Sunday, March 30, 2014
The Weekly Weird Monthly has been a long gestating project of Jack Arambula and I. The other day we launched a new literary/foodie web show called Eating & Reading.
The first episode pairs Peach Mango Yogurt with Charles Bukowski.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
I'll be performing the piece, "The Incident at Freeway Park," about the time my friends and I got beat up by magnet school preppies. Come and enjoy my pain and embarrassment.
Sunday, March 16, 2014
Ladies and gentlegoats, it is my pleasure to announce to you that, in my sniffle fueled bout of madness, I have decided to lower the online cost of Toilet Stories From Outer Space to $5!
That's 7 stories for $5 including shipping. Beat yourself over the head with a hammer on that one, folks. Run, don't walk, to catch the deal of the century.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
I can't make an SXSW post without mentioning the tragedy caused by reckless stupidity last night. My heart and my thoughts are with all the victims of the allegedly drunk driver. Two people were killed and many more were injured. My grandfather was killed by a drunk driver in 1998 while he was riding his bike in Long Beach so drunk driving accidents always hit me right in the gut. I hope that those who were injured are recovering peacefully and I hope that the families who have lost family members can find the peace they need. Be careful out there. People are unpredictable, drunk, and stupid and when you put those all in the same equation, you never get the same result.
On Monday we saw the 40 year anniversary of Texas Chainsaw Massacre was just as frigging great as I imagined it to be. This was my first time ever seeing it on the big screen and Nina's first time ever seeing it. It was a damn treat for the both of us. Tobe Hooper was there and he said something like, "I'm just glad people got the jokes. For 8 years after that movie came out, no one ever laughed." For as funny as that movie is, I don't see how nobody laughed. But Hooper was a visionary. He created an entire genre out of thin air and today nobody can quite touch it. The soundtrack was loud and amazing and really immersed you into the insanity of everything. No horror movie touches Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's exactly my brand of horror and I'm glad I got to hear Tobe Hooper himself speak about it. He was kind of a grumbly fellow though.
On Tuesday we took a break. We had to do laundry lest we smell like Austin hippies and we had planned to go out and try to see Godzilla but I sat down to take a nap at around 7:30 pm and found myself waking up at 7 am. Oh, well. I was getting delirious, my eyes were shot; we needed the night off.
On Wednesday we saw the animated shorts feature which had some strong sketches but overall I felt too many went for the artsy-fartsy high falutin nonsense. There was one good short that even spoke to that fact with a line that went something like: "She thinks she's making art but really it's just stupid." That's how I felt about 1/4 of the shorts. The weakest short was the one put out by Cartoon Network which just continues to illustrate the point that indies still make the best shit.
Then we hoofed it across town to try and catch Open Windows but for the second time this festival it was completely full so we turned around and hoofed it right back to the same theater we saw the animated shorts in to see Spacestation 76. The movie wins the award for best title but won't win any other awards. The characters were cardboard cutouts of people, the story went nowhere. The only reason I stayed until the end was because I wanted to see if my twist ending theory would prove true. I thought Liv Tyler's acting was so bad that the twist would be she was some kind of robot. They did have little clues to support my theory. The biggest clue was that Liv Tyler's acting was robotic. The second biggest clue was that a robot (not kidding here) stuck a metal cylinder into her nether regions and said "They are some irregularities with your uterus." Liv Tyler cut the robot off with, "I am aware of the irregularities." Was it a hint? Was it a hint?! Liv Tyler also delivered the most stilted line in the history of stilted lines: "Would you like to go to the arboretum like you like to do so much?" Oh, god. She's gotta be a robot, right? Nope. No twist. She's just a bad actor. Lot's of folks were buzzing about this movie. I don't see why.
Today we saw Open Windows. It was a good enough flick starring Elijah Wood and Sasha Grey. You know how when movies convey hackers and hacking, the interfaces are so laughable that it strains credulity? This movie does that. I had a lot of fun recognizing locations but when BookPeople was coming into frame, the camera cut and went to a totally different part of town. It's not going to win any awards but the suspense was there and near the end it fell down a rabbit hole of Mission: Impossible like absurdity (face masks, etc) that I'm not sure wasn't on purpose. It was a fun movie and I'm looking forward to what's next from the director. The movie was far from perfect and I think a little more consistency of tone would have been great. Hometown hero, Owen Egerton, steals the show with his acting chops in the beginning. I had no idea he was classically trained and did such great impressions of world leaders.
That's it for now, folks.
Speaking of Owen Egerton, here's my review of his latest book at BookPeople. Click that whole damn sentence or click this whole damn sentence to go there.
Monday, March 10, 2014
The Miraculous Life of Kim Jong-il According to a Texas Cowboy who Just Shot the Last American Polar Bear in San Antonio
In celebration of such a miraculous event, please enjoy a story from within its pages, The Miraculous Life of Kim Jong-il.
Buy the chapbook! Love it! Share it! Give as a gift! Send to a friend! Help me eat!
I made it my mission to do everything for free yesterday. But first, the screenings.
Penny Dreadful was simply all right. Nothing special but a lot of times, TV shows need a few episodes to get going. It was billed as sophisticated horror but it was more action oriented than cerebral. Josh Hartnett is the gun slinging star of the show so take from that what you will. The show remixes classic horror characters into one narrative but the problem is it feels like a super hero show rather than real horror. Again, it was only the first episode so it has time to prove itself.
Supermensch is Mike Myers's documentary on the man behind the curtain of so many rock stars and celebrity chefs, Shep Gordon. It was hilarious and supremely edited. It meditated on loneliness and legacy as the backdrop was painted with the colors of Shep's hard partying, well loved nature. It was a great achievement by Mike Myers. I honestly had no clue who Shep Gordon was and the flick still held my interest. For the record, Alice Cooper looks scarier in golf gear than he does in goth gear.
Then we hoofed it to Nina's car and drove to see No No, a documentary on Dock Ellis. Ellis is the infamous Pirates' pitcher who pitched a no hitter while tripping balls on acid. That's not all there is to him though. After a violent (very violent) confrontation with his second wife, Dock decided to go clean and help other drug addicts recover. It was a pitch perfect documentary, perfect for any baseball fan. It could have been 15 minutes shorter but that could be my exhaustion speaking. During the movie I could feel every fabric from my shirt on my body and it was irritating as hell. I was probably going nuts.
The gods shined some light on us with the HBOGo crash so we actually managed to get a little more sleep than planned. Everyone who's seen True Detective, please shut up around me.
As for the free shit, the most exciting was the free pizza from 7-11. It tasted like microwave roasted cardboard with dyed orange Elmer's glue and ketchup. It was free because I threw away all my dignity and tweeted at 7-11 to deliver one to me. Nothing tastes better than free but hopefully 7-11 will cover my plumbing bill after last night, too.
I sscored about 5 t-shirts that I'll never wear, a vape cigarette that I'll never use and a free beer that I'll never forget. God bless SXSW.
P.s. I found out that the hot new buzzword for marketing and advertising is storytelling. If that doesn't make you angry, you have no soul. I kept getting fliers that said "meet storytellers" or "storytellers lounge" and I thought, "whoa, writers are finally getting their due." Nope, we're still not as cool as marketers.
Sunday, March 9, 2014
This is the second year in a row that I've been able to get a film wristband and I'm glad I did. Austin is the live music capitol of the world but with my creaky knees, I much prefer Austin's vibrant film culture these days. Plus, living in Austin provides for seeing great music all the damn time. The film fest is where it's at.
The Internet's Own Boy was the first movie I saw this year. It was a documentary on the genius who ended his own life due to an overreaching and predatory government prosecution against him. I know that the world is a complex place and our laws aren't keeping up with the evolution of our society but the biggest and best thing that I came away with from that movie was the triumph of the human spirit and the beauty of creation in the face of forces determined to take you down. As a documentary, the movie felt a bit too much like a dry made for TV production but the subject of the film, Aaron Swartz, was such a captivating figure that the shortfalls of the production were easily forgotten. The most illuminating quote came from Swartz himself. The internet is not only a great tool for creation and human connectedness, it is equally a tool for oppression and it will always possess that dual nature. The fight is never over.
Next on the list was the premiere of Cosmos with Neil deGrasse Tyson at the Paramount theater. It will be on Fox tonight but the only reason I was willing to wait in line for it was to see the man himself in person. He was drinking a Lone Star, not some fancy pants beer I'm sure he could afford. The man has taste. Watch the show tonight, it's great and quirky and will probably end up being a great cultural moment.
Yesterday Nina and I saw three flicks, two of which were good. The premiere of Robert Rodriguez's From Dusk Till Dawn was phenomenal. Judging from the first episode, the series is going to deliver Rodriguez style humor and violence, chock full of strained metaphors and brilliant gabbing between spaghetti western kills. I'm not sure it'll be the next Breaking Bad or anything like that but it's damn fine TV and does enough to wash away the bad memories of the sequel to the original film.
Break Point felt like an imitation of Judd Apatow's brosweet style of comedy but never quite got the tone right. There were some bright spots during the flick but I couldn't ever get into it.
So far, Oculus by Mike Flanagan stole the show. It's always the horror movies that I come home raving about. My style of horror is more schlocky, slasher, and humorous. Oculus was none of these things but holy cow, man, it was the scariest movie I've ever seen. I'm an adult and right when I got home I had to turn on all the lights in my apartment and shield my eyes from any mirror. The movie never let up on you and the feeling of dread was manipulated masterfully. If there's any movie you have to see in theaters, it's this one. It is a masterpiece of horror cinema that will scare the living shit out of you.
Monday, March 3, 2014
My latest story is now up at HorrorNovelReviews.com!
It's called Cleaning Solution and here's a little story about how it came to be.
Nina and I were coming home from work or dinner or something and we noticed two oddballs peeking around our apartment building. One was an older fellow, the other was a guy who couldn't have been older than drinking age. They had bottles of Windex hanging out of their back pockets. The young one hung around the corners of the buildings while the other knocked on doors and looked inside folks's abodes.
Highly suspicious activity or completely innocent, who knows? I didn't want to tip them off that I was suspicious as all hell so I acted in the most suspicious way a person could act. I walked around the building and followed them around.
The young one asked me if I wanted a demonstration of this miracle water and I said, "No."
That could have been the end but I had been paranoid about news reports about break ins in our area recently and I had a feeling these two entrepreneurs were casing the joint so I called the local police who immediately transferred me over to 911 because they agreed, they were probably casing the joint.
They didn't catch these two capitalists but I'm sure the police lights scared them away knowing that somebody was on guard enough to report suspicious activity.
Part of me feels bad if they were just two dudes trying to make a cheap buck but the other part of me doesn't really give a fuck. Nobody wants to buy watered down Windex in the evening. It's almost worse than getting a knock on the door from Jehovah's Witnesses.
When I was a kid I remember a similar salesman coming to my parents's house and giving the whole spiel about how this solution could clear rust off a doorknob so bright that Ray Charles would be temporarily re-sighted to praise our doorknob's sheen. My dad entertained the spiel but we didn't end up buying any cleaning solution.
So there it is, the two things that inspired this tale. Hope you enjoy the story.