.

2009 has also been interesting. In 2008, if you opposed the president you were a dirty traitor who wanted the terrorists to win. Now, in 2009, if you oppose the president you are a patriot only trying to save America from the evils of socialism (except for the government intervention in the fates of the auto companies, which shouldn't be considered socialism, naturally). It's funny how the world goes 'round.

The Guardian put out a list of Science Fiction books everyone should read, and at first I said "Wow, I've read 22 of them," and then I said, "Wow, I need to read a lot more of these." Check the full list out, in three parts, beginning here.

This dude wrote, "Statistically speaking, there's at least one person on Earth who's a fan of Eminem and Benny Hill and Doctor Who. This video is for that freak." How he knew I existed, I'll never know.

I just finished a really good book called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and wondering if I have the brainpower to read The Savage Detectives as I'd like.

Until later, catch me at

Saturday, January 17, 2009

About A Ghost From A Wishing Well

Blistering, relentless cold has seeped in from all corners, ten and fifteen below, with a half-foot of snow and a sinus infection like a ten-penny nail floating around in the juice sloshing behind my eye. Other than that, 2009 has been great so far.

I did add a new resolution to my list. I am going to be better about giving script coverage. If you sent me a script in the last three months--okay, the last six months--and I never responded, please re-send your script to me at and I swear on a stack of Hard Case Crime paperbacks to read it in the nearer rather than distant future.

I also know I owe some peeps some emails, but I'm starting with baby steps.

Really, when the weather gets like this, there is nothing to do but hunker down--and in my case, knuckle down on some script rewrites. Loyal readers know that I have been working on a non-disclosure sci-fi project since before Thanksgiving that I thought would be done by now, but has gone through several rewrites of the first act. Several people familiar with this project have wondered aloud to me whether doing so much re-writing bothers me. Allow me to turn my thoughts away from this brutal winter and offer some of my sporadic screenwriting advice that so many come to this blog to receive.

A script is not your baby. You are delivering someone else's baby. Thus I do not mind writing and rewriting until the producer or director gets exactly what they want. The more it fits their vision, the more likely it will get made. When somebody tells you they can "see" what you've written, you know you are onto something.

I can hear loyal readers asking, 'but what if it's your original script?' The truth is, even though I like to write specs in the summers, mostly for my own amusement, every single script out of the 20 projects I have worked on the last eight years have started with somebody else's idea. Either somebody has a monster suit or access to a neat location or knows a girl willing to have red kayro syrup thrown on her while she's taking a shower or has been given a mockbuster title to develop or something.

Most directors and producers eventually figure out that coming up with ideas isn't the hard part. It's sitting in a chair writing it all out instead of, for instance, watching the NFL playoffs. Thus, do not write me an email and suggest a great idea, and if "only I write it" we can split the money. It is not a bubbling brain but a cast iron butt that wins the race. At any rate, I have a rewrite to finish and perhaps have the next project beyond that percolating. If only people would stop making me sign these accursed nondisclosures and, as I have suggested, go back to wearing tinfoil hats to protect their thoughts this blog would be a lot more fun at times.

To reward myself later tonight, hot Mexican food, cold wine, warm brownies, a glowing TV screen.

Until even later I am at

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Shadow From The Starlight Is Softer Than A Lullaby

Ice and snow on a brittle Sunday morning. Last night we were kept from going to a nice restaurant an hour away by icy roads, so we went a half-mile away and had sandwiches and milkshakes at the local diner, then came back here and played cards and had a nice "found evening" after all. We watched George Cukor's The Women and I wondered aloud how a 70 year old movie could be fresher and funnier than the one made with Meg Ryan a year or two ago.

However, I watched Son of Rambow a night or two before, and it is the kind of movie I wish I had written.

I went to the library and the two books I was most interested in--Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Roberto Bolano's The Savage Detectives--were both on the New Books shelf, both in English translation, and both authors are already dead before their time. Makes me think I need to start writing faster.

I am working on rewrites of a sci-fi script under nondisclosure and looking ahead to a potential project.

Although winter is seemingly just getting underway, we are all ready for it to be over and are contemplating an escape to warmer climes for Spring Break. My Colts and Ball State Cardinals getting beat on mercilessly doesn't help.

Now this is a bright star in the sky; though I liked it so much that, to my brother's undying chargin, I never watched the last episode because I didn't want it to be over.

Until later, I am at

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

This Week He's Mopping Floors, Next Week It's The Fries

2008 is in the history books. On the day job front I was extremely busy, empty nesting on the home front (until we got the puppy) and steadily working on the freelance front. I had taken 2006 off from screenwriting because of changing jobs and challenges at home but came back in 2007 with a record (for me) seven freelance projects (after thinking I was probably out of the loop and nobody would hire me anymore), hopefully a few of which will be on screens or shelves in 2009.

This year I did rewrites on the horror film Mental Scars for Richard Myles, a second pass on a sci-fi script I did in 2007 under a nondisclosure, and finished the year working on another sci-fi project under nondisclosure with the same producer (nondisclosures make for boring blogs, though). Which, with a few fits and starts on some other things, was just busy enough.

Instead of writing a spec script this summer I started schooling myself on New Media to sort of figure out what that Next-Gen model is going to be. Having gone to college with an electric typewriter in 1984 I still have a lot to learn. But I did pass five years and one thousand posts on this humble blog. I got very interested in Creative Commons and released some of my work under those licenses.

I got to go to the San Diego Comic Con and Columbus Ohio's Small Press and Comics Expo and Bloomington's Cinephile Film Fest and did a lot of other straycationing, but my beloved Microcinema Fest skipped a year.

I gave myself another Ultimate Nerd Challenge, this time to read 50 books in 2008 (and succeeded), along the way discovering Samuel R. Delany and re-discovering Philip K. Dick. I got to play the new D&D 4E. After five good years a website I helped launch, Microcinema Scene, folded with ReWind Video into a new site, Common Film.

John Polonia, a legendary b-filmmaker who I collaborated on with many projects, unfortunately died suddenly in February. A nice tribute to him, featuring a few of my humble words, appears on the Monster Movie DVD which came out that year.

This year my goals are about the same; lose (more) weight, guide my kids through their lives, teach my puppy more, work smarter, write better.

Until later, I am at