Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Spoiler Alert

I’m in a bitchy mood today, so I’m going to spread the darkness around by wrecking the endings of popular (and not so popular) movies I’ve seen. This is your warning. If you don’t want a movie you haven’t seen yet ruined, go click on a different blog NOW.

For the rest of you, it won’t be as bad as you think. I’ll be sticking to the classics, and movies that have been around long enough you’ve probably seen them already. The reason for that is I don’t go to many flicks in the theater any more. Last year I only saw the three biggies (Jurassic World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and overall I was disappointed. Not that the movies were bad—they weren’t—they just didn’t knock me out of my seat the way all the advertising promised. Here are the spoilers for those: the main characters survive and escape the dinos; the Avengers beat Ultron; and popular opinion says Ren is Luke’s daughter, but nothing’s been proven yet. Basically, it’s a high-energy, high-tech retelling of the original movie. I won’t tell you who gets killed. By now, since everyone in the world has seen it, you probably already know.

All rightie, then, let’s get to it. HERE COME THE SPOILERS. IF YOU DON’T WANT YOUR MOVIE-VIEWING ENJOYMENT RUINED, BAIL NOW. You have been warned.

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The Sixth Sense—Bruce Willis is a ghost. He is dead people. To give the movie credit, it plays fair all the way through. The clues are there, but you have to know what you’re looking at. Here’s an additional spoiler: M. Night Shamalamadingdong’s subsequent movies never matched the impact of that first one. I didn’t see The Last Airbender, but I’ve heard enough to recommend you skip it and binge watch the original cartoon version instead. That show is awesome.

In a similar movie, The Others with Nicole Kidman, all the characters are ghosts. The only living people in the film don’t appear until the last fifteen minutes. Again, sufficient clues are provided throughout so the surprise doesn’t come out of nowhere. For those who were wondering, yes, the actor who plays Kidman’s husband was also Doctor Who, but only briefly, right before David Tennant took over, which is probably why nobody remembers him.

The Usual Suspects—Kevin Spacey’s Verbal Kint is really Keyser Soze. You have to look harder to spot the clues because Verbal’s the one telling the story. Everything we see on screen is the dramatization of a lie. For any writers reading this, The Usual Suspects is probably one of the best examples of the use of unreliable narrator you’re liable to see on film.

That reminds me, Agatha Christie wrote a mystery in which the narrator turned out to be the killer. I’d give you the title, but I forgot it, and I don’t feel like looking it up. I was never a Christie fan. I will spoil Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express for you, because they made that into a movie back in the ‘80s. The whole cast of characters did it. The victim was a killer himself. The twelve suspects were connected in some way to the killer’s victim, so they acted as a jury and dispensed their own justice. Due to the circumstances, Hercule Poirot lets them get away with it.

I’m relating this story because at the time I worked at a second-run movie theater (remember those?) and saw it for free. One Saturday the crowd was waiting in the lobby for the 9:00 show when a kid came out from the 7:00 show and announced, “They all did it.” If looks could kill … Hope that kid never took a train ride.

Animal Farm—the livestock revolts and drives off Old MacDonald, only to discover at the end it’s still the same slop, different pigs. That’s how the book ends. Hollywood spoiled it by tacking on a happy ending in which the animals take back control of the farm. Every adaptation I’ve ever seen has this upbeat ending. Clearly nobody learned from history, or from high school Lit Class. Animal Farm is an allegory, a retelling of Russian history following the expulsion of the Tsar. It was written after Stalin came to power. On the other hand, now that the Soviet Union’s disbanded, maybe the Hollywood version fits. Let’s prank-call Putin and see what he thinks.

Gone with the Wind—Scarlett finally realizes Ashley never loved her, but hubby Rhett leaves her anyway. She vows to get him back. I think she does in the sequel, which I neither read nor saw. When I heard the Mitchell estate was looking for a writer to continue the story, I was hoping Stephen King would get the job. I envisioned a tale of Scarlett turning to dark magic to recapture Rhett, evil forces swirling around Tara and the ex-slave girl who saves the day. In a movie version there would be zombies and loads of CGI, and Scarlett would either melt or explode. Somebody write that, please.

Wasn’t there a parody book written from the servants’ point of view? The Wind Done Gone? I’ll bet you can get that on Amazon. I’ll have to check that out.

The Harry Potter series—Harry defeats Voldemort. It takes him seven books and eight movies. The real spoiler is the actor who plays Neville, who grew up from a pudgy kid into a hunk. Oh yeah, and Snape was a good guy all along. I miss Alan Rickman already.

Despicable Me—Gru adopts three little girls and becomes a good guy. Because this is a kid’s movie, that’s not even a spoiler. I’m only including it because I love this flick. Go watch that one, but be prepared to sit through it several times if you have kids.

I’m still deciding if I want to go see Deadpool. Now that it's made a ton of money, will Marvel’s superhero flicks start aiming for the R? That would spoil it for a lot of kids, even though Wolverine could really, and literally, cut loose with an R rating. Happy viewing!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Highly Illogical

Must be the age thing. The older I get, the pickier I get in regards to entertainment. I hardly ever go to the movies any more because I don’t want to spend $8-$10 for something that might suck. Similarly, I don’t buy books at full price unless I skim them first, or get them from the library. TV’s even easier. If a TV show starts sucking, you just change the channel until you find one that doesn’t, or else turn the damn thing off.

My problem is that I’ve come to demand logic from my TV shows. I know, I know. Incompatible concepts. Especially since I like the fantasy shows, like The Flash and Supernatural. Expecting believability from shows about people who fly or hunt demons or run faster than a speeding bullet train is an inherent contradiction in terms. But just because it’s a show about people with superpowers doesn’t mean it can skimp on the internal logic, or good old common sense.

Case in point: Legends of Tomorrow. This one just started, and I’m still on the fence about it. A Time Lord—pardon me, a Time Master. Totally different, non-copyright-infringing thing altogether—gathers up a bunch of second-string superheroes (and a couple of villains) to stop an immortal bad guy who’s been creating chaos throughout history and is destined to destroy the world. The team includes a woman with wings, a guy who shoots fire out of his hands and the Time Master who owns a ship that can fly through the time stream. I can accept all that. I grew up reading comic books. Stuff like this is pretty standard in your average superhero comic.

What I can’t accept is how they’re going about it. This bunch is huge on superpowers and low on common sense. Last week they needed to steal documents from the Pentagon. They went through this elaborate mini-caper bit infiltrating security, which of course went awry and ended in a fight scene. Why? They’ve got the Atom on the team. He’s a scientist with a supersuit that lets him shrink down to the size of a molecule. What’s to stop him from shrinking, flying in through an air vent, downloading the needed files and flying out again? The plot, that’s what. If you let the Atom do all this—which he himself suggested at the start of the story—you don’t get any suspense, or the mindless action scene. These shows have an hour to fill, and they can’t afford to let logic screw them up. God forbid, the writers might have to come up with intelligent characters and more coherent plots.

Or how about the bad guy himself? It’s been established he’s immortal. He can’t be killed. No prob. Just turn to the Atom again. Atom shrinks down, comes up behind the guy, and surprises him with a face full of chloroform. Then stick him in cryogenic suspension. They’ve got that technology on the ship. No more bad guy. And no more series. That right there explains why common sense isn’t used more often on these shows. Although, in my opinion, if a show has to rely on illogical moves in order to stay on the air, maybe the writers had better think real hard about beefing up their premise.

The Flash isn’t this bad, but it has its moments. There was the one early episode with the bad guy who could turn himself into living steel. The only way for the Flash to stop him was with some supersonic punch that required a high-speed approach from several miles away and, if delivered wrong, would shatter Flash’s bones. Uh, no, not the only way. He could have used a trick from the comic: run around the guy at super speed and create a vacuum. Suck all the oxygen out of the bad guy’s vicinity. Bad guy passes out, Flash wins. But that’d be way too easy. We’ve got to keep those viewers glued to their seats. If common sense won’t do it, create unnecessary suspense. Works every time, or at least until the viewer catches on and switches over to Survivor or something.

On to Lucifer. I caught the pilot episode the other week. Yes, it’s that Lucifer. The fallen archangel. The source of all evil on Earth. This time around he’s living in Los Angeles. (Why not Las Vegas? He was headquartered in Vegas in the Vertigo comic series this show is supposedly based on. Vegas makes a lot more sense for the Prince of Darkness.) He also has a British accent, which seems to be de rigeur for the Devil these days. How about an Australian accent for once? Or a Scottish Satan? Or Canadian? The Devil as a Canadian hockey player. Haven’t seen that one yet.

Anyhoo, Luci’s handsome and charming and British and living in LA. And he’s—wait for it—helping a lovely young female cop solve crimes. The Lord of All Evil is a good guy.

I could swallow even that—I mean, this is broadcast television—if only he was halfway skilled at it. In the pilot episode a shooter kills a friend of his. Another lovely young female. Well, it’s set in LA. Luci interrogates the dying gunman. Why did you kill her? “For money.” The next logical question should be, “Who hired you?” I kept waiting for Luci to ask him. Who’s going to lie to the Devil? If the gunman had died before he could answer, I’d have accepted that. But Luci never asked. C’mon. I’m not Satan or even a cop, and even I know that much. He could have saved himself, and us viewers, forty minutes of TV time running around LA questioning red herrings with a simple, three-word question. But no, we’ve gotta fill up that space between commercials, even if the filler makes no sense.

I won’t be watching Lucifer again. Besides, Supernatural’s Lucifer is a far better character. He’d eat this poser for breakfast, British accent and all. He would have asked the gunman who hired him. And then brought his friend back to life. Or maybe not. He’s mercurial. I like that in a devil.

That’s what the producers of Legends of Tomorrow should do: ditch the heroes on the team and turn the show over to the bad guys. They’re a lot more interesting than the heroes anyway. You don’t expect common sense or logical reactions from them. You don’t know what to expect from them. That’s what makes them fun. The writers would recognize that, if they just applied some common sense. Or maybe I’m expecting too much.

I guess it’s back to reality shows, and wondering why nobody from Hell’s Kitchen has ever sued Gordon Ramsay for harassment and creating a hostile workplace environment. Really, would you work for that guy? Hell, he’d not only eat Lucifer’s Lucifer for breakfast, he’d serve him up on a plate with a side of fried beans. Now there’s a show I’d tune in for.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Slices of Cheese

Continuing my series of “Things That Cheese Me Off” from a previous blog. We’ll start off with something I find more amusing than cheese-inducing. Due to budget shortfalls, the Ephrata Library has been closed on Fridays for roughly a year now. Some people still haven’t gotten the word, even when you slam them in the face with it. While the library itself is closed, the passport office/post office substation in the lobby is open. In front of the lobby doors, just inside the building, stands a large sign on an easel, stating, “The library’s closed on Fridays, but you can still get stamps and a passport,” or words to that effect. I’m talking a huge-ass sign here, with big, black, in-your-face letters, parked right in front of the doors. There’s no way anybody could miss it.

You’d be amazed how many people walk right around the sign, through the lobby, stare at the locked interior library doors and then ask despondently, “They’re closed?”

I get to watch this all the time because, like I said, while the library’s closed, the lobby’s open, and the WiFi’s up and running because they need Internet in the post office. So I get my free ‘Net when it’s nice and quiet and I have the lobby to myself. Well, me and the other regulars who like to use the lobby as their personal office. And the folks who walk around the sign.

You’ve heard of selective hearing? This is selective sight. These people have business in the library and nothing’s going to stop them, not even a ginormous, blink-and-you’ll-still-see-it “We’re closed” sign. It’s like in pro wrestling, where guys hit each other with folding chairs behind the ref’s back. If the ref didn’t see it, it didn’t happen. If they don’t see the sign, it’s not there and the library is open.

They have to see the sign because they don’t walk into it. Maybe they’re not reading it? Maybe they can’t read? Then what the hell are they doing in a library?

Having people on laptops in the lobby probably bolsters the illusion of openness. I’m getting tired of having to interrupt my web surfing to explain to people that even though I’m sitting there, the library’s still closed. I’m not an employee. I’d wear a sign to that effect, but I doubt anybody would read it.

# # #

Today’s cheese is tangentially related to the library situation. I’ve blogged previously about how nobody driving a car stops or slows down any more. Every time you cross a street or back out of a parking space with limited visibility, you take your life in your hands. Don’t expect drivers to slow down or even brake for you. Pedestrians might get the horn. Other drivers, no.

Because it does no good. My car got hit in a parking lot when another driver backed into me. I blasted my horn. He ignored me. After the accident he said he didn’t hear me. Apparently he also didn’t hear his wife sitting next to him, who did hear my horn and told him to stop. Stop? While you’re behind the wheel of a car? Are you mad?

It’s bad enough when drivers do this. But then they park their cars and start walking and carry this entitled attitude with them. These are the people who step off the curb without bothering to check for traffic. Because they’re the only ones who matter. Others stop for them.

Or it could be simple carelessness. Or blatant stupidity. Or the wrestling defense. They didn’t see you. If they didn’t see you, you weren’t there. Doesn’t matter. Couple this mindset with a driver sporting the same mindset and you’ve got an accident on your hands. Sometimes a messy one, possibly fatal. And guess who gets the blame?

I had this happen with a kid once. I was tooling down a main road and spotted her on the corner up ahead. Her little buddy had already crossed the street and was waiting for her. I assessed the situation and knew, I just knew, what was going to happen. I cut my speed and kept a close eye on her. She looked the other way, saw nothing, then stepped out right in front of my car. Never once looked in my direction. She didn’t even know I was there until I slammed on my brakes.

I drive a stick shift. Of course it stalled. She darted across the street, where she and her little friend stood laughing at me while I tried to get my car re-started. To this day I’ll bet she tells everybody, “The crazy lady almost ran me over.”

She was a kid, so she gets a pass. Most kids don’t grow a full brain until they’re well into their 20s. If you’re over 20 and still doing this, you deserve to get hit.

I had a grown woman with a baby in her arms step right in front of my car. Fortunately this was in a grocery store parking lot so I was moving at a crawl. She stared at me in shock, then did that “Oh, silly me” laugh. Yeah. Silly dead you and your kid. Silly me with the double vehicular manslaughter charge. This is nothing compared to the morons who look right at you and dart in front of you anyway. That’s not even carelessness. That’s blatant stupidity. I had a guy do this to me once, again on a busy street. He also turned around and laughed. You know what would have been really funny? If some oncoming car would have hit him while he was looking at me. Some driver who never hit the brakes or even slowed down because the rest of the world is supposed to get out of his way.

These incidents happened back in the prehistoric era, before cell phones and handheld devices. It’s even worse out there now. You’ve got texting drivers coupled with pedestrians who can’t be bothered to check for traffic before they cross the street. Eventually enough teams with this mindset will meet up to wipe each other out of existence. I’m just going to sit here in the house. And no, just because I live in a mobile home, that doesn’t mean I’m capable of moving it out of the way of your car. Maybe I should put up a sign.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


No, not the red stuff you dip fries in. I’m talking about my weekly resolutions.

I started off fine, adding a new resolution every week throughout January. Then the massive snowfall hit, and everything went off the rails. Granted, I was having a struggle with the 1000 words a day thing before the first flake fell. I followed that one up by establishing a schedule, to reserve time for the 1000 words as well as time for the paid freelance stuff and maybe even typing. Then all the snow came down and I had to take hours off to move it off my car, and that was it for the schedule. I’m working my way back up to the 1000 words a day. If I didn’t have to stop to eat and take showers and things like that, everything would work out.

To my own astonishment, I did keep my very first resolution, the one about ten minutes of exercise per day. I think I put in a month’s worth shoveling the snow. I’m back to walking up and down the aisles of stores and letting solar power deal with the snow.

Has the exercise done me any good? I still can’t tell. I’ve certainly been sleeping better. At some point I’ll grit my teeth and up the time to fifteen minutes a day. As long as I don’t hike in a grocery store, I should be okay.

# # #

Along with the exercise and the writing, I’m trying to improve my eating habits by choosing healthier foods, cutting back on portions, and cutting out the junk and processed foods. Like the 1000 words a day, it’s easier said than done. I’m as addicted to sugar as the next obese American. I’m trying to counter this with food substitutions—say, a piece of fruit instead of a candy bar, or water or juice instead of soda. Fruit comes with its own sugars, but you also get vitamins and fiber and good stuff you won’t find in a candy bar. I’ve also got a box of Cocoa Krispies for when the munchies hit. Not that a lot of cereals aren’t much better than candy, but I’m working my way up.

An interesting side effect of this resolution is the experimentation. If you’re looking for nutrition in your food, start with fresh. Frozen comes in second. Canned is loaded with salt and preservatives and should be used only in emergencies. I try to go with fresh whenever possible. Living in farm country helps, especially with the veggies.

I also like grain. However, not all of them like me back. Ever since my stomach surgery some grains, like wheat, have been giving me trouble, but I can eat all the rice I want without suffering for it. I also discovered I like pearled barley, for some odd reason. Trouble is, barley in its natural state is pretty tasteless. There are boxed versions with spice packets for flavor enhancement, but they’re pricey. For the same money I can get a bag of pearled barley in the bulk foods aisle and a jar of spices and fiddle around until I get the taste the way I want it. Throw some veggies into the pot and you’ve got yourself a meal. Or two or three, because I’m going for smaller portions now.

Yes, you heard me right. I’m—dare I even say the word—cooking. I’m rather astonished myself.

One of these days I’m going to go all out and try some of those spices on chicken breasts, instead of paying extra for the prepackaged or breaded stuff. Eventually I’ll try my hand at my favorite Chinese dish, beef and broccoli. So that’s what the oven is for. You learn something new every day.

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This week’s resolution is to start cleaning the clutter out of my house. I don’t think I’m ready to tackle the Book Room just yet. Better to start slow, like with the kitchen table or something. Build my way up to the closets. It’ll be strange, being able to see the tabletop and the floors again. As long as it doesn’t snow for the rest of the winter, I should be okay.