Poem of the Week: Zombie Apocalypse Now

Zombie Apocalypse Now
January 4, 2018

Zombies strolling
Zombies stomping
Stomping on the lawn
Stomping along the streets
Streets of ruin
Streets of the damned
Damned ears plugged with buds
Damned eyes turned towards screens
Screens in our stores
Screens in their hands
Hands too busy with gadgets
Hands too busy with trinkets
Trinkets of precious metal
Trinkets made to distract
Distract from the world around us
Distract from the rest of humanity
Humanity turned away from itself
Humanity enslaved
Enslaved by its own vices
Enslaved by its own devices
Devices meant to be tools
Devices now made our masters
Masters of our free time
Masters over our free will
Will this ever stop?
Will we ever fight back—
Back against our own dehumanization?
Back against our own undoing?
Undoing that’s escalated from previous generations
Undoing further made by blind fandom
Fandom of any given media
Fandom that leads to disturbing behavior
Behavior deemed disruptive
Behavior deemed infantile
Infantile in public
Infantile on the Internet
Internet where all is as good as archived
Internet where nothing is forgotten
Forgotten is rational behavior
Forgotten is civility
Civility and respect
Civility that we used to have
Have we been destined for this?
Have we been meant to suffer like this?
This can’t be how humanity ends.
This has got to stop.
Stop everyone from becoming a zombie!
Stop the apocalypse!
Zombie
Apocalypse

*****

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In Relation to My Work: How I’d Like 21st-Century Storytelling Media to Evolve, Regardless of Platform

Before I can begin this article, I’d like to apologize for being tardy in posting it. Truth be told, I’d been hoping to post this editorial much sooner. However, between work, family matters, and my current writing schedule, doing so has proven to be a lot more difficult than I’ve expected. All the same, from what I’ve seen in the media in recent months—particularly this past month, what with so many new programs coming out on television during the fall season—the content included in the editorial below is still pretty relevant to what’s been going on in the world of television and motion pictures. That being said, thank you all for your patience, and again…I’m sorry in taking my dear sweet time in uploading this, as I do plan on posting future articles here on this blog in a more timely fashion in the future.

Thank you all for your time, but for now, enough kvetching. On with the editorial!

*****

Hello, readers.

On January 23, 2016, I’d written an article on this blog about the kind of books I’d have liked to see come out in whatever at the time was left of this decade. Truth be told, I still have the same attitude regarding my suggestions as I did back then, but now my opinions have expanded towards other forms of media. After all, even though I myself can admit that the “good old days” of the 1980s and 1990s weren’t flawless by any stretch of the imagination, the fact still remains that no matter the crap that was going on in each of these two decades, there was still plenty of entertainment media out there for audiences to sink their teeth into and as such help them look beyond it all, even if only temporarily. That’s not to say that today’s entertainment scene is complete and utter trash, of course, for there’s still some good stuff out there for the masses to enjoy as well a good number of avenues through which they can check out said stuff. It always seems, however, as though such movies, television shows, and the like end up taking a back seat to whatever garbage seems to be flooding the market, which in turn leads to said garbage attracting more attention from folks by and large. Don’t get me wrong, either, for I’m quite tempted myself to vent about some of the flotsam and jetsam that’s been bob, bob, bobbing along the mainstream like buoyant fecal matter for years. Then again, what would that accomplish, even in the very unlikely instance that some major entertainment exec was to come across this humble little blog and read this specific entry? For all I know, nothing more or less than the person in question rolling his or her eyes, clicking off this page, and muttering to himself or herself, “Oh, great…another miserable malcontent from the vocal minority…”

That being said, I present to you all a small list of the kind of things that would encourage me to invest myself in a given form of entertainment. As was true before, the following represents my own preferences. If there’s any kind of idea that you think would make for a movie, television show, or similar form of media that I’ve neglected to mention, please leave it in the comments section below. Otherwise, enjoy!

Ease up with the remakes.

Just a VERY small sample of all the movies that have been remade over the years…mostly with much negative reception

One of the biggest complaints that’s been circling the Internet since the beginning of this decade has to be about Hollywood’s apparent lack of original ideas and the necessity to remake, reboot, readapt, and simply flat-out re-everything they lay their hands on. Now, granted, not every movie that happens to be a remake or reboot of a previously existing film is necessarily an unholy abomination that has no business to exist. I’ve already mentioned Dredd from 2012 on December 2, 2016, for example, and its superiority to the original Judge Dredd movie from 1995. The same can be said for John Carpenter’s The Thing from 1982, Scarface from 1983, The Fly from 1986, The Blob from 1988, Cape Fear from 1991, Gone in 60 Seconds from 2000, Ocean’s Eleven from 2001, Chicago from 2002, The Italian Job from 2003, and The Hills Have Eyes from 2006, just to name a handful. Sadly, critically and monetarily successful remakes like these have recently become few and far between, as movie studios are more content to simply take something that either was or still is popular and remake it into a whole “new” film for little to no reason outside of making a quick buck from something with an already established audience. The result: Movie remakes have gone up in quantity, but down in quality. Whether such films as these are lazy, uninspired, shot-by-shot rehashes of their previously established counterparts (i.e., Gus Van Zant’s Psycho from 1998 and Samuel Bayer’s Nightmare on Elm Street from 2010) or nearly to fully complete overhauls that completely miss the point of their source material (i.e., 1999’s The Haunting or 2014’s Robocop), the fact remains that they usually only succeed at two things: alienating fans of the original works and making the originals prove all the more that they can stand on their own just fine without having to be remade. Very rare these days are remakes that respect the idea of the original property while adding something new to the formula to give audiences a movie-going experience that is both fresh and pleasant. Honestly, I can only begin to tell you the kind of backlash that the following movies, amongst others, have received for one reason or another from both audiences and professional critics alike, regardless of their financial successes.

Annie from 2014
Bad News Bears from 2005
Black Christmas from 2006
Carrie from 2013
Clash of the Titans from 2010
Conan the Barbarian from 2011
Friday the 13th from 2009
Ghostbusters: Answer the Call from 2016
It’s Alive from 2009
Mr. Deeds from 2002
Planet of the Apes from 2001
Poltergeist from 2015
Power Rangers from 2017
Pulse from 2006
Rob Zombie’s Halloween from 2007
Rollerball from 2002
Shutter from 2008
Straw Dogs from 2011
Michael Bay’s two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies
The Karate Kid from 2010
The Eye from 2008
The Omen from 2006
The Stepford Wives from 2004
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 2003 and its 2006 prequel, TTCM: The Beginning
The Wicker Man from 2006
Total Recall from 2012
Walking Tall from 2004

To think, too, that there are plenty of potentially eye-opening ideas out there that would more likely than not translate into excellent movies, if handled right, and possibly even be successful at the box office, should said movie receive the right kind of marketing. Alas, it’s proven to be much less of a financial risk for some studios to remake an already established product than to create a brand new one, regardless of whether doing the former or the latter is the wiser or more popular thing to do. It’s a shame, really, for if Hollywood doesn’t soon establish a keener production balance between new projects and the remakes it’s been churning out, who knows just how severe its already established creative drought will further blight the whole motion picture scene in the long run? Not only that, but if movie producers would learn to look at films from an artistic standpoint as well as a financial one, then if nothing else, they would at least come to the realization the real reason to remake a film: to do something new with its narrative that would help to improve it, such as telling it from another perspective or focusing on an element upon which the original had neglected to focus.

David Sandberg’s Kung Fury: One of the most highly regarded original films of 2015 and a definitive example of the power and effectiveness of originality

I could go on with this topic by talking about how many belated sequels to previously established films suffer from problems similar to those of film remakes as well as how this whole remaking trend has affected the television and video game industries as well as the world of cinema. The truth is, however, that I’d just be repeating a lot of the same points I’ve already made concerning the movie industry. Plus, let’s not forget that even though these studios are the ones responsible for putting out all these remakes the masses have taken issue with in recent years, we consumers are just as much to blame for buying tickets to see these flicks in the theaters. Even spending our hard-earned money on the home edition of these films puts cash into the producers’ pockets, which only further proves the profitability of their kind in this day and age, regardless of how many people take to the Internet to complain about them. Taking that into consideration, it seems as though the only way for us to put an end to this whole trend—or, at the very least, slow it down—is for us as a collective whole to stop paying to see these movies. Then, when the studios start to receive less and less cash flowing into their bank accounts on account of these remakes that we’ve all been taking issue with, they’ll learn to rethink this whole remakes fad and how we’ve grown sick and tired of seeing so many time-honored films receiving one subpar reincarnation after another. Granted, that’s not to automatically say that whatever original films they’ll be giving us from that point forward will automatically be instant classics. If anything, we’ll still be receiving a mixed bag as far as originals movies are concerned, just as we always have. We can still at least hope that the brunt of them will be good, however, although in that case, it’d be a matter of whether or not movie studios will have the wisdom to regard the hits of the past artistically, find out which elements made each of them work, and apply those same elements to their newer flicks.

Bloody Roar reboot: Make it happen, Konami. You’ve made a Bomberman game for the Switch, after all, so why not?

One final note about remakes, cinematic or otherwise: If there’s ever been a time I refused to see a remake of anything that I’d seen or neglected to see back when it first came out, it was never out of fear of the remake “ruining my childhood.” If anything, as I’ve said before, even a terrible remake only confirms the original’s worth to some degree. Rather, I’m more of the opinion that the entertainment industry give today’s young people a childhood of their own of which they can be proud rather than be fed that which the people of my own generation had already been fed when we were young. Quite frankly, the sole exception to this rule is the only product out there that I personally want to see receive a remake in the near future, and that would be Bloody Roar. Simply put, BR was an IP that never reached its full potential back in the day and deserves a chance to redeem itself after the much-maligned latest entry in its franchise, 2003’s Bloody Roar 4. I mean, hey, if Killer Instinct can be brought back to life after seventeen years of inactivity with a game that retells the original story with greater clarity than the first two games combined did, then why can’t BR receive similar treatment? Aside from BR, however, I’m more apt to look forward to more original products rising up from this moment forth so that new creators can have the opportunity to change the entertainment scene for the better.

Knock it off with the snark and other forms of lazy, lowbrow humor.

A small example of the cleverness that actually makes me chuckle

As it’s been said before time and again, humor is subjective, and that which makes one person laugh could very well annoy or even offend another. That being said, I’ve grown so sick and tired of most of what passes for humor in the media today that it isn’t even funny…if you’ll forgive the unintentional yet admittedly predictable pun. Trust me, too, when I say that I can go on for quite a while about how ironic it is for most modern-day humor to be as consistently raunchy, tone-deaf, mean-spirited, and simply lowbrow as it’s been for the past decade-plus in an age where PC culture has been playing as proactive a part as it has been. Truth be told, I can see why to some extent, but just because I can doesn’t mean I’m at all among the masses who’ve jumped on board such a bandwagon. To be fair, too, I haven’t seen every single sitcom, sketch comedy show, or standup comedy act of this era. Most of what I have seen, though, has given me a bad taste in my mouth. Toilet humor, sex jokes with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the back of one’s head, graceless slapstick, blatant and ceaseless profanity—I’ve seen and heard all of the above and then some in recent years through various outlets, and none of it has ever made me laugh. If anything, such material simply makes me roll my eyes, shake my head, and wonder about the kind of mentality one has to be in to appreciate anything so lazy, thoughtless, and cheap.

Paul Schneider and Olivia Munn’s characters Tommy and Audrey Macklin from 2012’s The Babymakers upon finding out about the negative reception their failed movie had received upon its limited cinematic release on account of its crass, immature humor (1 out of 4 stars from the late Roger Ebert, 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes out of 49 reviews with a 3.5/10 average rating)

I know I’ve already touched upon this topic back in my original article from last year, but honestly, I feel as though I can’t stress it enough. After all, you don’t have to be “edgy” or offensive to be funny. Just look at the success of such comedians as Gabriel Iglesias, Ellen Degeneres, Jim Gaffigan, Anjelah Johnson, and especially Brian Regan—all of whom have garnered many a laugh from audiences over the span of their careers with jokes that didn’t need to rely on foul language, “shocking” ideology or imagery, shameless pratfalls, or any other form of below-the-belt humor. Granted, there have been instances in which a couple of these comedians have strayed from their usual path, such as with Gabriel’s “racist gift basket” routine and even Ellen dropping a couple of S-bombs during her famous Taste This comedy album from 1996, but even then, these comics relied more on their wit than on straight crassness to tickle their audiences’ fancy and make them think as well as laugh. Such is the key to timeless comedy, as has been proven time and again not only by the aforementioned comics and other, similarly successful comedians, but also by many a well-remembered sitcom or sketch comedy. Even The Cosby Show’s Claire Huxtable herself, Tony Award winning actress Phylicia Rashad, can attest to this based on the following piece of information she once shared in an interview with the Huffington Post:

Phylicia Rashad, Tony Award-winning actress and mother Claire Huxtable from The Cosby Show as interviewed April 6, 2014 by Huff Post Live

“Drama appeals to the emotions. Comedy appeals to the intellect.”

Such were the words that the late Dr. Frank M. Snowden, Jr. of Howard University in Washington, D.C., said to Ms. Rashad after she’d answered a question he’d posed to her and the rest of her classmates concerning whether they preferred drama or comedy, and considering my own personal comedic tastes, this comparison makes a lot of sense to me. After all, as Ms. Rashad goes on to say in the same interview, most of the sitcoms from “back in the day” that the masses know and love today had writers working behind the scenes who all worked with each other in the same room day after day as they fleshed out each episode of the show they were putting together. Such would explain why the plot and character development of these programs flowed in a smoother, more logical fashion than it would on a more recent show such as, say, the not-too-distantly-cancelled Mike & Molly. Honestly, the two titular characters first cross paths with each other at an Overeaters Anonymous conference, yet subsequently stop attending meetings that the support group hosts after they marry each other, and Mike subsequently reverts back to his rapacious couch potato ways every now and then with only the occasional reminder of his original objective to lose weight. Add to that Mike inadvertently no longer sleeping with the help of a respirator around the same time, the couple moving out of Molly’s old bedroom and into the Flynn family basement only to eventually move back into Molly’s bedroom, and so forth, and it can be pretty easy to see where viewers can be disenfranchised with such a show, regardless of M&M having lasted six seasons on CBS from 2010 to 2016. On a similar note is how M&M and a good number of other 21st century sitcoms tend to repeat the same tired jokes over and over again with little to no payoff, usually within the same episode and—worse yet—within the same scene. You know…in case the audience hadn’t gotten them the first time. Then again, even that practice isn’t as annoying and insulting as when the writers of a given sitcom decide to change certain characters that either don’t make sense within the show’s narrative or go against their established personalities altogether. I can certainly say that I could have done without the writers of Everybody Loves Raymond turning the once-sensible Debra into a bitter, self-pitying shrew who takes every opportunity she gets to throw a tantrum at Ray and the rest of the Barones or start weeping and sobbing as though someone had just run over the family dog. Come to think of it, the whole show, in my opinion, went downhill when everyone within the Barone family started yelling and screaming at one another on a regular basis. It wasn’t pleasant, clever, or fun in the slightest…only dull, grating, and utterly obnoxious. It didn’t challenge my mind at all, only my sanity, which is exactly why most of the sitcoms I’ve seen these days have turned me away from them. Stereotypical characters, predictable situations, exhausted jokes, and a bitter tone that practically everyone has seen in so many other shows of its kind—all of the above are elements that have dumbed down many a recent sitcom that I’ve regrettably watched and made me pine for the days when Night Court, Golden Girls, Cheers, Frasier, and the like ruled the airwaves with their keen wit, palatable charm, and the kind of punchy sophistication that has time and again managed to put a smile not only on my own face, but also on countless other people’s faces from one generation to the next.

If this wasn’t a warning sign of the kind of regular situations viewers would see in Everybody Loves Raymond’s later season, then I don’t know what is.

Of course, as irritated as I’ve become with the banality and vulgarity that I’ve discussed earlier, there’s one more trait in today’s comedic scene that I’ve grown to abhor: snark. Now, sure, I get that the world can be a very unforgivingly (and unforgivably) unkind and frustrating place within which to live, and sometimes, one needs to just let off a sarcastic remark here or there to cope with it all. Likewise, there have been plenty of people popping up all over the Internet who’ve made snarky remarks about this, that, and the other since blogging first became a thing and editorials were no longer limited to opinionated journalists. All the same, as with everything else that has made comedy so nasty these days in comparison to what it used to be, snark has reared its ugly head so much and so often that I wonder as to whether or not I’m the only one who’s noticed it, much less has grown fed up with it. Don’t get me wrong, either, for once upon a time, I used to like characters like Dr. Peter Venkman from the classic Ghostbusters films and Chandler Bing from the earlier seasons of Friends for their wry charm, world-weary wit, and occasional sliminess. However, these two specific characters and all others like them back in the day actually had charm on account of having writers behind them who knew how to pace these characters’ sarcasm effectively and only had them pop off with a remark at moments that called for them to say something flippant so as to keep them from being completely rude, disrespectful, malicious scumbags. Additionally, no matter how despicable and depraved characters like Peter and Chandler might have come across as being at times, their writers wisely made sure to give them characteristics that would have made them at least somewhat likable to their intended audiences. For instance, Peter’s shrewdness, streetwise sociability, and secretly sweet disposition easily balanced out with his course, flippant, womanizing charlatan ways, especially when he uses his diplomacy to help free himself and his fellow Ghostbusters, Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler, from prison. Similarly, Chandler’s refusal to quit a job that he otherwise hates (i.e., an IT procurements manager) and dedication to his girlfriend-turned-wife Monica, best friend Ross, and everyone else in their social circle temper his otherwise bitter, cynical nature. Sadly, I don’t get that same feeling from more modern comedy characters such as Charlie Harper from Two and a Half Men or Dr. Leonard Hoffstadter from The Big Bang Theory. I know that’s probably going to earn me the wrath of Chuck Lorre production fans everywhere, but honestly, the way each of these two leads is written—which I could also say for the rest of the show to which each man belongs—is so thoroughly grating that it’s easy for me to forget about whatever good there might be in either of them. In fact, the further I stay away from Charlie with his hedonistic, misogynistic, scoffing self-absorption and Leonard with his needy, spineless, self-pitying, and at times ironically condescending pessimism, the more at ease I ultimately feel. Sadly, Charlie and Leonard are only two of many characters who define sarcasm according to 21st century humor, and unless there’s a more recent example of a character out there who can be sarcastic with the same grace and deftness as Peter Venkman, Chandler Bing, and the like used to, then by all means, let me know. Otherwise, I’ll remain convinced that snark is here to stay, much to my chagrin. It just isn’t appealing to me in the slightest, as it isn’t at all endearing, witty, or clever. Rather, it’s simply bitter, jaded, spiteful, and outright repulsive.

Dr. Peter Venkman from 1986’s Ghostbusters: One of the most beloved spewers of sarcasm in cinematic history and a prime example of snark RIGHT

Worse yet, snark not only makes characters within fictitious works come off as unlikable assholes, but also real-life people who try to be all cute, funny, and “personable” when the situation doesn’t call for such behavior. Just read AgentQuery.com’s guide on how to write a query letter, and you’ll see the kind of annoyance I mean. Seriously, though, AgentQuery staff, grow up and knock it off with your smart-ass remarks about people’s imperfect manuscripts, query letters, and so on, and the whole idea of the “Generation Y” having a collectively short attention span on account of only a select portion of “Gen-Yers” living up to that idiotic stereotype. People come to your website to discover information that would help them procure someone who can help them get their books published. There’s no need for any of your members to act like a bunch of flippant, pompous brats in the process. It isn’t the least bit funny, as I’ve mentioned before…only tiresome, predictable, pathetic, oblivious, and obnoxious. Knock it off and act your ages, please.

Brian Regan, one of the funniest “clean comics” known to modern stand-up AND one of the most deserving of a sitcom of his own

Bottom line, I really hope comedy evolves soon, if it hasn’t been evolving already. After all, I read humorous books, tune in to comedy shows, and watch comedic movies in hopes of finishing something to make me laugh and forget about my cares for at least a little while. Alas, very little of what we call comedy these days is intelligent or thoughtful enough to do just that and instead merely backfires and makes me feel even grouchier than I otherwise would have been, had I not come across it in the first place. It’s not even so much that all of which I’m taking issue with here is necessarily offensive, either, as I’ve said. If anything, it’s all just so irritating, tactless, immature, and straight up nauseating…almost as if the people making these jokes are going out of their way to alienate those who see it for whatever reason. Again, I know one person’s trash is another’s treasure as far as this topic is concerned, but since when did it become comically mandatory to deliberately set forth to annoy or offend people? What happened to simply aiming to make people laugh or, at the very lest, smile? Whatever happened to using one’s intellect to stimulate people’s minds and ultimately put them in a good mood as opposed to stooping to the lowest common denominator? Are the days of merry banter, quick-witted quips, sharp wordplay, and the like forever dead? I sure hope not, for with all the crap that’s still going on in this mess of a world within which we live, we all more than ever need material that brings joy to our lives, not more pain and anguish. Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen from these past couple of decades, there hasn’t been enough of that substance going around, and quite frankly, it’s enough to make me sick.

Smarten up your writing…PERIOD.

The quote speaks for itself.

I’m pretty sure you’ve all noticed this by now, but there have been times in the past where people have proven to be pretty stupid—not merely uninformed or unobservant, either, but simply and utterly witless. I know that sounds disparaging and rude, but let’s face it, folks: We’ve all more likely than not seen, heard, discovered, and probably even known people in our lives who’ve habitually said and done things that make us question whether or not they even know how to think at all. Heck, even now, such people continue to thrive and contribute to what one can very readily call the continued downfall of society as we know it, and even the most intelligent amongst us have forgotten how to use our heads, even if only for a brief moment, and succumbed to saying or doing something that has made others question our own sensibilities. That in mind, is it any wonder as to why certain forms of entertainment that a sizable portion of the audience considers to be pointless, tasteless, or otherwise idiotic still exist these days? Is it likewise any wonder why so many people tune in to such garbage, even when they know it’s bad for their brain and doesn’t warrant their attention? Thankfully, there do exist certain forms of entertainment, comedic and dramatic alike, that appeal to folks who despise having their intelligence insulted. Sadly, even they don’t last forever. In fact, too many of them never catch on well enough to last longer than a handful of years at best and are cancelled before they can truly make much of a mark upon American pop culture as we know it. So severe is the problem, too, that one could write up an entire essay on it if one wished to tackle the issue in depth. Who knows? I myself might do just that on this blog, should it remain standing long enough for me to do so…and should I get the gumption to follow through with such an idea. For the sake of simplicity, though, there are some key traits that indicate why a given piece of fictional media might not be as well written as it otherwise could or should be:

Raj Koothrappali: Often an afterthought compared to the rest of the characters from the other characters The Big Bang Theory and as such a prime candidate for one of the show’s most poorly written characters

Poor character portrayal and development. Have you ever watched a TV show or movie that featured a character that the writer had meant for audience members to perceive one way, only to come across as being completely different? That’s basically poor characterization in a nutshell, and to be quite frank, I’ve seen it happen in one form of storytelling too many. It’s never worked for me, either, regardless of the excuse that the writer or writers of a given work may offer to excuse the character in question acting in a way that doesn’t make sense for him or her. Maybe the writer(s) didn’t know what to do with said character beyond a certain point and felt the need to pull something out of thin air just to keep him or her relevant…even if that very something more or less made no sense in regards to who or what he or she already was or had already experienced according to the story’s overall plot. Maybe the writer(s) had meant to have him or her progress beyond a given point, yet had failed to do so out of negligence and thus either gave up on him or her altogether or forced him or her into a situation that would have him or her grow in the direction that he/she/they had initially intended for him or her. Whatever the case, failing to allow a given character to evolve naturally during the course of any given production is a great way to ruin any kind of story—even one that was already unimpressive to begin with.

Unlocking Blaze Fielding’s “bad” ending in the original Streets of Rage: An interesting choice to make in the game itself…but how effective would it be if SoR were a novel, movie, or TV show instead?

Poor plot progression. This next trait tends to ruin just as many stories as poor character development and portrayal do and, more times than not, works hand-in-hand with the former to create some of the most negatively received forms of fictitious media that humanity has come to know. Far too often do these particular stories feature character actions and other events that simply don’t make any sense, usually on account of the writer either compulsorily or carelessly stringing events together in an attempt to show and/or tell the story at hand. Sometimes a character will react to an event in a fashion that portrays him or her as having more knowledge than he or she should, such as a young girl automatically deciphering the coded glyphs that adorn a bizarre ancient compass that she has just received. Sometimes an event will occur in a way that betrays the rules of reality, such as an alleged murderess in a mansion turning off all the mansion’s lights when she is located in the mansion’s basement while the power source to the lights is on the ground floor. This later occurrence can even happen in science fiction, fantasy, and even some horror stories, which are notably more lax in their rules of reality. Say, for example, you were watching a fantasy film in which it has already been established that trolls can regenerate wounds caused by anything but fire, and it just so happens that the heroes are caught in a violent confrontation with a troll. Would it make more sense for the heroes to dispatch of the hostile creature with flaming arrows and a bow…or a simple silver stake through the heart? Even choices that a given character makes can mess up a story’s plot, such as the protagonist and her friends finally coming across the crime lord they’ve been gunning after throughout the course of the tale, only for the protagonist to agree to become the crime lord’s right-hand woman without any prior foreshadowing of or motivation for her betraying her allies. Such is the kind of stuff that would make any audience member scratch his or her head and wonder just what the writer(s) were thinking—if, of course, he/she/they were even thinking at all.

How I usually envision those who laugh at jokes about rape, suicide, tragic historical events, and the like as well as blatant sexual humor and similarly low-hanging “comedic” fruit

Deliberate shock value. Call me a prude all you want, but many has there been a movie, television show, comic book, novel, or video game that just had to go that extra mile into “adult territory,” only to turn out to be a tacky, hollow, shallow, pandering, lowbrow, soulless mess on account of such a misguided decision. Granted, there have been instances in which extreme violence, foul language, sexually explicit content, and the like have been used in fiction to great effect and paint a rather bleak mental picture for audiences to perceive the story’s overall themes and message. At other times, however, such content has been thrown into such works haphazardly “just for the hell of it” for the sake of drawing in viewers, readers, listeners, and/or players. The result: an egregiously incognizant product that may draw in the morbidly curious for a while by promoting its “shocking” content, only to send such an audience off either offended once said content rears its ugly head or disappointed once its effects upon them wear off. It is in such works that extreme violence becomes less about dramatic, heart-pounding action and more about wanton gore. Similarly, characters spew forth so much profanity to the point where they come off as petulant and immature more than they do tough, sex scenes become more nauseating and lust-based than genuine and even alluring, and all other adult-themed content similarly loses its necessity throughout the course of the story. Granted, some people may end up enjoying these products ironically, but in the end, what more are they to these people than guilty pleasures? Worse yet is how the brunt of these pieces have shown to have very little to no substance lying beneath their “gritty” and “edgy” style and end up coming across as the blatant smut that they truly are, and even those pieces that do happen to have substance aren’t always guaranteed to tell a better story than their tamer counterparts unless their storytelling is spot-on from start to finish. As a result, such productions are either doomed to live on in pop culture infamy for their schlock value or die off almost as quickly as they’d come. Either case is usually for good reason, too, especially within the presence of so many other works just like them out on the market waiting for curious eyes to fall upon them and said eyes’ owners caving in to temptation and giving them a watch, read, listen, or play…only to discover the cold, harsh reality in the end.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2: 5% on Rotten Tomatoes out of 57 reviews with a 2.5/10 average rating, 13 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 16 critics, and nominated for six different Golden Raspberry Awards on account of its “tacky, numbingly inane” humor

Pandering to the lowest common denominator. This final flaw, in my opinion, has got to be the most fatal of them all when it comes to providing audiences with decent fiction. After all, even the most intelligent viewer, listener, reader, or gamer may want to shut his or her brain off every once in a while, but that isn’t reason enough for the producer of a given work of fiction to offer them something that treats them and the rest of the audience as though their brains don’t work at all. Even so, many is the moment in which the audience’s intelligence is either flat-out or accidentally insulted, such as when a joke or other occurrence is explained in-work for those who might not have “gotten it” or when random scenes successively take place with little to no context between them. I could say the same for events that occur with little to no buildup (particularly major ones, such as the reveal of a narrative’s chief antagonist) or when seemingly important information comes up during the plot’s unfolding, only to go on ignored later on either by the writers reducing its overall irrelevance or even outright refuting said information altogether. Don’t even get me started, either, on when a writer offers his or her audience a scene that defies conventional wisdom or logic simply to steer the plot in a given direction. Trust me, folks, for I, too, have felt as though I’d been talked down to when situations like this have played out in the fiction that I’d come across, and it’s not a very flattering feeling in the slightest. I’m sorry, but if a writer feels the need to explain to me the context of what had just happened, expects me to simply go along with a seemingly nonsensical chain of events taking place without any common ground between them, or demonstrates anything that is similarly jarring in his or her story, then I can’t help but question his or her mindset. Personally, I would like to think that the writers who commit such errors do so on account of just not paying close enough attention to their work. Otherwise, they would catch these mistakes in their screenplays, manuscripts, and demos before their ultimate production. I’m certainly no different, as I myself have fallen prey to my own anxiousness and have let a mistake or two slip through my fingers upon publishing my work. I’ve been making efforts to avoid repeating that process, however, and hope that other writers—regardless of the form their fiction takes—do the same. Alas, not every writer has proven to take note of his or her botches and done anything to correct his or her creative approach in the future. In fact, I’m sure there are plenty of writers out there who are unconvinced of how weak their grasp on storytelling actually is, and my gut instinct tells me that we all will be seeing more intellect-insulting narration down the line. Hopefully, though, it won’t be as bad as it’s been in recent memory.

All this in mind, let it be known that in order for intelligence to at long last claim a hold upon the realm of fiction, it’s up to the masses to recognize the poorly written stuff for what it is and do everything in their power to not support it. Sorry, folks, but it just isn’t worth it. Schlock is schlock, no matter what form it comes in, and even morbid curiosity—especially in the vain hope of liking something ironically—should never be considered reason enough for people to spend their time or money on it. Doing so, after all, only rewards the creators of such filth for making it, and if people are as adamant about the television, motion picture, video game, and literary industries smartening up and consequently creating more intelligent products, then they need to actively demand better. That doesn’t mean simply voicing one’s opinion about certain forms of media whenever and wherever one can, either. Sure, speaking out against the world’s dreck is a good start, but as the old saying goes, actions do speak louder than words. On that note, then, always regard that which you see and hear with caution when it comes to certain products, and if what you perceive doesn’t sell you completely on the product being advertised, then follow your gut instincts and keep your money and your time to yourself. Remember…first impressions might not be everything, but they still carry quite a bit of weight when it comes to determining the value of a given piece of media.

Somewhere out there, there’s a book out there with a sense of charm that can rival that of even the best Harry Potter novel that deserves every bit of attention that J.K. Rowling’s time-honored franchise has received over the years. If only one had the courage to seek publication for it…

In short, despite what progress we may have made recently in improving the quality of fictional media, we’ve still got a long way to go in achieving the level of storytelling excellence that I at least expect from this day and age. I’m sure that there are plenty of other obstacles that I haven’t even mentioned that creators need to overcome in order to tell the kind of stories that they think would captivate today’s jaded, demanding audiences. The apparent death of originality in modern-day media and the pressure of certain interest groups to create films, TV shows, and the like that appeal to their own specific tastes are certainly two that come to mind that are definitely worth tackling. However, without thoughtful, creative, intelligent writing serving as a foundation, no story can hope to win audiences over. After all, no matter how many people within the entertainment business will tell you that talent is “overrated,” we need talented and attentive writers more than ever nowadays to create the very works we need to immerse ourselves in from time to time and give us a break from this cold, harsh, and unforgiving reality we’ve all come to know. I sure know that as a writer myself, I have been improving my craft since the day I first created this blog, and hopefully the day will come when I can leave a positive grand-scale affect upon the literary market. Until then, though, I encourage the creators of today’s fictional media to step up their game and give us masses something we can support on a regular basis with sincere pride and satisfaction. Not only that, but I also hope that the undiscovered talent of today at long last get their time to shine and have their stories published, filmed, and presented for the masses to enjoy, thus proving to the world that artistic vision has more value than the detractors may realize. After all, considering the kind of crap we’ve had to endure over the years up to this point, I believe the time has come for us all to change things for the better in one way or another.

*****

All rambling aside, thanks again for stopping by, and as always, be sure to visit my author pages at Smashwords.com, Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk to see what I have available, and please stay tuned for more content in the near future. Until then, happy reading!

Regards,
Dustin M. Weber

*****

PS: All credit for the pics used in the above article goes to as follows:

CarPedalRecall.com
PatandJason.com
Lampray and Laser Unicorns
PixBit.com
PicSauce.com
IndieWire.com
Phylicia Rashad’s April 6, 2014 Interview with Huff Post Live
Giphy.com
GoodMenProject.com
Imgur.com
NotableQuotes.com
FansShare.com
MegaGrey’s Streets of Rage (Genesis) Blaze’s Bad Ending
FunnyJunk.com
RottenTomatoes.com
Infinite-Loops.Wikia.com

The opinions discussed within, however, are the author’s own.

Poem of the Week: Retro-Reviewing Egomaniac

Retro-Reviewing Egomania
July 4, 2017

Talk, talk, talk—that’s what you like to do,
But little did you realize, friend,
That the more you open your mouth, the further in your foot
Goes in to choke you out in the end.

You sit there on your ass, flaunting your accomplishments,
Claiming superiority where you please,
Proudly sporting your fauxhawk, neckbeard, and thick-rimmed specs
As you ridicule others’ childhood memories.

“Oh, wow! What a lazy premise! What a shameless rip-off!
What cheesy music and animation!
I can’t believe folks actually watched this back in the day.”
Such is what you spew across the nation.

“Good grief! What a hokey scene! What a way to throw logic
Out the window just to tell a story.”
Hey, you’re the one who bothered digging up trash
From the past to show the world in all its glory.

Honestly, do you think we don’t know trash when we see it
With our own eyes and hear with our own ears,
Especially when it’s been out long enough for ourselves
To witness with embarrassment and fear?

Do you really think we need some snarky, immature know-it-all
Showing and telling what we can find out
Ourselves without any guidance? Please! Stop with the insults
‘Cause that’s what you seem to be all about,

So spend your free time doing something far more constructive
And meaningful in the long run of it all
Like warning us of the crap that’s been flooding the mainstream
Today before society further falls

Into ruin just as you claim it had back in the day
With the ages-old dreck you bash presently.
Seriously, you think the past sucked? Well, today’s not much better.
Just look around you, and you’ll see.

Once you do, I hope you at last come to see the light
And put your supposed knowledge to the test
To purge the world of ignorance—hopefully forever—
And put the media’s faults to rest.

Take the hint, then, cocky boy, and clean up your act.
Stop ragging on that which has long past
And do all you can to help us all move forward
And craft memories meant to last.

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
                         Amazon.com
                         Amazon.co.uk

Poem of the Week: When the Dust Settles

When the Dust Settles
October 22, 2016

All this season so far, so many ads,
Which is nothing new, given tradition,
But along with them comes the tired fad
Of hate ‘tween those of equal ambition:
Name-calling, rumor-spreading…the whole bit…
And me not knowing just whom to believe.
All I know is that I’ve been sick of it.
Either discuss the issues, or please leave.
That’s the kind of thing I’d like to say to
Those folks we’ve all heard from these past eight weeks,
For I’m shocked they haven’t turned black and blue
Literally from the words they still speak.
When the dust settles, though, what will we see?
Will the winners be right for you and me?

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
                         Amazon.com
                         Amazon.co.uk

Bonus Poem of the Week: Blissful Ignorance (A Haiku Chain to Help Me Get Over a Really Stupid TV Show I Once Saw as a Kid)

Blissful Ignorance (A Haiku Chain to Help Me Get Over a Really Stupid TV Show I Once Saw as a Kid)
August 20, 2016

No regard for the
Lore, sloppy animation,
And mindless writing—
Such was the nature
Of the story I’m trying
To forget from years
Ago in the past
That I was dumb enough to
Watch in the first place.
Why I ever tried
Watching that trash, I can but
Guess, not know for fact.
Maybe it was my
Penchant to give new things a
Chance that did me in
‘Long with my boredom
In the “same old thing” I’d seen
Too much of back then.
Maybe it was plain
Morbid curiosity
That drew me to it
Like a moth to flame
Or like the masses to a
Chuck Lorre sitcom.
Maybe I was just
What I’ve nowadays come to
Hate: a mindless drone
Who watches that which
He’s told to, like so many
Kids are thought to be—
Not that kids are dumb
By default, but many kids
Happen to be so.
I sure was in that
I tried to find some kind of
Merit in the thing
And stuck around for
Some time, yet come up empty-
Handed ev’ry time
I tried to fish for
Anything that would prove the
Show was any good.
My memory since
Has been tainted by its mere
Existence, and I
Can’t seem to get it
Out of my head no matter
How hard I’ve tried, for
No matter what I
Say or do, the memory
Will linger. What’s worse:
I brought all this crap
Upon myself simply by
Checking out their dreck
In the first damn place,
Leaving myself alone to
Blame for the nightmares
That fester within
My brain today even as
I write this message,
Haunting, lingering,
Pestering me…all ‘cause I
Just had to answer
The call to check out
Something I was better off
Leaving well alone.
Don’t be like I was.
Don’t let curiosity
Let you do dumb crap.
Know crap when you see
It and let it be before
It takes over your
Mind and leaves you with
Bad memories that no one
Should have to ensure.
Take it from me: Crap
Stinks, no matter the smell, and
Should be avoided
At all costs, lest you
Want the same jaded mindset
With which I’m dealing.
Trust me…it’s not worth
It. Instead, live your life in
Blissful ignorance.

PS: Bonus points and bragging rights to he or she who can name the TV show I’m referencing in the poem above. 😉

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
                         Amazon.com
                         Amazon.co.uk

Poem of the Week: The Criticism Poem

The Criticism Poem
August 3, 2016

People ain’t always friendly. People ain’t always nice,
But that’s still no excuse to let your sensitivity become a vice,
‘Cause no matter how critical folks might be of the stuff you make,
You can’t always fire back at them, especially with words half-baked.

Let’s say some senile, whiny manchild yearly rants on and on
About how you “don’t do anything new” on a certain show you’re on
And instead “keep doing the same old crap” without proving his point
And keeps using the same old tired-ass words to stink up the joint.
Would you cave in and let his groundless hypocrisy get to you,
Or would you rise above it and let others’ love for you see you through?
Would you rather listen to constructive critiques of what you’re doing wrong
Or let some bitter dunce keep ragging on you with the same old song?

Even if the masses hate your stuff, you can’t flip your feces, friend,
And trash them or their opinion, lest you wish to see a bitter end
And be recalled as a jackass for biting the hand that could have fed you
And stepping on those who’ve supported you in what good you used to do.
People are allowed to have legitimate criticisms, after all,
And point out flaws in your work that are there so that you won’t take a fall
With your next project, so what’s the point in screaming up a storm
As though they’re clueless idiots whose bodies are still moist and warm
From recently slithering out of their mothers’ bellies? Tell me, friend,
How else you believe a person’s career can be brought to an end.

Also…all you’ve heard about trolls? Guess what: It’s all true.
The cowardly pranksters exist and are out to get folks like you
Whose paper-thin skin is too weak to endure their razor-sharp tongues
And the toxic trash they spew out from their foul mouths and filthy lungs,
And for you to take them seriously will surely cause your demise,
So mind the sincere, and when it comes to trolls, screw those guys!
Honest, sincere critique is what should matter to folks these days,
Even if it’s not what you “want” to hear in any sort of way.
Otherwise, how well will you improve at the craft that earns you cash?
That in mind, keep your ears and eyes open, and please don’t be an ass
By giving any flack back to anyone for any reason,
‘Cause trust me, bub, no matter the case, backtalk is never in season.

Now, wise up, smarten up, screw your heels in, and bite your bottom lip,
‘Cause you’re bound to be judged no matter what, be it gently or straight from the hip,
And keep the words that make the most sense separate from the verbal farts,
And I’m sure you’ll find it much easier to grow as a student of your art.
It’s like I’ve said, after all: Folks aren’t always kind, so grow a spine
And hope for the best while expecting the worst, fellow artist of mine.

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
                         Amazon.com
                         Amazon.co.uk

Bonus Poem of the Week: 1980s Action Hero Tribute

1980s Action Hero Tribute
July 29, 2016

Many were the action heroes back when,
And while many of them still do exist,
They don’t seem as cherished now as back then,
No matter how their memory persists.
Many were the adventures they went on
And the foes they vanquished along the way,
And though their presence isn’t quite as strong
As it was, as they say, “back in the day,”
I can’t help but think there’s still room for them
In the media in this day and age,
Kicking ass just like they did way back when
The small and large screens were their center stage.
Sadly, they seem to be lost in the past,
But if they were to come back…what a blast!

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
                         Amazon.com
                         Amazon.co.uk

Bonus Poem of the Week: A Random-as-All-Else Blitz Poem about Moving Forward

A Random-as-All-Else Blitz Poem about Moving Forward
July 8, 2016

People are scum.
People are stupid—
Stupid to obsess,
Stupid to harass,
Harass the innocent,
Harass the beleaguered,
Beleaguered with their weakness,
Beleaguered with the past,
Past better left back then,
Past better left back there—
There where it belonged,
There in history,
History not worth repeating,
History remembered,
Remembered all too well,
Remembered to the point of insanity—
Insanity that still lingers,
Insanity that’s only worsened,
Worsened since,
Worsened over time.
Time to act!
Time to right the wrongs—
Wrongs of yesterday,
Wrongs still being committed,
Committed by the self-righteous,
Committed by the callous,
Callous towards the innocent,
Callous towards the just.
Just you wait!
Just you see!
See the change!
See what happens—
Happens in society,
Happens in the future,
Future where logic matters,
Future where things make sense,
Sense to the matters,
Sense to stop.
Stop the harassment!
Stop the nagging—
Nagging reminders,
Nagging sympathy,
Sympathy overdone,
Sympathy unwarranted,
Unwarranted by the recipients,
Unwarranted by the masses,
Masses on the move,
Masses wanting to press on.
Move…
On.

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
                         Amazon.com
                         Amazon.co.uk

Poem of the Week: What Awaits on Your Wings?

What Awaits on Your Wings?
May 21, 2016

Good grief! Listen to what you’re saying!
Why are these the games you’re playing,
The movies you’re watching—and TV, too—
When they all make you scream “Screw you!”
At someone who doesn’t even exist?
I don’t understand it. What’s the gist
Of flipping your feces over obvious fiction
When there’s plenty of stuff causing friction
In the real world like disease and war,
Economic crises, street crime galore,
Bigotry, bullying, promiscuity—
Just to name a few things threatening you and me?
Alas, you don’t care, for you too involved
With some fake person to even try and solve
Any of the dilemmas rocking the world
And making things rough for all boys and girls.
No, let’s whine about Character X
And how the pain in the neck leaves you vexed
With how she makes things worse for the girls,
Boys, women, and men in his or her own world—
A world you can never go to and be,
By the way—and makes regular folks say, “Gee,
What a lazy, obnoxious, condescending brat!
I’m glad he or she’s nowhere that I’m at.
Just get a load of all the heinous trash
He or she gets away with. That pain in the ass!”
Then, normal people would walk away
To carry on with the rest of their day,
Not stew in their hatred for someone they
Cannot control nor will meet in any way,
And when they move on, their minds are free
To do with they can to support family
Or otherwise contribute to society
And keep it afloat for the likes of you and me.
They don’t throw tantrums or write death threats
Or biased fanfiction or, more shameless yet,
Write journal entries or make videos
Flashing their fangs over minor woes
Pounding their desks like horny apes
Whose carnal appetites they’ve yet to slake
And screaming like banshees atop their lungs
All ‘cause they felt the need to be high-strung
At one single character from media,
In which he or she can just say “See ya!”
And never play, watch, or even listen to
Again. Now, tell me: Is that really you?
Are you really a whiny, oversensitive brat
Who doesn’t know where your sanity’s at
When it comes to someone who doesn’t exist,
Or is there a fact about you I missed
That shows me you are sane after all
With brain cells aplenty to get through it all
And can function like everyone else
Once you tuck that media upon a shelf?
The question’s yours to answer honestly
When you wish, but really, enlighten me:
Is this habit of yours what you want it to be?
Do you really enjoy being this way,
Or do you want to see a brighter day
When you can walk away from fiction clean
And not act so outlandish and obscene
Over something so petty in the grand scheme of things.
Come now, my friend. What awaits on your wings?

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
                         Amazon.com
                         Amazon.co.uk

Poem of the Week: Memo from the Media

Memo from the Media
April 11, 2016

Say our industry works in ways that are funny,
But to Hell with quality. It’s all about the money,
‘Cause even if something’s trash, so long as it draws eyes,
We’ll keep on making more ‘til it finally dies,
Be that next month or a decade from now.
‘Til then, we’ll keep on raking in the cash—and how!
After all, most people find pleasure in what we make,
Even if it’s little more than crap for crap’s sake.
As for everything else…who cares
If it has any charm, uniqueness, or flair?
If people don’t watch, listen, or read,
Then why feed it more money ‘til we bleed?
“Poorly advertised,” you say? Oh, well.
There’s probably a reason your favorite thing’s in Hell,
Like the fact that it was meant for naught but losers—
Lifeless, deadbeat, potty-mouthed boozers
Who thrive off YouTube, ranting on and on
About how everything “sucks” and point out what’s “wrong”
About the media ‘til you’re red, white, and blue
In the face, all because it means so much to you
To act like your voice matters when the case
Is anything but in reality, you disgrace.
You’re nothing more than part of a vocal minority,
And we’ll never change, no matter what you see
As “offensive” or “pointless” or “stupid” or the like,
So shut your hole, troglodytic nerd, and take a hike,
And good riddance to you ‘til the next life,
‘Cause we’re sick of all the misery, pain, and strife
You’ve been taking out on us when all we’ve been doing
Is what businesses do, not “screwing”
Anyone out of anything—not even cash,
Which, yes, we’ve been making day by day by the stash—
But rather providing a product you’ve no obligation
To support in any way, regardless of financial station.
Don’t like us? Don’t support us. Simple as that.
Now, take your petty, childish, hateful whining and scat
And let us do wat we’re still going to do,
No matter what you say ‘cause we’re not marketing to you.
It makes no difference how often or loudly you bitch
About what we put out. We’ll still be rich,
And you’ll be left sitting all alone at your desk
Shaking your head sadly, feeling so perplexed
At how you could be the only one to see
Our product the way you do. Hey…beats me.

*****

Author Pages: Smashwords.com
                         Amazon.com
                         Amazon.co.uk