Living Nightmares?

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I have an overactive imagination and can come up with all sorts of storylines to leave readers unsettled. I even joke about how I help to keep therapists employed because folks seek their counseling services following the tales I weave.

But I say that as a joke.

I’d much rather make you THINK than to give you bad dreams. The problem is, stories of supernatural monsters and creepy situations aside, there are some actual nightmares being had during the waking hours.

Yesterday, several members of a synagogue were murdered simply for being Jewish. One was a Holocaust survivor. In another city, two black people met a similar fate due to the color of their skin. They were both grandparents and one had recently retired from years of service with the Veterans Administration.

Amazing. Thoughtless. And sadly, American.

There is something fundamentally wrong with a country that is supposed to be the shining example of how united we could be, regardless of things like race, religion, or sexual preference. Yet, for all the technological advancements, for every probe we’ve sent into space, and for the strides we have made, we keep falling flat.

It’s a fucking shame.

I wrote a similar post a few years ago when a young white kid shot a bunch of people in their house of worship, simply for being black. Like the folks at the synagogue and the shoppers, they weren’t plotting some nefarious takeover. They weren’t molesting kids or poisoning anyone’s drinking water. They were just living peacefully.

The stuff I put on paper has limits. It seems like the real live monsters who live, breathe, and walk among us, do not.

Read books like The Turner Diaries and watch how acts of domestic terror and real live horror keeps being enacted with real blood and actual death. I can’t make that sort of shit up…

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“Eric Benet Said WHAT About Hip Hop?!” A Curmudgeon’s Perspective

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I am going to preamble this post by stating that, with more gray in my beard than black, I am a proponent of the Old School. It was bound to happen, me being relegated to one of the cranky old villains from an episode of Scooby Doo (“I would’ve gotten away with it, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!”) or the more mature fellow who is constantly making comparisons to more dated styles of music over the current ones.

Even before I was born (yes, there was actually a time), R&B stood as the bastion of expression to let the world know how black people felt. It took some time but, with much resistance from Motown, Marvin Gaye unleashed songs like “Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology)” and “What’s Going On.” Sam Cooke had preceded him by seven years with the haunting “A Change is Gonna Come.” You see, up until then, the smoother, more palatable R&B had replaced the rawer, more candid Blues.

Eric Benet falls into the tradition of modern-day troubadours. Like Gaye and Cooke before him, and Maxwell being a contemporary, are primarily known for proliferating the world with songs of lust, longing, and, of course, love. But, no matter how much I enjoy the music of “love men” like Benet, Barry White, and Isaac Hayes, their songs generally didn’t venture into the realm of protest or give the lowdown of the black experience in America.

Something happened in the late ’70s: Hip Hop. Like most folks outside the planet of New York City, the first time I’d ever gotten a taste of the genre was with “Rapper’s Delight.” Oh, there had been the conscious and controversial salvo of Gil Scott-Heron and the Last Poets to precede the Sugar Hill Gang’s seemingly inescapable single, but Gil and the Poets had never been accepted on a wide scale. Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike, and Master Gee followed up “Delight” with “Apache” and other singles aimed at the partying crowd. As if hit by a one-two punch, Kurtis Blow blew everybody’s mind with “The Breaks.”

The consciousness came when Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five dropped “The Message.” Still one of the most though-provoking offerings of the burgeoning genre, the song turned an unblinking eye on rough and tough inner city living.

Fast-forwarding the the last couple of years of the next decade and the world was introduced to two groups that would shake the musical landscape: Public Enemy and N.W.A.

I was just a few months into my first enlistment with the United States Navy and was using my paycheck to build a music collection. I wondered, unsuspectingly, into the Navy Exchange and purchased Eazy E’s Eazy-Duz-It album on cassette. Along with his fellow members of Niggaz Wit Attitudes, the squeaky-voiced MC regaled street violence by weaving a profanity-laden tapestry. I had never heard anyone curse like that–not even in the Navy!

While Chuck D’s militant rhymes from Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back awakened one half of my conscience, N.W.A’s single, “Fuck tha Police” fried what was left of my mind. I enjoyed the outrage of it, which would catch the ire of the FBI; the group was famously issued a letter from that government agency, denouncing glorification of violence toward police.

Not long after, I was stationed in Long Beach, which was the next city over from Compton, nestled right in Los Angeles County. In horror, we watched the footage of LAPD officers beating the brakes off Rodney King. N.W.A’s song had been spot-on with its anger, especially when the policemen were acquitted. The captain of my ship had us pull out to sea when the LA Riots jumped off.

As the riots were happening, Dr. Dre, who’d left N.W.A to form a new record label, was laying tracks for his magnum opus, The Chronic. He made sure he incorporated sound bites of angry Los Angelenos from ground zero.

In the mid-’90s, Benet entered the music scene at a time when the baton was being passed from R&B’s last stand in the form of Neo Soul, to Gangsta Rap. Barry White was back and young artists like Boyz II Men and Jodeci had set the stage for the likes of Benet, Maxwell, and D’Angelo. Many hit singles had to have a popular rapper spitting a verse to ensure radio play.

Hitting the fast-forward button again and, in 2018, Benet makes headlines with a statement comparing the glorification of violence, drugs, and booty-shaking in Hip Hop has not declared independence, but has pushed the white supremacy agenda. I straddle the line between enjoying tales of romance on wax and classic rap that made people stop and think. In a sense, Benet has a valid point: there’s only so much of the same negativity that can be put forth over and over without offering a solution. It’s kind of like a pig reveling in its own shit.

However, as a counterpoint, in 2018, black men are still being subjected to police brutality and incarcerated at an alarming rate. That in mind, I can understand N.W.A’s rant a lot better than the stuff that is currently getting airplay.

But then, the Hip Hop on the radio is not necessarily aimed at a 49-year-old, now is it? Am I supposed to completely understand and be down with every new trend in music? Or have I finally, like Eric Benet, been relegated to the ranks next to that crotchety old bastard at the end of a Scooby Doo episode?

Sometimes, Failure is a Smart Option

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Okay, okay, keep your shirts on. Though it may look like it from the title, this blog post is not about leaving the Winners’ Circle. It’s about learning from missteps, mistakes, and recognizing your shortcomings. That said, you can stop reading because everything else supports this thought process.

Oh, I see that you’ve decided to venture a bit further and I can appreciate that. Thanks for sticking around and daring to delve further into the recesses of my twisted mind. I have a lot to say on the subject.

I just got back news that I will not be claiming the top prize in a rather prestigious literary contest. Oh, boo-effin’-hoo! I actually kind of LIKE the fact that someone else won it and not me.

No, I’m not some sort of closeted masochist, nor am I a glutton for punishment. What I realize is that this gives me a chance to congratulate the winner while rechecking my coordinates. It allows me to go back to the drawing board and come up with a better formula for winning.

I write, therefore I am. I don’t write for the sole purpose of making money, though we know, as Wu Tang says, Cash Rules Everything Around Me (C.R.E.A.M.). I write for the passion of it. I tell stories because I have much to say. So, whether there is a golden carrot being dangled before me or not, still shall I scribble, dammit!

It’s what I do.

Some years ago, I entered an even BIGGER contest. The monetary award was substantial. More importantly, the exposure that the winner would receive was worth even more than the financial gain. I wanted the exposure.

I had just written a zombie novel the year previous and hoped that, with all the buzz concerning the undead eaters of human flesh, my book would be a shoo-in. However, Prince always talked about being ahead of the trends, not always doing what was currently popular. Of the 10,000 submissions, I made it through the first round of eliminations, which cut 8,000 authors out of the loop. I got excited, since my odds of winning had just substantially increased.

When I got the news that my book had been eliminated in the next round, it felt like somebody had deflated my tires. I sat around with my lip poked out for a few hours before my wife had a few choice words that sent me back to the drawing board. It made me strive to be better, not necessarily to win contests.

The key to finishing a marathon is to keep moving forward. Got a stitch in your side? Walk it out? Caught a cramp in your calf? Limp while shaking it out, but don’t stop moving. Though I’m sure it’s a cool thing to say you won the marathon, it’s still a triumph to say that you didn’t receive a single medal, but completed your mission, anyway.

A failure can do one of two things, depending on how you process it:

  1. Knock you completely off your nut, laying you out flat, making you give up and curse ever throwing your hat into the ring.
  2. Accept that there was something you could’ve done differently but not let the failure defeat you.

Didn’t win the race because you were too slow? Learn to run faster. Your dish wasn’t picked over the other chefs? Study the masters, then innovate. Didn’t claim the grand prize in a writing contest? No moping or long faces allowed; pick up your bottom lip, pick up your laptop, and keep pecking.

Fail today, use it as a springboard for improvement, strategize, and come back hard as hell. ‘Nuf said!

Writing as Protest: “Blood Tribe” in Response to Dr. Ben Carson’s Inept Commentary

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Just a few days ago, HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson made a comparison between African slaves and immigrants. I can go on and on about this and many people already have about the Good Doctor’s daft statement. Instead of kicking up more dust than I already have on the matter, I will allow my work to speak for itself.

I wrote “Blood Tribe” a few years ago to be included in the Sins of the Past (2014) anthology. Back then, Carson had never even shown up on my radar, as he had yet to throw his hat in the ring when running for POTUS. I will attach my story here. Though it is a tale of horror, please realize that the REAL horror was that suffered by the common ancestors I share with Dr. Ben.

Blood Tribe

I was perched atop my favorite palm tree, basking in the glow of a bright moon, sampling the different scents on the salty coastal breeze.  What came to me nearly singed my nose hairs with a sharp, long-forgotten stench.  The tribal members in my village were too caught up in their activities which focused on sitting around a fire and listening raptly to the griot’s tale.  The children guffawed and hung onto every word that filtered through his cola-nut-stained teeth as he spun tales of the trickster spider god, Anansi, and of creatures like me…

But I’m getting too far ahead too quickly.

It is true that I am not quite human, but you’ll learn more about that as I unravel the tale.  Where was I?  Oh yes, the smell that hung in the air…  The villagers were more concerned with libations brought in calabashes by beautiful dark ladies whose breasts hung free.  The men stood around in the background, also bare-chested, sharing rumors and tales of their own.  Nobody else had picked up on that smell.

My senses are keener than those of humans.  Not to say that I am not human at all.  I am just something…more.

From time to time, I made the obligatory physical changes so that I could mingle with them.  Some looked at me as a goddess walking in their midst while the superstitious regarded me a necessary evil.  Both views were at least partially true: my power and those of others like me would make me something of a minor deity at best and, though my intentions were usually good, I had been known to drift to the darker side when provoked.  Besides a painless sacrifice every now and then, I demanded no tribute and hated when someone wanted to fall at my feet.  Flattering, yet completely unnecessary for my personality type.  Other Nameless Ones got off on that sort of thing…

The rumor of the origin of my species was shrouded in mystery, as none of us could ever recall not being.  What we did collectively remember was a man who was more than just a man nailed to a wooden shape in a desolate place called Golgotha.  It was said that the ground below, which had been saturated with despair, death and excrement, was the bloodstained clay used by our creator to form us.  We would remain until the Man-Who-Was-Not-Man came back to this realm.  Until that return, we were scattered to the ends of the earth, protecting or terrorizing humans, becoming guardian angels or monstrous devils as we deemed fit.  We were beyond being named or categorized, so we didn’t bother using personal identifiers for each other or the humans to which we seemed drawn…

I lived in an uneasy symbiosis with my assigned tribe.  Remote regions had guardians of their own.  Unlike my brethren, I had a certain fondness for my humans and didn’t treat them merely as food.  There was the occasional requirement of blood, though.  I only fed on the willing and the overly curious.  However, extraction of that precious liquid tissue wasn’t necessarily tantamount to death, unlike with some other fluids and…

I’m getting ahead of myself again.  I tend to ramble sometimes, which is a symptom of having lived for at least 1,500 years, I guess.  Where was I?  Oh yes: the stench.  I was used to all sorts of smells and could withstand the putrescence of waste material and even rotting flesh.  What didn’t set well with me was the foul odor that had hijacked an otherwise delightful breeze to assault my senses and ruin my night.  That stink was the same as what I could recall of Golgotha: despair.

The ship, still a day or two out, had a cargo unlike any I’d ever seen.  Yes, I could actually close my eyes and, by sniffing, could make out vague mental pictures of obsidian human husks whose spirits had been all but exorcised.  There was a great and constant moaning which, though some of the cries were made in the tongues of peoples from different regions, was universally understood.  Some sounds superseded human language, such as laughs and cries.  The overwhelming reek caused me to spit up a rather delicious dinner of raw snake and overripe mango.

I remained on my perch just shy of dawn, when I had to retreat beneath the canopy due to my extreme allergic reaction to sunlight.  I sampled the air a final time, hoping the craft would bypass us or, even better, go back to its origination point.  But by morning, the images of flayed skin and ululating rape victims were stronger than the rays of the morning star that filtered downward to the jungle floor.  From my resting place in the earth, I decided I would approach the tribal chief and council of elders shortly after the sun had descended for the evening.

 

 

Upon waking, I shifted to an upright biped form.  I could modify physical characteristics, altering species, skin tone and gender at will.  I entered the village as I usually did: in the guise of a stunning woman with wide, swaying hips and a dermis the color of plum flesh.

I loved taking the feminine appearance because, anywhere outside the village, I was underestimated and sometimes allowed to blend into the backdrop.  Members of the tribe knew my familiar forms because of the dark indigo hue of my eyes, which glowed in bright moonlight.  They’d learned to respect me more than their own women, whose standing was based on serving and childbearing talents.  The men weren’t misogynist, though they did have a lot to learn concerning their female counterparts.

The elders had learned to render honor in whatever avatar I chose, though a couple of the younger members of the council barely hid their disdain with pursed lips when I came as a woman.  By tradition, the men took aversion to receiving orders or advice from what they’d deemed the lesser sex.  On the rare occasions that I appeared as a man, I was larger and stronger than their mightiest warriors and raw power was something they respected outright.  They had lessons yet to be taught.

“The village is in trouble,” I announced before the panel.  I described what I’d sensed the previous night, down to the details of the ship’s sails.

“Then why have we not heard drums in the last few days to warn us?” one of the naysayers spat.  “Our allies and even our enemies must know of this vessel that hugs the coastline and stinks of death.”

“Let them come,” stated one of the newer, younger members of the group.  He was renowned for his skill in battle and welcomed the challenge of any group that would try to steal their women.

He and his kinsmen obviously didn’t understand the gravity of such things.  To them, enslavement was something that happened to the prisoners taken by one tribe upon defeat of the other.  The captives, though made to work hard in the years to follow, were able to do so with some sort of dignity.  They were often able to gain a foothold and eventually assimilate into the tribe.  The ship that was on its way would not offer the same.  My humans would be reduced to beasts lower than the dung-slinging monkeys that inhabited the baobab trees.

I tried getting the point across, appealing to the chief, who I had known as a wise man all his life.  Instead of intelligent consideration, the discussion devolved into arguing, disbelief and outrage but no resolve.  Finally, the chief spoke: “Purple-eyed demon,” he called me, trying to show strength before his council, “You come bearing bad news based on paranoia and superstition.”

My instinct was to laugh in his face, but I neither wanted to be disrespectful of his position nor forget the issue at hand.  His challenge had more to do with the vestiges of masculinity: the perceived length of his penis and how many children he had sired.  In short, he didn’t want to look bad in front of his entourage.

His face was etched with determination, though I could see the glint of fear in his eyes.  “Why not turn yourself into a great sea creature and sink the ship?”

His sarcasm bit me.  Though I had never lorded over the tribe as some of my ilk would have, his words provoked me and made me want to morph into a huge, black bear or silverback gorilla (which was about as big as I could get) that could maul each member seated before me.

I fought the urge and did not alter my form or relent.  I said nothing and left the hut regretting I’d ever brought up the slave ship.  They would regret their mockery and underestimation of an enemy the likes of which they’d never even seen.

I had been around longer than any of the elders and many generations of elders before them, so I had a good idea of how bad it could get.  I’d witnessed women ravaged to the point of death, men hoisted high on impaling stakes and suckling babes ripped from their mothers’ teats and thrown to lions for sport.  I had watched torturous vivisection under the guise of scientific advancement.  I had seen true evil and the tribe’s experience of regional skirmishes could not compare.  I knew the incursion of white men rowing ashore with bad intentions would be much worse.  I was left no choice.  No matter the consensus of the committee, I knew what I had to do as a guardian.  But they would have to learn the hard way before I would come to the rescue.

 

 

Trapped in the rainforest with the sun hanging high overhead, I remained hidden beneath palm leaves and loose soil as screams and wails and clinking iron disturbed my slumber.  The ship had sped in and dirty men with pinkish, sunburned hides rowed to the beach.  The slavers didn’t arrive acting as missionaries who’d come in peace.  The tribal warriors were expecting a battle in the conventional sense and had never heard or felt the explosions of gunfire before that day.

 

 

When night fell, I transformed into a cheetah and ran swiftly through the jungle toward the water’s edge.  The captors had done a snatch-and-grab, plundered quickly and returned to their vessel with a good portion of the villagers.  The more robust men who hadn’t been felled with rifles put up enough of a defense to hasten a retreat.  There was blood in the sand and the rotten onset of despair had infected those left behind.

But the human traffickers weren’t done.  The ship was anchored a mile off, which was out of reach for any volley of spears or arrows.  The white men would return for days on end, making their way about a mile inland to grab up any tribe members they could find.

The Chief’s first wife was on her knees, crying, reaching out toward the horizon as if she could bring back her husband and son.  The griot, her older brother, was nursing a smelly protrusion of intestines, trying to put them back in his belly with bloody fingers.  He lay agonizing in his sister’s arms, shaking his head feverishly.  The pain would be enough to make him lose consciousness but he would survive a day or two before the peritonitis became too much.  I said nothing, just met her eyes, which were drowned in oceans of tears that made waterfalls down her cheeks.  She needed say no more.

I had made it my mission to never undergo transformation in front of my humans as not to frighten them.  That night, I was beyond caring about such things.  Their wails signaled my change, my muscles jerking in spasm as my skin stretched and bones bent and creaked to accommodate.  The fact that I’d done the same for centuries didn’t make the process any less painful.  However, the hurt I felt on that beach was nothing compared to the vengeance I was going to dish out.  After all, hell hath no fury like a bloodsucking shape-shifter scorned…

 

 

My wingspan was so great, it nearly eclipsed the moon.  I circled above until I spotted one of the pirates in his forward cabin.  Dumb bastard didn’t even notice as I materialized in the tiny room, so caught up in terrorizing some frightened teenaged girl.

“Get ‘em hard, girlie,” he barked, twisting her exposed nipples, spittle running from his lipless mouth and down his stubbly chin.  I didn’t know what he was saying exactly, only that the language was Latin-based.  However, I understood his meaning.

The girl whined to her assailant’s delight, his breath stinking of grog and his penis stiff against his leg.  He wouldn’t have chance to use it ever again.

It’s amazing how much blood the capillaries spurt, though the veins and arteries are much more generous with their output.  As the filthy sailor presented his third leg, I ripped it from his body, baptizing the cabin as he convulsed and ejaculated in violent shades of red.  He tried screaming but I slashed his vocal cords with jagged claws, leaving him hissing and gurgling, with a look of surprise on his death mask.

He got off light.

I went partially reptilian and slithered down into the hold, where the bulk of the human cargo was chained.  Their flesh was torn and bleeding and stinking of waste.  Some were physically ill while all were infected with the desolation that hung stolid in the air.  Many spoke different languages, misunderstood by people from far off regions.  Former enemies locked eyes with previous foes, past disputes dissipated, wishing they could unite for freedom’s sake.

They would get their chance.

I could singlehandedly do the job but wanted these tribesmen and women to take ownership in proclaiming their own independence.

I searched through the rows until I sniffed out the chief, who’d been badly beaten and bridled.  I could smell in his sweat that he’d fought with all he had before his capture.  He wanted so badly to tell me that he wished he’d listened to my advice about deserting the village to move his people inland.

He could thank me later.

I sunk my fangs deep into his jugular and fed greedily from the geyser that eagerly burst forth.  His cry was muffled but became more of a drunken lullaby as I literally sucked the mortality out of him.  It was a sanguine exchange that granted a wonderful, dark gift: the power to adapt, overcome and, ultimately, survive.

To say what took place after was a chain reaction would make me the teller of bad puns.  No metal—save silver—could hold the chieftain and his fellow prisoners.  He broke the restraints and snatched the contraption that’d held his tongue in check.  He didn’t take out the bridle so he could give some vainglorious pep talk to the troops about what they needed to do.  His directions were transferred with his bite.  Each African communed with the other by way of blood, their linguistic and geographic differences dissipating with every coppery mouthful.  They instinctively drank just shy of stopping the heart, which was necessary to conversion.  Once they’d undergone the change, they were reborn into a new tribe.

It was the thunderous breaking of chains and bestial growls (replacing moans and cries of despair) that brought members of the ship’s crew into the hold to investigate.  They were met by 113 freed men and women, some halfway transformed to beasts and nightmarish creatures with no fear of weapons wielded by the impotent…

Just as the strangers didn’t bother with pleasantries when they’d arrived on the shore hours before, the newly made shape-shifters saw no need for niceties, either.  The shrieks of their captors went forth in a discordant series of shouts from throats rendered raw from the effort, yet unable to stop.  The background music was punctuated by the occasional solo effort, usually from some poor lout who was forced to watch as his shin or forearm was snapped open to retrieve the delicious marrow—a sheer delicacy that had me licking my lips and wanting to join in on the killing.  No.  As new recruits of the Nameless, that rite of passage was theirs alone.

I’ll admit I was jealous, particularly when the warrior member of the elder council, eyes glinting indigo in the glow of torches, figured out how to extract grey matter—much to the chagrin of the host.  The poor bastard’s skull cracked like a pigeon’s eggshell, hissing briefly as the gas pressure leveled with the outside air.

The frenzy went on through the night.  It was the change in the color of the sky that stopped the hoisting up of the ship’s captain in a noose made of his entrails.  Covered with the blood of their prey, there were only two choices when dawn came: strike below in that cursed hold or make way for the jungle beyond the shore.  All 113 either grew fins to jump ship or sprouted wings to take flight, avoiding the forthcoming rays of the sun.

The vessel sat at anchor, carcasses and body parts left exposed to the vultures, stinking of death and ghosts of despair.  Even after the reformed council met in the nights to follow, I forbade burning or sinking the frigate.

“Let it remain as it is,” I commanded.  Being the eldest and their maker, my word was undisputed.

So there the craft remained through the next 300 years of the transatlantic slave trade, its timbers never rotting and the stench of its corpses disgustingly fresh.  It bobbed in the waves and never sank, serving as a warning to all who would venture to that cursed part of the coast with ill intent.  A few did, arrogant and ready to refute primitive superstition for a chance to capture the legendary.  Their vessels were added to our collection, a glamour put over the ghost fleet, floating in the harbor like ghastly chess pieces.  After awhile, the slavers got the hint and chose to steer clear of the Nameless Blood Tribe.  The unfortunate souls stupid enough to challenge our guardianship over the land and its people are trapped until the Word Made Flesh—the Named One—returned.

 

DC has Done it Yet Again: Pissed Me Off at the Box Office

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My heart is broken, having grown up reading DC comics as a kid. I just automatically assumed that the magic would transfer over to the silver screen and at LEAST put them on par with Marvel.

Nope.

In light of Marvel’s Avengers issuing out pimp slaps by way of box office receipts and pleased fans, DC tried something different with Suicide Squad…and failed. I found myself searching for a plastic butter knife to stage my own form of simulated seppuku just to not have to watch anymore of the movie.

So impassioned was I that I wrote this to a friend about it:

DC is sippin’ the Kool-Aid again. Seems the only place they’ve gotten it right was with Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.

Last night, I wasted about 2 hours and 15 minutes of my life on a steaming pile of special EFX-laden crap called ‘Suicide Squad.’ I’m almost considering suing Warner Brothers for that time I’ll never get back. Anytime you find yourself asking yourself, “WTF is the point of this film?” over and over again, somebody got it wrong.

Okay, I’ll give it to them that Jared Leto’s portayal of the Joker was a fresh take on the villain, but that alone wasn’t enough to pull the movie out of the pile. The actress playing Harley Quinn was DEFINITELY pretty enough and I kept asking where the heck had I seen her (turns out, she and Will Smith were romantic leads in ‘Focus’). Smith was good but I quickly realized the reason why he was allowed to traipse around without his mask (or taking it on and of at will) was so we could continue to identify with the star power of the flick.

Speaking of which, this film is something I would pick outta my nose and wanna flick onto the folks who greenlit the project in the first place. Yeah, DC is trying hard as hell to keep up with the younger, fresher, more daring Marvel. However the former gets no forgiveness, as they never had to fuss about character rights, as DC and Warner have always been connected.

Oh, and I recently checked out the turd in which Batman and Superman (the most interesting DC property versus the most boring, overused, played out character in their arsenal) did battle. By the time they both mentioned that their mothers were named Martha, I was squirming in my seat, trying to figure out whether or not I should attempt to slice my wrists with a plastic butter knife.

With the exception of Nolan and Burton’s takes on the Caped Crusader, and ‘The Watchmen’ (which doesn’t even fall into the official canon), DC movies are a waste of my time. In fact, each time I go to the theater, stream through Netflix, or watch on a DVD I refused to purchase, I have to chalk up any DC movie as a 2.5 hour waste of my life, in advance. It’s not that Marvel doesn’t lay bricks every now and then (I’ve been told to avoid the last incarnation of ‘Fantastic 4’ like a whore with AIDS telling me she likes it raw), but they seem to have used their gestation time to produce better product.

This is like a relationship where the significant other continually asks for another try, when the track record of abuse, infidelity, and incurring debt is as plain as the pimple on my left butt cheek. The funny things is, I was watching ‘Suicide Squad’ at a buddy’s house. He and I are about to work on something that could very well become a compelling graphic novel. He kept saying throughout the film how cool it was but I kept thinking about picking sock lint from between my toes.

I don’t know what the answer is for DC when it comes to the big screen. However, they have the money, the artists, the writers, and everything else that would make any fan wonder why they keep wasting our time with their bullshyt. I’m actually angry and about ready to completely dismiss anything they put out, whether in print, on the small or big screens. I wish they would do something to prove me wrong, because I grew up cutting my teeth on their comics.

However, all feelings of nostalgia have now faded. It’s not about loyalty, but the fulfillment of a business relationship: when I buy a ticket, I expect to walk out of the theater feeling I’ve watched 2+ hours of magic take place. Instead, with the rising price of movie tickets, I’m left with emptier pockets and a sense of regret.

Here’s the deal: it’s not too late. DC could turn this thing around and offer us something other than the Caped Crusader or the Son of Jor-El; they could also stop trying so hard to be LIKE Marvel. At one time, DC was just as good. Until they decide to get it together, I’ll be holding onto my few coins and not wasting my time catching their stuff in other formats.

Welcome to the Orwellian Nightmare of the Twilight Zone…but Watch Your Ass

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public-enemy

I imagine a scene in which Rod Serling is standing in a corner, tight-lipped, being broadcast in black and white. In his clipped way of speaking, he introduces the viewers to another dimension. In that world, the laws of common sense are out the window and a skewed perspective has taken their place.

The alternate reality is one in which hyper-violent images flood the screens of every television, computer, and media device. We see corrupt law enforcement officials abuse the power that was granted them to serve and protect its citizens.

People of color, especially black men, are in the crosshairs. There is video footage of unarmed individuals being unnecessarily pepper-sprayed and shot down with folks dying mysteriously while in police custody. But there is always some justifiable reason. Dirty cops are almost guaranteed to get off and most viewers have been brainwashed to declare it business as usual.

We have gone one step beyond. The zone we have entered is that area of nightmare, marked by rapid eye movement, just beneath the surface of waking. It’s a place George Orwell predicted, where the inmates have become their own wardens, and refuse to leave. It’s where we can watch video footage of a white policeman rape a 15-year-old girl and not see it as a racist act; of course, he’ll be considered innocent on all charges until proven guilty.

As a horror author, I can describe many cringe-worthy scenes and flesh out nefarious characters that haunt bad dreams. However, the terror to which we have become numb is worse than any lumbering ghoul or bloodsucking vampire I could create. We have descended into a hell that bonds social experimentation with the police state.

But do not attempt to adjust your television. There is absolutely nothing wrong.

Dancing for the Organ Grinder v. Pursuing Passion for More than Money

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A few nights ago, my daughter was watching some run-in-the-mill reality show about wannabe Hip Hop stars. The program featured ladies wanting to break into and make strides in a male-dominated field. One of the greatest who ever did it, MC Lyte, was there to help them set up a concert.

For those that don’t know, Lyte was one of the few ladies in the game in the early 1980’s, getting equal respect on the mic as did her male counterparts. So, for her to be on set to serve as a guide for those women wanting to break into the rap game was a serious matter.

But they weren’t ready. When left to them to determine the order, they got into a huge, unproductive disagreement about who was going on first. The argument was that the first few acts wouldn’t get the exposure to the crowd, since some folks tend to show up late.

What they were really revealing was how ill-prepared they were and how little they believed in their own talent. By not seizing the opportunity to start, they were pinpointing their fear and reducing it to a money game.

Passion is about more than money.

Imagine if I would ever be so blessed as to wind up on a panel with the likes of Toni Morrison, Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, and Walter Mosley. Picture them telling me I had to go on first, reading some of my relatively unknown work, preceding those living, literary legends gracing the stage. But, instead of seeing the benefit, I begin to get afraid that their more proven talent would outshine mine. And, in a juvenile move, I incite an argument, showing how little I believe in myself, even in the face of giants.

Some of the best music groups and motivational speakers began giving their all to nearly empty venues. There are preachers who started out honing their craft in front of tiny congregations during a weekday service. However, any potentially great performer would know that people need to hear their creative output, just as speakers know a small audience still needs to be encouraged, just as preachers know there are souls to be saved.

The Bible states that those who are faithful over the few will be made rulers of the many. By not being ever-ready only proves it’s amateur night instead of opening night.

The passion inside has to be so intense, it doesn’t matter if you have to put on a show for a handful or a venue as grand as Wembley Stadium. Playing Carnegie Hall starts with the unshakable belief that you can and will eventually sell out those seats.

I was recently hanging out with a friend over the course of a weekend. He was surprised that, whenever we weren’t doing wings and drinks at the local sports bars, I had my laptop nearby, so I could constantly be writing. He began to think himself a rude host but I assured him that I am a writer and this is what writers do. Whether someone is making a big hype or nobody is around, I’m scribbling, jotting down ideas, and developing plot lines. If you were to sneak up on me, you’d probably catch me writing something.

Find the thing about which you’re passionate. If you have so much devotion to that thing that you do it whether or not money is involved, that’s probably key to your destiny. Don’t be afraid to practice it, hone it, and showcase it at every opportunity. When called upon, don’t hesitate to share it. Be ready and be motivated by more than just money.

After all, only monkeys dance when the organ begins to grind.