Superbowl stuff…

A friend posted this on Facebook and it’s worth sharing, especially to the long suffering fans of other teams within the AFC East…

Because of a dreaded contract dispute, our local Fox affiliate has been blacked out for close to a week now on our ATT U-Verse system and not only did I miss last night’s Panthers/Arizona game (that one didn’t bother me so much and the end result was about what I expected) but I also missed the first episode of the brand new X-Files show.  And my wife is further upset because she not only missed that (we are both big fans of the show), but also the second episode of this season’s Hell’s Kitchen.

We’ll catch up to the shows as they become available (I hope!) on the internet but, seriously…can cable companies still wonder why they’re losing clients?!

As for the Superbowl, I’m far from a prophet regarding such things and being a fan of neither team and having absolutely no dog in this hunt, I nonetheless see a very big Panther win.

Granted, the Bronco defense is damn good -perhaps even on a level with some of the very best defenses ever- but you have to have some kind of offense to win that final game, especially against a potent scoring team like the Panthers.

Further, Its sad to say considering all his accomplishments but if Mr. Manning had been on any other team, I suspect we’d already have heard about his retirement instead of looking forward to seeing him get another chance to win a Superbowl.

Then again, maybe the two week break will do wonders on him and he’ll suddenly look like the Manning of old.

As with all things sports related, we’ll see in a couple of weeks.

Corrosive Knights Book #6 update

I’m reluctant to talk about whatever book/story I’m currently working on until there is something solid to say about it.  In this case, there is something to say and here goes:

I’m currently on what I’ve dubbed the “6th” draft of my current novel, the (coincidentally) sixth book in the Corrosive Knights series.

Corrosive Knights series

The first 1/2 to 2/3rds of this book is very near being completed but there are some bits and pieces I still have to deal with regarding the novel’s climax and conclusion and, most especially, the fate of at least one prominent character.

Given where I’m at, I figure I’ll have the 6th draft completed by later this month (January, natch).  I’ve completed the latest read through and have made copious notes on the printed pages regarding things that needed fixing and am now on the computer doing those fix ups.  As I reach the later portions of the novel I hope to deal with the ending and the fate of that character.  Even as I work my way there, ideas are being sifted and will no doubt be added to this latest draft.

The question I’m currently pondering is how close am I from being finished with the work.

As always, it is not an easy question to answer.

After finishing this draft, I suspect I’ll need at least two more full drafts to go over before I feel the story has been “locked down”.  When I get to that point I’ll probably need at least two more drafts to go over which will involve my looking at grammatical/spelling errors that need correcting.  On the plus side, these last two drafts tend to be completed quickly.  On the minus side, I still have the drafts that come before that point and they can take up more time.

If I had to estimate when this novel will be finished and released, I’d say this: Hopefully by no later than May and perhaps earlier though it could also (of course) be later.  It simply depends on how well/quickly these next drafts are finished.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  There most certainly will be a new Corrosive Knights book released in the next few months.

I promise you its another great addition to the series.

Bone Tomahawk (2015) a (mildly) belated review

When word came that veteran actor/full-time bad-ass Kurt Russell was starring in the latest Quentin Tarantino film, a western called The Hateful Eight, I was soooo eager to see it.  Alas, the movie’s runtime (over three hours) and my inability (as usual) to find the free time to go see it meant I’d have to wait for the movie to hit the home video market.

But as that movie neared release, seemingly out of nowhere I saw a listing for Bone Tomahawk, another western starring Kurt Russell.  Intrigued, I read up on the movie and found, to my delight, that it was not only a western, but a horror film as well.  Two very intriguing genres mixed together.

Naturally, I put the movie on my Netflix cue but it popped up for free viewing for Amazon prime members so, last night, I watched it.

With some caveats which I’ll get into later, for the most part I really liked what I saw.

As eager as I was to see the film, going into it I was also a little worried.  With Bone Tomahawk we have yet another of those low budget direct-to-video type movies and, unfortunately, my last experience with one, the horrid Killing Season (read all about it), wasn’t a ringing endorsement for these types of films.

Bone Tomahawk starts with a pair of bloody “bush-whackers” (David Arquette and Sid Haig in what amount to cameo roles) attack and kill a group of three campers, their intent being to rob them of whatever possessions they carry.  However, in the course of the robbery a gunshot is fired and that brings someone on horses (the law?) their way.

Fearing being discovered and arrested, the duo head deep into the bushes and, while they lose their would be captors, hear eerie shrieks in the wind.  They eventually stumble upon a strange rock formation surrounded by the skulls of animals and…humans.  Once past that formation they are attacked by strange, shadowy figures.  One of the bushwhackers is killed while the other, younger bushwhacker stumbles away.

Eleven days later, that younger bushwhacker makes his way to a town and raises the suspicions of Chicory, the town’s deputy sheriff (Richard Jenkins).  He and Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell) confront the man in the town’s bar and rapidly determine he is a criminal.  The Sheriff shoots the man in the leg as he tries to flee and takes him to jail.

To treat his injury, the Sheriff asks dandily-dressed Brooder (Matthew Fox) to get the town’s doctor.  It turns out the doctor is Samantha (Lili Simmons) who is married to Arthur (Patrick Wilson), a man currently recovering from a broken leg sustained while trying to fix their home’s roof during a storm.

Samantha tends to the bushwhacker and is left with a third deputy to care for the man overnight.  It is during that night, however, that those eerie howls are once again heard.  The shadowy creatures that attacked the bushwhackers have followed the surviving man to the town.  In the morning, the Sheriff finds a stableboy viciously murdered and the bushwhacker, the third deputy, and Samantha are gone.

The Sheriff finds an arrow left behind by the kidnappers and determines they were Indians.  Not just any Indians, though, but “troglodytes”, a cannibalistic, animalistic group that is as far removed from civilization as can be.  Sheriff Hunt, Deputy Chicory, Brooder, and the injured Arthur ride out toward where the troglodytes are supposed to live, intent on rescuing Samantha from their clutches.

The remainder of the movie involves the trip to the troglodyte’s home and what happens there.

Though the film is touted as a horror/western, the movie’s structure mostly recalls the classic John Wayne film The Searchers married, toward the end, with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

As with The Searchers, our heroes set out to find and rescue a kidnapped woman.  The trip involves diverse characters whose interactions form the backbone of the story.  We feel for these characters which makes the dangers they face toward the end all the more terrifying.  The concluding act of the film, as mentioned, plays out like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and we’re given one particularly gruesome killing (if you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about) along with a really bizarre human subculture.

As I said above, I generally enjoyed the film but I can see why the studios were hesitant to release it to theaters and spend the large amount needed to advertise the product.

At a runtime of two hours and twelve minutes, Bone Tomahawk is an awfully long film to sit through and I’ll be very blunt here: It is at least twenty minutes or so too long.  There are some scenes here and there (including a love-making scene between Arthur and Samantha and a somewhat humorous appearance by the town’s Mayor and his domineering wife) that could easily been trimmed from the feature without audiences missing them.

Further, though the film is touted as a horror/western, the reality is that other than the opening and climax the film plays out more like a semi-comic (there are some very funny lines) and slow moving walk through the woods to get to the bad guys and rescue the damsel in distress rather than an actual horror film.

According to IMDB, “the final movie represents the first draft of the script”.  Though I don’t know how many times the author went over that script before delivering this “first draft” and while I really enjoy the way the characters talk (the dialogue in the movie is a highlight), I’ll repeat what I said above: This movie maybe could have used a couple of more drafts to trim some of the fat and tighten the story’s focus.

Ultimately, Bone Tomahawk is an odd, but certainly not unpleasant bird of a film.  An at times very laid back comic slice of life western which features a genuinely gruesome horror movie climax.  I don’t think Bone Tomahawk is for everyone but if what you’ve read above intrigues you, you’ll want to give the film a look.

What’s the Greatest American Rock Band?

With the death of Glenn Frey, a founding member of the best selling band The Eagles, Todd Leopold for asks the above question:

What’s The Greatest American Rock Band

I have the say, the question is trickier than one might think, given that there are some bands that sound very “American” and yet whose members (some or all) may be from other countries.

Mr. Leopold offers some interesting choices, among them (of course) The Eagles, The Beach Boys, Nirvana, Aerosmith, The Ramones, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Grateful Dead, etc. etc.

There is a reader voting offered at the end of his article and, of the bands offered, I’d probably choose The Doors as my favorite.  In six albums they created a unique, eerie, haunting, and at times bluesy sound.  Some of their songs were big radio hits…

They also created a few long, epic songs…

And toward the (ahem) end, shortly before lead singer Jim Morrison’s death, the toll of his abuse of drugs and alcohol ravaged his voice.  And yet, even with his voice noticeably different than from his early days, it was nonetheless still more than good enough to serve up one of the group’s final, classic songs…

Six albums -and one live album- released between 1966 and 1971.  A very high output and, in my opinion, a great body of work.

Glenn Frey, RIP

Wow.  It just seems like suddenly so many famous people are passing away.  In the music business alone we’ve had the recent deaths of David Bowie, Lemmy, Scott Weiland, Natalie Cole, Mike Porcaro (from Toto), Chris Squire (from Yes), Joe Cocker, and B. B. King.

Taking a step back, one notes that a part of this is aging.  Several of those who have passed away were reaching/had reached their senior years.

Though many consider it a terrible movie (I don’t, although I also don’t believe it was a particularly great movie either) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull offered a great line regarding growing older/aging.  When Indiana speaks with Dean Charles Stanforth and laments the fact that he’s lost both his father and Marcus, the Dean replies:

We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away.

While I’m still a ways from being a senior citizen (may that day arrive veeeerrrry slowly!), for a few years now I’ve noticed either the aging of actors/musicians/TV personalities/athletes who I saw/admired while in their prime and/or the passing of many of these figures.

To me, David Bowie, for example, is a man I envision from his Let’s Dance years.  It was startling to see the elderly and, though I didn’t know it until he passed, infirm David Bowie present in the Blackstar and Lazarus videos.  Similarly, when I think of Harrison Ford I see the young, vital man from Bladerunner or Raiders of the Lost Ark and not the older, much grayer Han Solo in the current Star Wars film’s commercials (haven’t seen The Force Awakens).

Returning to Glenn Frey, I’ll admit I never was a huge fan of The Eagles or Mr. Frey’s solo career but there is no doubt he, along with his Eagle bandmates, created a monster of an album with Hotel California and his solo career was a success as well.  His passing, like Mr. Bowie’s, is nothing less than a shock and another sign of the inevitable passage of time.

Rest in peace, Mr. Frey.

Killing Season (2013) a (mildly…and pointless) review

In this era of movies released directly to video or pay-per-view, there are times you’re startled by the actors involved in said features.  If memory serves and strictly going by that memory, I can think of direct to video/pay-per-view films featuring among others Bruce WIllis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Hugh Jackman, Charlize Theron, Samuel Jackson, Kevin Bacon, Kurt Russell, Nichole Kidman, and Nicholas Cage (ok, perhaps this one is expected).

The 2013 film Killing Season was released to theaters in the U.S. (and, according to IMDB grossed a whopping $27,713 in its apparently very limited release) but, for all intents and purposes, it is another of these direct-to-video/pay-per-view features in my mind.

The only thing that distinguishes it from so much other forgotten fare is the fact that it stars Robert De Niro and John Travolta.

While its tempting to say something along the lines of “my, how the mighty have fallen,” especially when I’m feeling like cutting to the chase and noting Killing Season is almost complete crap, the movie’s conclusion nonetheless makes you see what might have interested these two recognizable stars’ participation in this almost comically silly project.

The plot goes like this: Benjamin Ford (Robert De Niro) is a veteran soldier -and pretty much a walking cliche- who lives a stoic, solitary existence in a cabin in the woods.  His son’s baby is about to be baptized and he wants Ford to come see the child but, being all stoic and unemotional and what-not, Ford puts them off.  Clearly he’s fighting demons related to some traumatic event in his previous life and that has driven him away from people, just like all good stoically-cliched characters are want to do.

When his jeep conks out while driving off into the woods one rainy night, Ford encounters a man walking alone who offers to help start the jeep.  The man, Emil Kovac (John Travolta, sporting what looks like spray painted jet black hair while speaking in an accent that would make Borat proud) gets the jeep running and Ford drives off.

However, the stoic unemotional man stops, backs up, and offers Kovac a ride.  They go to his cabin in the woods, talk about good times, and drink down waaaaay too much liquor.  In the morning, they head into the woods to hunt deer.  Turns out Kovac is good with arrows, just like Ford.

While on their hunting expedition, Kovac’s true intentions are revealed.  He hunts and captures Ford and then tortures him.  He claims to want Ford to reveal his sins.

While the opening minutes of the film are almost interminable -filled with cliches and the type of danger that everyone but the protagonist can see coming- it is this section of the film that becomes unintentionally hilarious.  To wit, this is how the film goes:

Kovacs captures and tortures Ford.  Ford escapes and captures and tortures Kovacs.  Kovacs escapes and captures and tortures Ford some more.  Ford escapes and captures Kovacs and…

I’m being dead serious here.

After a while, it was like watching an old Wile Coyote/Road Runner cartoon, except in this case we had two Wile Coyotes banging their heads against each other and inflicting as much pain as they can.  Adding to the craziness is the amount of injury each sustain in their encounters.  Very conveniently these injuries, in particular the ones Ford receives, seal themselves and their characters somehow doesn’t bleed out during the course of the night.

As if you didn’t know by now, Kovacs is a one-time Serbian soldier and Ford was in Bosnia during the war and the two share a common experience from that deadly time.

As downright stupid as most of this film is and as I mentioned above, I found the very ending, which comes after a particularly idiotic scene involving Ford pulling out old shrapnel from his leg and using it as a weapon (I can’t make this stuff up!), offers us the best and only part of this work I somewhat enjoyed even though it too was so much silly fantasy.  I don’t mind SPOILING things here because I doubt there are many out there dying to see this film.

Anyway, the movie’s ending has our one-time adversaries forgiving each other and finally moving on with their lives.


I’ve just saved you ninety minutes of your life.

In sum, even if you’re a fan of Robert De Niro and/or John Travolta, seeing them face off against each other in the supremely silly Killing Season is waste of your time.  Please don’t be like me.  Please just step back and forget there ever was a film named Killing Season out there.

You’ll be glad you did.

Is there something out there…? Part Deux

A while back I wrote about the intriguing discovery astronomers made involving star KIC 8462852.

While you can read the entire post here, the essence of the story was this: Something mysterious is blocking the star’s light, something which astronomers at that point could not explain.

One astronomer brought out the stunning idea that perhaps the blocked light could be the result of aliens building a Dyson Sphere.  A Dyson Sphere is a massive artificial structure built around a star and whose purpose it is to collect all energy flowing from said star…

This concept is pure science fiction and, even in the original article, scientists were extremely hesitant to give credence to that idea.

The best natural theory put forth to explain the star’s loss of light became the idea of a passing comet storm.  A large group of comets therefore block the star’s light.

Alas, that theory is now gone as well, as mentioned in this article found on i09, The Case of the So-Called Alien Megastructure just got weirder.  The gist of the article is found in this paragraph:

…astronomer Bradley Schaefer of Louisiana State University decided to look at photographic plates of the sky dating back to the late 19th century. To his amazement, he learned that over the last hundred years, KIC 8462852’s light output has steadily faded by about 19%, something that’s “completely unprecedented for any F-type main sequence star.”

The steady fading through all those years hurts the theory of a comet swarm cause and leaves scientist once again wondering exactly what is causing the strange dimming of that star’s light.

Fascinating, fascinating stuff.

Global PC sales…

…they are a fallin’, according to this article by Ted Cruise for

Global PC Sales Fall to Eight-Year Low

I’ve written about this and will repeat:

It’s not that PCs are suddenly undesirable to the public at large, but what is happening is that PC makers have reached a point where the products they are making are TOO GOOD.

I know I’m repeating things here (you can read one of my original posts regarding this here), but when personal computers first appeared, it seemed each passing year they got remarkably better.

As I stated in that original post, I bought a computer with an 8086 processor waaaay back when and though it was great…until a friend bought a 286 processor computer which blew that 8086 out of the water.  Then came a 386 which blew the 286 away, then a 486 which blew the 386 away, then a Pentium.  However, when the Pentium II showed up, there were fewer differences between it and the Pentium one.  Sure, your computer was a little faster, but the incredible advances between systems weren’t quite as evident.

We are now at a point where a new system comes out and we don’t really need to upgrade like we did before.  Thus, one can keep one’s desktop PC (if you have one!) for a far longer period of time.  I kept my previous PC an incredible five plus years before upgrading.  My new computer is faster but, frankly, other than more memory it really isn’t a quantum leap above the last system like, for example, the 386 was versus the 286 processor.

Sometimes, industry simply makes something so good there is little need to replace it.  Doesn’t mean the item they made is suddenly worthless!