Sunday, December 23, 2012

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: X-men vs. Van Halen

Who would win in a fight for world domination, X-men or Van Halen?

Oddly enough, classic Van Halen, when they had David Lee Roth, would clean their clock.

Not through superior gymnastics, or better use of hairspray, but through superior planning and execution.

Van Halen changed the music scene by bringing large stadium level concerts to much smaller markets. So places where the bands normally would have one to three trucks worth of equipment would suddenly have to deal with nine full 18 wheelers of very complicated equipment.

The instruction manuals for setting all this up were the size of large city phonebooks. If some of these instructions weren't followed to the letter it could damage the equipment, or even be life threatening. As a way to check if the instructions were followed properly, they would put in little items like, Step 124: Remove all brown M&Ms from the dressing room.

When the band showed up, they could look at the dressing room and know if the crew followed the instruction manual, or just slapped everything together. If they just slapped it together David Lee Roth would hit the airwaves yelling how they can't be expected to play if there are brown M&Ms in the dressing room.

It made for great drama, and they didn't have to say, “Hey, we can't play because the crew is trying to kill us.”

How does this apply to the X-Men?

In X-Men origins: Wolverine, the bad guys had a plan to turn Wolverine into an unstoppable weapon for them.

In the movie they did this by:
General Anesthetic.
Covering his skeleton with Atomantium.
Breaking for coffee.
Getting in a huge fight with him destroying most of their lab.
Chasing him across the country in order to erase his memory.

If Van Halen were in charge of the operation it would go more like:

General Anesthetic.
Remove all Brown M&Ms from recovery room.
Erase Memory.
Arrange Doctor's coats in alphabetical order.
Turn Wolverine into unstoppable killing machine.
Break for coffee.

That way when the doctors showed up to turn him into an unstoppable killing machine, and saw that their coats weren't in alphabetical order, they would ask, “Did you forget to do anything else, you know anything that might destroy all of our years of planning?”

That would leave the X-Men being just Jean Grey and Dr. X.

So to all the evil villains out there who spend decades devising dastardly schemes that rely on complicated series of tasks being carried out in a precise order but have no way of checking to see if it was done right, I say, “Shut-up Stupid. Take a lesson from Van Halen and put in ways to quickly check to see that the instructions where followed correctly, or you will spend decades and two sequels trying to fix your mistake.”

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

Monday, December 17, 2012

Stop the Insanity

I was super busy last week so I wasn't able to watch the Daily Show's Monday program until Thursday. Jon mocked Fox's reaction to Bob Costas speaking out for Gun Control after an NFL player killed his girlfriend then himself. All Fox could talk about was that after a tragedy was not the time to talk about gun control. It's a great defense after all there are gun deaths everyday, so it's always not the time to talk about it.

The next day I heard about the shooting at Sandy Hook.

Having the two shootings happen so close together made even Fox slow down on the it's not the time argument and get into the bizarre.

Mike Huckabee blamed the shooting on the right-wing fantasy that prayer is banned in schools. Ignoring the fact that that claim is 100% false, I can't see how, if the shooter read the bible that the passage, “Have no mercy on helpless babies and show no compassion for the children.” Isaiah 13:18, it would make him reconsider.

Psychopaths like Torquemada, Hitler, and Henry VIII have used the bible to justify their bloodbaths, while Mother Theresa got the opposite message.

Shooting massacres are not the result of lack of prayer, single mothers, the gay agenda, or anything else the right-wing noise machine talks about.

Police look at two things, motive and opportunity.

The motive behind these massacres is the shooters are mentally ill. In the US we don't treat mental illness as a medical problem. We treat it as a crime. So if you are paranoid, admitting you have a problem is punished. For some reason paranoid people have trouble stepping up and getting treatment.

Getting treatment, if possible, cost a fortune. Oddly enough people with mental illnesses who aren't able to channel that power don't have vast fortunes. Although with treatments several of them could earn fortunes.

You'll hear lots of people talking about taking away the opportunity for people with mental illnesses to shoot people. This is a discussion worth having. But with all the tragic shooting deaths isn't it time for serious reforms to the mental health treatments in this country?

Access to mental health treatment should be free and confidential, period end of story! Not only as a public safety issue, but also to tap into the potential that these people have if they could only get out of their own way. The same drive it takes to plan out a massacre can be used to transform an entire industry, as Steve Jobs did.

Two things can be done to reduce the massacres in this country. Lower the motivation and opportunity.

Proper gun controls will lower the opportunities. Real mental health reforms can lower the motivations and turn some would be killers into creative forces that can change the world for the better.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Greatest Film Critic

No one ever erected a statue to a critic.

That's because if the critic is good enough, no one realizes they are critics.

Quentin Tarantino has a new movie coming out, DJANGO UNCHAINED. The Drudge Report is shocked, shocked I say, that it has the n-word. Others are shocked that Tarantino shows that slavery was a bad thing.

This post on critics is not about the critics of Tarantino, but Tarantino himself who is the greatest film critic ever.

How can someone be a film critic who never says anything bad about other people's films? By being really good at it.

Tarantino has one great strength. He can tear a film apart and see what works and what doesn't.

RESERVOIR DOGS was the film that first brought the worlds attention to Tarantino, for all the wrong reasons. The violence in the film was pretty mild compared to the Hong Kong movies that inspired it. The difference between those films and RESERVOIR DOGS was Tarantino put in real characters. In Hong Kong everything is about the action and if time permits the plot can make an appearance. Any dimension in the characters past their job description (cop, triade member, ect.) is usually accidental.

Tarantino turned that around, most of the film is spent building the characters. The violence for what the film is known for is very brief compared to the Hong Kong films, but because it has real characters it seems much more intense.

It's the same in all his films, he looks for the entire genre's weakness and highlights that. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. But when you watch his films you can see where he breaks conventions and judge for yourself if it works or not.

I've seen the spaghetti westerns that Tarantino based DJANGO UNCHAINED on. Because they were made for an American audience, they shied away from showing the brutality that real slaves lived under. By not showing that you didn't get a real feeling for the stakes that the escaped slave was dealing with.

Tarantino is the greatest film critic, not by trashing other people's work, but because he looks at them and sees what the core elements are (what worked) keeping those, then looking at what is bad about a film and how it can be fixed. The results are new takes on old genres.

I'm not Tarantino, but I do like to try that myself.

I'm not a huge action novel fan. So I wrote an action novel, SHOWGIRLS AND ALIENS. After writing it, I do what I always do and research how to do what I just did. According to writers that I respect, I did it all wrong.

The action scenes are a quick sequence of events, the characters have to react, not think.

Oops. The only way my characters could win was by overcoming their inner conflicts so they could defeat their external enemies. I went put the character building in to the action.

In the mist of the action dialog should be limited.

Oops. I gave myself some leeway here by making it a comedy, but one thing I love about good Hollywood action films and comic books, is how the hero has just the right quip to go along with each punch.

I could go on about all the action “rules” I broke, nearly all of them. But I think I followed Quentin Tarantino's way of being a critic to a whole genre. Look to see what works, and redo all the things that don't.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

Monday, December 10, 2012

Santa Poll

In my last poll it was pretty clear at 100% of the votes saying that when their kids hit adolescence is when people's opinions on what is appropriate in song lyrics. Now I haven't surveyed people I knew before their kids hit adolescence and after. So if I remember my statistics right that means between 0% and 100% of people go through this change. So it is either really rare, really common, or somewhere in between.

What this poll does show is that if you are worried about song lyrics, your friends who don't have children probably won't understand. So if you are worried about song lyrics and you need to express that concern with someone, maybe talking it over with your kid would be the best bet.

On to the next poll:

When looking at career choices it's always good to look at the perks. One job with a lot of perks is Santa's. What part of Santa's job would you like best?

Access to the list of all the naughty girls, who are over 18. (and the toys they wish for)

Only working one day a year.

Spending all your time playing with your elves.

Being able to sit in judgment of every human on Earth

As always vote on the upper left hand corner of the page.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Christmas Songs

Strangely enough I like Christmas Songs. What I like is that they offer a change in the music I hear whenever I go out. It throws a little variety into my life.

I can deal with those demanding ones, telling me to have both a Holly and Jolly Christmas or yelling at me to “Bring them some Figgy Pudding”. They can wish me a Merry Christmas all they want. People have wished worse things on me in the past.

What I can't stand is the radio stations that switch to all Christmas songs and only play the same 10 songs over and over again.

We have been celebrating Christmas for over 200 years. For over 100 years of that we have been able to record the Christmas songs. Tons of singers have made Christmas albums. From Bing Crosby to Alice Cooper and Twisted Sister. I understand the radio stations not playing “Santa Claws is coming to Town.” but Joan Jett's “Little Drummer Boy” was a faithful sweet rendition of the classic song.

Over the last 100 years, there have been 1,000s of Christmas songs made. Some covers of the classics some new songs. So why is it that every time I step into a store all I hear is Wham's “Last Christmas” or worse a cover of Wham's “Last Christmas”.

With so many Christmas songs out there, a radio station could have a huge variety of songs. They could go for a week (3,000 songs) and not have any repeats. But instead I hear the same 10 Christmas songs over and over again.

So to all the radio stations that switch to Christmas music but don't have the songs to back up that decision, I say, “Shut-up Stupid. The thing I like about this time of year is the great variety of Christmas Songs. By playing the same ones over and over you destroy that. So I say to you, add more songs to your Christmas Line up, or Yule be sorry.”

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Writing Wednesday: Don't be that writer

I've had some strange discussions with fellow writers, mostly because for people who study and practice how to communicate with other people, we can really be bad at communicating our ideas with each other.

There will always be someone who says they hate it when a writer uses some technique. Pop-culture references, regional dialects in dialog, symbolism and so on. It's not the actual technique they mind it's when the writer is terribly bad at them. As an example I'll use this screen grab from the movie “Tourist Trap”:

If you look carefully, or not so carefully, at this picture; the director was trying to use symbolism and subliminal messaging to amplify the classic theme of sexy girls in danger. The reaction it got from me was to laugh my ass off through the entire scene.

It is similar when a writer tries a technique that they just are no good at. Steven King's “Christine” was full of really bad symbolism that really took away from the book. Steven King's strength in writing is that he is clear. The bad symbolism took away from that. It would have been better if he stuck to his strength.

These things remind me of what a critic once said about Keanu Reeves trying to act in “Point Break”, as opposed to his normal mumbling his lines and looking baffled. “It's like watching a dog walking on two legs. Yes it's clumsy, yes it's unnatural and awkward. But you have to admire the effort.”

When these things are done well you don't notice and it adds to the story.

This scene from Alien is an example of that:

The crew holding down a guy with a huge phallic symbol coming out of his midsection in front of two women.

Two great authors Shakespeare and Joyce were bigger perverts than I am, and they blended that seamlessly into their writing. So seamlessly they are studied in high school, even though they are more perverted than the lyrics of Police songs.

It's good to practice new techniques, and try them out. But if you are forcing them it will look like a dog trying to walk on two legs. Or the writer of a comedy blog trying to write a serious post as an excuse to post a really funny picture.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

WTF Tuesday: Guns and Roses “Rocket Queen”

Sunday I was stumped for a Shut-up Sunday post. Everything seemed either talked to death or silly. Late in the day I was listening to a little Guns and Roses and “Rocket Queen” came on and I had to say “WTF”?

The first half of the song is slightly psychotic, misogynistic Heavy Metal:

If I say I don't need anyone
I can say these things to you
I can turn on anyone
Just like I've turned on you
I've got a tongue like a razor
A sweet switchblade knife
And I can do you favors
But then you'll do whatever I like

Okay, not a really nice person there. Then the second half of the song turns into one of the most honest love songs ever:

I see you standin'
Standin' on your own
It's such a lonely place for you
For you to be
If you need a shoulder
Or if you need a friend
I'll be here standing
Until the bitter end
No one needs the sorrow
No one needs the pain
I hate to see you
Walking out there
Out in the rain
So don't chastise me
Or think I, I mean you harm
Of those that take you
Leave you strung out
Much too far

Don't ever leave me
Say you'll always be there
All I ever wanted
Was for you
To know that I care

All I can say is Wow, this song really bi-polar and needs it's meds.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Mother of All Polls

My last poll was about what NASA will say they found on Mars in their December Press Release. People voted for the extremes. Half thought they would announce that they found, “A civilization of Cats with waves of Kitten Armies” the other half thought they found, “A Rock”.

I'm thinking the truth will be somewhere in between.

On to my next Poll:

One of the strange things about growing old is to watch the changes in the people around you. The other day I used Facebook's high school friend finder. It showed the pictures of people who were supposedly in my class in high school. It tried to trick me, but I know their weren't a bunch of middle aged people in my class. I would have noticed.

One of the odder effects age has on a person is their taste in music changes. I can remember a friend of mine coming up to me all upset because his daughters wanted to go see some band. He said, “It's just two girls who get on stage and make out and call it a concert.”

This made me ask, “What is the name of the band again? Do they post videos of this? When are they playing?”

Oddly enough this wasn't the reaction he was expecting.

Another friend who is a few years younger than me hates the Katey Perry song, “Last Friday Night” because of the lyrics:

Last Friday night
Yeah we maxed our credit cards
And got kicked out of the bar
So we hit the boulevard

She feels kids will think that's aright.

What I had to remind both these people is the songs of our youth in the 80s and 90s. People wanted to ban them. As I tell them that the song “Mother” by Danzig plays in my head:

Tell your children not to walk my way
Tell your children not to hear my words
What they mean
What they say

Can you keep them in the dark for life
Can you hide them from the waiting world
Oh mother

That gets me wondering.

At what age do kids turn their parents, from Danzig fans to what Danzig wrote about?



Early Teens


As always vote on the upper left hand side of the page.

If anyone has any thoughts on this topic I'd love to hear them. It's something that I've wondered for a while.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE