Poem of the Week: New Computer

New Computer
December 10, 2018

New computer
New things to learn
Learn a new setup
Learn new programs
Programs for work
Programs for play
Play around
Play and discover
Discover how it all works
Discover what it all means
Means to you as an owner
Means as a sign of the times
Times of progress
Times of change
Change for worse
Change for better
Better take note
Better pause and reflect
Reflect on what you now have
Reflect on what you once had
Had with your old setup
Had in previous years
Years when certain functions never mattered
Years when other functions were the thing
Thing about technology
Thing about evolution
Evolution of electronics
Evolution…or devolution
Devolution of society
Devolution of humanity’s social structure
Structure around the Internet
Structure around machines
Machines relied upon for entertainment
Machines relied upon for former daily occurrences
Occurrences such as shopping
Occurrences such as watching the news
News of other outlets dying
News of other outlets growing obsolete
Obsolete as progress marches forth
Obsolete with job loss to boot
Boot to the tail for countless people
Boot to them, lest they learn to adapt
Adapt to our relentlessly tech-craving ways
Adapt to the ever-shifting climate
Climate ruled over by electronics
Climate where simplicity suffocates
Suffocates and withers in time
Suffocates as we lose ourselves
Time
Ourselves

*****

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

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Poem of the Week: Thanksgiving’s Over

Thanksgiving’s Over
November 25, 2017

Thanksgiving’s
Finally over.
Gathering, sharing, celebrating…
That’s all over now.
Rushing, racing, toiling…
Fun’s done.
Drat!

*****

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

Poem of the Week: Work in Progress

Work in Progress
October 29, 2017

We all strive for perfection. On that you can rely.
One thing remains, however, that none of us can deny:
Reality ain’t perfect, right down to humanity.
Knowing that, too, it can be a pain to be the best one can be.
Impossible is it for anyone to live and not make mistakes.
No matter one’s competence or intentions, life rarely gives us breaks.
Perseverance and wisdom, then, are paramount to success—
Resilience in adversity’s face when we’ve obstacles to address
On our own or with someone in our corner to help us along the way,
Growing with each step we take as we do each night and day,
Recording our successes and missteps, learning from what we do wrong,
Each time performing better at each task as we march along.
Such is the way we achieve our goals from the cradle to the grave.
Success, after all, befalls upon those who see forth that effort’s made.

*****

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

Poem of the Week: Another Day for Writer’s Block

Another Day for Writer’s Block
October 10, 2017

Another day, week, month, year…
Another year flushed, I fear.
What am I doing?
Why am I screwing
Myself out of what I hold dear?

So many years put to waste
All ‘cause I failed to make haste
In following my dreams.
Now here I scream
As my brain melts into a paste.

It certainly helps me not,
For nary a rhyme I’ve got
For this rant of mine
At this very time.
Oy vey! What a time for brain rot!

Only mid-aged, and already I
Can feel my brain cells die.
What a drag and a joke
To be mentally broke
At this moment ‘neath Heaven’s blue sky.

Then again, that’s why I write.
It’s how I carry on my own fight
Against mental decay
During these dark days
When we’re all searching for the light.

I’ve always loved to create.
That’s one thing not up for debate.
Be it fiction or prose,
Writing cures my woes
In this world of despair and hate.

Writing gives me a holiday
From the crap of this age and day.
It gives me an escape
From the fools, creeps, and flakes
And all the crap they do and say.

When I write, I’m in control,
Creating characters with soul
To which one can relate
And appreciate
In my story throughout its whole.

It’s the thing I’ve got control of,
Hence why it’s the one thing I love,
And one can’t take away
How it makes my day
And fits like a custom-made glove.

Such is why others like to write,
For writing shows us the light
And allows us to be
All that we can be
And in turn make their cases right.

Such is what writing for us brings,
And I hope to make it the thing
One of these days
In one or another way
For me so tat I can sing

Happily ever after,
My voice ringing through the rafters,
Not only to claim
Fortune and fame,
But something else that I’m after:

The honor of leaving a mark
And a chance to lead folks from the dark
And into the light
To make things right.
That’s the prize for which this dog barks.

Alas, though, it comes without shock
That even I face writer’s block.
It’s a pain to work through,
I’m telling you,
But it’s a case I can’t help but mock,

For the one thing want most of all
Has led me smack into a wall.
I don’t mean to complain,
Either, ‘bout this pain,
For I know I must work through it all,

And work through it I shall,
For I ‘lone hold myself back, pal,
‘Til I fire myself up.
Then, all will know “what’s up,”
And prove my true worth I shall,

Be it one way or another.
There’ll be no stopping me, brother,
Once I get back on track
And clean up my act.
Once I do, I’ll take off like no other.

Just you wait and see there, jack,
For while you may see me as a hack,
I’ll get back on my feet
And scoff at defeat
For daring to give me and slack,

And my detractors, for their flack,
Will, too, understand I’m not whack
No matter how bizarre
My works to them are,
And their respect I’ll have, too, mack.

‘Tl then, here I am, brain in head
Rotting ‘way ‘til I end up dead,
‘Lest I get my rear
Finally in gear
And at last pout this block to bed,

For I alone hold the key
To seek what’s in store for me,
And once I start,
I know I’ll be a part
Of the system. Just you wait and see.

*****

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

Poem of the Week: Sometimes You’re Better Off Not Looking Back

Sometimes You’re Better Off Not Looking Back
October 7, 2017

Sometimes you’re better off not looking back.
The past has passed, and it should stay that way.
Looking back isn’t worth the heart attack.

Something I once loved is now out of whack
Compared to how it was back in the day.
Sometimes you’re better off not looking back.

In fact, it’s long been that way, even back
When I chanced to revisit it one day.
Looking back isn’t worth the heart attack.

The passion’s gone, for folks have naught but flack
For that which they still watch to this damn day.
Sometimes you’re better off not looking back.

Watching just to hate? That just sounds wrong, jack.
Lest you’ve hope, why give them the time of day?
Looking back isn’t worth the heart attack.

All that said, guess what: I’m moving on, mack,
Lest what I’d loved improves in a big way.
Sometimes you’re better off not looking back.
Looking back isn’t worth the heart attack.

*****

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

Poem of the Week: Frustration of an Undiscovered Author

Frustration of an Undiscovered Author
September 26, 2017

Month after wasted month, year after wasted year,
I reach my hands up high for something more,
Yet no matter how far I reach, nothing ever comes near,
And I wonder if anything really is in store,

So I try hopping up and down, bounding higher with each jump,
Flailing my arms frantically all the while,
Yet no matter how feverishly my furious fists I pump,
I always fall back down in a frustrated pile.

I even cry out to the heavens, hoping someone will hear
That I’m alive and around and worth the time,
Yet all my screaming and shouting only brings me to tears
As I likewise lose this desperate voice of mine,

And once again, I’m left all alone, just as I was before,
Asking why no one sees any worth in me.
Why am I so unwanted? Why’s dealing with me such a chore?
I’m actually worth something, dammit! Can’t you see?

I’m not some braindead peasant. I’m not some clueless schmuck.
I’m more worth investing in than you think,
But ho! You keep you blowing me off and wishing me “Best of luck!”
Not telling me directly why I stink.

It’s either that, or it’s one excuse or another that I’ve already
Heard before from others just like you.
Sooner or later, though, you know one day, you’ll need to be ready
To take on somebody promising, fresh, and new,

Unless those whom you serve already are somehow immortal
Beyond their work, but I doubt that’s the case,
So come on already! Stop casting me away from your portal
As if I’m some kind of talentless disgrace.

Anyone can pick me up, after all, and make something of me
In the instance you refuse to do so, friend,
And when they do and my name becomes immortalized, you’ll see
That success for you had always been ‘round the bend.

Better things have happened for blatant schlock that’s polluted the mainstream,
Bob-bob-bobbing in it like buoyant turds,
And even if I don’t become a legend once I fulfilled my dream,
At least I’ll at last chance to be seen and heard,

And who knows? People just might like me. Wouldn’t that be a treat
After all these years I’ve spent trying to break free?
I’ll finally start a brand new life, too, living on Easy Street
Rather than carrying on through that which’s fallen on me.

All I need is someone on my side to see I’ve got what it takes
To at long last make my dream a reality,
For apparently, I’m forbidden to do so on my own, for Heaven’s sake,
But will somebody help me? I guess we’ll see.

I’ll just keep on doing what I’ve been doing this whole bloody while,
Albeit with a new approach to my crusade
In hopes that someone will hear me and greet me with a smile
And see to my success finally being made.

I’ll show you, then, that I am worth something and prove you the fool,
And the last laugh will be mine at your baseless doubts,
And I’ll throw your “Best of lucks” back at you as you wallow in a pool
Of shame towards the flippancy you used to spout.

Better days are around the corner. They just have to be.
Things can’t get that much worse from this point on.
I just have to keep trying, though, if success I want to see
And all my naysayers I want to prove wrong.

***** 

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

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: Nostalgia

Nostalgia
September 10, 2017

Nostalgia
Sweet poison
Remembering, reminiscing, reveling
Yesterday wasn’t always golden
Misleading, misinforming, misdirecting
Everlasting paradox
Stagnance

*****

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

Poem of the Week: Purity and Innocence

Purity and Innocence
August 29, 2017

One minute you’re as giddy as any child can be,
Enjoying life as you wonder ‘bout what kind of future you’d see.
Next minute, you’re all grown up in a dead-end state of mind,
Looking back and shaking your head at the childhood you’d left behind.

“Where did it all go?” you ask. “What happened to those days?
What happened to that world I once knew and its simpler, gentler ways?”
All the while, the bills keep piling up, as do the demands
Of maintaining a home, life, and family as time slips through your hands

At an ever-increasing pace that never seems to let up,
Which brings you to sigh in disgust , wondering when enough’s enough
And if you’ll ever find the balance you’ve for long so desired
Before your soul floats up to Heaven’s gates or burns in Hell’s fires.

Such is what we all cope with in one way or another,
Only to be reminded that yesterday wasn’t always golden, brother
Or sister, and to have some jackass remind us of all the crap
That made the “good ol’ days” not so great to where we just want to nap

Away the headache we’ve gotten so as to better deal with today,
Asking ourselves how the present could be better in anyway,
For too deep are we in our mindsets of doom and gloom to see
Just how beautiful the present from another perspective can be.

Try looking for the good in things for once on your radio or TV
And stick around for your escape from the harsh reality.
Head to your local bookstore and look for a new book to read—
Preferably one not meant to fuel an overhyped hack author’s greed.

Head to your local park and take a walk on a nature trail.
Trek to your local farmer’s market and see what might be for sale.
Anywhere where simple, wholesome stuff is should be place enough
To prove that not all’s been corrupted by the present’s tacky stuff.

Step away from your iPhones and your tablets for a sec
To take in the scenery around you and realize that, “Heck!
There is something ‘bout this world for which I can hold some wonder.
I needn’t always concern myself with some public figure’s blunder

Or any of the ills around me that keep happening day after day.
Yes, they exist, but need I fixate solely on them? No way!
Not when simplicity and innocence still exist in this stretch of the world.”
Then, once you come to that realization, a new perspective unfurls,

And you come to understand that no matter how ugly things get,
The world still has some purity—no matter how little—yet
To serve as an escape for when things get a little too much,
Be it too crass, hostile, superficial, demanding, and such.

Such is a blessing, for as we know, sadly, yesterday’s gone,
And while it surely hurts to know that, we all must say so long
To what we once knew, let’s not forget to honor what we’ve got
Before the day comes when we leave this earth to the computers and robots.

The “good ol’ days” may be gone, yet not forgotten, but that doesn’t mean
We can’t make the most from what we have left in the face of the obscene,
So do what you can to take a break from that which you’ve come to revile
And stop to smell the roses, so to speak, every once in a while.

*****

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

Poem of the Week: Visions of a Working Class Writer

Visions of a Working Class Writer
July 16, 2017

Born and raised on pizza, burgers and fries,
And other simple stuff that my folks could buy
As they slaved away to keep a roof over my head
And clothes on my back as well as our daily bread.

We never had cable programming on our TV.
Heck, we couldn’t even tune in to Fox to see
The kind of shows they had on any given night—
Just roaring, flickering noise set to screens of black and white.

Any luxury we had, we clung onto like it was gold,
For only Heaven knew the kind of future we’d behold,
Had any of us progressed beyond our working class ways,
And even now, I’m dreaming of what I hope are better days—

Days where I no longer have to break my back or my feet
Hauling heavy boxes while traversing winding streets,
Where I no longer sweat through my clothes within the first hour
And the first thing I do when I get home is take a shower,

Days where my head doesn’t throbs to where I must take a nap
To sleep away my pain like a cat in its owner’s lap,
Where going on adventures actually means something
And being paid for my creativity at last becomes a thing.

Alas, I haven’t hit that point, though I can already see
The kind of lowlifes with which I’d have to cope that await me:
Purists who sneer at that which doesn’t flow a certain way,
Money grubbers who just care ‘bout how much one’s work will pay,

Egotists who scold those who don’t “get” things right away,
Artsy farts who praise style over substance any day,
Snarky twerps who mock others’ works behind their backs,
Soulless attention gluttons and other mindless hacks,

Mindless, trend-following drones who don’t know their history
And fail to remember how things once upon a time used to be.
Such and more are the scumbags who await those who, like me,
Dare to dream big and make it, and yet I still aim to be

One of the greatest in my field, my name forever ringing
Throughout history for my contributions, the masses forever singing,
And I know I can’t stop until that dream at last becomes real,
No matter whom I cross paths with. Such is my present deal.

There is another thing, though, that I aim to keep in mind:
The humble, happy boy I once was shan’t be left behind,
For no matter how big I get, I’ll remember always
Exactly whom I used to be prior to seeing brighter days,

The upbringing I had, and the things I’ve lived without,
And no matter how much longer it takes, I shan’t pout
On the day my dream comes true, for should I spit in the face
Of success when it falls upon me, I’ll be put back in my place.

Such is a fate I can’t afford to face anymore.
It’s now or never with me to see just what’s in store
For me in my journey to finally realize my dream.
Who knows? Even with the fools, things might be better than they seem.

*****

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