Movie Reviews #51…

September 22nd, 2017

It, Chapter One. Andy Muschietti, dir. I didn’t like It. I’m not scared of clowns—in fact, the horrors of real life are more frightening for me, not those created in horror stories and movies. This is a juvenile story with horror-gore and special effects added that just doesn’t resonate with me, so I can’t understand all the hubbub.

Stephen King is often called the master of horror. His best book is On Writing, if you can get past the memoir part at the beginning. In his chosen genre, he’s at his best when he finds the horror in everyday things, like Misery. For the creepy, horrible monster stuff, though, he’s become formulaic. This film, just one chapter of his story, is more like The Goonies on steroids. It’s more violent and gory, but—ho-hum—it all gets old and boring very fast. Where’s Dean Koontz when you need him?

I’ll admit that the kid actors, especially Jaeden Lieberker as Bill Denbraugh, are great. Bill Skarsgard, who plays the clown Pennywise, overacts, though. The other “adults” are OK, but why are the parents in that old Maine town of Derry all psychos? (By the way, the movie was filmed near Toronto, not in Maine.) The clown at least has an excuse—he’s the monster-in-residence. And is the creepy pharmacist supposed to be King himself? If I heard correctly, the girl calls him Mr. King.

I lost interest about halfway through this movie. Droll, very droll. I guess the crowds were looking for anything that might wake them up from this summer’s lethargy at the box office. Methinks I’ll forego Chapter Two of this duology.

***

Book sale: Some authors bundle a series or part of a series.  Here’s an alternative: from now through September 30, all three books in the “Clones and Mutants Trilogy” are on sale only AT SMASHWORDS, $1.99 for each ebook, reduced from $2.99—that’s one-third off.  The clones make their appearance in Full Medical as part of a complex government conspiracy; they combine forces with the mutant in Evil Agenda to thwart another plot, this time conjured up by an old villain; and they all save the world from a Korean industrialist who grew up in North Korea before they united with South Korea, in No Amber Waves of Grain.  These aren’t comic book characters like X-Men—they’re real people who work to halt an apocalyptic future.  Use the link and go directly to Smashwords, enter the coupon codes during checkout, and get hours of fall reading for only $3.  (Amazon addicts, did you know Smashwords also sells .mobi files for your Kindle? They handle all popular ebook formats and distribute to many retailers and lenders—Apple, B&N, and Kobo include.) Pass the word about this sale to your relatives and friends. And, for librarians purchasing ebooks for their libraries, I’ve reduced the price of most of my ebooks on Smashwords fpr library purchases. Use the link to see my entire catalog.

In libris libertas…

The NY Times Book Review…

September 21st, 2017

They use some arcane and secret formula to determine their bestsellers list. They pander to the Big Five (most located in NYC, of course) and gladly accept their ad money for those ostentatious slap-in-your-face ads. (A new first for me occurred on September 3: a double-page ad for Le Carré‘s new book. Oops! They just did it again for Follett’s.) They exhibit a smugness that matches many mom & pop bookstore’s that are simply more arms belonging to the Big Five octopi.

There was a time when I stopped reading the NY Times Book Review. If I had owned a canary or a parakeet at the time, I would have made good use of it by lining the bottom of the cage, but I didn’t have a bird, so it just went into the recycling bin. Now I’m reading it again, but probably not for the reasons the Times would like. I focus on the ads, asking myself why the Big Five’s superstars need them, and on the bestsellers list to decide what NOT to read. The last book on the list I read was Shattered, the story about HRC’s failed campaign, and I was reading that before it became a Times bestseller.

Yes, I don’t use the NY Times Book Review in the way it was intended to be used, I’m sure. First, I just don’t generally find the books found in it that interesting. There are a lot of good books and good authors out there—from indies to traditional small presses—and the Times usually ignores all the ones I’d like to read.

Second, the Times is the official mouthpiece for those snarky people who tell me that everybody is reading X, so I must read X too. Huh? Everybody isn’t a reader, but I’m an avid reader who pretty much ignores what “everybody is reading,” even if that statement were true. One thing about my reading experience I really enjoy is that it’s MY experience. Reading choices are personal choices, but no reader should jump on a fanwagon, especially when the NY Times or any other publication tells him to do so.

Third, the NY Times publicizes books and authors who really don’t need more publicity. Their determination of quality is what the Big Five tell them it is. Correction: it’s determined by anyone who wants to pay the Times’ exorbitant ad fees. Traditional publishings’ Big Five and the Times are just flip sides of the same tarnished coin.

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Steve’s shorts: A Helluva Fix…

September 20th, 2017

A Helluva Fix

Copyright 2017, Steven M. Moore

[This tale was inspired by two books I’m currently reading—The Stolen Child by Lisa Care and Court of Twilight by Mareth Griffith—but I’ve long held that it’s unfair that leprechauns can’t be female. Actually I finished the second one–my review can be found on Bookpleasures.]

Casper Pepperell decided to turn off the AC because he was afraid his old car would overheat in the traffic jam on the 405. He lowered the windows to keep from baking, but he kept on singing Diamond’s “Beautiful Noise” right along with the old singer. Even the traffic chopper flying overhead couldn’t drown out the song.

He heard another voice join in. He glanced at the huge pickup on the driver’s side. Its giant driver was a bald guy with an upper arm as big as Casper’s thigh; an angry red swastika was tattooed on his shoulder. He gave Casper the finger and scowled.

Casper glanced the other way. Something lime-green was at the wheel of a red Lexus sedan. The something had a strong, gravelly contralto voice; “she” smiled and then winked at him.

He blinked. The something morphed into a hot redhead. Maybe the heat, he thought.

The song finished. The woman held up a piece of cardboard. “Call me!” and a telephone number was written on it. What the hell? He wrote the number in the thick layer of dust on his dash.

He soon lost track of the red Lexus and its enchanting driver. A tough commuting hour later, he pulled into the carport corresponding to his small apartment, walked the short distance to his front door with a wave at his retired neighbors who looked like cooked lobsters in their pool chairs, and used his two keys, one for each deadbolt, and punched the code into the keypad (he was on the ground floor).

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Why “Medicare for All” won’t work…

September 19th, 2017

The reasons are rather simple: doctors and the AMA, hospital conglomerates, insurance companies, and Big Pharma are against it. They all have various justifications for their opinions, but they all can be summarized in one word: greed. We got trapped into the for-profit business model in health care long ago. Even when Nixon and the CEO of Kaiser Permanente sat down together and invented the HMO concept, the death knells were already sounding. We took the wrong road; European and other countries took the right one. The end of Robert Frost’s “The Road not Taken” sums it all up (maybe the whole poem?): “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” (My apologies to Mr. Frost for using his poem in this way, but it works here).

I’ve been worried about health care for a long time. Fact: we have the most expensive health care system in the world yet one of the largest populations without quality coverage. Fact: The whole system is geared to make money for the providers. Doctors charge exorbitant fees. While medicine has always been the “golden career” for too many, the situation is critical now. There’s a lack of internists (AKA primary care physicians) because doctors know specialization pays more. There’s a lack of nursing personnel because they’re paid less by clinics and hospitals in order to pay the doctors too much. You might find a few needs-based facilities scattered around, but they’re scarce, and they generally don’t offer quality care. There are cases of dumping—hospitals, especially ERs, that kick patients out if they have no insurance or bad insurance. A profit-driven system not only is contrary to the Hippocratic Oath, it leads to graft and corruption.

While Full Medical, my first novel, is a sci-fi thriller, it’s dystopian in the sense that it projects what the for-profit motive in health care will bring the U.S. and the world to by mid-century—that’s the theme woven in and around the plot (hence the title). Dangerous extrapolation, some critics might say, but I see it all coming true faster than I thought it would.

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Monday words of wisdom…

September 18th, 2017

Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.—Joyce Carol Oates

***

Book sale: Some authors bundle a series or part of a series.  Here’s an alternative: from now through September 30, all three books in the “Clones and Mutants Trilogy” are on sale only AT SMASHWORDS, $1.99 for each ebook, reduced from $2.99—that’s one-third off.  The clones make their appearance in Full Medical as part of a complex government conspiracy, they combine forces with the mutant in Evil Agenda to thwart another plot, and they all save the world in No Amber Waves of Grain.  These aren’t comic book characters like X-Men—they’re real people who work to halt an apocalyptic future.  Use the link and go directly to Smashwords, enter the coupon codes during checkout, and get hours of fall reading for only $3.  (Amazon addicts, did you know Smashwords also sells .mobi files for your Kindle? They handle all popular ebook formats and distribute to many retailers and lenders—Apple, B&N, and Kobo include.) Pass the word about this sale to your relatives and friends. And, for librarians purchasing ebooks for their libraries, I’ve also reduced the price of most of my ebooks on Smashwords fpr library purchases. Use the first link to see my entire catalog.

In libris libertas!

Movie Reviews #50…

September 15th, 2017

[First a bow to great science…]

Ode to Cassini

Copyright 2017, Steven M. Moore

Disappearing under Saturn’s robe,

There goes the Cassini probe.

With mechanical courage it took flight

And began its journey into the night.

It nobly pursued the scientists’ quest;

Now it will receive a deserved rest,

Out there among the rings,

Dreaming as only machines can dream.

[And now an ode to QWERTY…]

California Typewriter. Doug Nichol, director. My home state California is a big state with a lot going on, some good, some bad, but who knew it was the typewriter capital of the world? Sort of. This documentary takes its name from ye olde fix-it shoppe in Berkeley where two old guys and one guy’s daughters give typewriters new life. But it’s really about a bunch of old men obsessed with typewriters (OK, there are a few young ones and some old and young women too). Notable among them you’ll find Tom Hanks and John Mayer. John and the sculptor, Jeremy Mayer (no relation, I presume), who makes sculptures out of old typewriter parts (he destroys them instead of fixing them), offer the most profound statements, though. The film is really about writing and the technology’s advance. It kept me riveted as much as a Hollywood blockbuster. It could do the same for you, especially if you’re nostalgic about these machines. It’s not just for nerdy writers and people with their OCD disorders directed at typewriters, though. And it’s a welcome respite from a rather dreary Hollywood summer of throw-away movies.

***

Book sale: Some authors bundle a series or part of a series.  Here’s an alternative: from now through September 30, all three books in the “Clones and Mutants Trilogy” are on sale only AT SMASHWORDS, $1.99 for each ebook, reduced from $2.99—that’s one-third off.  The clones make their appearance in Full Medical as part of a complex government conspiracy, they combine forces with the mutant in Evil Agenda to thwart another plot, and they all save the world in No Amber Waves of Grain.  These aren’t comic book characters like X-Men—they’re real people who work to halt an apocalyptic future.  Use the link and go directly to Smashwords, enter the coupon codes during checkout, and get hours of fall reading for only $3.  (Amazon addicts, did you know Smashwords also sells .mobi files for your Kindle? They handle all popular ebook formats and distribute to many retailers and lenders—Apple, B&N, and Kobo included.) Pass the word about this sale to your relatives and friends. And, for librarians purchasing ebooks for their libraries, I’ve reduced the price of most of my ebooks on Smashwords for library purchases. Use the link to see my entire catalog.

In libris libertas…

Writers’ blogs and op-ed…

September 14th, 2017

Recently (Sat, 8/26), the N.Y. Times published an op-ed about how to write an op-ed. My definition of op-ed is a bit more general than theirs. (I wrote a previous post about op-eds. I swear, sometimes I think someone at the Times is reading my blog. The other day they used my Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde metaphor to describe Trump, which I’m sure I used a while ago—maybe on Facebook?).

I consider my posts commenting on current events op-eds; I also consider many of my posts on writing and the publishing business op-eds. Some of the Times’ op-ed about writing them applies to blog posts. Most of it doesn’t. For example, one of their columnist’s points was that the op-ed writer has to always bow to an editor’s wishes—the editor is always right. My blog is a personal blog, so there are no editors. Better said, I’m the editor, so I’m always right.

Another point was not to use long sentences. My sentences sometimes stretch on a bit. Unlike a journalist only reporting on facts, a blog writer has to pack a lot into a single sentence because a blog post has to be short yet much pithier than any op-ed column in a newspaper.

And that leads me to the main point (which the Times’ columnist, who obviously doesn’t believe in segues, says I should have already made): op-ed or blog writers differ from journalists. They wear different hats. While I try to verify the facts, my main purpose is to comment on them. (And that’s why the pundits at Fox News and MSNBC aren’t really journalists.)

While I recommend a journalism degree over an MFA if you think you need academic prep to be a novel writer, precisely because the former better prepares a person to be a minimalist writer, a collection of really short sentences in prose can be as boring as one with very long sentences. A mix between short and long maintains a more interesting pace.

There are many news websites that are really blogs and the posts are more newsy and written in a journalistic style. That’s fine, but it doesn’t work for writers’ blogs. So, dear author, let me give you my list of suggestions for writing your blog:

Don’t focus on writing per se. Most readers of your blog won’t care about POV, characterization, and so forth—the techniques of writing fiction. They care about writers and their stories—that means you and your stories too.

Don’t focus only on your stories. Your articles shouldn’t appear to be an ad orgy. Actually, this also holds true for discussion groups you contribute to. I’m reluctant to post a comment on Goodreads, for example, that mentions my books, although I know them well and they often provide good examples. There I use the subtopics allotted for marketing and promotion that almost every Goodreads discussion group has. Harping about your books can be tiring for readers who already experience a deluge of marketing every time they go online.

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Steve’s shorts: Intern…

September 13th, 2017

Intern

Copyright 2017, Steven M. Moore

[Some readers of this blog are probably familiar with my Dr. Carlos stories. Carlos Obregon is chief medical officer aboard the starship Brendan, part of the Interstellar Trade Union of Independent Planets’ (ITUIP’s) Space Exploration Bureau’s (SEB’s) fleet. His intern Dr. Julie Chen (not a future relation to my detective Dao-Ming Chen, as far as I know) plays an important role in some stories. The following story is about their first meeting.]

“Lester, I don’t need an intern.” Carlos Obregon crossed his arms and tried to look stubborn.

The captain of the starship Brendan knew that his First Medical Officer had a point. He waved off his objection, though.

“SEB says you do, and I agree with them that we need to train new medical officers all the time. They pair interns with experienced officers all the time. Weren’t you an intern once?”

“I did my internship in a New Haven hospital. I once made the mistake of diagnosing an SEB VIP’s ailment who then showed his gratitude by convincing me to sign on. In those days, fleet medical officers were stolen from the civilian population.”

“OK, let me put it another way: Don’t you think you have some obligation to train young people?”

Obregon indicated the young woman’s hologram appearing between them. “This intern already has experience. She could be a medical officer on a smaller ship right now and probably do a good job.”

The captain nodded. “I agree. She seems a bit over-qualified. It’s out of my hands, though. I can do nothing about it. Neither can you.”

Obregon thought a moment. “There are times when I could use some help, but those are probably times when an intern would just get in my way.”

The captain shrugged. “She’ll be boarding sometime this afternoon. You’ll have to talk to her. The faster you get her up to speed, the faster you’ll be rid of her.”

“Not until we have planetary leave again. That could take forever.”

“Or it could be in three standard months if we have a particularly stressing mission. And remember, you’ll be signing off on her being qualified for a regular post. That’s a major responsibility.”

“Can I wash her out if she’s not qualified?”

The captain frowned. “Don’t look for trouble, Carlos. Not being able to train a qualified intern won’t look good on your own record.”

“And here I mistakenly thought that the candidate’s performance would determine their future postings.”

***

“I’ve chosen a few classic texts for you to peruse,” said Obregon.

Julie Chen floated in a lotus position before his desk. Showoff, he thought. I could do that too, but I have a bit more decorum in zero-g. Brendan wouldn’t spin up the artificial gravity until just before going FTL.

They were already in the far reaches of the solar system where crewmembers had enjoyed a short leave on the fifth planet. The captain had ordered an FTL drive inspection that required the zero-g environment.

“I’m starting you with Wave Searcher’s Physiology of Known ET Genotypes and Blamak’s Sentient Lifeforms and their Circulatory Systems.

“I’ve already studied those texts. I remember you wrote a chapter in Wave Searcher’s book.”

“Fine. Look at the other texts then. Things are pretty quiet on the way out. The going gets rough when we have to explore an unknown planet and decide if it’s OK for colonization.”

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The monuments men…

September 12th, 2017

…and women—to all those misguided individuals jumping on the careening bandwagon of indiscriminately tearing down monuments, I understand the sentiments. After all, people like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were traitors to this nation while defending an ugly, racist economy based on slavery. Slavery and human trafficking are despicable crimes that aren’t justified by the nefarious concept that some humans aren’t humans at all but possessions.

That said, I’d rather place monuments to Confederate traitors in museums where the tale of their terrible deeds is completely displayed for all to see. My reason is simple: I’m not sure people know about Lee’s or Jackson’s life stories and how they came to be traitors. Lee was a graduate of West Point, after all, but the U.S. military was racist right into the 20th century. Germany turned some famous concentration camps into historical sites so that Germans and the world would never forget the Nazi atrocities. We need to do the same with slavery and those who tried to tear the Union apart in support of it.

But let’s be reasonable about this. Historical figures like Washington and Jefferson and other Founding Fathers did a lot to jumpstart this nation. Their peccadilloes aren’t excusable, of course, but they were so much more than slave owners, and they weren’t traitors to the U.S. In fact, our country wouldn’t have existed without them!

What’s more worrisome are the sneaky politicians and power-grabbers jumping on the anti-monuments bandwagon and encouraging crowds to tear the monuments down. An egregious example is Bill DeBlasio’s desire to tear down the Columbus statue at NYC’s Columbus Circle, home to Lincoln Center. Guess what? He’s the mayor of NYC and—surprise, surprise!—he’s running for reelection. Just as Trump panders to his base of alt-right, KKK, white supremacist, and neo-Nazi crazies, DeBlasio panders to his base too. And he stokes the fires of division by doing so.

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Monday words of wisdom…

September 11th, 2017

When the truth is little more than an arbitrary personal decision, there is no common ground to be reached and no incentive to look for it.—Ned Resnikoff

***

Fanaticism, fundamentalism, and terrorism have no place in a rational world; if they do find a place, we have to weed them out. Remember 9/11. We miss you, Carlitos!

Book sale: Some authors bundle a series or part of a series.  Here’s an alternative: from now through September 30, all three books in the “Clones and Mutants Trilogy” are on sale only AT SMASHWORDS, $1.99 for each ebook, reduced from $2.99—that’s one-third off.  The clones make their appearance in Full Medical as part of a complex government conspiracy, they combine forces with the mutant in Evil Agenda to thwart another plot, and they all save the world in No Amber Waves of Grain.  These aren’t comic book characters like X-Men—they’re real people who work to halt an apocalyptic future.  Use the link and go directly to Smashwords, enter the coupon codes during checkout, and get hours of fall reading for only $3.  (Amazon addicts, did you know Smashwords also sells .mobi files for your Kindle? They handle all popular ebook formats and distribute to many retailers and lenders—Apple, B&N, and Kobo include.) Pass the word about this sale to your relatives and friends. And, for librarians purchasing ebooks for their libraries, I’ve reduced the price of most of my ebooks on Smashwords fpr library purchases. Use the link to see my entire catalog.

In libris libertas!