Apparently people like reading about Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers, pinball machine illustration by Morgan Weistling, 1997 | by Tom Simpson. Labeled for noncommercial reuse by Google Image Search.


20 Years Ago, Starship Troopers Showed Us What Happens When Fascism Wins
Paste Magazine – March 2, 2017
Article link | http://bit.ly/2mO4Wsw

This little fellow tore up Reddit the other day. According to Paste’s site traffic, it got something like 232K unique views. So, good for me, I guess. It might actually be the most widely-read piece of writing I’ve ever written, ever. I doubt I ever got that many views writing for the Herald & Review of Decatur, Illinois (2010 census population: 76,000). I’ve certainly had way more fun writing other pieces – this one was a rougher go of it, mostly because I wanted to keep things focused on the film adaptation and not wander into the weeds on the book.

I’m careful not to shove in too much apocrypha when I write these articles for Paste, and my editors have been really gracious about letting me write in a way that might seem a little quotidian or overly academic when I dive into some of this stuff. I do it, though, because standards at a lot of entertainment websites are just Not Very Stringent, and you can make a lot of ridiculous-ass claims without backing anything up. Approaching this one, though, was almost too easy: It seems like every damn reviewer has circled back at some point and put on a whole big production about how this silly movie was swinging for the satirical fences and just didn’t quite get a hit.

I mean, look at what the A.V. Club wrote like, years ago now. Check out Rotten Tomatoes, where you can see that its score is buoyed, as I mention in this article, by reviews from the middle of the last decade. I felt a sort of intimidation at knowing I was tackling pretty well-trod territory already, and I had to resist just linking to about half a dozen other (let’s face it, better) articles.

And also, god fuck it, I just don’t want to write about the current political climate at all. I know it’s whining, but I spent a good half a decade writing about what I now regard to be a pretty much inexorable decline in society. It is exhausting to have to drag all of that into my fun writing, but what other choice did I have? How can you watch this movie these days and not marvel at how creepily plausible it is?

Published: Nobody’s Son

The Glass Key, by Dashiell Hammett. | By kristykay22, from Flickr. Labeled for non-commercial reuse on Google Image Search.


Nobody’s Son: The Legacy of Dashiell Hammett
Paste Monthly – May 2016
Article link | http://bit.ly/2mF7WdM

Dashiell Hammett is one of those proto-artists few people actually know. I say “few,” but the truth is that anybody with an unhealthy enough obsession with Honorably Manly Cinema probably knows him by reputation at least.

I had a few incorrect notions about Hammett’s life, which the research I conducted dispelled. This was another article that was enlightening to me. And how about that first epigraph from Akira Kurosawa?

“Here we are, weakly caught in the middle, and it is impossible to choose between evils. Myself, I’ve always wanted to somehow or other stop these senseless battles of bad against bad, but we’re all more or less weak – I’ve never been able to. And that is why the hero of this picture is different from us. He is able to stand squarely in the middle and stop the fight.”

That right there describes everything I desire out of heroic fiction. The outside world is harsh and callous, but Beowulf can punch it in the fucking face. Crime cuts down the innocent, but Superman can stride through bullets like a light winter flurry. It’s rare something that primal makes its debut.

Published: Superman is not Jesus

Superman

You know his name. | By mayantimegod. Labeled for non-commercial reuse on Google Image Search.

Superman is not Jesus
Paste Magazine – 16 April 2016
Article link | http://bit.ly/2lJLXO2

This was one of the more well-received articles I’ve written for Paste in the last year. Lots of people have dumped on Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice for all sorts of different reasons. I hadn’t watched it prior to writing this article (and maintain I didn’t need to), but I’ve since seen it and I wouldn’t change a word of this piece. For me, the biggest tragedy is that Superman is a total sourpuss, no longer invested with mythic righteousness.

I drew on a lot of character history to write this one, and it’s got to be just about the most fun I’ve had writing for Paste. I loaded up on books and learned a lot of things I hadn’t known about Superman and his creators.

supermanbooks.jpg

This will be on my library record forever.

This was an important one for me, silly as it may sound. I hope Superman comes out of whatever his next inevitable adventure is looking much better than he looked in this last one. We need a moral Superman now more than ever, God knows.

Yeah, yeah, I haven’t posted in a year

I’m rectifying that. It’s been quite a long story, and one I promise to tell soon. Stay tuned.

Published: 2,000 years of this Sicilian thing

The Godfather. Labeled for reuse on Google Image Search.

2,000 Years Of This Sicilian Thing: Watching The Godfather Epic
Paste Magazine – 7 Feb. 2016
Article link | http://bit.ly/1QQGtKl

I’ve been terrible about updating stuff here, but it’s been a couple months since I got published again. I’ll link more soon.

Who doesn’t love The Godfather? The 424-minute (!) edit of it did nothing to diminish my admiration for this gorgeously-shot, deep meditation on family and immigration and totally killing the shit out of people who disagree with you or even just look at you the wrong way one time. It was a grueling affair finishing it in one sitting, of course, but now it’s behind me and I have this awesome article as a souvenir.

Published: “In The Shadow of Narcos”

Fiesta en la Comuna

A festival of colors and culture in Medellín, Colombia’s Comuna 13. | Kenneth Lowe, Oct. 2015


In The Shadow of Narcos
Paste Magazine – 18 Dec. 2015
Article link | http://bit.ly/1S8L4fF

I’m particularly proud to unveil my latest byline, which I proudly share with my friend Alvaro Márquez Arango of BlacSuan fame. This was a long and a hard one, but we made it to the end, got what we needed, and told our story.

Colombia is a beautiful country coping with a lot of anger and sadness, but the new generation is ready to lay that aside and embrace a peaceful future. I hope to be back there soon to write more about the next page of in the story of its history.

I’m published in Paste

The The Glienicke Bridge between West and East Berlin, the “Bridge of Spies” from the film. | David Stanley, 1987, labeled for reuse by Google Image Search, 21 Nov. 2015

Paste Magazine – 20 Nov. 2015
Article link | http://bit.ly/1N0nObW

It’s been a while, but I’m back in the freelance game with an essay/review/article for Paste Magazine, one of my favorite places for entertainment news. There are a lot of great writers on Paste and I’m happy to be among them for the first time. I’ve got other things in the works for them coming up, which should hopefully be on before too long. Check out the article. It’s nice to finally be able to write (semi-)professionally about my family’s experiences. It’s too bad that I do so at a time when another terrorized and misunderstood population is trying so desperately to do the same thing my own family did 50 years ago: Get the hell out of an awful situation and into a safe, free country.

Autumn descends on me

Autumn is my favorite time of year, and it finally got a little cooler out so it actually feels like it. At some point, the leaves will turn if the temperature keeps dipping the way it does at night.

Right now I want to finish Long September, but I also want to maintain the focus necessary to finish a damn rpg in RPG Maker. Ideas compete in my head for dominance. I want to do something interesting, but I don’t want it to take forever. And sadly, that just isn’t how it works.

I have also been chipping away at two hopeless battles. One is Diablo III. The other is my student loans.

(more…)

Chaos, Honor and Metal Gears: On the unique failure of video game narratives

Snake, maybe

Solid Snake. Or maybe Big Boss. | Labeled for noncommercial reuse by Google Image Search, 11 July 2015.

As I continue with Long September, my novel, and continue to await word from my employment of whether the fiscal cliff we have found ourselves plunging over will mean I won’t be paid until we un-plunge ourselves, I blow off steam by playing old video games and listening to the Wu Tang Clan. Last night’s success was the defeat of a truly ancient foe of mine: Metal Gear Solid. As in 1, as in ©1998 by Konami Computer Entertainment Japan for the PlayStation. Yes, I am OG (original genome).

Whenever I boot up a truly old game, something of the original experience is lost, and I don’t just mean because I’m playing it on a backwards-compatible PlayStation 2 hooked up to a high-def television that doesn’t give any fucks about its aspect ratio and anti-aliasing. This time, what was lost was any sense of awe I had about the story. Come with me on this sad journey as I talk about how a tale that once held me enraptured has become something I mash the “X” button to skip. (more…)

We need to talk about Max

image

Mad Max: Fury Road promotional poster. Displayed under Fair Use.

You’ve already read reviews of Mad Max: Fury Road. I’ve seen it twice now and the repeat viewing was actually better. Simply put, it’s one of the best action movies I’ve seen in so long that I had to actually think about how long it’s been.

Everything about that action has already been said, but from a writing standpoint, it’s also a brilliantly solid film, executed with style and reasoned choices, yet totally unique.

Action movies these days have no weight. Superhero films have taken over and, since we know nobody is going to die, we don’t care. Max challenges the sterile CGI of today’s films, but it also takes writers to task. Here are a few spoilery things Fury Road did way better than other films.
(more…)