Wednesday, December 6, 2017


Update One


The Norinko Ten
Trauma, Diagnosis & Treatment


Compiled, Formatted, and Narrated 
by Anthony Servante


Los Angeles County Mental Health Facility 
Circa 1920



Introduction


Note: Account provided by "Lydia" (not real name) as part of this series of updates on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Critical Incident Stress.


Lydia's Account

"I was walking home from work. I put in some overtime and missed the bus. One of my co-workers offered me a ride. He asked if I wanted to stop for a drink at his place. It felt wrong that he asked me that since we hardly knew each other and I was half his age. 

He got mad when I asked him to drop me off right there and then. He pulled the car into an alley. I wasn't scared because there were lots of back yards with their lights on. He grabbed my breast. I slapped his hand. He punched me with a closed fist. I tasted blood. 

Everything felt unreal as he pulled off my pants and raped me. When he was finished, he put some money in my hand and pushed me out of the car. He rolled down the window and threw my pants and panties at me. I didn't put them on. 

I started to walk home. I felt like I was forgetting something, so I turned around. I saw a long trail of blood from my pants on the ground leading to my feet and up along my inner legs, coming from between my legs. Only then I realized it wasn't blood.

It was shit. 

I laughed. I had shit myself. When some old women found me in the back yard, I was still laughing." 

Note: "Lydia" sent me this description. For her, this was the beginning of her PTSD. She told me that she would follow up with her hospitalization, her meds and treatment, but since has not contacted me. Others also contributed accounts of abuse, witness to murder and mayhem, and horrific experiences for this article on PTSD and CIS, but not one provided any post-traumatic insights. As such, I will try to concentrate my articles and updates on both trauma and post trauma.


**************



Leaving the McClure Tunnel.



Anthony Servante's Account:
Beginnings

On August 9th, 2017, I survived a near-death experience in the Santa Monica Tunnel, aka the McClure Tunnel. It's been close to two months and the memory of that night has begun to fade. I had no one to talk to about the horrors I witnessed, and in my silence, the night seems more and more unreal. But there are peripheral remnants that tighten my stomach and make my head ache. Birds. Cold weather. The stranger I face everyday in the bathroom mirror. I decided it was time to seek medical attention. 

From that decision, I received some therapy that led to my writing down the detailed accounts that led to these updates. These accounts can be found in "The Journal of Norinko Hanasaki" and "Norinko Hanasaki: The Investigation & Research". Therapy, to this day, continues. 

I am on Los Angeles County Health Care. I choose a primary health physician, who gives me my annual physicals and bloodwork, refers me to specialists when necessary, and whom I turn to when I have the flu. For the treatment of trauma, however, he cannot help me, except to prescribe Xanax for the anxiety and Tramadol for the headaches. Instead, he refers me to the specialist, a psychiatrist (not a psychologist). The "shrink" asks for symptoms, such as lack of sleep, hallucinations, rage, headaches, nausea, pain behind the eyes, shortness of breath, forgetfulness. That is the list of symptoms we have developed so far. And for each, he prescribes drugs, even marijuana. There is no counseling, for that is what a psychologist specializes in, and the County of Los Angeles does not pay for such treatment, for it is a "cosmetic" solution, not a practical one, just as the county will not pay for root canal work--only extractions. It is a free health care service, so I cannot complain. 

Note: The Psychiatrist to date has only prescribed antidepressants, which I do not take

But in my hour session with the doctor, I do manage to work in some subtle attempts at being counseled by the psychiatrist when I relay my symptoms. For instance, when I say I cannot sleep, I go into detail about my circular dreams. I wake, turn over in bed, and slip back to sleep, only to re-enter the same dream I awoke from. No matter how many times I wake and return to sleep, the dream remains the same. If I get up to avoid this conundrum, my vision becomes blurry for the rest of the day. Although I had my eyes checked, the problem with blurriness was not found in my vision. Thus I sleep through the dream until it ends of its own accord, until the dream comes full circle and my waking itself ends the dream cycle. As if waking up is a part of the dream. But, at least, with this waking dream, I see the rest of the day clearly and without any blurriness. Colors stand out. The clouds are whiter. The sky bluer. The birds more lively and focused. They even seem more focused on me. 




Picture taken while I was
waiting for the train.



So it is that my hour spent with the psychiatrist has some counseling benefits, although the visits usually end with more prescriptions than advice. Thus I wondered about what treatment is out there for those who are suffering from more than headaches and nightmares. What follows is my research into trauma, its treatment in general, and the medical health plans that are better than mine. 

Note: Updates will entail survivors of trauma via accounts from readers as well as the latest health information from any of the Norinko Ten who wish to be part of this research. My doctor thinks it is therapeutic; I hope yours will agree. 

*************

This article on Trauma, Diagnosis, and Treatment is sponsored by FROWNLAND CALENDARS, $16.00, 
featuring twelve full color Frownlands, as well as additional art sprinkled throughout. 










Sunday, November 5, 2017


Update Foreword


The Norinko Ten
Women and Children First

Compiled, Formatted, and Narrated 
by Anthony Servante


Foreword

On July 13th, 2016, Norinko Hanasaki, a fourteen year old middle-school student disappeared from a moving bus as it passed through the Santa Monica Freeway tunnel. Between July 13th, 2016 and August 9th, 2017, the Servante of Darkness Blog investigated the disappearance with the help of Norinko's friends and family. As the investigation progressed, more and more people began to vanish. When we found the journal of Norinko, we found clues to her whereabouts, decoded a map to follow, and gathered a team to enter the freeway tunnel at midnight on the 9th of August 2017. We managed to rescue ten people held captive in a tunnel hidden within the tunnel. One of our team was lost. 

The victims were taken to the UCLA Medical Center, and there conflicting stories emerge. The Sheriff's Department, the First Church Middle-School, and the parents of the children gave various accounts of just what happened on the 9th. But, at this point, we'll set that aside for now, for we have chosen to focus our attention on the recovery and recuperation of the victims. As such, we will follow the ten victims, ascertain how they are faring, and update what their lives are like now. We will talk with experts in the field of "post-trauma" and "critical incident stress", discuss the differences and the types of therapy provided for not only the victims known as the Norinko Ten but any victims who can help us understand the effects of such trauma. 

In addition to experts, we will interview people who have undergone medical and holistic therapy to treat depression and anxiety. We will also address relevant issues that relate to the narratives surrounding the night of August 9th officially and unofficially. Although my first concern will always be the victims and their recovery, I will not ignore the truth of what happened that night, for time passes quickly and time erodes the truth quicker than denial and rationalization. My goal is not to interrogate any victims. There will be no confrontations with any volunteers to be interviewed, but those who deliberately cover up the truth will be questioned at length within the limits of an amateur blogger. My aim is to simply clarify the consensus of the victims with regard to their trauma and lay out the truth of that night so that it won't be forgotten or whitewashed. As a victim myself of this ordeal, this whole endeavor is my own therapy with dealing with the stress and blackouts. 

I thank you, dear readers, for following up with me the strange circumstances surrounding the "abduction" of these ten victims. I promise to continue my pursuit for factual answers under stress of a traumatized memory. For the fragile human mind is always faced with two decisions when threatened by evil: fight or flight. And sometimes these two choices can manifest themselves as false or imagined memories or total denial. For now, I choose to fight. I am not a brave man, for the time may come when flight will be the correct course of action. Therefore, time is of the essence. I'm sure the other victims are facing similar choices. I must time our discussions and interviews with sensitivity and compassion. For even the messenger who conjures up the evil past may be misconstrued for the evil itself. 

As such, I shall approach the subject matter methodically, deliberately, and sympathetically. Thank you again, dear readers, for your patience.

I know the questions. It's the answers that are fading more and more each day like a dream of falling, falling, falling. 

Anthony Servante
11/05/2017



Update One: Trauma, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Coming soon...




Sunday, July 23, 2017


The Waylon Bacon Interview
Renaissance Man 2017



Conducted and Formatted
By Anthony Servante



Waylon Bacon



Meet
The Modern Renaissance Man



Introduction:

I found Waylon Bacon while I was pinching through the free handouts at my comic book shop in Pasadena, California. He had left sample chapbooks of his artwork from his website Frownland alongside Marvel Comics and DC Comics promotions cards, local comic book convention flyers, and Indie Comic samplings. After leafing through the chapbook, I instantly fell in love with the dry layered humor of Bacon's characters, at once the archetypes from today’s milieu but also the universal everyman and everywoman no matter what era. Here were the characterizations of "The Neighborhood" by Jerry Van Amerongen, the irony of "Mister Boffo" by Joe Martin, the surrealism of "Angriest Dog in the World" by David Lynch, and a pinch of 1950s Beat Generation antidisestablishmentarianism. As well as some 1960s Underground Comix insight into the far-gone human stereotype of its time. When I asked him for an interview, he graciously accepted.

As I prepared my questions, I found that cartoonist was but one of his talents: He’s a film-maker, a satirist, an illustrator, a music video director and producer, and a reporter on the foibles of humankind, 2017. In short, he’s the Renaissance Man of today. And in an age where everyone thinks they are special because they blog, self-publish, know famous people on Facebook, and justify their existence by preaching to the choir, Waylon Bacon eats people like that for lunch and regurgitates his diet into his medium, and not just “social media”, the graveyard of self-proclaimed talent, but via the traditional avenues of Art, Film, Music, and Illustration. He is the real deal.
Time to meet (wait for it)…Waylon Bacon.




The Interview:

Anthony: Can you give us an overview of the work you’ve been doing for the last year just to catch us up?
Waylon: I've been drawing a weekly webcomic called 'Frownland', as well as promoting a short film I directed called 'The Ride'. I started both projects at the same time, around 2014, so it's been a very busy couple of years!
'The Ride' is a dark comedy (what else) that is based on a real experience I had in my early twenties. I was running late for work, and ended up encountering this little guy with dark eyes and braces who offered to drive me to where I needed to go. I stupidly accepted. He drove this white Cargo Van right out of 'Unsolved Mysteries', and he claimed to sell Espresso machines out of it. No sooner had we started driving than I noticed the back of the van was just filled with junk - old coffee cups, newspapers, and some tools. It was terrifying! But it turned out fine - he was just a well meaning weirdo. The film shows all of the scenarios I had played out in my head while the ride was in progress, as well as subtly presenting ideas about pre-judgement and race - the fellow was Middle-Eastern. It's got amazing performances from the two leads (Clinton Roper Elledge and ArmenBabasoloukian) and played at a number of festivals around California. It's really funny and horrifying all at the same time!

I've also been contributing art and covers to Beatdom, which is a literary magazine devoted to the Beats. It's great, because I get assigned the task of drawing people like Charles Bukowski and Burroughs, who have all of my favorite facial characteristics -- sunken eyes and big noses. I recently did their ten year anniversary cover and got to draw almost all of the Beats, plus pay tribute to Berkeley's recently defunct Cafe Med, which was  one of my all time favorite places to hang out.



Anthony: Where did this artistic journey begin for you? Can you tell us about your beginnings?
Waylon: Well I was always artistically wired; I drew as a kid constantly - at home, at school, at baseball games, at parties - I was glued to my little sketch books. I also come from a somewhat bohemian family - my Maternal Grandfather was a well-loved painter back in Flint, Michigan, and my mother is brilliant with watercolors. Plus I hated, hated school -- I had a really hard time with academics and was actually in Special Ed due to what we shall call mathematical dyslexia. So drawing was both a chance for escape and for a bit of self-worth.


Childhood Drawing


I got interested in film during my teens -  partly because it was just so damn challenging, and because I like telling stories. I've spent more time ripping my hair out over film projects than I have with almost anything else in this life, but I've also found it the most rewarding. Making a film literally mutates your existence - it's such an intense journey, and you're a changed person by the end of it. I love that.


Early Interest in Film


Anthony: Let’s talk a bit about film. What have you done? Who are your influences? 
Waylon: Waylon: I've made a handful of shorts since college, although I don't think I really found my voice until I made a short film called 'Poster Boy' in 2004. Prior to that, I had been trying to figure out what it was I wanted to say in my movies - I really liked Jim Jarmusch, John Waters, and Terry Gilliam, but hadn't found how those elements would go together into something that was all mine.



Poster Boy Still


With Poster Boy, I decided to just focus on the visuals. So it didn't have a script -- just storyboards. The idea was to make something that would resemble a really grotesque live action cartoon. The 'plot' is that a chainsmoker is accosted by a mob of anti-smokers who chase him back to his apartment, where his jaw suddenly rots off from cancer. He is then forced into being the mascot for an anti-smoking campaign. It was a double-layered satire, because I smoke and I know it's a dreadful habit, but I also find militant anti-smokers to be insufferable.


Poster Boy Storyboard


I shot it on a VX2000, which at the time was really a big deal. Although it looks like video now, I thought it looked pretty damn good then, which was in 2004. This got into the now defunct San Francisco Underground Film Festival that was run by Peaches Christ, and I was encouraged to submit again the next year. I did one film each year so I would have something to show there, and I really got to develop my craft watching my films sink or swim in a movie theater setting once a year. Then in 2008 I won a small grant through the SF Weekly and made a short called 'Help Wanted' -- it's about a college graduate who's getting a tour of a prospective job at a warehouse, where he learns that they kill hookers and homeless people and then dismember the bodies for shipment to an undisclosed location. It's really dark -- I had a lot of negativity in me that had been building up for years, and I just sort of vomited it out in that movie.


Help Wanted Still 1



Help Wanted Still 2



The next thing I got up to was a music video for 'The Lumerians', who are simply the best post psychedelic band on the planet. All their music is highly cinematic. That was an interesting situation, because I'd just moved to Los Angeles, and the original idea I had for the video turned out to be impossible with our limited budget. So I went out and shot this thing with a crew of people I'd only known a very short period of time, with a hastily revised idea, that had to be revised continuously during the shoot, including a last minute recast. It was nuts!

I've had a website up since around 2004 that has all of my film work on it, although some of the older films need to be replaced with higher quality uploads (something I'm actually working on right now). You can go to www.waylonbacon.com, which has links to all of my film work, as well as Frownland and miscellaneous artwork 



Anthony: Can you tell me a bit about your work with The Lumerians? I’m a big fan of the group after seeing them in concert. How did you hook up? 
Waylon: I've actually known members Jason Miller and Tyler Green since the early 2000's - they were part of a group of people I encountered at Death Guild who, like me, didn't really fit in - we weren't goth, but it was a fun place to be and you'd occasionally get the thrill of hearing Bauhaus or Joy Division played really loud. We all bonded over a love of weird music, particularly stuff like Syd Barret, Roky Erickson, or Scott Walker - any music were the sanity of the artist was in question. Jason's still my go to for new music - his record collection is astounding and varied. They both volunteered to work on 'Poster Boy', with Tyler as D.P. and Jason as Composer, a role I'm happy to say he still fulfills! I can't imagine doing one without him.



Anthony: What other bands or artists do or have you worked with?
Waylon: Not many to be honest -- I'm not sure if Music Videos are necessarily my thing, although I was definitely interested in trying it out for the Lumerians! However, I've had offers come my way, so it might happen again -- people really seemed to like the 'Life Without Skin' video.



Life Without Skin Video (Click Here to Watch)


Life Without Skin Still 1


Life Without Skin Still 2



Life Without Skin Still 3




Anthony: Before we talk about Frownland, can you tell us about the comic books, strips, and artists who have warped your mind?
Waylon: Well, there were always Zap! Comics floating around when I was a kid -- and obviously that influence is still there in my art. I also love Gary Larson's 'The Far Side' and anything that Daniel Clowes touches. I'm also a sucker for the New Yorker.



Anthony: And how did all that turn into Frownland?
Waylon: I was working on raising funds for 'The Ride' and realized that it would be at least two years before the film was done. So to have some sort of artistic output while that was coming together, I started to post a drawing a week to my social media accounts, which I called 'Sketch Sunday'. This got pretty popular among my friends and co-workers, and I started to get sort of ambitious with it -- working in punchlines and characters. Some of my friends suggested turning it into a regular comic, and after about a year, I gave in, mostly because I felt like I'd developed my work habits to the point where I could reasonably pull it off once a week. I decided to call the strip 'Frownland' as a tribute to one of my all time favorite musicians, Captain Beefheart (it's the first track on his album 'Trout Mask Replica), and as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the content of the comic.



Frownland Early Sketches



Anthony: Let’s jump into Frownland directly now. What is it? Why do you do it? I feel like I’m with old friends with the characters when I read it.
Waylon: Thanks!

My byline is that Frownland is a single panel webcomic that dissects human behavior with cynical abandon. It veers between self observation and external observation - making fun of the world around me. I'm a frequent, maybe even compulsive cultural critic -- I spend a lot of time in my head picking things apart.

There's no main character, so that the comic has a constantly shifting perspective -- I might do one about an asshole customer, and then another one about an asshole employee. It's sort of a celebration of misanthropy as a perfectly normal human past time.



Three Misc Frownland Perspectives




Humor with Human Insight


It's done in the single panel format, which goes back to my aforementioned love of the New Yorker and The Far Side.It's really taken on a life of its own -- I did a calendar last year that sold out, and the comic recently went viral over at BoredPanda.com! It's been very strange, fun, and exciting.



The Frownland Calendar



Anthony: Where do you plan to go from here with your career? Any other projects that we haven’t covered?
Waylon: Like all day job artists, I would love to be able to devote myself full-time to my work, be it film or cartooning. If there's any rich benefactors out there who'd like to give a hand, I'm a self motivated worker with over ten years in the service industry and will bring that level of discipline to my art career. I promise not to do drugs or drink heavily while I'm on the clock. 

Anthony: Can you share a few of your favorite Frownland illustrations and tell us a bit about the inspiration behind each one?
Waylon: Sure!



1 (Introverts): I know plenty of people who are genuine introverts, who struggle with interacting at parties or sometimes even one on one, so I've been rolling my eyes at the current appropriation of this character trait. It's very much a white culture thing to be excited about being marginalized.



2. (Ashes) This is actually based on a conversation I had with a friend -- what would it be like to be at the funeral of an ex-girlfriend? What would happen if, during the service, you thought about something you'd done together sexually? It would probably happen even if you didn't want it to. But I changed it to an old woman with the ashes of her husband in the comic because I thought it would be less sleazy.



3. (Melting Component). This was based on my first experience trying to order a salad at Tender Greens. I was with my family, and non of us could understand the ordering process. What's a protein? You mean chicken? I found it all really pretentious. I also find it Class-ist, because I have yet to be at one of these 'deconstructed' lunch spots that isn't expensive. Other lesser restaurants refer to the toppings as meat and veggies. How bourgeois.



4. (Bad Eye). Whenever I encounter someone with a lazy eye, I look at the wrong one when talking to them. And I'm sure anyone with this condition is used to it, but I still feel awful! This one was taken directly from life -- I went to the store to buy cigarettes, looked into the clerk's bad eye, and then went home and drew this comic.



5. (City). I just moved to Portland in May, and was talking on the phone to my oldest friend about how I wasn't sure I liked being in such a rural and friendly city -- I'm used to Oakland or Los Angeles. We both concluded that we enjoyed being in urban environments and being around people, but had no real desire to actually talk to anyone! I think this is pretty common for a lot of people who choose to live in cities.



6. (What If I'm The Asshole?) This was drawn really fast, because I had to crank it out at the last minute! I was on my lunch break at work, and had no comic to post for the weekend. I'd run through a number of ideas, but they all seemed redundant. This gave way to an introspective bout of self-loathing which finally cracked the idea for this comic.



Anthony: Thank you, Waylon, for joining us here on the Servante of Darkness Blog. Mi blog es su blog. 
Waylon: Gracias, un cafĂ© Americano, por favor.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Zombies, Ghouls, and Gods 
July 14, 2017
Guest Blogger: David Gerrold


Duane Jones, the Tragic Hero




Thinking about 
"Night of the Living Dead"

by David Gerrold


This was the film that started the modern zombie genre.

The film can be seen as a parable -- at the end, the rescuers shoot the one survivor, the black guy. They don't see him as human either. They see him as another zombie.

And that's the parable -- that we are dividing ourselves into us and them. Zombie stories are a justification for killing those we no longer regard as human. And in the first of the genre, it was the black guy who was considered less than human. It couldn't be more obvious than that.

We spend ninety minutes seeing this guy as a hero -- and the fat white rednecks take him out with the same dispassionate glee as if they were shooting rabbits.


The Window: Where Hero & Victim Blur


But since then, the zombie story has become a substantial part of our culture, spawning enough sequels, imitations, rip-offs, and franchise-squatters, that the whole zombie thing has become its own subgenre of horror.

Okay, fine. So far.

But our entertainment choices reveal not only who we are, but also who we want to be, what we expect and what we aspire to.

Where films used to end on an upbeat note -- "Oh, fiddle-dee-dee, I'll get him back. Tomorrow is another day." -- today, most modern SF films tend toward dystopia.

We we used to have Destination Moon and Conquest of Space and 2001 and all the other outward-pointed adventures that said we can do better, now every time we go out there, we end up getting eaten or beaten -- or we bring something awful back with us. Species and Life and Green Slime and The Stuff.

Instead of Tomorrowland the vision, we get Tomorrowland, the broken promise. We get Maze Runner and Hunger Games and Divergent and Resident Evil and all the other stories where we have been divided into Eloi and Morlocks -- and a few brave heroes who will shoot the Morlocks to save the frightened Eloi (so they can fuck them later on.)

What it is -- once you get past the actual movies -- is the creation of a terrible terrifying context: that we must divide the human race into us v. them, and once we do that, we the US are justified in shooting THEM. Because they're not human. They're zombies. They're undead. They're vampires and ghouls and untermenschen. They are a threat to us and we are justified in shooting them.

Like the black guy at the end of Night of the Living Dead.


George Kosana (actor with bullets) leads a mob of US
to hunt down THEM.


And like it or not -- that is one of the ways we are unconsciously justifying the polarization of our society. We are training ourselves to think of ourselves as "the good guy" -- and the mob that opposes us aren't humans, they're zombies, and that's why we should militarize our police to use deadly force on all those zombies that want to rip our flesh and eat our brains and mooch off our taxes.

Have you ever noticed though -- that when the so-called good guys are holed up in a mall or a supermarket or even a fortress, they start fighting among themselves -- and too often, they reveal themselves as anything but "the good guys?"

But that's the point that we tend to miss. We think we're the ones who are going to survive whatever chaos is coming. We never consider that we might end up as one of the shabby shambling horde of undead things, do we?

We never consider that we might be the targets.


Biography: 

David Gerrold was barely out of his teens when he wrote the script "The Trouble With Tribbles" for the classic television series "Star Trek". Nominated for a Hugo Award, it was listed by "Playboy" magazine as one of the 50 Greatest Television Episodes of All Time. And in a 1997 FOX TV special it ranked as the most popular science fiction episode on television of all time. He has written dozens of novels and twice has been nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula awards. His novelette "The Martian Child" won the SF triple crown: the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Locus Readers Poll as Best Novelette. In addition to novel writing, he has written television scripts for "Babylon 5", "Tales from the Darkside", and "The Twilight Zone". He served as a story editor/producer for the first season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation". A frequent guest at SF conventions here and in Europe, he began a charity in 1988 in which money earned from charging one dollar for autographs -- plus profits from the sale of other SF memorabilia -- is donated to AIDS Project Los Angeles.


Amazon Catalog: https://www.amazon.com/David-Gerrold/e/B000AQ1PQM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1500081359&sr=8-1
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/david.gerrold?ref=br_rs
Website: d.gerrold@gmail.com



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A Method For Madness Preview Chapters (CHTORR!)
A Mild Case of Death (short story)
Actual Comments from Lunar Tourists (vignette)
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Chester (novelette)
Crystallization (short story about the ultimate traffic gridlock)
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Night Train To Paris (short story) (Bram Stoker Award Winner)
Nowhere Man (novella) (high school revenge)
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The Great Pan-American Airship Mystery or Why I Murdered Robert Benchley (short story) (Deco-Punk)
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The Kennedy Enterprise (short story) (What if JFK had gone to Hollywood?)
The Martian Child (novelette) (Hugo, Nebula, Locus award winner) (Sturgeon award finalist)
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The Quotebook of Solomon Short (2015 Collection)
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Nightsiders (unproduced vampire script)
Uncle Daddy Will Not Be Invited (script of the play)

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David Gerrold reads The Martian Chlid novelette
David Gerrold at Irvine Library, recorded live.

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Gerrold on road trips, food, and George R.R. Martin
Gerrold on writing
Gerrold on Worlds of Wonder
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This is a limited offer and may not be available again anytime soon.

Thanks for considering. Thanks in advance for buying.

This is a value easily worth $150 if you bought all these things separately, but we're making it available for only $45, plus $5 for shipping/handling. Pay by Paypal to d.gerrold@gmail.com. Please include your shipping address, Paypal doesn't always do it automatically.

If you want to pay by check instead, write to d.gerrold@gmail.com.

Thanks again!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Cynic Movie Critic

Baby Driver (2017)
Directed & Written by Edgar Wright
Starring Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, & Kevin Spacey





There's a basic rule in storytelling: All the parts of the story must fit together. If it's a good story, one part leads to another part, and that part to another part, until the final part gives you a complete picture. If it's a bad movie, there are parts in the story that don't belong there, and even if they were removed from the story, the remaining parts would still tell the same tale. Movies with superfluous parts don't necessarily mean they're automatically bad, but it does mean they are not a complete picture. So we can enjoy a lot of the parts and have a good time, but one will most likely forget the story as soon as it is over. The complete picture story can be heard again and again, and with each telling some new meaning can be interpreted, some new combination of the parts can relay an underlying subplot that one didn't catch on the first telling of the story. 

If you watch The Big Bang Theory TV show, you probably know that Amy, Sheldon's girlfriend, pointed out that in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Indiana Jones was a superfluous character, that the movie would have played out the same even if Jones were removed from the movie. This flaw does not make the movie any less enjoyable, and we do go see these movies because we like Indiana Jones and his adventures. Who cares if the story is incomplete and the Jones character is superfluous?! We like the big music score and the action sequences. 

Baby Driver is an incomplete story. From beginning to end, every move of every actor is choreographed to the soundtrack. The soundtrack may as well be a character in the story. It's like watching a fixed fight--with all the audience in on the fix. No one is here to watch a good story. It's all about that soundtrack. Let's see the film description:

Talented getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. After meeting the woman (Lily James) of his dreams, he sees a chance to ditch his shady lifestyle and make a clean break. Coerced into working for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey), Baby must face the music as a doomed heist threatens his life, love and freedom.

Got it? "Personal soundtrack", "face the music". It's a one-note film. Most of the reviews I read commented heavily on the soundtrack and less so on the story, because there really wasn't one. I'd be redundant to call it a "music video", but at one hour fifty-three minutes long, redundancy would be too generous a description. The movie breaks the fourth wall over and again to follow the script of the music score, from restarting a scene to restarting a song. The movie cannot move without the music to direct it. 

The actors, however, know they are competing with a soundtrack for time on the screen, and the better ones manage to upstage the music. Jamie Foxx owns this movie. He's menacing, devious, evil, charismatic, and doesn't waste one word of his lines to cue any music. Jon Hamm manages to carry his likability in his pocket for when he needs it; otherwise, he, too, creates tension from a simple stare or an implied threat. When it's time for him to deliver on his threats, he pushes the music to one side as he remains likable while he's trying to exact his murderous revenge. The lead role (Ansel Elgort) is that one-note performance I mentioned. This part would have been Oscar material in the hands of a young Leonardo DiCaprio or Johnny Depp. But in Ansel's hands, his IPod steals his scenes. One of his best scenes is the foot chase choreographed to Hocus Pocus by the band Focus. But are we cheering for the hero or the song? In my case, I was yodeling along to the music.

The audience I saw the movie with oohed and aahed everytime Elgort took off or put on his sunglasses. And this crowd couldn't tell the difference between 50s, 60s, 70s or any decade's music. No one even laughed when Baby mispronounces the band's name as Trex (T-Rex). This was not a movie-going crowd there for the depth of the story, but for the best music system to see the latest soundtrack in film. I'm sorry, I meant "hear", not "see". Or did I? The soundtrack played in super-duper LFX, Dolby Atmos. Which means it was loud and the screen was real wide. It was one of those theaters where you choose your seat, but no one pays attention to assigned seating once you're inside and grabs the best seats. Or maybe it was just me. Anyway, sit in the middle to centralize the stereo effect. 

So that's the best advice I can give you. As I said, there are parts in the movie that are superfluous, but who cares, right? So what if Spacey says in one scene that he never uses the same crew twice, but the same driver in the last ten robberies. Then in the next scene, we see the same crew from the last job and Spacey in a fit of anger calls on his cell phone for a new driver. Yeah, there's a whole bunch of scenes like that. Bad continuity. But hell, Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 97% approval rating, so what do I know? Oh, yeah, one more thing. Jon Bernthal (Punisher, Walking Dead) gets top billing but appears in an opening scene that sets up a big showdown. Then he disappears for the rest of the movie. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the role Jamie Foxx took over after Bernthal left. But what do I know? 

Cynic Recommendation: Who you gonna believe, me or Rotten Tomatoes? Losers.    

Sunday, March 19, 2017





Dommin
The Best Band You've Never Heard


by Anthony Servante



On January 21, 2012, I saw Nightwish in concert at the Gibson Amphitheater. Opening the show was a band called Dommin. It was love at first hear. The group had a sound that echoed the Rock and Roll purity of the 50s mixed with the Progressive Rock drive of the 70s. The fact that this was a Millennial band blew my mind. The songs soared. The melodies were edgy and catchy, a pleasant contradiction. The vocals chewed on the tough lyrics and spat them out with the swagger of a broken-hearted hit man. The guitar work thundered and lightninged. There was unity in the music. The band played as one. The music and the musicians were inseparable. I was on my feet for every song. I knew this band was on the cusp of leading Rock and Roll into a new century. 


Dommin at the Gibson Amphitheater 2012


Dommin at the Viper Room in Los Angeles



At home, I purchased "Love is Gone", Dommin's first LP. The songs were perfect renditions of the live music (or vice versa, if you like). The selection played out like an extended piece of songwriting. Like classic LPs Supertramp's "Crime of the Century" or King Crimson's "In the Court of the Crimson King", "Love is Gone" could be listened to from beginning to end as if it were one song with classical transitions. It's hard to imagine this LP without any one song omitted. It is whole as is.





"My Heart, Your Hands" (The band's recommendation).


"New" (My personal favorite).


Needless to say, I couldn't wait for their second LP. Man, it was a long wait. Three years later, Dommin released "Rise". The 50s innocence of the band's sound evolved into a more driving beat with a stronger sense of urgency. Whereas the first LP brought love's cruelty and kindness to the surface, the second LP strove for redemption at the cost of love. These songs do not present a unified whole; each song presents its own message as a standalone anthem. Listeners may be tempted to rearrange the order of the songs to greater effect, but I strongly suggest you listen to the LP as is a few times. There is a subtle momentum not found in the first LP, but it's there and the crescendo builds from each of these songs to maximum effect. Although the urgency may seem overblown, the totality of the experience attained from the group of songs as a whole still packs power that seems more explosive with each listening. 





"The Girls" (The band's recommendation).


"Rise" (My personal favorite).


By Dommin's third LP, "Beautiful Crutch", the band seems to have found their voice. Bringing together the best of both the first and second LPs, the timeless Rock and Roll beat and the relentless drive of immediacy, Dommin has nailed the direction of their sound's evolution. They owned it on the first LP and searched for it in the second LP; now they have found the right combination that keeps the Rock and Roll sharp, whether it's in the 50's or the new Millennium. It's both a return to the greatness of simplicity while amplifying the beat that maintained a subtle momentum that roared louder with each listening. In "Beautiful Crutch", does not come full circle. Forget that. It incorporates the first two great LPs into a new and evolving sound. Each song stands alone in its own rich music, while the total group of songs create a complex unit that, once again, sounds like one long song with a thematic unification that grows richer with each listening. 




"Desire" (The band's recommendation).


"Madly" (My personal favorite).


Note: With the passing of Lemmy, Motorhead's manager continues to represent the interests of the two remaining members of Motorhead in addition to one other band. The manager and I talked about his seeking new talent since he knew I was always writing and following new bands on the Rock scene. Needless to say, I have forwarded Dommin's contact information to him and expect some news any day now. I will keep my readers up to date on any developments. I believe that Dommin's desire to tour their new LP and my manager friend's desire to feel the void left by the great Lemmy might lead to some great Rock and Roll shows in the near future. 


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Women in Horror 
March 2017
Profile: Jaime Johnesee


    

1. Your biography?

JJ: I’m just a regular ol’ author beating out stories on the keyboard like the rest of the writing monkeys on this planet. I’m probably known best for my horror comedy series featuring Bob the Zombie. I prefer to write short fiction and I am currently working on several short stories for various anthologies I’m excited about. I am also working on the third novel in my Samantha Reece Mystery series and the first in a new series that is attached to Bob.

2. What are the challenges/rewards you face writing horror?

JJ: Well, there have been so many amazing things about working in this genre that I’m having a difficult time narrowing it to just a few, but I did it anyway.

Here are the rewards that stick out the most; the friends I have made and how much it helps me personally. Firstly, the people in the horror genre are some of the friendliest and most compassionate people I’ve ever met and the friends I have made here are ones that I hope last my lifetime.

As for helping me personally, it serves to exorcise (or occasionally exercise) my demons. Horror allows me to come face to face with my dark side and decide where to go with it. That is also where the challenge in writing horror lies for me, how deep do I go? Do I let everyone see that darkness that is so personal?

3. What does the future look like for women writers in general?

JJ: I think the future is bright for women in all manner of career. I think that as time goes on society at large continues to equalize and grow. What we all need to keep in mind is that equality is good for everyone.

4. Your work?

JJ: Well, I have my Bob the Zombie series. (I recommend The Misadventures of Bob the Zombie if you’re just getting started.) There is also my Samantha Reece Mystery series.






(Shifters is the first book in the series, Risk is the second.) I also coauthored a series that I adore with Lisa Lane and Christine Sutton titled Revelations.




The Misadventures of Bob the Zombie




"Bob is an ordinary guy. He likes classic rock, a good party, and tacos. It's too bad that he is dead. Well, technically speaking, Bob is undead. After an accident claimed his life his mother couldn't bear to bury him. A quick call to a necromancer fixed that problem and, voila…he was reborn!

Armed with a quick wit, a sharp intellect, some good friends, and his trusty stapler, Bob embarks on some crazy adventures that will make you laugh, make you cringe, and --most importantly-- make you cheer for Bob to have a happy ending."

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Misadventures-Bob-Zombie-Jaime-Johnesee-ebook/dp/B00PDDRI6I/

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Misadventures-Bob-Zombie-Jaime-Johnesee-ebook/dp/B00PDDRI6I/

Shifters:

"When a serial killer begins leaving remains of victims in hotel bathtubs all over town FBI Agent Samantha Reece makes it her business to stop him.

This detective's got an ace up her sleeve in the form of her ability to shift into the guise of a were panther. As she tracks down the cold-hearted murderer she also has to contend with an anti-shifter group determined to destroy her.

Not to mention the black jaguar who turned her decides to come sauntering back into her life."

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Shifters-Samantha-Reece-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B01B3KW9AE/

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shifters-Samantha-Reece-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B01B3KW9AE/

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shifters-jaime-johnesee/1123510599?ean=2940152914788

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/621426

Risk:

"Neck-deep in the hunt for members of Americans for a Were-Free America, Sam discovers she's not the only one on the prowl.

The horrific crime scenes the FBI stumble across tell Sam that whatever is pursuing her enemy is more vicious and cold than even this most extreme of hate groups.

Forced to protect the very people responsible for training murderers, like the infamous Grisly, Sam uncovers a nefarious plot wherein AWFA has been trafficking shifters and vamps into the sex-slave trade.

Can she save the very people crying out for her blood?

It's a risk she's willing to take."

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Risk-Samantha-Reece-Mystery-Shifters-ebook/dp/B01LWRD3NJ/

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Risk-Samantha-Reece-Mystery-Shifters-ebook/dp/B01LWRD3NJ/

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/risk-jaime-johnesee/1124805567?ean=2940153770925

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/669605

Revelations Series Books 1-3:

"Book 1: Cast In Blood: An unknown force threatens Heaven and Hell, along with every soul on Earth. Three unlikely heroes join together to restore universal balance. Will their shared adversary initiate an Apocalypse before they're able to uncover the truth, or will they rise to a calling that has, from the beginning of time, been Cast in Blood?

Book 2: Cast In Fire: Chaos has taken over, wreaking havoc not only across the globe but also throughout Heaven and Hell. The next apocalyptic seals have been breached, and the leaders of the ethereal realms are paying the price. With tensions high and defenses at an all-time low, Polly, Lenny, and Drew continue to hunt down the evil behind it all. Millennia-old secrets rise to the surface, testing friendships and pushing loyalties to their breaking points. With the clock ticking and uncertainty in the air, will enough time remain to unravel a curse that the darkest of forces have Cast in Fire?

Book 3: Cast In Shadow: The final seals of the apocalypse are within the enemy’s grasp. Our trio—the demon, the shapeshifter, and the succubus—continue to battle the djinn hell-bent on world domination. With God and Lucifer missing, Heaven and Hell are more vulnerable than ever, while Earth has been reduced to a battleground of famine and despair. Will Lenny, Drew and Polly be able to unmask the Master and stop their evil plan? Or will the djinn succeed and our heroes find that their world has been forever Cast in Shadow?"

Revelations Box Set (Books 1-3 Available on Amazon only)

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Revelations-Books-1-3-Box-Set-ebook/dp/B01D9C1DEW/

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Revelations-Books-1-3-Box-Set-ebook/dp/B01D9C1DEW/

Single books:

Cast in Blood (Revelations Book 1)

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Cast-Blood-Revelations-Book-1-ebook/dp/B0117VK5JQ/

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cast-Blood-Revelations-Book-1-ebook/dp/B0117VK5JQ/

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/revelations-christine-sutton/1122370602?ean=9781515379577

Cast in Fire (Revelations Book 2)

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Cast-fire-Revelations-Book-2-ebook/dp/B013F9P0HK/

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cast-fire-Revelations-Book-2-ebook/dp/B013F9P0HK/

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/revelations-jaime-johnesee/1122841789?ean=9781518684586

Cast in Shadow (Revelations Book 3)

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Cast-Shadow-Revelations-Book-3-ebook/dp/B01B3JOSV8/

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cast-Shadow-Revelations-Book-3-ebook/dp/B01B3JOSV8/

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/revelations-lisa-lane/1123541499?ean=9781530384839