26 April 2011

Books: I Don't Want to Kill You by Dan Wells (2011)

John Wayne Cleaver is back in this third (and final?) novel by Dan Wells. Like I Am Not A Serial Killer and Mr. Monster, this serial-killer obsessed sixteen year-old, the sociopathic, emotionless, yet some how extremely lovable kid who works and lives in a mortuary, continues his battles with the supernatural elements that seem to be on par with the Hellmouth of Sunnydale.

It’s been a few months since the events of Mr. Monster, a time of quite reflection on the events of the previous six months were two killers, demons, have been haunting Clayton County. John’s ever increasing anxiety over who will come to his town in search of revenge for his acts of destroying the two previous monsters, feeds his increasing desire to kill, hurt and otherwise do harm. All he knows is the demon is called Nobody, and because these creatures can take on various shapes of humans, John is never sure if anyone he interacts with is Nobody.

Meanwhile, Brooke, the neighbor girl he’ll never admit he has feelings for, has barley spoke to him since the events of the second book. But when another girl, the daughter of a cop, takes an interest in him, John sees an opportunity to keep track of what’s happening in Clayton County.

Two things begin to happen; a killer is stalking town leaders, cutting their hands and tongue off, and driving spikes through their backs; and there is a sudden rash of suicides by girls. At first, John believes these new killings are connected to the demons, but they also match the profile of a real serial killer.

But John, who has sort of let his own inner monster out knows there is no way he can, or for that matter, really wants to put it back. As he struggles to maintain his list, they begin to buckle under the pressure of his family, a new (and a first for him) girlfriend and the impeding battle he knows is coming.

Unlike the two previous books, most of Johns inner battles take a backseat to the murder mystery plot. John still struggles, but in this volume he becomes more of a detective, searching for clues like Colombo in hopes of encountering Nobody.

Still, like the two previous books, they are unapologetically dark and gory, and author Wells has an extreme, well honed grasp that is the voice of John Cleaver. Yet, as John became to think and act more like Buffy (granted, one without super-powers), his obsessions, his thoughts about killing his girlfriend and classmates take a back-seat, and thus this does not flow so naturally with the events of the last book. It’s distracting, somewhat. In the end, Wells tries to redeem John a bit by making him realize that he does have feelings, and I’m unsure why. After all, redemption cannot be handed out so easily like Halloween candy.

In the end, I still think this is a worthy series of books, this mash-up of Dexter and Stephen King. I’m unsure if this really is the end, if only because there has to be more demons out in the world, and John has become interested, perhaps, in finding his dad -I sensed the phone call John made in the latter half the book was more a set-up for a continuation.

Wells is a talented writer, and look forward to see where he goes next.

19 April 2011

Elisabeth Sladen, former Doctor Who companion and Sarah Jane Adventure star dies

When I heard of the passing of Elisabeth Sladen today, my day was all but ruined. Since 1979, when I first saw Doctor Who on Chicago’s PBS station WTTW, I became a huge fan of her portrayal of intrepid reporter Sarah Jane Smith. Of course, by the time the US public broadcasting stations had acquired the BBC series, she was gone from the show over three years and the program itself was in season 17.

But it was Tom Baker’s fourth Doctor, and Sladen’s Sarah (though she had joined the show a year earlier, when Jon Pertwee was heading into his last season as the Doctor) that cemented the series here in the US, and during his reign, the show became, arguably, what many thought to be the "golden years" of Doctor Who. When she left the show after three and half seasons, Sarah Jane had become the most popular companion the series had.

As she often said, that while she left Sarah Jane behind, "Sarah Jane never left me," because she continued to be associated with the show. She was even asked back in 1981 to help TV viewers with the regeneration of Tom Baker’s Doctor into Peter Davidson’s Doctor, but declined. However, she did agree to do a pilot for a potential spin-off called K9 and Company. While the show was never picked up, she did return in 1983 for the series 20th anniversary movie, The Five Doctors.

All through the rest of the 80's and 90's, Sladen would do conventions, all while doing other acting and raising her daughter Sadie, who was born in 1985. But when Doctor Who was revived in 2005 after a 16 year absence from the TV screens, a chance meeting between her and showrunner Russell T Davies (and huge fan of Sladen to boot) lead her to guest star on the second season episode School Reunion. And by bridging the 20th century series with the 21st, Sladen and her Sarah Jane character somehow did something the Doctor’s most popular villains, the Daleks, could not do: she made the show even huger with old and new fans.

So, a year later, she would be starring in her own spin-off, this time called The Sarah Jane Adventures. She produced 4 seasons worth of the show, with 3 unaired episodes yet to go.

What made her one of the most popular companions the show has produced in its 47 year history? I’m sure a lot had to do with her performance, as she was really the first “modern” companion the series had. She was tough, smart, “cheeky” (as RTD called her today) could never be taken for granted. She asked the right questions, and could defend herself. And a lot had to do with the writers, who were trying their hardest to create a companion that was not afraid.

But for me, I guess, Sarah Jane (along with Lis Sladen) was a great role model for women and even gay men. She was a totally modern character, who gave as good as she got, and stood up to the men and monsters she encountered, when before her there was (somewhat) the “victim” companions.

Her passing today at the young age of 63 seems tragic for not only her husband Brian and daughter, but all fans of Doctor Who. While it seems she was suffering from cancer for some time, she apparently had everyone fooled. That is a strong woman, and one all of us can learn a lesson from. And like the passing of each actor who has played the Time Lord, the death of Elisabeth Sladen can be, and probably will be, felt just like one of those.

Her impact was that great.

18 April 2011


The Republicans have an agenda, one that returns America back to the days of the rich and the poor. And the best way to do it, is to attack working Americans in their pocket books, wallets and homes.

They want to steal Social Security for the guys on Wall Street, who bought their elections. Steal medicare and give it to private insurance companies who can charge even higher fees, thus ensuing only the rich can afford any kind of quality of health care. They're also attacking women and child's health care, by taking away programs such as school lunches and Planned Parenthood.

Unions are strong, sometimes have too much power, but they want to eliminate over a centuries worth regulations that protect workers from employers who's greed of money outweighs the safety of workers. Hey, they also want to eliminate minimum wage.

Hey, the Republicans also want to expand free trade so even more companies will leave the United States.

So, if your a working American, just know the Republicans and the Tea Party are out to screw you over.

17 April 2011

Books: Shadowrise: Volume 3 of Shadowmarch by Tad Williams (2010)

Tad Williams original idea was a trilogy, but as it happened before, trying to tie all his loose ends together, and realizing that there was much more to the story than he first anticipated, this current series would need to be told in four volumes. True, when his first series was published, the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, it was in three volumes, but book three was so large (over a 1,000 pages in hardcover), that when it was released in paperback, it had to be divided into two. Williams admits in a note at the beginning of the hardcover version of this volume that his distrust of planning meant it became inevitable that he could not wrap up all of the threads in just three books.

So, in many ways, Shadowrise is part one of the two-part finale. And at well over 550 pages, one could see why Williams thought he needed to split the series this way. And, from my point of view, there was little I could see he could’ve cut.

Like all fantasy novels, this third volume continues to follow Briony, Barrick and their father King Olin and others in various stages of separation from each other: Barrick is lost behind the Shadowline with only the talking raven Skurn for company, and who seems to finally be leaving all that self-pity behind and embracing his destiny, I guess. Briony is facing courtly intrigue as she continues to find allies to relieve her besieged home. Then there is Ferras Vansen, delivered back to the Funderling town below Southmarch Castle, who, along with Chertz and the other Funderlings, must counter the subterranean incursions of the Qar. The enigmatic boy Flint, whose behavior grows ever-stranger; the increasingly erratic Autarch of Xis, who is coming ever closer to Southmarch on a mission only he understands; his unwilling wife Qinnitan, on the run, and many other characters besides.

While all this is going on, we learn much more about the Gods, and see how everything is beginning to fit together. And Williams spends just enough time with each character before changing perspective and easily moves the story forward. His tales are always complex, yet never boring. His World Building technics are always logical and his characters move with a reality little seen in this genre anymore.

13 April 2011

Quote of the Day

"Remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood, NPR and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401Ks, took trillions in TARP money, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, started several resource wars, gave themselves billions in bonuses, paid no taxes and demanded that all social services be cut so that they would still get paid?

Yeah, me neither."

Man, this country is screwed unless we get our heads out of are collectives asses.

12 April 2011

Arizona Examiner reviewer Joseph Airdo gives Judas Kiss a glowing review

"Judas Kiss," the surprise hit at this year's Phoenix Film Festival, is certain to make most audiences feel a bit uncomfortable.

The feeling will not necessarily come as a result of the film's LBGTQ themes (although it is advisable that one knows that before seeing "Judas Kiss"). Rather, the uncomfortable feeling will be directly associated with the movie's strange sci-fi twists. Revealing anything more specific would unfairly spoil surprises.

However, regardless of some events that may or may not be a bit too bizarre, "Judas Kiss" is an incredibly original independent feature film; an extraordinarily well-made one that completely transcends all genres and features some fairly solid performances from a few really charismatic actors.

Charlie David plays Zachary Wells, a failed filmmaker who is convinced by his hotshot director friend to replace him as a judge in Keystone Summit University's annual film festival. Upon arriving, Zach hooks up with a student at a bar only to discover the next morning that said student is one of the festival's entrants.

Moreover, the student calls himself Danny Reyes (Richard Harmon) - a name Zach knows very well. And Danny's film "Judas Kiss" is also familiar. Zach made a film with the same title that won the festival years before. Then Zach, having received the mysterious advice of "Change the kid's past, change your future," sees Danny making his same mistakes.

It all leads up to Zach, still trying to determine his connection to the student, making a decision resulting in "Judas Kiss's" disqualification and a confrontation between Danny and his father about their family's dark past. Needless to say, there is much more to this story in the way of science-fiction.

The final 30 minutes of “Judas Kiss,” when the puzzle pieces start to come together, are undoubtedly the most emotionally powerful parts of the movie. Writer/director J.T. Tepnapa and his co-writer Carlos Pedraza summon the delicate revelations in a way that is both beautiful and slightly haunting, yet satisfying through and through.

Still, just as “Judas Kiss” is not a film for intolerant persons, it is also not one for viewers who cannot handle a little awkward mind-bending much less those who prefer that their entertainment fits perfectly into a set genre. However, those who can handle feeling a bit uncomfortable will have found something spectacularly unique.

11 April 2011

Slouching Towards...

I was passing through CNN the other day and saw an article about the four ways we’re still fighting the Civil War. There was one striking part about the article, where writer David Goldfield (whose new book is called America Aflame) talks about how the rise of evangelical Christianity before the Civil War, where “thousands of Americans repented of their sins at frontier campfire meetings and readied themselves examines evangelical for the Second Coming. They got war instead. Their moral certitude helped make it happen.”

Goldfield adds that evangelical Christianity "poisoned the political process" because the American system of government depends on compromise and moderation, and evangelical religion abhors both because "how do you compromise with sin.”

"The erosion of the center in contemporary American politics is the most striking parallel between today and the time just before the Civil War," Goldfield says.

Today, I think we are seeing history repeat itself. The Tea Party is filled with people who basically see everything in black and white terms, and have no desire to compromise to anything.

As Steve Gilliard once said, anyone who is not an evangelical needs to “stop looking for an accommodation with the right. They want none from us.”

The question remains as we progress towards the 2012 elections, how much more the evangelical Christians will tilt, divide and send us over the proverbial cliff because they cannot, will not compromise?

07 April 2011

Judas Kiss begins its circuit

Last week at this time, I was in Phoenix. I had gone with my friends J.T. Tepnapa, Jody Wheeler and Charlie Brewer for the world premiere of J.T.'s first film, JUDAS KISS (both Jody and Charlie were investors in this indie drama). It was playing at the Phoenix Film Festival, on Friday April 1st and it was great to see this film play there first, if only because while it is a gay film, it seems more appropriate that it should play at a mainstream film festival.

JUDAS KISS stars Charlie David (Mulligans) as failed filmmaker Zachary Wells, who is convinced by his friend, hotshot director Topher Shadoe, to replace him as a judge in Keystone Summit University's annual film festival. His first night, Zach hooks up with a student at a bar. He's shocked the next morning when the same student walks into an interview calling himself Danny Reyes (rising superstar Richard Harmon, co-star of AMC's new series The Killing), a name Zach knows very well. And Danny's film, "Judas Kiss", is a finalist in the competition Zach is judging. Zach's film with the same title won the festival years before. As Zach scrambles for answers, a mysterious, chain-smoking campus tour guide counsels him: "Change the kid's past, change your future." Zach sees Danny on the verge of making his same mistakes. Zach decides he can mend his life by getting Danny's film disqualified, prompting a confrontation between Danny and his father about their family's dark past.

The film also stars adult actor Brent Corrigan as C.W. (being credited in his real name) and another rising star, European actor/singer Timo Descamps as Shane Lyons.

On Friday last week, the film got bumped out its first theater due to selling out. It was moved to a larger theater, where it was filled to about 75%. It eventually rated a 4.7 out if 5 stars!

Its next festival appearance will be April 22nd at 13th Annual Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. The Boston LGBT Film Festival is next and has programmed the feature on its closing night, Saturday, May 14.