Wednesday, December 27, 2017

You're Not Special!!!!!

It's finally here! My very first picture book is now available on Amazon
You're Not Special is a watercolor-illustrated picture book that talks directly to its readers, telling them that it's okay to be normal. Living in a post-millennial, everybody-gets-a-trophy world, I feel like this story is of vital importance to the next generation.
It's also pretty funny.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday the 13th

Okay. So it's Friday, but it's not quite the 13th anymore. Still, if you're in the mood for something spooky, check out my article spoofing the truly wonderful Friday the 13th sequels of the 80s and 90s. If you're not a horror fan, you might not get all the jokes, but give it a try anyway. It doesn't look like we're getting another Friday sequel for a long, long time, so a snarky online article is probably the next best thing.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Grandma Jokes

My second supremely tacky article for Ego Baby Magazine is out now! This one is called "My 102-Year-Old Grandma Is Really Good at Meditation." From the title, you can probably guess how this one ends. Check it out. It's pretty offensive! (But in a good way. At least that's what I tell myself.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Cartoon Ghosts

EgoBaby Magazine is a very strange publication. It's a comedy site that focuses on spirituality and new age topics. It's also quite funny.

My first featured article is a supremely tacky and culturally insensitive look at Casper the Friendly Ghost. It's probably best if you don't read it. You will probably be offended. But if you do read it, don't say I didn't warn you!

Friday, December 15, 2017

My New Art Blog

For those who don't know, I also draw. A lot. So much, in fact, that I wanted to start a weekly art blog. Check it out HERE.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christmas Movie Time!

'Tis the season to watch some brain-numbing holiday entertainment. Maybe some Home Alone. Perhaps something with the Muppets. Maybe one of those Rankin/Bass stop-motion numbers.

If you need some help, though, check out my list of the nine best holiday movies to watch with your family. You'll thank me in the morning.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Oh, Look! Dancing, Naked Monks!

A few weeks ago, I experienced the world famous Naked Monk Dance, which happens every year right in my valley. It's a truly one-of-a-kind festival. It's also pretty much exactly what you'd expect from the name.

Head on over to Indie Travel Podcast to check out my complete rundown of the experience, including tips and tricks to make your trip as fun as possible. (Spoiler alert: Do NOT take pictures.)

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Worst Werewolf Movies

Have you ever seen Joe Dante's The Howling? It's great, right?

Well, have you ever seen any of its sequels? They are not great. Trust me. From exploding dwarf eyeballs to spooky line-dancing, there's a whole bunch of terrible packed into that franchise. Don't trust me? Then check out my comprehensive guide to The Howling sequels.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Happy Death Day!

Another month, another horror movie review. This time, I saw the (quite good) horror-comedy  Happy Death Day. Anyone who has seen Groundhog Day (or, more accurately, The Deaths of Ian Stone) will notice a lot of familiar ideas told in surprising new ways.
After watching the film, I was honestly conflicted. And I think my mixed feelings come across in the review, which is a bit more soul-searchy than my usual. Check it out.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The NIGHT Is Here!

This is it, everybody! The big day!

After all the support I've gotten the last few days, the book is finally ready for download.

One Night in Zanzibar is available wherever you download ebooks in whichever country you currently reside. It's everywhere!

And if you like it, please check out the other books in the City Nights series. Some are more action-packed. Some are more explicit. But all of them have the sort of steamy, tension-filled romances with plenty of twists and turns on the way to the happily ever afters.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Monkeys Everywhere!

Do you want to hear the story of my trip to Jozani National Park in Zanzibar? Do you want to know about the time a monkey jumped on my shoulder and totally freaked me out? You do?

Well, check out Responsibly Irresponsible for the whole primate saga.

And if you still want to read more about Zanzibar, the new book comes out in five days!!!!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy the family! Don't get too political!

Memories from a Zanzibar Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I've been to Africa. Did you know that?

Want a bit more comedy in your life? 
Then head over to PiC for another snarky article. This one is all about my time in Africa, which was totally real and not at all made up.
And if you want to read my BOOK about Africa, you can do that, too. Just saying.

Good times.

One Week to Zanzibar

The clock is ticking! One Night in Zanzibar comes out in one week! That means you have exactly seven days to preorder the ebook for only 99 cents. After that, it’ll be available at its regular price of $2.99.
How am I feeling right now? Excited. Nervous. A bit curious. This is my first erotic romance, and I’m waiting to see how my readers react.
I’m also very grateful to everyone at Tirgearr. Out of all the publishers I’ve worked with, these ladies were the most hands-on (and the most unceasingly positive). Once the clock strikes midnight on November 29, though, the book is out of our hands and into yours.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Finding Happiness and Creativity

Zanzibar is my favorite place in the world. I lived there for two years and had the time of my life. I've been grabbed by monkeys, stung by some jelly thing, gotten more sunburns that humanly possible, and met some of the coolest people in the world.
You should visit. Right now, actually. Go there right now. You won't regret it.
If you're still hesitant,  though, check out my guest article on Happiness-Creativity-&-Kindness to see the many reasons why Zanzibar is such a cool place to visit. (Spoiler alert: I only scratched the surface of all the big reasons you should go.)
And if you're still-STILL not convinced, there's always my new book, One Night in Zanzibar, which comes out in exactly one week. Just saying...

Monday, November 20, 2017

Creepy Kids... Another Horror Short

"My dog died in the morning. I cried, but Mom cried more than me."
That's the beginning of my horror short "Jonesy," a tale of violence and danger told from the point of view of a very peculiar child.
I just found out that this story is now up on Uprising Review. Check it out (for free).
And if this story sounds familiar to you, it's an updated version of my very first published story, which was accepted by the late, great Niteblade Magazine many moons ago.
I had a blast revisiting and updating the story, and I'm really excited to share it with you guys!

How to Survive a Russian Summer

Mushroom picking. Surprise goats. Tiny Russian children reenacting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze.
I had some truly awesome experiences in Russia, and I was lucky enough to do a guest post for Privet-Russia to talk about my experiences there. Spoiler alert: it was insanely stressful, and also one of the coolest jobs I’ve ever had.
Hop on over to Privet-Russia for a bunch of other articles about travel in Russia. It’s a fun site with tons of helpful tips.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

City Nights

As many of you know, my new ebook is part of the long-running City Nights series from Tirgearr Publishing. Each book in the series centers on a single, fast-paced romance in a different international city. Everywhere from Budapest to Boston is represented. And, by the end of this month, you can add Zanzibar to the list.
It's been a real pleasure to be a part of this series, because it combines two of my favorite things (traveling and romance), but it does so with a lot more variety than you'd expect.
You want some stranded-in-a-storm sexual tension? Go to Cape Town.
You want some love with a side of murder mystery? Drive to Boise.
And if you want some bachelor/bachelorette party shenanigans that go totally out of hand? Fly over to Amsterdam.
There are 32 books in the series, soon to be 33, and I love how each one is a totally different take on some classic romance tropes.
So how does mine fit into the rest of the series? First of all, Zanzibar offers a unique blend of tropical and urban. The story extends from a secluded beach to a bustling maze of city streets. Most importantly, though, it captures a real sense of running-for-your-life danger at every turn.
You'll see what I mean when it comes out on November 29.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Craigslist Ad

Wanted: A Young, Female Assistant for Totally Normal Stuff

This is perhaps the darkest comedy article I've ever written (give or take a "wounded grandma" story). The point is, Craigslist is pretty creepy, is all I'm saying.

And as always, don't be offended. Or, if you are offended, email me and I'll get back to you with a nice, passive-aggressive response.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Introducing... One Night in Zanzibar!

On the run and fearing for her life, Lucy finds herself on Zanzibar, a small bit of paradise off the coast of Tanzania. She isn't worried about romance, only protection. But when she meets a mysterious local, she gives in to the siren's call of the island.
For one unforgettable night, Lucy experiences all the passion and excitement that she's been hiding from. This stranger, though, is more than he seems, and soon Lucy's troubled past will catch up with her.
That’s the big hook for One Night in Zanzibar, my brand new erotic romance from Tirgearr Press. In this book, I’ve mixed a bit of romance and a bit of adventure into a setting that is near and dear to my heart. For anyone who’s been to the East African island, there are plenty of places that you’ll find familiar.
Probably my favorite scene in the book takes place on the tiny sandbank just off the coast of Stone Town. It’s a great setting for when things really start to heat up, and it’s also the site for some of my all-time favorite memories from back when I lived in Zanzibar. 
So what exactly happens on the sandbank. I guess you’ll have to download the ebook and find out!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Join the Cult!

Do you love Chucky as much as I do? Probably not. I have this weird obsession with the red-haired killer doll. Maybe he reminds me of my childhood self. Who knows?
The point is, the Child's Play franchise is such a fun time at the movies, and the newest installment (Cult of Chucky) is one of the best. It takes the series in a new direction while paying tribute to the previous six movies. It's a blast. (And the death scenes... really memorable.)
If you're interested in checking the new movie out, I've written a primer for the previous movies in the series. Just read this short article over at Horror Homeroom, and you'll be all caught up and ready to join the Cult.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

While You Were Sleeping

I love romcoms. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching a well-made romance about two completely different people who are pushed together in funny and exciting ways. These movies can have the hometown charm of Sweet Home Alabama or the quirky Britishness of Notting Hill or the satisfying snark of The Wedding Singer.

I’ve written a couple romance novels in the last couple years, and I feel like each one captures a slightly different romcom flavor. One of my earlier books—Waking Up to Love—has that American, wacky-side-characters, boy-next-door thing going for it. There’s also a coma central to the plot, and a plucky Sandra Bullock-type heroine. She won’t let anyone push her around, but she also isn’t the most put-together heroine on the block.

When I was asked to include this novel in Simon and Schuster’s new Hollywood Kisses anthology, I wasn’t surprised that my book would fit into the While You Were Sleeping slot. The plots have some definite similarities, but beyond that, the tone is basically the same. So if you catch yourself going back to the 90s cult classic, then you should probably check out the anthology.

And if coma comedies aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other romcoms represented in the anthology. That’s what so great about our genre. There’s a little bit of something for everyone.

(This is a Korean soap opera, also with the name "While You Were Sleeping."
I haven't watched it (and I don't speak Korean, but it looks like a trip.)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Playland! Come out and play!

You and your best friend go to an abandoned amusement park. Your relationship is strained, and this is a last-ditch effort to bond over a place that holds a lot of good memories for both of you. And then a clown statue comes alive and attacks.

That's the set-up for "Playland," my new horror short about growing up, growing apart, and getting murdered. It's funny. It's poignant. And it's really, really scary.
"Playland" is the first story in a brand new anthology from Ink Stains. I'm really proud of this one, but it's not the only reason to check out the antho. There are many more stories that are equally frightening and eerie and tense.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Vampire Comedy

"Accidental Slayage" is a horror comedy about a normal guy who accidentally kills the ancient lord of the vampires. It's a bit Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a bit Mr. Magoo.

It's also FREE!

"Accidental Slayage" is one of the short stories to be featured in the latest Sirens Call Magazine. This one is all about honoring the classic movie monsters (though most of the other stories take the monsters much more seriously than mine does).

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Happy Death Day!

Ready for some FREE flash fiction? Check out my new story "Hello, Death! It's a Pleasure!" It's short, morbid, and has a neat twist ending.

Art by Amanda Bergloff
This is my first collaboration with Fairy Tale Magazine, and they've been awesome! Check them out if you're ever in the mood for some revisionist fairy tales with modern sensibilities.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Silent Film Lovers

I have a new article up on Points In Case (everyone's third favorite comedy site). It's title: "How Silent Films Taught Me to Be a Better Lover." I think that's all I'm going to say. Otherwise, I'll ruin the punchline.

Check it out here.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Silver Screen Flirtation

I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be a regular contributor to Silent Film Archives, which is an awesome database for silent films from all over the world. From German expressionist horror to British melodramas to good ol’ American Westerns, the website is a treasure trove. It’s full of information, links, advice, and all sorts of good stuff from classic Hollywood and beyond.
As a member of a generation that, for the most part, refuses to watch older movies, I really hope my work with SFA will help expose a younger crowd to silent films. Honestly, there are plenty of barriers to entry for a lot of millennials, so I really hope I can make things as easy as possible. As often as I can, I’ll be posting recommendations and advice for newbies, people who might want to check out older films but don’t know where to start.

So check out what we've got so far. This'll only expand and become more exciting in the next few months.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sunday, September 3, 2017

IT's Beginning to Look a Lot Like IT-mas

Sorry about the title. I’m in a weird mood, apparently.
Anyway, I’m posting this in honor of the new Stephen King adaptation that just floated into theaters. (And seriously, marketing people: Stop trying to make “float” happen.)
Not everyone is going to make it out to the cinema to watch a clown yank children through storm drains. That’s okay. Child murder isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If you’re not interested in this year’s IT, why not check out a previous movie called IT. This one is from 1927, and I can tell you right now, it has a lot less child murder in it.
IT is an early rom-com starring Clara Bow, an actress forever remembered as “the IT Girl.” Bow (and IT) is about as adorable as possible. Bow is like Zooey Deschanel from a hundred years ago, and this movie (which was almost lost forever until a print was discovered in the 60s), is Bow at her best.
Over at Silent Movie Archives, I’ve compiled a (slightly tongue-in-cheek) list of all the differences between Killer-Clown ITand Shopgirl-in-Love IT.
  Check IT out.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Reunion Etiquette

Here's another wildly tacky article I wrote for Points in Case. It's about that awkward moment when you see an old friend and have literally nothing to say. The older I get, the more this happens to me, and it's never fun.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Grandmas Break Easily: Another Traumatizing Life Lesson

(A wonderful public domain photo of a "grandmother")

Over at Points in Case, I’ve been submitting increasingly tacky articles that may or may not (but most likely may) offend you. I did one on the after-effects of getting robbed, and how it can totally make you racist. I did another one on coping with the death of an acquaintance, which... well. I'll let that one speak for itself.

And now, I have a new article, and it’s all about when old people have jarring physical accidents right in front of their emotionally scarred grandchildren. Everyone’s experienced it, and it’s never not horrifying. Like I said, these articles are quite tacky.

Points in Case, a website that allows me to get away with pretty much anything. I shudder to think what my next article will be.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Welcome to Facebook

For those of you who don't know, I've finally set up a Facebook author page! Tell your friends!

This photo is my pre-cropped author photo. Nice, eh? That's me sitting at the edge of my school in Bhutan. The big building in the background is called a zhong, which is basically the Bhutanese version of a castle. I've been inside there once (it's mostly government offices), and the place made me feel like a real Igor.

Anyway, I wanted to share this photo and say... come on over to Facebook. I'm sure I'll be as up-to-date there as I am here. (In short: not very.) We'll see.

Happy summer!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


Hello, everybody! I wanted to give a quick travel update to let everyone know that I'm safe, sound(ish), and connected to wifi. Right now, I'm on summer vacation, so I'll be trekking through Bhutan and Nepal for a bit.

I've been in Bhutan for almost six months now, which has truly flown by. I've made a lot of new friends there, but I haven't taken nearly enough pictures. Here's one...

And here's one...

And here's one...

As you can see, I have the near pathological need to open my mouth and make these awful bug-eyed fish-faces every time I see a camera. It's a sickness, really.

I'll try to take more photos in the next six months, and I'll try even harder to close my stupid mouth when the camera is on. Seriously. I mean it this time. I'm in a 12 step program and everything.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

BABE: PIG IN THE CITY: A Talking Pig Masterpiece

With Mad Max: Fury Road, seventy-something director George Miller has enjoyed a well-deserved career revival. His newest movie, several decades in the making, is the work of a visionary, a wild blur of visuals and ideas that mixes high art with grindhouse trash. Unless I’m drastically misremembering Driving Miss Daisy, I’m pretty sure Fury Road is the only best picture Oscar nominee with robot arms, post-apocalyptic nightmare-scapes, and guitars that spew fire.
Because of the critical and commercial success of Fury Road, a lot of people have revisited Miller’s original Mad Max trilogy. And even if you have a low tolerance for Tina Turner’s weird lip-acting, you have to admit that those movies have aged surprisingly well. The effects are good, the acting is strange, and the plots move along with fury.
It’s a shame, then, that Miller’s non-Max films haven’t had the same surge in popularity. Barring Lorenzo’s Oil (which is what it is), the rest of his directorial output is feverish and awesome. The Happy Feet movies use dancing penguins to surprisingly subversive ends. The Witches of Eastwick is a cute diorama of a small town with Jack Nicholson bouncing off of every surface. Even his segment in the Twilight Zone movie is delightfully batty. (“There’s something on the wing of the plaaaane!”)
That leaves one more movie in Miller’s ouevre, and I’d like to argue that it is his masterpiece. It’s a talking pig movie with senile clowns, balloon pants, and opera-singing rats. It will also make grown men sob like babies. I’m of course talking about Babe: Pig in the City.
No offense to the original Babe, the Oscar-nominated smash hit that Miller wrote, but Pig in the City is a superior film in every way. Like Fury Road, it offers a consistently thrilling experience, with some of the most striking visuals in cinema. A notorious flop (though Siskel and Ebert both loved it), Pig in the City has grown a small cult of fans, but not nearly as many as it deserves. Here are the five reasons why Babe: Pig in the City is such a masterpiece:
Five. The animal work is amazing.

One of the centerpieces of the film is a chase between the titular pig and two city dogs. The three animals hop over canals and through alleys. They knock over giant piles of rubbish. When the chase starts, the dogs are chained to each other. Through the scene, the dogs get disconnected. One goes free and the other gets hooked to a manual lawn mover. The whole scene is like a Rube Goldberg machine, but with real animals. Every time I watch it, I have no idea how any of this was filmed. By the end of the chase, when one dog is dangling over a bridge and the pig pushes a boat through the water to save him, I’m a sobbing mess of a person: bowled over by the emotions and amazed by the logistics.
The whole movie is like that. Every scene is crammed with animals—dozens of animals, hundreds of animals—and everything works like clockwork. It never stops being emotional, but there’s an underlying layer of awe to everything. If you don’t ask yourself “How did they do that?” at least once during this film, then you’re not paying attention.

Four. There are millions of little nuggets.

Speaking of paying attention, this movie begs for close examination. Rewatch this movie, and you’ll pick up on more and more of the little stuff. I’ll give you one example. There’s a woman who illegally runs a hotel for animals. She clearly loves animals, even though she’s putting herself and her business in jeopardy. She’s also—judging by her stuffed-up voice and red nose—very allergic to them. Now, in a lesser children’s film, she would sneeze comically. Characters would talk about it. In a lesser movie, her allergies would be more obvious. In Pig in the City, you might not even notice she has them. It’s a wonderful bit of character development, and a potent metaphor for her potentially damaging relationship with these pets, and yet it’s never really commented on.
That’s just one example of the thought and care put into this movie. Every time I see it (which is often), I notice some other little thing. Like the wild chases and action scenes, even the quiet moments are designed like clockwork.

Three. The story is a fairy tale.

Like an great fairy tale, Pig in the City has this potent, universal appeal. The story isn’t just about one pig going to one city and experiencing one adventure: it’s about anybody who faces danger and comes out the other side a better, more developed person.
Let’s take a look at the city itself. Twice in the film, Babe looks out of his hotel window at the big, bad city outside. Do you know what he sees? He sees the Hollywood Sign. And the Sydney Opera House. And the Golden Gate Bridge. And at least a dozen other famous landmarks all sandwiched together in a beautiful, ugly hodgepodge. This is not just any city. This is every city. This is the whole idea of a city, and all the dangers and pleasures and complications that that entails. Like the city itself, or the “farm” itself, everything is universal, which makes for a satisfying, emotional experience.

Two. The hero is a gentle idiot.

I can’t overstate the appeal of Babe, the titular hero. He’s a simple pig who has no defining characteristic aside from his “kind and steady heart.” Because he’s so simple, he doesn’t understand why people have to be mean, or why dogs and cats can’t get along. By virtue of being a normal, nice animal, he makes everyone else reevaluate their issues.
Babe is a lot like Forrest Gump. Forrest Gump went from adventure to adventure, making the world a better place just because he was too dumb to accept any of the problems around him. It’s a character type that you don’t see a lot, but it’s one that viewers will instantly sympathize with.

One. There’s a real sense of danger.

The best part about Pig in the City is that there’s a real sense of danger throughout the whole movie. It starts with “the farmer” nearly dying in an accident that Babe causes. It ends with the almost-death of a baby chimpanzee. And throughout the movie there’s a senile clown who dies (of a broken heart, presumably), a dog who nearly drowns, and a handicapped puppy who (temporarily) ascends to Dog Heaven where he can finally walk again. Clearly, this has some dark moments.
And honestly, all great children’s movies do. Bambi’s mother dies. The Huntsman tries to steal Snow White’s heart. Dumbo’s mother sings to him through prison bars. All the classics of children’s cinema have real darkness and real dangers. I believe that children can handle much darker themes than we give them credit for. More than that, I believe that children need to see these darker themes in their entertainment, so that they will be better prepared for life. The overly sanitized, DreamWorks version of children’s entertainment doesn’t allow for real danger and death, and that’s such a shame.

Pig in the City’s true strength is that it’s unafraid to get dark. Then, when our simple hero is able to overcome the obstacles, it’s a powerful experience.

Anyone who loved Fury Road will probably also love Pig in the City. On paper, they seem like polar opposites, but they share a lot of the same strengths: a real sense of danger, constantly changing visual poetry, a hero of few words who gets into increasingly dire situations, a jaw-dropping precision to its action scenes, and a simple story stripped of any extra fat. The biggest difference is that Fury Road was embraced by the world, and Pig in the City was promptly forgotten. Maybe if the pig played a fire-spewing guitar, things would’ve been different.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Hush, Hush, Sweet Spelling

Do you remember Hush, the Gwyneth Paltrow drama about a murderous mother-in-law? What about Hush, the Croatian family drama? Or Hush, the British rip-off of Duel? Or Hush!, the Japanese gay dramedy? Or Hush, the Lifetime movie where someone steals Tori Spelling’s embryos?
All I’m saying is that there’s been a ton of movies called “Hush,” and the only notable one is probably the silent episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I am happy to announce, though, that the new thriller Hush not only makes you forget about Tori Spelling’s purloined embryos, it more-than-earns its place as one of the most thrilling movies of last year.
I'm already white-knuckling it, and this is just the trailer.

Hush is literally a two-hander, following a deaf woman who communicates through sign language as she’s terrorized by a masked man in the middle of the woods. Like the similarly thrilling Don’t Breathe (which follows a killing machine who happens to be blind), this movie uses the main character’s disability in clever ways. She can’t hear the intruder, or people calling for help, or the loud alarm that distracts the bad guy. Her inability to hear is both a blessing and curse in different parts of the film, and it’s interesting to see the filmmakers play with this.
Ever seen this movie? It's great.
And Hush seems like a nice
wenty-first century update.
Katie Siegal plays Maddie, the deaf woman, in a role she co-wrote with her husband, the film’s director, Mike Flanagan (Ouija: Origin of Evil). She wrote herself one hell of a part, communicating entirely via facial expressions (and sign language early on in the film). It’s wonderful to see a main character this badass, especially a woman, especially a deaf woman. (It should be noted that the actress isn’t deaf, but I wouldn’t dare suggest that the film dropped the ball on its casting. She’s just too good.)
The bad guy is played by wholesome-looking Broadway star John Gallagher Jr., who has come a long way since playing a German schoolboy in Spring Awakening. He’s slight and wiry, but can still look and act intimidating. He’s more terrifying before the unmasking, though, but that’s mainly because blank white masks are such major sources of nightmare fuel.
Watch out for William Shatner.
My biggest praise for the film is how well it uses its cabin-in-the-woods location. Early on, the film sets up every room, and then as the drama unfolds, the characters dash from location to location in a clear, understandable way. So many modern movies have a really muddled sense of place. With Hush, there was never any moment when I was confused about where people were. I understood the layout of the house, which only emphasized the tension.
Honestly, Hush doesn’t reinvent the mousetrap. It’s a very basic thriller with one well-drawn character, another character with zero backstory (obviously intentional), and a game of cat and mouse. It’s very simple. And I think that’s why I liked it so much. Hush hit me on a primal level, which is much more than I can say about Tori Spelling and her damn embryo drama.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

FLYING BODY PARTS: My Experience with Chinese Theaters

Living in China is an eye-opening experience. It’s frustrating and crazy, but it’s also a really, really fun time. The people are friendly and welcoming, the food is amazing, and—as long as you don’t name-drop Taiwan, Tibet, or Tiananmen Square—everything is safe. I lived there for three years, and one of my favorite experiences was going to the local theaters.
Now, thanks to globalization (and the fact that China is the most money-obsessed communist country around), giant multiplexes have sprung up all over the country. If you want to see the latest Iron Man sequel, you can check out some 3D glasses and enjoy the whole IMAX experience with hundreds of other screaming movie fans. It’s a lot like American theaters, except people don’t laugh at the same jokes.
IMAX is awesome, of course, but there’s something extra special about the mom-and-pop theaters that spring up in rural areas. You see, because of lax bootlegging laws, small towns in China will probably have at least one independent cinema. Here’s how they work:
1)      There are no set times, so you can just go in whenever you want.
2)      At the snack bar, you can get flavored popcorn (mostly strawberry-flavored, never with butter), sodas, and teas.
3)      There’s a big book of bootleg DVDs at the front counter. Usually, the movies are at least three months old. You pick something that looks interesting.
4)      The clerk ushers you into a small side room where a computer projects the movie on the wall. Sometimes the chairs are plastic. Sometimes, they are equipped with “5D technology,” which means they shake.
5)      You leave the theater and promise to come back again.
It might sound low-rent, but watching movies in an independent Chinese theater is a blast. Take, for example, my experience watching My Bloody Valentine 3D. Now, this movie is a gory, fast-paced 3D extravaganza. Body parts fly at the screen at regular intervals. And aside from a nonsensical climax, the whole thing is wildly entertaining.
In three glorious dimensions!
Now, picture yourself in a cheesy plastic chair with a metal bar across the front. Whenever someone gets murdered, the chair shakes like a crazy person. Sometimes air will blast at your feet. You’re sitting next to an elderly Chinese man who apparently had no idea what movie he was about to watch. He’s busy laughing at all the gory stuff. The two seats in front of you are reserved for your coworkers, a Ukrainian couple that keeps making out. Loudly.
And when the movie finally ends, you have no idea what just happened. It felt like that creepy boat ride scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Oh, and you ate popcorn that tasted like strawberries.
I'm still woozy from that scene.
That’s pretty much the Chinese movie experience in a nutshell. While I went to lots of English-language movies when I lived there, my favorites were always the crazy horror movies. Final Destination 5, for example. Shark Night 3D. Those were the best movies to watch because the seats moved, the popcorn flowed, and there was always one elderly person who wandered into the theater without any idea what was going on.
Unfortunately, these movie houses are dying out. The government has cracked down and the Chinese audiences are opting for the big IMAX experience over the crappy projector-on-the-wall one. Nowadays, everything is so expensive and homogenized and… well, legal. The bootleg movie houses weren’t paying for their films, so no money was going back to the filmmakers. At least now, the right people are getting compensated for their hard work. Still, though, I’ll be sad when all these mini-theaters close down.
I’ll always remember the times I spent in a dark room, surrounded by laughing strangers, watching blurry jawbones fly at my head as my chair spun in circles.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

My Experience with Turkish Horror

Have you ever seen a Turkish film? Well, considering that Baskin is only the eighth Turkish film officially released in America, signs point to no. Before writing this review, I asked my friends if they’d ever seen anything Turkish. All of them said no, except for the three glorious weirdos who purposely sat through Turkish Star Wars on grainy VHS. That should tell you something about the state of Turkish cinema, or at least America’s awareness of Turkish cinema.

My friends sure know how to pick 'em.
When I sat down to watch Baskin (don’t ask me what the title means), I had no preconceived notions at all. I knew the film was shocking—it had been recommended on one of my all-time favorite podcasts—and I knew it was Turkish, but that’s about it. Unlike other countries, Turkey didn’t have any preset style or viewpoint that I could prepare myself for. (When it comes to horror films, for example, I knew that Italian ones are colorful and Japanese ones are intense and Scandinavian ones are off-kilter.) Having that knowledge beforehand is helpful, which is why my experience watching this fever dream of a film was so intense.
At no point in this film could I brace myself for what was about to happen next. Half the time, I didn’t even know what genre I was watching, or which character I should be paying the most attention to. In a very real way, it felt like I was walking away from a car accident. Everything was blurry and off, and I had to focus all my mental energy trying to decipher my surroundings.
If I had read a little bit about the film, or if I had more of an insight into Turkish culture, prehaps things would’ve been less jarring. But jeeze, was I jarred.
Please don’t assume I didn’t like this film. I did. I loved it. It was one of the most memorable viewing experiences of my life. But it absolutely is not for mainstream audiences… or squeamish people… or overly analytical people… or animal lovers. It’s a tough pill to swallow, and I think you know if you’re the kind of person interested in swallowing this brand of pill.
Because so much of my enjoyment of the film comes from my slack-jawed shock, I don’t want to give away too much of the story. I will say, though, that it often operates on dream logic, that there are some very memorable special effects, and that conversations from early in the film get some definite (wince-inducing) pay-offs at the end. It stars a group of cops wandering into a place they shouldn’t, and the most effective moments are the inexplicable ones.
Don't watch this trailer.
Other than that… you’re on your own. If you want to watch this film, don’t read anything about it beforehand. And if you don’t watch this film, please look up its Wikipedia page to see exactly what craziness you are (wisely) avoiding. Either way, be careful.
And if this is representative of what Turkish filmmakers have to offer, I sincerely hope that more of them will release their films in America. That way, I won’t be the only person in my friend group with recurring nightmares about raw meat.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

New Comedy Articles (What?)

POINTS IN CASE is a humor website that specializes in everything except fake news. It's pretty great. Check out my first few articles now. Both are pretty tacky.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Nostalgic 90s: Shadow Zone

Goosebumps cast a long shadow. For the bulk of the 1990s, R.L. Stine's middle grade horror series was ubiquitous, raking in millions via books, backpacks, pogs, and all sorts of ancillary materials. (Remember Curly, the skeleton with the purple hair? He never appeared in any Goosebumps book proper, but he was the bony face of the brand for much of the 90s.)

Of course, with great success comes a flood of rip-offs. We've already talked about my love of Bone Chillers. The same can be said for Spooksville, Deadtime Stories, Graveyard School, Strange Matter, and Spinetinglers. All of them carved out their tiny niche-within-a-niche. And they've all more-or-less been forgotten within the last two decades.
Because I've got nothing better to do on this long winter night, I thought I'd pay tribute to one of the many series that time forgot. In this case, it's the 13-issue Shadow Zone. Like Graveyard School and Spinetinglers, this series was written by a rotating band of for-hire writers. (Their collective pen name: J.R. Black, which is slightly less tongue-in-cheek than Tom B. Stone or M. T. Coffin.) Because of this, the house style was a little loose. Everything from chapter length to (over)use of cliffhangers changed from book to book.

So without further introduction, here's the full list of books:
The Ghost of Chicken Liver Hill
Guess Who's Dating a Werewolf?
The Witches Next Door
The Undead Express
Good Night, Mummy
One Slimy Summer
Bite of the Living Dead
Alien Under My Bed
Scream Around the Campfire
My Teacher Ate My Homework
Skeleton in My Closet
Attack of the Mutant Bugs

The two novels that stand out are The Undead Express and My Teacher Ate My Homework, both of which were adapted into TV movies for Showtime. (The latter stars Shelley Duvall as the kooky teacher. She's great, even if the movie isn't.)
This series was always an also-ran for me. I only read five of them (from what I remember), and none of them really sunk into my memory banks the way that certain issues of other books series did. (Deadtime Stories had the truly terrifying Invasion of the Appleheads, for example.) Instead, Shadow Zone gave us fun, inconsistent mini-thrillers that seemed to cater more toward female readers.

There was nothing overly strange or trashy about these, especially compared to the gloriously wacko Bone Chillers. Instead, the Shadow Zone series represents the blandest possible mid-point for mid-90s horror. If you're interested, though, check out both of the TV movies. They're endearing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Living in Bhutan

For those who want to learn a little more about where I live now, check out the WIKITRAVEL page. It's really basic, which means it doesn't do justice to the awesomeness of Bumthang Valley, Bhutan. But it is a nice little primer in case you're curious. (Right now, the internet is a bit too slow for photo uploads, so this'll have to do.

And in the meantime, did you know that WIKITRAVEL had a listing for here, and here, and here? Random!