Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

Fooled again

Why did I think that the new big-budget Tom Cruise sci-fi joint wouldn’t suck?  I feel like that guy who keeps getting involved with women he meets in bars just before closing time.  Four months later, you’re sifting through your email contact list trying to find someone with a couch you can crash on while you cancel all your credit cards and change your cell number.

Some random observations, plus and minus,  about my experience with this fine, cinematic adventure.  No spoilers — you can’t spoil chicken  that’s already been left under a radiator for three weeks.

+ both utterly incoherent and laughably predictable

– both utterly incoherent and laughably predictable

+ robot voice gets conveniently high and distorted so you know it’s angry

+ nice eye candy

+ cool borderline personality killer drones

+ it’s so nice of Hollywood to give people who have never written (or apparently read) science fiction before a chance at penning the next blockbuster

+ Saw it at the Solano Drive-In

– Was at the Solano Drive-In watching this and not a double of Caged Heat and Black Dynamite

– I gotta say, Laurence Fishburne is a better science fiction black dude than Morgan Freeman.  Sorry, Morgan.

+ Better than Prometheus

– Not much better than Prometheus





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Say hello to The Newcomers

They are Dante Ryan, David Marcus, Jackson Kinder.  Aside from the great, original music, and the fact that one of them is my son, it is worthy of note that these guys are 14 & 15 years old.  Yeah, that’s right.  Here is their FB page


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Thanks, Lauren.  Some good ones here, many of which I have owned.  Definitely not the 65 best SF books.  “The Day They H-Bombed Los Angeles”  sucked so bad I wanted to hang  onto it as a Platonic  counterexample of “good,” but it got shuffled out of the deck on one or another house move.

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Interesting cover of the Iggy anthem.  Almost too clean and restrained, but oddly appealing.

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Friday, March 30

3:00 – 4:15 Apple Pie, Rayguns, and Galactic Overlords

Salon B/C

Tropes encode vast bits of narrative, bringing up memories of other things we’ve read and seen and relieving the author of some of the burden of exposition. How does this work? Where do tropes come from? What is their lifecycle? (That is, how do they segue from cognitive triggers and narrative support elements to tedious vehicles for cliché?) Can we catalog tropes? What is the, uh, scope of a trope? (Sorry.) Do scopes map nicely to subgenres?

Moderator: Daniel Starr

Panelists: Naamen Tilahun, Daniel Marcus, Valerie Frankel

At 8 PM, there is something called ConTention, which I gather is a gloves-off genre argument mosh pit.  I’m inclined to show up and raise the old Cold Equations dust-up.  Is it a sad cautionary  tale about the immutability of  physical law on the harsh frontier, or a misogynist sham that uses pseudo-science and bogus sentimentality to rationalize the murder of innocence?  Or I might just go home after my panel and watch Tivoed American Idol.

Saturday, March 31

I will be around in the evening, most likely at Karaoke in Salon B/C after 9:30 PM.

Sunday, April 1

1:30 – 2:45 PM, Readings: Daniel Marcus, David Levine, Chaz Brenchley

Santa Rosa

At some point I will be also signing books at the Other Change of Hobbit tables but I’m not sure when.

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I was more than a little dismayed at the buildup to this.  There seemed to be no cohesion to the promotional campaign, no connection to the source material.  Still, I had to check it out, hoping that the movie would not be as bad as the marketing portended.  I inhaled all of ERB when I was a kid — Tarzan, Pellucidar, even the forgettable Venus books.  But my favorite of the whole hackneyed, stilted, racist Burroughs catalog was the John Carter adventures on Barsoom. Their delerious abandonment of logic and focused devotion to spectacle  formed the core of how I experience genre and how I view tropes in my own writing.  They were lame and dumb in many ways, but they had a coherent center, a grammar of images, a freakish integrity that few series have equaled.

I was relieved to find that John Carter of Hollywood didn’t suck much.  Plenty of gosh-wow eye candy, a clear fondness for the source material that wasn’t entirely killed by Disnification, and a nice performance by Kitsch.  I wish I could say his name without a snide chuckle. You’d think the Powers in charge of a quarter-billion dollar budget for a glam-sodden fantasy epic would find a leading dude with a name other than Kitsch. Convenient for the merchandising, I suppose — item and category!  But why do The Onion’s heavy lifting for them? And I couldn’t look at the guy without picturing some newly unemployed studio exec mumbling into his beer: “We wanted Depp but we blew out our budget on SFX.”  Still, he did a fine job and he looks pretty good in weird, skimpy Mars gear. More than good, actually — he looks like he walked right out of a Frazetta painting.  Not that Dejah Thoris seemed to notice or care.  Carter had more onscreen chemistry with his Mars-dog than he did with the Princess.

It’s really easy to snark out at this movie — there is plenty of low-hanging fruit.  But, bottom line, I had a pretty good time. It did resonate, albeit weakly, with the many hours I spent as a kid geeking out with the Ballantine paperbacks with the cheesy lurid covers while normal kids were out playing baseball.  So what if it bore an uncomfortable resemblance at times to The Phantom Menace? At least it didn’t have that horrible child; Carter’s worst moments were better than Phantom’s best.

Maybe it’s time to let the Burroughs catalog slide into the dustbin of history. Kids coming up today have their own escapist destinations, and unlike some older folks, I don’t think mine are any better than theirs.  They’re just mine. Barsoom is mine.  I lived there, for a time, in three hour chunks on weekend afternoons and late nights after the rest of my family was sound asleep.  It’s part of who I am, and doomed, bloated, and goofy as this movie was, it knew me.

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Courtesy of John Shirley.  Thanks, John.

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