E. R. Torre is a writer/artist whose first major work, the mystery graphic novel The Dark Fringe, was optioned for motion picture production by Platinum Studios (Men In Black, Cowboys vs. Aliens). At DC Comics, his work appeared in role-playing game books and the 9-11 Tribute book. This later piece was eventually displayed, along with others from the 9-11 tribute books, at The Library of Congress. More recently he released Shadows at Dawn (a collection of short stories), Haze (a murder mystery novel with supernatural elements), and Cold Hemispheres (a mystery novel set in the world of The Dark Fringe). He is currently hard at work on his latest science fiction/suspense series, Corrosive Knights, which features the novels Mechanic, The Last Flight of the Argus, and Chameleon.
Given that Tesla’s main claim to fame is that their vehicles are electric -no gasoline use at all- one can be forgiven for forgetting another very big element in their arsenal: Their self-driving feature.
I must admit, when I did the test drive of the Model 3, the Tesla employee showed me how to use the self-driving feature and for a very, very short time I clicked it on before clicking it right back off.
It’s an unnerving thing to try this technology!
The Tesla employee assured me the self-driving feature was quite good, that he uses it to make long treks, but I was rather skeptical.
Welp, I’m not so skeptical anymore.
I will say this: The autopilot currently available in my car -and all Teslas which have that function- is far from something one should completely trust, especially when driving in the city. It doesn’t recognize traffic lights or stop signs and essentially “follows” street lines as well as the cars in and around your vehicle.
In other words, it senses the lines on the road around you and, if there are cars to your side, behind you, and especially in front of you, it will allow distance between you and them while maintaining safe speed limits. You are able, by the way, to manually increase the speed beyond the speed limit.
I find the best use of the auto-pilot is when you’re on the highway. No traffic lights to deal with and only the other traffic for your car to deal with. Further, no pedestrians!
Having said that, I’ve used it within the city as well but here you must be far more cautious. Again, the current software doesn’t “see” traffic lights or stop signs. If you’re behind a few cars and they come to a stop before a red light, the autopilot will stop -safely!- well behind them. However, if you’re traveling with no car before you and you see the upcoming light turn yellow, prepare to hit the breaks because the car will continue through the intersection, at least at this point and with the software I have in my vehicle.
Also, be careful about pedestrians. The other day I was on autopilot and a couple were making their way across the street. The Tesla “saw” them but when they stopped -waiting to see if I’d let them cross- the car would have gone on and, given the pedestrians and I made eye contact, they assumed I was going to stop and let them through, so they were inching forward. I hit the brakes and motioned for them to cross but the autopilot would have gone on.
So if you’re using the autopilot feature, please please please note that while its quite good in many ways, this is still a more rudimentary version of the autopilot and requires the driver keep their hands on the wheel and are alert to anything that happens around you.
I’ve seen video of people sleeping in their seat while allowing their Tesla to move on the highway and this is alarming as hell.
I suspect in a couple more years the self-driving software will become better refined and far more “sensitive” to things like traffic lights and stop signs as well as pedestrians.
Today, the Mueller Report will be sorta/kinda released.
From the look of things, William Barr, the recently installed Attorney General, is trying to put his thumb on the scales, first releasing a very positive summary of the Mueller Report, which he subsequently said wasn’t a summary, to today releasing a redacted version of the same but not before coming before the cameras (in approximately 30 minutes) and, many suspect, trying to put a positive spin on the findings before, hours later, actually releasing the same.
Here’s the thing: I’m getting vibes of the whole “drip… drip… drip” of the release of information that will stretch out way beyond today.
In other words: If you’re releasing only some of the stuff, do you really expect people to be happy with that? Do you expect all questions to stop at that point?
It’s been two full weeks and finally –finally!– I’m feeling like my old self.
How debilitating this illness was!
A flu? Strep throat (as I thought originally)? A severe cold?
I was prescribed anti-biotics but they didn’t seem to do much of anything so it was up to the ol’ body to take on this illness with the help of Advil and some cold medicine I had.
The symptoms were plenty of phlegm, bronchial/sinus issues, and, at times, fever.
The first week of the illness was easily the worst, including two days where I literally felt I couldn’t do anything and mostly stayed in bed feeling miserable.
The second week, the recovery week, I felt better but still had coughing fits/phlegm to deal with.
When I started to feel better and took my new car out for a spin, I suddenly realized I had gotten the car and almost immediately got so ill I couldn’t use it. So I got to use it more and more and enjoy it for truly the first time this past week.
Now that I’m feeling much better, its back to the grind.
He created many fascinating works, both as director and writer. Some of his bigger/most famous works include It’s Alive (1974)…
The movie proved popular enough to merit two sequels! He also directed Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)…
But Mr. Cohen wasn’t just a director, he also wrote plenty of material. He is listed as the creator of the paranoid alien invasion TV series The Invaders (1967-68)…
He was the screenwriter for the pretty bonkers Armand Assanti starring Mike Hammer film I, The Jury…
Mr. Cohen passes away at 82 late last month. Looking over his IMDB listings, I’m impressed with the amount of material he had his hands on/in. True, some of the works have lost the edge they once had, but still, what a fascinating career!
This weekend we have the release of the “reboot” of Hellboy. Gone are director Guillermo Del Toro and star Ron Perlman and in their places we have director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Doomsday, among others), David Harbour (Stranger Things) in the titular role, and Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil) as the evil Blood Queen.
Unlike many out there, I was no HUGE fan of the original two Del Toro Hellboy movies. To me, the first one seemed like it was heavily studio mandated and, frankly, was kinda bland. The second, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, felt to me like a case of having waaaaaay too much going on. While clearly a superior film to the first in almost all ways, it featured too many “big” set-pieces/climaxes. By the time we got to the movie’s actual climax, I was exhausted.
And yet, I’m a fan of Hellboy. I feel Mike Mignola’s comic books featuring the character are among the most brilliant modern comics out there.
So when I heard that the new Hellboy movie was in the works, and that Mr. Mignola was involved in the screenplay, I was intrigued. Perhaps, I felt, this time around they could fine tune the formula and make a movie that really “works” around the quirky character.
Unfortunately, as the trailers for the film appeared, my hopes quickly faded and, when the “red band” trailer appeared, they were all but dashed…
This… this just didn’t look at all like what I was hoping. Cheap CGI effects, cheap makeup effects (sorry, but Mr. Harbour’s Hellboy makeup looks like a major step down from what was used on Ron Perlman in the original two films), and jokey Ash vs The Evil Dead type humor/gore.
Now, mind you, I really enjoyed Ash vs The Evil Dead, but that was very much its own thing and it’s depressing to see the makers of this movie seem to have wanted to crib a little (who knows just how much) of that into their own version of Hellboy. That isn’t what the character was ever about.
Seeing the trailers, I realized this new film was most certainly not looking like something I was going to invest my time in, at least not until it reached the home video market. I still hoped it would be a decent film, if Hellboy only in name.
Welp, it appears that critics who have seen the film aren’t impressed with what they’ve witnessed, either. If you go over to its listing on rottentomatoes.com (you can click here) the film is currently tracking along a truly bad 12% positive among 58 professional reviews (the number of reviews isn’t sufficient, yet, to get a consensus for rottentomatoes, though I suspect when such a consensus is drawn it won’t be all that much -if at all!- better).
A real shame and something that gives me no pleasure at all in seeing.
Maybe we’ll eventually get a third, better incarnation (ouch) of the character at some point in the future?
As I’ve made it plain many times before, it is difficult for me to find the free time nowadays to sit down and watch a film, much less go to theaters and catch the latest big or not-quite-so big release.
Instead, I make a note of what’s come out and, if I have the time, sneak films in whenever I possibly can.
One of last year’s releases, the World War 2/Horror hybrid Overlord, caught my attention but it wasn’t until now, weeks after its digital video release, that I’ve had a chance to sit down and watch it. Here’s the movie’s trailer:
The film sure looks like a live action version of the video game Wolfenstein, complete with similar font used in its title…
(A quick aside: I have very fond memories of the game that served as inspiration to this one, Castle Wolfenstein, originally released back in the early 1980’s. A friend at our High School had an Apple II computer and this game and we spent many a fun hour playing it, along with Ultima II! Here’s what that game looked like:
Yeah, we’ve come a very long way, graphic’s wise!)
Getting back to Overlord, the film begins promisingly enough. We are quite literally plopped right in the thick of things, with a group of paratroopers, among them our heroes, about to deploy behind enemy lines shortly –very shortly-before D-Day.
Things, as they are wont to do, go frightfully sideways as Nazi air flak rips through the plane. Our heroes jump into the fire, quite literally, and we follow Boyce (Jovan Adepo), a Haitian/African American paratrooper (yeah, the film plays more than a little fast and loose with Army integration circa 1944) as he barely makes it out of the plane and onto the ground.
Boyce and a group of three other survivors of the doomed flight get together and make their way to their target: A very small French village which has a church up the road from it in which the Nazis have taken over. The Nazis have a communications station in the church and it is this groups’ primary mission to wipe it out before daybreak and D-Day, when the communications array could harm the incoming troops.
So there we have it, the tense mission and tight deadline.
But wait, there’s more!
When the soldiers are within the village planning their moves, an added complication: There’s something else going on in that Nazi-held church, something that looks like a science experiment gone extremely wrong…
Overlord, as already mentioned, starts well enough and had me interested in where it was going despite some of the politically correct elements thrust upon the story in an effort to give us a more “diverse” cast of characters.
Unfortunately, as the movie progressed and our heroes were in the village, it felt like the movie’s creator’s had used up their deck of creative cards. Frankly, as the movie progressed it settled into a neither terribly bad nor terribly good “groove” and never got out of it.
Worse, the film’s actions became predictable. When the big bad Nazi showed up, you knew the heroes would do something about him. But when he got away, you just knew he’d become… well… I don’t want to get too spoilery but, suffice it to say, along with a general deflation, the film’s story beats became only too obvious.
In the end, Overlord was an “ok” film in my eyes. Visually, they nailed the look nicely and some of the gore effects were very well done.
But having said that, the film couldn’t build upon its opening act and, instead, coasted to an all too obvious -and never as exciting as it should have been- ending.
It’s been a hell of a long time since I caught something like what I’m currently battling. A flu… a virus… some kind of bacteria… who knows.
Last weekend, I started to feel a scratchy/painful throat. It felt unusually painfully, moreso than when I usually catch a cold. For me, colds work like this: I get a scratchy throat followed by general low energy, then possibly fevers, then it moves to my sinus and there’s plenty of yummy phlegm to deal with but the throat problem, simultaneously, leaves as it moves to the sinus.
I’ll feel bad for a few days but by the time I’m dealing with a runny nose and coughing up mucus, I’m on the way to recovery.
Which is why by Sunday of last week I knew something else was brewing. The pains in my throat simply weren’t getting better and I feared, as I mentioned in the previous post, that I might have contacted Strep Throat.
One week to this day, last Monday, I headed to an Urgent Care Unit nearby and was seen there. They examined me, noted there was an infection in my throat and sinus but the Strep exam came back negative. The Doctor told me this was not terribly unusual if the infection is in its early stages and gave me a prescription for anti-biotics and sent me on my way.
With anti-biotics, it usually takes a couple of days for them to start working, so while I was miserable Monday, Tuesday, and into Wednesday, my hope was that good times were right around the corner.
Thursday I was at my absolute low. I felt horrible and seriously considered taking myself to the ER. My throat continued to be in incredible pain and I was coughing like crazy without moving any phlegm from my system. My sides and stomach ached from the coughing and there was little I could do.
The next day, Friday, I felt a little better. My wife had an appointment with our regular Doctor and I considered going with her so he could see me as well. Ultimately I decided not to. As bad as Thursday was, and it was mighty bad, Friday I felt better.
Perhaps the anti-biotics were finally kicking in?
Saturday morning comes and I feel even better. So much so I’m optimistic I’ve finally turned the corner.
By the afternoon, I’m feeling whatever has me in its grips is staging a comeback. I’m coughing like crazy, this time more productively (ie, with plenty of phlegm) but, frankly, I’m feeling pretty down and out… even if not quite as bad as I felt on Thursday.
Sunday, the bad -but still not quite as bad as Thursday’s- feeling continue. I’m coughing and spitting up all kinds of garbage, though the phlegm is becoming clearer and the infection, I was hoping was now dying out.
Still, the weekend was no picnic.
So here we are, Monday morning, one full week since I went to Urgent Care to get checked up and was given the anti-biotics. I’m still feeling low but, unquestionably, this virus -or whatever it is!- is on its way out. Slowly, but certainly.
I hope so.
It feels like I’ve lost so much time not being able to do what I need to do!
First, though, its been a tough few days. Caught some kind of bug and its laid me pretty low. Suspect its strep throat -I had it twice many years ago while in High School- and its feeling about the same. Went to a nearby urgent care and am now on anti-biotics (the strep test came in negative but the doctor said that’s not unusual in the early stages of the disease. He also noted there was definitely something going on in my throat and sinus).
Alas, I only started the anti-biotics yesterday so until maybe tomorrow I’m still feeling pretty grim. Last night I woke up to my teeth chattering so badly I was afraid I’d cut my tongue in two.
Hope that’s the worst of it!
But returning to the topic on hand (and which I labeled this post): My Tesla 3.
Today marks a week since I got the vehicle and it continues to impress the hell out of me. Driving in a car without the sound of a combustion engine is incredibly tranquil and the music played through your radio is incredibly clear. Humorously, there have been times when I was stopped by a light and the sound of the engines of other cars around me were so damn noisy compared to what you experience driving an electric car.
Yesterday the electrician finally installed a 240 volt plug near where I park my car. Until yesterday, I was using a regular 120 volt plug and the difference is mindboggling.
My Tesla has a range, if 100% fully charged, of approximately 320 miles. However, it is recommended one charge the battery to around 80-90% unless you’re about to take a long trip, upon which you should fully charge your vehicle.
It may sound complicated but Tesla’s app lays all this information out very easily when you’re charging the car. Thing is, using a 120 volt plug gave me a mere 5 miles for every hour charging it. Thus, if I had a full charge and brought the car’s range down to, say, 200 miles, it meant there was roughly 80 miles worth of charging to do. Which meant that when I was using the 120 volt plug, I had to keep the card plugged for 16 hours to get the car to that 80% charge.
Naturally, I didn’t bring the car’s charge down too far. If I had, for example, used up some 179 miles, leaving roughly 100 miles, that would have required me to charge the damn thing at 120 volts for a mind-boggling 35 plus hours before getting the thing up to where it needed to be.
But by having a 240 volt plug, I’m not getting some 30 miles of distance per hour of charge, ie six times the amount of the old 120 volt plug.
So now, if I drain the battery as described above and need to “fill up” some 179 miles, it will take the 240 volt plug about 6 hours to reach that point versus the absolutely crazy 35.
The point is this: If you’re considering an electric car, research the charge times. The fact of the matter is that regular 120 plugs, while good for slow overnight charging, may require too much time if you’re driving more than, say, 40 miles each day. Unless, of course, you don’t mind charging the car each night.
If you’re able to, absolutely get yourself a 240 plug (these are the types used by electric ovens and driers).
Of course, you can always use one of Tesla’s superchargers. They are found in many places and the onboard navigation system will point them out to you, if you need a very, very quick charge. There’s also the PlugShare app which offers community exchanges of information regarding all chargers, Tesla included, available in your area.
Next thing: For the first time on Saturday I tried the Tesla “autopilot” feature.
It was nerve wracking, to say the least!
I was on a stretch of highway that didn’t have too many vehicles on it and turned it on and… I’ll be damned if it didn’t work perfectly fine!
Yeah, I had a severe case of the nerves each time we reached some curved section of the highway, but the car sensed and took these turns well. If I wanted to switch lanes, I simple hit the indicator and the car did this on its own.
Truly, we are living in the future!
A week driving and I’m more convinced than before that I made the right choice. I know there are those who are cynical of Tesla and, especially, Elon Musk.
To you guys I would again say: Forget about all that ancillary crap and go to a Tesla dealership and take a test drive.
For the past few years and if you know me personally, the subject of electric vehicles has come up.
Around these parts I’ve made my feeling known about the so-called “ICE” vehicles -those which have “internal combustion engines”- and my feelings they are a technology society should have done away with many years ago.
ICE vehicles pollute the air and are incredibly inefficient. There are those that argue electric vehicles and the batteries they use are also “dirty”, but few argue they are dirtier than the use of gasoline. Regardless, to my mind still using ICE vehicles is akin to buying a computer and settling for some 1980’s/90’s tech instead of the latest tech.
Over the past few years I’ve been reading up with great curiosity about the rise of Elon Musk’s Tesla. The reviews of their vehicles, in general, have been incredibly positive and, its fair to say, this has gotten the attention of the big car companies. Today and as I write this, almost all of major car manufacturers are now working on or have released their versions of an electric vehicle.
As fascinated as I was about electric vehicles, as much as I salivated for the opportunity to drive one, it wasn’t until just shy of two weeks ago I finally did.
That’s when things really changed.
Intrigued as I was about EV vehicles and Tesla in particular, I was unsure when/if I’d get it. That test drive, along with the fact that Tesla was having a sorta/kinda end of the quarter sale, sealed the proverbial deal.
Now I know there are those who are suspicious/weary of Tesla and, especially, CEO Elon Musk. He’s gone off the wall at times with some oddball tweets. And yeah it is scary to spend a bunch of money on a car that uses a whole new technology versus the tried and true gasoline.
But I’ll tell you this: If the driving population of not only the United States but the world itself goes to a Tesla dealership and asks to test drive the car, I suspect a good 80+ percent of them that give it a fair shot will come away sold on the idea that the Tesla vehicles are very much worthy of all the attention they’ve gotten.
So impressed was I with the test drive -along with the previous research I did on the vehicle- that I took the plunge. I paid the $2500 deposit and ordered my Tesla 3. Yesterday, I got her…
Driving home was my first extended trip in the Model 3 and it was as delightful as the test drive. When we got there, my wife had her first drive and she was every bit as impressed with it as I was.
Again, I do not intend to brag. I am extremely fortunate to have the means to pick up this vehicle, though in all fairness the version I bought was hardly the most expensive model I could have gotten (I wouldn’t have been able to afford the very top end options, anyway!). Having said that, I strongly urge everyone out there to give the Tesla a try.
Perhaps you won’t come away from the experience as impressed as I. Perhaps you won’t feel it is truly the next generation vehicle I believe it is.
But if you do give it a shot, it might clear much of the haze surrounding Musk and Tesla and the fanboy mentality of many out there while allowing you to focus on the vehicle itself.
A vehicle which deserves, IMHO, many of its kudos.
In what is sure to create further controversy, director Zack Snyder, when asked about the fact that he had Batman kill in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, made some rather strong statements concerning this topic.
As written by Charles Pullman-Moore and presented on i09.com, the article’s title will give you an idea of Mr. Snyder’s thoughts on that subject:
Part of what made BvS so controversial was its generally grim tone and, yes, the fact that Batman sure does seem to murder a bunch of bad guys in the film.
To be fair, he does so because they are very actively trying to murder him, so its not like he’s simply shooting them in the back when they’re, say, loading up some questionable merchandise inside a van or something.
But it does bring up an issue I personally have wrestled with concerning heroes: Should they kill?
James Bond, famously, had a “license to kill”. As presented, one would think that he would have no qualms doing what I proposed above, ie killing a badguy no matter what they were currently up to. If they’re loading a van or taking a walk on the beach, if British Intelligence views the person as a major danger to England/the World, and he has a “license to kill”, one could theoretically understand that if it is imperative to kill the badguy, you do so, no questions asked.
Clint Eastwood’s many “heroes” were often darker as well. Starting with the so-called “spaghetti” westerns of the 1960’s and going on to Dirty Harry in the 1970’s and 80’s, you had a darker variation of the “good guy” who might well shoot a badguy, whether while confronting said individual or offing them when they weren’t necessarily a threat to you at that moment.
But what about superheroes? What about heroes that aren’t supposed to be so damn dark, character-wise? Batman, while indeed a “dark” character, has been portrayed very often as not wanting to use a gun, though in his very earliest comic book appearances did indeed do so, and did indeed kill badguys…
The above opening page of a story shows Batman with a weapon. Here, he uses it… albeit to kill a vampire:
Here he uses not just a gun, but a machine gun, to off some badguys…
Note what Batman says in the above panel: “Much as I hate to take human life, I’m afraid this time its necessary!”
So, yeah, early, very early Batman could be as merciless in killing badguys just as his primary inspiration, the pulp hero The Shadow, did as well…
But very soon after Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939 and in issue #38 of Detective Comics, Batman was given a partner, the dashing Robin…
I think its arguable that the introduction of this character put Batman over the top and sealed his transition from a superhero version of The Shadow into something new and exciting to audiences. Suddenly readers had an avatar, a young daredevil they could grasp and, vicariously, have their adventures through.
The tone of the Batman stories from that point on grew lighter and lighter, and Batman no longer mercilessly killed the badguys (though there were some “accidental” deaths still to come) until, soon enough, it was established that Batman DID NOT KILL, period.
In the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s, darkness crept back into the Batman character. The fine work of writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams redefined the Batman character and brought us a version closer to what came early on, though the character still did not use weapons and still did not murder the badguys…
And so it was, roughly, a short time time later I first became familiar with these various characters.
In my very young mind, I felt that superheroes did NOT kill. If anyone perished in the course of a story, the hero tried their best to not kill anyone, even if they were despicable in their actions and very much deserved that fate. Heroes were, IMHO, people who found ways around such actions.
Then came Population Zero, the first episode of The Six Million Dollar Man’s regular series, first aired on January 18, 1974, and this terrific, and confusing to my very young mind, ending…
The plot of the episode, to be frank, was something of a rip off of Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain. In that novel (and subsequent film adaptation), an entire small town is suddenly found dead with two exceptions, and it turns out some intergalactic virus is to blame… and this bug needs to be neutralized or it might spell the doom of the human race.
In Population Zero, the villain uses a sound machine (as you can see from the video) and it turns out the scientist behind it lost funds for his project because of the Bionic Man project. He obviously harbors deep anger and is determined to show that his weapon should have been given the proper funds. In the meantime, he tries to kill off the Bionic Man and then Oscar Goldman and the entire army base outside the town he initially attacked.
Steve Austin, the Bionic Man, gets away from his deathtrap and runs to where you see him. He realizes the mad scientist will kill a lot of innocent people and pulls up the metal fence post and, using it as a javelin, spears their truck, killing the scientist and his henchmen.
This really messed with my mind back then.
For it seemed to me Steve Austin could have run over to the truck and, I dunno, turned it over or something. He could have thrown the javelin at the electrical cables the bad guy was using to charge up his weapon and therefore rendered the sonic weapon inoperative.
No, he deliberately targeted the truck and by spearing it caused it to explode and kill everyone.
I’ve defended Batman v Superman more times than I care to and still believe this film will experience a re-evaluation in time and come to be viewed as far better than the early critics and fans felt it was.
And I have little problem accepting that Batman kills the bad guys both when he chases them in his Batmobile and later on when he’s trying to save Martha Kent.
Because if you truly, truly think through both scenarios, he’s quite literally fighting for his life. In the first scenario he’s being shot at with heavy weaponry. A lucky shot and his vehicle -and himself- is toast. It’s a high speed chase and very dangerous to not only Batman, but to anyone else who might be around that dock area.
Should Batman aim for the tires? Sure, but realistically, that a damn hard shot to make.
In the warehouse fight, the same applies. It’s one guy against a large number. In “real life” you need to take these dudes out and quick because if you don’t, you may die. So Batman can’t play nice while the bad guys here are using guns, knives, and whatever else they have to take him out. He has to fight back.
Still, the little boy I was does feel a certain apprehension about the idea of a good guy, especially a superhero, resorting to killing and, at least in my stories, I’ve tried to show the consequences of killing (particularly in Mechanic) while also trying not to have my characters depicted as favoring killing first to deal with bad guys.
There truly is no answer, I suppose, and your opinions on this matter will certainly be guided by the literature/stories/TV shows/movies you’ve grown up with.