Mega DVD Marathon Episode 1 “Intro & #’s”

On Sunday April 16th, around 2:00 pm, I started what will be a very long project. I am going to watch all the DVD’s in my collection in alphabetical order. Right now I have 248 DVDs in my collection and it’s growing all the time. Though what exactly is 248?

A lot of these are not single movies, there are a lot of TV shows and box sets among them. Some of these (let’s take “1776” for example) are single movies on a single disk, each season of Seinfeld counts as 1 DVD but consists of 4 disks each, wings is the whole series X disks long, each “Lord of the Rings” is a single movie but spread over 2 disks with another 2 disks of bonus material. My 200 classic cartoons (the first DVD on the list – see below) has 4 disks but each disk is close to 5 hours long, while the standard max run time is closer to half that. In total there are actually 487 disks in the DVD collection. The full amount of time they represent I’m not even going to try and calculate, though I can estimate. Assuming that each disk is on average 2.5 hours long (taking into account the very long play DVDs from bargain box sets and double sided disks) then the total collection would be about 1200 hours or 50 days straight of video.

What will not be watched – As I make my way through this collection I will not (in most cases) watch any movie that I have not already watched. The general idea behind this project is to keep these videos on in the background, if it’s a movie that I haven’t seen before I like to give it my full attention, but unfortunately I have other things to do (writing, video games, audiobooks, vinyl, etc.) so I can’t give it my full attention. I am going to make an acceptation with the TV shows, as most of them are sitcoms or cartoons and are generally meant to be played in the background anyways. Also like in Lord of the Rings (and other movies) I won’t be watching much or any of the bonus material, regardless if they are on the same disk or another. I will be noting the DVDs that are skipped and why when they come up. Most will be for reasons relating to what has been mentioned above, but not all.

This Episode will be shorter than the others I expect, I’m only introducing the project and covering the first 2 DVDs that fall in the numeric category of the alpha list. So without further adu, let’s jump into it.

200 classic cartoons – this is one of those awesome mill creek DVDs, 4 disks, some 20 hours or so of cartoons, for 5$. I got it back in the winter of 2013, and it took me quite a while to get through it. There’s some great stuff on here if you’re a fan of old toons.

The first disk is Popeye and Betty Boop (improperly labeled on the back of the box as having Betty Boop first). Several of the Popeyes were on my VHS 4 pack that I watched the hell out of back in the winter of 97 (I think) like “Privet eye Popeye” and “Shuteye Popeye” and there’s some good ones I’ve never seen before like the two Arabian Nights themed Popeyes, and a Popeye sing along, there’s even several black and white Popeye episodes to, always good to see.

Speaking of black and white up next we have Betty Boop (of which I only had a very limited exposure to before this DVD). I find her to be a provocative symbol of femininity even some 90 years later. Interesting to note that in the 20’s, she was usually seen in her short dress with garter, but in later 30’s era toons, thanks to the Haze Code, she is scene much more dressed with fully buttoned collared pantsuits and such. There are two particularly good cartoons that stand out among the rest (though they’re all pretty good). “Judge for a Day” in which Betty describes in verse the way she would ironically torture the people who bother her on a daily bases, such as chaining a man into a bathtub of ice water. This toon also strikes me as funny the way she leaves here houses singing, I can only imagine what the image of an adult woman walking down the street singing a completely made up song would look like. The other one is “Pudgy Picks a Fight” in which Betty’s cute puppy thinks he kills a fox that is actually a Fox fur, it’s darkly funny kind of like the near end sequence of the famous Looney Tune “Feed the Kitty”.

Disk 2 has an assortment of several toons from several series. Most notably the 14 new Three Stooges toons (which I have a VHS of from probably 91), and I may be the only person to say this but I actually like the toons more than the live action stooges shorts, not by too much though I like them both, but seeing cartoons hit each other seems funnier than live people doing it, I don’t know. The DVD is missing the mummy episode, which is a problem because it shows a short clip from it in the slideshow in the menu screen.

Another stand out portion of this Disk is the Mr. Piper cartoons. A very short lived Canadian children’s show hosted by Alan Crofoot, a large tenor opera singer who plays the titular Mr. Piper, his story is a sad one, and the full show is not shown on the DVD, just the theme song, introduction and cartoons. The cartoons are poorly animated and that’s being generous, and they are supposedly based on fairytales, but the only one I even recognize is the 40 Thieves toon. Peter and the Horn is a good one with its very strange convoluted story, almost fractured fairytales in nature (we’ll get to then much much later).

There are 3 Casper episodes on the disk, the first (both on the disk and historically) “There’s Good Boos Tonight” is notoriously sad and I’ll never watch again, but the “Casper and the Moon Men” I like a lot, check it out.

The last 3 toon’s in the disk are from “Mr. Bang, the Skipper and Katrinka” they are new to me from this disk each one involves the three titular characters: the skipper a kind hearted Bumbling old man (w/ corncob pipe), Katrinka his large Eastern European transplant wife, and Mr. Bang an overstressed business man with a short fuse. The skipper runs a trolley and I really like how he refers to the electric company as “dang blasted privateers” classic cartoon cursing.

Disk 3 and 4 unfortunately do not work, they’ve worked in the past, I don’t know why they don’t here. For now I’m watching these on my PS2, and there have been a few DVDs that it won’t read. I plan on getting another real DVD player and moving the PS2 to the den at some point, and I can finish the DVDs at the very end of this project in the “leftovers” post, 2 maybe 3 years from now. But I have a lot of others to get through before that.

1776 – This is my all-time favorite musical and one of my all-time favorite movies. I’m not a huge fan of musicals in general, I don’t have anything against them, but they aren’t something I’m really drawn to either. If you don’t know, the movie is a musical telling of the birth and signing of the Declaration of Independence. If the audio commentary can be believed (which I’ve watched before, but not this time around) it’s extremely accurate. I’ve seen this movie many times, renting it from blockbuster on VHS (how dated of a statement is that?) when I was maybe 10 years old and really really into American history. My interests in both America and History have waned considerably over the recent years, but my feelings for this movie have not. I paid full price (almost 30$) when it first came out on DVD (the restored directors cut) when I saw it on a field trip in high school, when I got home I watched it many times in a row after that. I still watch this movie every Fourth of July, and I’ll be doing so again, gladly in almost exactly 2 months-time (from the day of writing this post). The movie is both funny and serious, with a very heavy (though understandably not surprising) ending. As most people know, there is subtle cross platform reference from this movie to a TV show I watched growing up. The main character of the movie is John Adams (my personal favorite president btw) who is played by William Daniels. Daniels also played Mr. Feeny on Boy Meets World and was the principle of John Adams High School, also both the movie and the tv show take place in Philadelphia. Furthermore Danials was the president of the Screen Actors Guild, and this position was also held by Ken Howard who played Thomas Jefferson in 1776, and who was also an American president. John Addams was one of the oldest living presidents dying at the age of 92, Daniels is currently 90. There are other Erie coincidences surrounding these two historic figures, but I won’t be going into them here.

For future posts with relatively few DVD’s I’ll combine a few letters into one.  I figured with the lengthy introduction and lengthy first DVD, thus is probably a good place to stop for this episode. Tune in for more of the Mega DVD Marathon.

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R.I.P Denis Johnson

I was sad to see a recent article in the New Yorker stating that Dennis Johnson has passed away last week at the age of 67. Certainly not an old age, but considering the lifestyle of his earlier years, perhaps he lived longer than expected. He was a heavy drinker and drug user, clearly evident in his interconnected story collection “Jesus’ Son” which is supposedly based on his life experiences. His fiction was Simple and Heavy and usually quite short (which I admire greatly), and if anything can be derived from his fiction it is pretty safe to say that he was not a happy person. Probably not the type of person you’d want to spend a whole lot of time around, despite his immense talent as a storyteller.

At this point I have read 3 of his novels, 1 novella, the above mentioned short story collection, and 1 uncollected short story. This would probably be a good time to briefly review each of them.

Angles – I haven’t read this novel yet, but I do plan on doing so. It was listed in David Foster Wallace’s “Overlooked” essay where he lists 5 highly underrated novels. This essay is in fact where I first came across Johnson, and had I not, I may have never read anything by him. The problem is (as far as I know) that this book is not available on audio yet, and from what I’ve seen I think it’s one of his longer works, so that might be another problem, but we’ll see.

Jesus’ Son – the First Johnson work I ever read and generally accepted as his best, certainly best known, and also the only one to be made into a movie (which I haven’t seen, and may not ever see, given the subject matter). The book is an interconnected story collection about drug addicts in Seattle. The stories are all really short for the most part and work really well with each other in the collection, likewise they all work really well as standalone stories, as I have now read most of them in my ongoing anthology project. Like most of his audio books this one is read by Will Patton, who is a very good voice actor, not because he is great at affecting different voices, but because he has a rugged dirty voice that echoes the overall tone of the book outstandingly.

Tree of Smoke – Johnson’s longest novel (or at least longest that I’ve read), three times as long as the other two on this list. It takes place in and around the Vietnam War, a man who’s joined the army and his kid brother back home. There are some really heavy spots in it, but some great story telling as well. There is one character, a black man, who only refers to himself as “Black Man” and who is very over the top. You find out later in the novel that his real name is “Charles Blackman” and states that people always laugh when he tells them that, but the man he tells this to says “It just seems sad.” There is also a healthy amount of Psychological Warfare in novel as well, most diffidently worth the read.

Nobody Move – this novel is about a man who finds himself on the run from some very bad people and ends up having an affair with a Native American woman who is also on the run from a crooked judge who also happens to be her husband. This is the kind of novel that starts off murky and you have no idea where it will go, and takes you on a wild ride. Also very much worth the read, it’s also lighter (though not a light book) and shorter then other’s he’s written, so it’s probably a good place to start with Johnson’s work.

Train Dreams – for me it’s between this book and Tree of Smoke for my favorite Johnson work, but it’s hard to choose because they are very different. This is a novella, winner of a Pulitzer and an Aga Khan, it’s an epic tale of a single man from the west, born in the later 1800’s and living into the 1960’s and some of the people he’s encountered along the way. The “story” opens when the man is working on the transcontinental railroad and witnesses a Chinese man who escapes from being hanged on a trestle bridge. It’s a very short book, only 2 hours and change, and very good. I would say it’s a good place to start with Johnson accept for the fact that it’s very different from most of his other works.

The Laughing Monsters – My least favorite of Johnson’s works, at least from what I’ve read so far. It takes place in Africa, and follows a man who works for Interpol as he tags along with an old Africa friend of his who is in the midst of some kind of money making scheme, and his fiancé. There are a lot of secrets that the three primary characters are keeping from each other, to the point where it gets kind of annoying. That, the setting, and the fact that the book is not read by will Patton, make this one you might want to put later on the list.

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden – a short story, perhaps the last to be published in his life (certainly the last to be Published in the New Yorker), was selected for the Best American Short Stories 2015, which is otherwise a very good collection and still stands out well on its own. Longer for a story, it deals with a divorced man, and the strange similarities between his two ex-wives.

Posthumous Collection – I’ve been hopping for years that at some point they would release a new collection of Johnson stories, either an omnibus that includes Jesus’ Son, Train Dreams, and The Largesse of the Sea Maiden; or a standalone collection including The Largesse of the Sea Maiden but not the other two. I don’t know how much short fiction Johnson has written in his lifetime, but I think another collection should be released. He also originally started out as a poet, so maybe some of his poems could be included to fill out the collection better. Of course I have no connection to his estate so it is only a wise at best.

Rest in Peace Denis Johnson, you and you’re writing will truly be missed.

Cartridge Review Vol 4 “The Leftovers”

Almost a year after starting this project, I am finally finishing off the last of the cartridge reviews. This volume has games from multiple systems being reviewed, all of them have been purchased after their respective systems had been reviewed. Without further adu, I bring you the cartridge review leftovers.

100 Best NES Games (NES) – this is a multi-cart with a deceptive name, there are actually 143 unique games on the cartridge. I got it as basically a holding space for several mythically rare NES games (most specifically “Little Samson”), but there is a lot of good stuff on the cart. Also it works perfectly, so far anyways, and strange as it is, it seems to have made some of my other games work better, but that’s probably a coincidence. I’d go into more detail about it, but I won’t, because it will be the subject of a forthcoming multi-part series, that I’m sure you will all enjoy.

Aero the Acrobat (SNES) – I remember wanting this game a lot when it came out, but never got it, the Geneses version at least. Well I’m glad I didn’t pay original price back then for it because it wasn’t all that good. The game play is similar to Mighty Max or Denis the Menes in its non-linear style, the power ups are borderline useless for how short they last, and the goals are next to impossible to find. In the half hour of play I couldn’t get through the first stage. On the positive side the game looks great graphically speaking and the health and lives are fairly generous. A good piece for the overall collection, but I won’t be playing it very often.

Asterix and the Great Rescue (Genesis) – like the previous game, this game was also on my wishlist way back in the hay day of the system. I thought it was based on Vikings, and continued to think that up until I started playing it again for this review. As it turns out the game is about a pair of Gauls (the ancient French that fought against the Roman Empire). I wasn’t a huge fan of this game when I first tested it  giving the game a rare 2 points (largely due to difficulty). This time around I found it a little more interesting. I got up to the 5th part of level 1 (I think, it’s not clear what exactly a level is in this game). The graphics are very cartoony, like a comic book, which makes sense since it’s based on a French comic book series from the 60’s of the same name, and that’s good, but the game play is very hard. Perhaps with several hours of play it will get better, but we’ll see, I’m not very interested. I have a few games to get through before that.

Back to the Future (NES) – this game has been fairly heavily covered by AVGN and considered as a very bad game. My copy of it is not in the best of shape, at first I didn’t think it worked at all, but I realized that if you reset button many times in a row eventually it will work, which is good. Although certainly not the best game on the system, and ignoring the fact that it has almost nothing do to with the source material, it’s actually not that bad of a game, pretty good in fact. It’s a twitchy reflex type game, with a good pick up and play quality, just throw it in and see how far you can go this time (like an old arcade game), and I really like those types of games. Believe it or not, I actually give this game 4 stars, easily in the top quarter of my collection (even if that does change your opinion of all these reviews in general).

Back to the future II&III (NES) – I had to pick up the sequel, there was just no way around it. This game (plus: Battletoads, Jack Nicklaus, and Othello) are all my most recent games, picked up just a week before posting this review. Back to the Future II&III is a notoriously horrendous game and I’d have to agree. Unlike the twitch based semi-shooter of the original back to the future LJN game (see above) this one is a platformer with slippery controls and 1-hit deaths. On the plus side you are given 10 lives and unlimited continues, which would be okay if the goal was to make it to the end of the level, but that’s of course not how you progress in this game. Apparently the point is to collect items and return them to their proper time. I say apparently because in the 15 minutes I played this game I didn’t find a single item. Another plus is that the game is actually 2 games in one (as the title suggests) and there is a fairly easy way to skip to the second game, hold A+B and press select, then unscramble the given phrase, and boom your back in the Old West. This game is similar in nature to the first with slightly different graphics, I don’t know exactly what the goals are though, and they’re probably just as convoluted as the first game. I give the game 2 stars, I’ve played worse, there is plenty to explore and some (though not much) potential to give this game attention.

Barney’s Hide and Seek Game (Genesis) – surprisingly, this game is far better than it has any right to be. There is a significant amount of voice work considering the era and limited capabilities of the technology at the time. The game is beautifully animated and (as expected) very very cute. The object is to find 5 kids and 5 toys hidden throughout 4 levels. You use the d-pad to direct Barney and any button to interact with anything around, any button, this includes the start button which does not pause the game (the one problem I have with the game), also if you don’t do anything for a while Barney will start to move on his own and eventually he will finish the level. The vast majority of Genesis games are either black or red spined, but Barney has a purple spine. It’s also not very expensive, I would recommend picking it up if you see it.

Battletoads (NES) – A notoriously difficult game, but well remembered, and one of the rare “good games” to be reviewed by AVGN [link] (and also one of my favorite episodes). This is one of the games that I greatly (but respectfully) disagree with the Ultimate NES Guide Book, I give it 4 stars, they give it 2.5. Evidently they have received some considerable flack for the low rating by others as well. When I got the game my goal that day was to either get this game or “Dragon’s Lair” and this is the one that happened to be at the store. The game was not cheap and I was a little disappointed to find that I paid significantly more then it’s standard price. I was more disappointed to find that it doesn’t not work on my Retron 2. It works at first but freezes in the middle of level 2, and there’s nothing to be done. There is evidently a way to warp past level 2, but I haven’t tried the method yet. Despite this set back I am going to keep the game, I expect it to appreciate in value and I plan to eventually get a better famiclone or even a real NES at some point in the future. I’m most disappointed though that this game is not included in my NES multicart (mentioned above).

The Chessmaster (SNES) – Of the games in my “vast” video game collection, most of them have been picked up with little to no knowledge of the game itself. I have a sort of “wishlist” that I keep on my phone of games I really want and I could order them online if I was interested, but typically I enjoy the hunt. 10$ is about my limit for games that I don’t know anything about. Sometimes in the hunt I find a very good one, sometimes not so much, but it wasn’t much money and my collection is one step closer to being completed. Chessmaster for the SNES was one of the games on my wishlist. I played the hell out of it on vizzidboard, and will likely do the same now that I have a physical copy. I did play one game for this review, and lost. You can see the game for yourself below, if you know how to read algebraic chess notation, enjoy: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0-0 5.Bd3 d5 6.cxd5 exd5 7.a3 Ba5 8.b4 Bb6 9.e4 Bxd4 10.Bb2 dxe4 11.Bxe4 Nxe4 12.Nxe4 Bxb2 13.Qxd8 Rxd8 14.Rd1 Rxd1+ 15.Kxd1 Bxa3 16.Nf3 Nc6 17.Re1 Bxb4 18.Re3 f5 19.Nfg5 fxe4 20.Rxe4 Bf5 21. Re8+ Rxe8 22.f3 Re1#

Dragon Warrior (NES) – first off this game did not work very well the first time I played it. I had to blow it, clean it with alcohol, blow the system, and every other trick I know, and the first time it finally did work it wasn’t “perfect” rough graphics and almost impossible to read writing (which, being an RPG, is a problem since there is an awful lot to read) then I put it in again and the game was crisp and fine, and now the cart seems to work fine every time I put it in. One of the first things I’ve noticed was the “church music” it’s “Veridis Quo” by Daft Punk, off their seminal album “Discovery”. It’s not exactly the same music, but it’s damn close. For this review I continued on with the saved game and kept grinding away beating up Drakes and Slimes. In the half hour I made it up to level 4 (that’s skill level 4, which increases your heath and hit power but doesn’t progress you to any different place). I’m going to attempt to play this game all the way through at some point sooner than later.

Jack Nicklaus’ Greatest 18 Hole Championship Golf (NES) – I’m a fan of golf games as I’ve probably mentioned, this is the third one I have for the NES and before I got Lunar Pool the original black box Golf was my favorite game (owned) for the system, so when I saw the price tag for this game, there really was no excuse not to pick it up. That being said, this is not a great game, it is in fact tied for the lowest rated golf game (of 7) in the NES Guide Book. The game is fairly standard fair for golf of the generation with the standard power meter mechanic and somewhat better graphics then others. As its mouth full of a title might suggest the 18 holes are all based on “famous holes” from courses around the world, which is a pretty cool idea, Jack Nicklaus himself gives a very brief explanation and opinion on each hole. One problem with the game is when the course is rendered, it’s done slowly with a number of lines at a time, I don’t know if this is for effect or the game having difficulty rendering, in practice it’s just annoying. The bigger problem is the putting: it might take you one hit to sink the ball on a putt or 10, and this seems to be random. Maybe if you play the game a lot you can figure them out, but I get the feeling this is not the case. In a half hour I played 9 of the holes and was 28 shots over. I give the game 2 stars, again there is the potential to come back and play and give it another fair play, but it’s not high on my too do list.

Jeopardy (SNES) – I love Jeopardy, it’s my favorite show currently on TV and one of only 2 TV shows that I watch regularly (the other being… you guessed it, “Wheel of Fortune”). I figured it was about time to pick up a copy for some system. I didn’t know quite what to expect, but it turned out to be a pretty good game, large variety of questions and a liberal enough timer for answering them. The one problem is that the questions are not multiple choice, you have to type them out, and you have to spell them right. In the systems heyday, it would have been unplayable for me because I am an atrocious speller. However in today’s world, with the advent of the smart phone with spell check, it’s hardly a problem. In my opinion this is not cheating, I am not looking up any answers, just figuring out the right spelling. I tend to do fairly well in this game, and I due fairly well while playing the show at home itself. Good game for trivia fans.

King of the Beach (NES) – I picked up this game for 2$ and expected a game that barely functioned from a programming standpoint or didn’t even work at all. Not only did it work in both regards but was actually kind of fun. I had watched a healthy amount of beach volleyball on last summer’s Olympics, being very un-American and cheering against Walsh-Jennings (though I won’t get into why here). The only downside to this game is that you play as males not females, and (though I could be wrong) there didn’t seem to be a two player mode. Not bad for 2$ at any rate.

Light Crusader (Genesis) – Another game that was picked up because of name & cart art, without knowing anything about it. The game is a dungeon crawler RPG, and it’s actually a lot of fun, it reminds me a lot of Zelda (and that’s always a good thing). The various people speak to you through dialuge boxes, and this includes a cat that just says “Meow.” In one room there are 4 fish on the floor that you could (or you would think could) grab and eat to replenish your heath, but when you touch them a dioluge box reading “Meow” comes up, it took me a while before I saw the cat in the room, and I smiled at how cute it was. The game though is not cute in general, but a nice sword and sorcery piece. I’d recommend checking it out, and I plan to make my way significantly through it at some point, also sooner rather than later.

Othello (NES) – I’ve wanted this game since the last time I was at the game store and saw stacks of them available, I didn’t know anything about the game, but that’s not a problem, how many other games have titles from Shakespearian plays? That alone is a good enough reason to pick it up, considering how cheap it is. As it turns out the game is actually reverse, which I had a feeling it would be, and I already have a copy of that game on my Gameboy 4in1 fun pack (see Vol. 3 of this series). The presentation here is much better. I had to look up how to play it and afterword I got better, but not great, I’ll need some practice (and now I can practice it any time I want on the NES, which I might do to tell you the truth, it’s a nice quick relaxing thinking game). In the half hour test, I played 4 or 5 games, drew one, and lost the rest. At some point I may play this game against the Gameboy game and see who is better, my guess is the NES.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES) – When I saw it at the game store I couldn’t pass it up, even though I already have it on the Wii Virtual Consul. It’s another of the relatively few “good games” to be reviewed by the AVGN [link]. I never got very far in the game, until I started playing it for this review. I made it to the infamous damn dam level (the second part of the second level) where you have to swim and defuse bombs. Yeah, it was hard as hell, lost the game twice at this section in the time I spent playing it, though I enjoyed it and I am interested in watching how the level is done and trying to do it myself. Yet another piece for my future TMNT mega review.

Top Gun (NES) – The Nerd covered top gun several episodes, making it one of his more covered games. I didn’t think it’s quite as bad as he was making it, but it’s not too good either. I couldn’t get past the second level, the targets move too fast to hit often, and the landing is a little out of place, since you don’t take off yourself, reach alt yourself, etc. I did fairly well at the infamous landing sequences, landing the jet 3 out of 4 times. It was about time I picked this game up and I’m glad I did, even if it’s not that good.

Track & Field II (NES) – my wife actually picked this game up when we were at the store asking: “do we have this? It’s a lot of fun.” We didn’t, and the price was right so I grabbed it. As it turned out, yes, it’s probably the best sports game on the system that I’ve played (other then golf). There are several different mini-games, most (but not all) from the track and field Olympic events, such as running and hammer throw, the best event though is the shot gun segment. I played my own little fantasy Olympics while watching the Olympics last summer. It was a good time, definitely a game to keep your eye out for.

World Games (NES) – I picked this one up thinking I would have a similar experience to “Track & Field II.” There are a bunch of interesting sports on this game that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in video game form before, such as caber tossing, log rolling, and bull riding (all evident by the cartridge cover), and yes they are all on the game, but the controls are horrendous. After failing every mini-game, I had to look up how to play them, and even with that, some I still couldn’t figure out. The game was promising, there must have been a better way to achieve what it set out to do. This is not a game I would recommend to anyone unless there trying to complete their collection.

And that completes my very brief reviews of all my cartridge games thus far. Perhaps next year I will have acquired more and do a cartridge review for 2017. NES (29+3) SNES (10+2) N64 (0+3) GC (20) WII (24) WIIU (10+1) GB (14+6) GBA (4+2) DS (18+1) 3DS (10+2) GEN (28+3) DC (10) PS1 (1) PS2 (13)

Stories M

Intro – I originally planned to read the entire audio anthology in one year, some two years ago, clearly it didn’t quite work out. Since starting the project, I’ve added several story collections, so starting with Stories M, there will be many more stories included, such as five dozen from B.J. Novak’s “One More Thing” and the novella’s from George R.R. Martin’s “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” and the two collections from Vonnegut. So these will be interesting.

The Man in the Black Suit – this story is considered, not by me but by the short story world, to be Stephen King’s finest. One of only a few stories to be published in the New Yorker, and winner of the World Fantasy Award and the O. Henry Award. I’ve read it a few times but each time I seem to forget what it’s about. A kid meets a devil like creature while fishing. But now I remember the other details to it, his brother (before the story) died of a bee sting, the devil tries to convince the kid that his mother died of the same thing while he was down by the river. It’s a pretty good story, but not my favorite by King, and I’m not sure why it has been so well received. I do like the name of the kid’s dog and awful lot though, Candy Bill, I may name one of my future dogs that (though at this point the primary candidate for a name is “Stranger”).

The Man Who Invented the Calendar – this is one of my favorite stories from “One More Thing.” It’s about exactly what the title would imply. It’s very funny, there are a lot of comments on some of the abnormalities in the calendar, and the clock as well, such as why there’s 30 and 31 days a month, why February is spelled strange, how day light savings was drunkenly invented, and so on. All this in an 11 minute story. I think the version that was published in the New Yorker (which I read prior to reading this collection or rereading it for the anthology) was shorter, but I’m not sure, I’ll have to look into it.

The Man Who Loved Flowers – a very early Stephen King story, a horror story with an unexpected twist ending. Comparing this story to even the first one listed in this collection “The Man in the Black Suit” you can tell how juvenile King was at first and how far he has come as a writer. Not that its “bad” it’s actually hopeful exhibition for any would be writers.

The Man Who Posted Pictures of Everything He Ate – a very short story by Novak, a flash fiction, about what the title would imply. This story is king of an anti-joke of which there are a few of in the collection, in which a setup is given for a humorous anecdote or joke, but then its punchline ending reviles the story to be sad and serious.

The Man Who Told Us About Inflatable Women – unlike the last story this is not an anti-joke, it is a joke, a joke, basically a one liner: “Why did the old man prefer inflatable women?” that is extended just a bit further than the one line set up and punch line. it’s a very interesting form for a story.

The Mangler – another story from King’s first collection. The title, I always think implies a serial killer who, as the title would suggest, mangles his victims. This is actually not the case; the Mangler is an industrial laundry machine. I don’t quite understand how it works. Evidently this one has been demonically possessed through a variety of anglo-saxon mysticism.

The Manned Missiles – not one of my favorite stories from Vonnegut’s “Welcome to the Monkey House.” it’s written in epistolary from about an accident in space in which a soviet and an American rocket ship crash into each other. And the letter from the father of the soviet victim seems to have caused an international peace movement, bringing the two countries together.

The Market Was Down – another very short story by Novak treating the Market as though it were a human being with feelings that dictate how it behaves.

A Martian Odyssey – this is my favorite story from the “Classic Science Fiction” audio book. It’s about a scientific exploration of Mars, a guy who survives with an alien creature with human intelligence, but thinks in a different way, and speaks a language that is unable to be understood by the primary narrator. It’s a very interesting story, but is a bit dated, now that we know the environment on Mars is nothing like how it is described in the story. Not that that really matters.

Messenger – the short Epilogue of Alice Munro’s somewhat ambitious Historical Fiction/Auto-biographical story collection “The View from Castle Rock.” The story is about Munro looking for a grave stone of one of the characters from the Historic part of the collection, in a way bridging the two parts of the collection together. It’s not considerably good though.

Midnight in Dostoyevsky – one of the stories from DiLillo’s collection. It’s about two college kids who go around making up facts about things they see, people they meet, and arguing about these facts. It’s a sort of game they play with each other. Things change though when they come across an old man who the narrator insists they talk to and verify the facts they have come up with about him. The collection as a whole has some misses and some hits, this story… is a push.

Mile 81 – the first story from King’s brand new collection “The Bazaar of Bad Dreams.” Not one of my favorites out of the collection. It’s too much like his old style of story-telling. It’s too much a Horror story, not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not my cup of tea, and this is a bigger problem because I know King is able to write better stuff and does, it’s also fairly long.

Miss Temptation – Kurt Vonnegut’s story about a man coming home from the military. He comes across a very attractive girl and gives her a hard time for being so attractive, because in his past he was always overlooked by women like this. Kind of an interesting story, not his best but not his worst either.

Missed Connection – a funny little story by Novak, in the style of a Personal Add. I’d go into detail but the details would ruin the story because of the way it progresses. It’s very short though.

Missing Link – I’ve read this story 3 times now, and to date it is still the only thing I’ve ever read by Frank Herbert. It’s about an astronaut who is investigating a missing ship on a planet of violent glass blowers. Kind of a cross between Sci-Fi and Mystery.

Monster the Roller Coaster – when you read a story like this you realize just how brilliant of a writer Novak truly is. The story is about an artist who makes a roller coaster that is supposed to imitate life. The story takes place at a focus group with people explaining what they liked and didn’t like about the roller coaster. Every word of the story has a double meaning to it, if not more. It’s incredibly deep, maybe not as funny as some of the others from the collection, but very much worth a few reads.

The Moon is Green – this is one of a handful of stories from the “Classif Sci-Fi” audiobook about a post nuclear war. Taking place I think in England, about a woman living in one of the hard to get surface apartments with an important but also emotionally abusive husband. It’s a heavy story, which almost goes without saying, but it’s very good.

More Stately Mansions – A Vonnegut story from “Welcome to the Monkey House.” It’s kind of sad and kind of disturbing, but not so much to spoil the reading. It’s about a couple that moves into a neighborhood and befriends a woman who is constantly making suggestions about things to do with the house. The disturbing part is when the couple finally goes over to the neighbor’s house they see her house is very shabby. The story gets even weirder at the end, but it ends on a happy note… kind of.

The Moving Finger – this is one of the few stories from King’s Nightmare and Dreamscapes that I don’t much care for. It’s just a basic monster plot device, a long finger that crawls out of the sink, too long for what it’s about.

Mr. Yummie – One of the stories from King’s latest collection “Bazaar of Bad Dreams” and a new edition to the Story anthology. The story is about two old men, one who believes he is about to die because he has seen someone from his past who no one else can see in the nursing home. The idea of death is just as prevalent in King’s later works, though it’s a very different side of the subject, understandable given his semi-advancing age.

Mute – this is my favorite story from King’s “Just After Sunset” and maybe second favorite story by King (top five easily). It’s very funny and not really a horror story. It’s about a man who picks up a hitch-hiker who is a deaf-mute and the proceeds to tell the hitch-hiker all about his current troubles with his wife, which are pretty significant. The story is then interspliced with the same man telling a catholic priest about the telling the hitch-hicker about his problems, adding an interesting double layer meta-narrative to the story.

My Appearance – despite the fact that David Foster Wallace is my favorite writer, he is still hit or miss, and this story is one of those misses. The constant use of the phrase “I am a woman who…” gets rather annoying and also doesn’t make the story or narrator believable, at least for me. There is an essay by Wallace (“Twenty Four Word Notes” from the posthumous collection “Both Flesh and Not”) where he explains “who” is the appropriate way to say a sentence in reference to somebody as opposed to “that,” which I assume is technically true, but when used so heavily in a first person narrative, is not successful narration, it’s also an example of telling not showing.  Also the “behind the scenes” take of a popular television show was already done and done much better in the first story from the same collection “Little Expressionless Animals.” I like the story the first time I read it, but much less so this time around.

My Pretty Pony – Evidently a segment from a Bachman novel that was either never finished or published (I don’t quite remember which). Not at all a horror story, but also not good, one of the rare misses from “Nightmares and Dreamscapes.” The story is about a boy and the last time he sees his grandfather who is dying from heart disease caused by smoking. Strangely enough, this story was the one I most wanted to read from the collection, yet ultimately one of my least favorites (but still better than “The Moving Finger”).

The Mystery Knight – and wrapping up the letter we have the third Dunk and Egg Novella from George R.R. Martin. For those of you who don’t know, the Dunk and Egg stories are from the Game of Thrones universe, but take place about 90 years before the start of that novel, following the adventures of future king Agon the Unlikely as he squires for a mildly-witted and massive hedge knight named Sir Duncan the Tall. Of the three stories thus far, this is one the best, it deals a lot in heraldry, and a tourney held at a wedding, and features two characters that appear in the Game of Thrones book proper, i.e. Walder Frey and Blood Ravine. There is a great scene where an unassuming tourney knight, Sir Uther Underleaf, offers to team up with Sir Duncan at various tourney’s and suggests Sir Duncan change his arms to a baby impaled on a lance. I would love to see this series continue, almost as much as I love to see the author finish the god damn Game of Thrones series, but since he appears to do everything accept finish the book at this point, I’m not holding my breath.

Cartridge Review Vol. 3

Intro – for those loyal readers who have been following the blog since last summer, you may remember this series. Well, here is the long awaited Vol. 3 of 4 (the last one should be hitting soon, before the next two long term projects).

 

Systems – for Vol. 3 were going to be covering the SNES, the Game Boy and the Game Boy Advance. Each of these collections are significantly smaller than the NES or Genesis collection. DS and 3DS will not be included because those are cards more than cartridges.

 

SNES – My SNES collection is small, there are only a hand full of games that I want to get for the system at this point, and annoyingly they tend to be very expansive, Like Super Noah’s Ark 3D, but that’s a 300+$ game. Other games on the wish list: Home Improvement, Super Mario All-Stars +or- world, Uniracers, Kirby’s Dream Course, and Tetris & Dr. Mario. In fact only one game in the SNES collection was on my wish list at one point then obtained, and we’ll get to that in a minute. The SNES games here have all been played on the Retron 2.

 

Championship Pool – actually a pretty fun pool game, not the best I’ve played but pretty good. There is a championship mode where you can play 8 Ball or 9 Ball against the computer. I couldn’t get past the first stage in either. But I did come close in both. There’s also a free mode you can play, but I didn’t do it in this review.

 

Cool Spot – I already covered this one in vol. 2 and they seem to be the same game. This time around I made it to level 3 and I had the game set on medium not easy. I don’t know if it’s because of the graphics, the controller, or if it’s just simply because I had played the game recently, but I did do better this time around.

 

Denis the Menace – a pretty bad game, well animated but that’s where it ends, two bad weapons that do barely anything, a week jump that requires you to get hit in order to reach higher platforms, a lot of bad guys (which by itself is not necessarily a bad thing but when combined with the other problems it’s unbearable) and no clear objective. I’ve watched a video on how to beat the first level, but I don’t care enough to try it myself. James and Mike did a nice short cover of this game. They put more into it then I did, but still didn’t get any further.

 

The Legend of Zelda: a Link to the Past – if I had to pick a favorite game series it would be Zelda. This game is my favorite on the SNES (in original form), and the only one to have been on my wishlist before being obtained (the others were all random pick-ups) but it’s hard as hell. I’ve put 13 hours into this game thus far and I still haven’t made it past level 3 (although maybe that’s level 3 of the dark world I’m not sure). I beat the Link Between Worlds (the 3DS’ direct sequel to this game). A Link to the Past was the game I played most heavily in the winter of 2016, but by the spring, it just didn’t feel right, I was close to beating the level 3 boss this time around, continuing the saved game where I left off.

 

Porky Pig’s Haunted Holiday – unarguably the first game I ever got for the SNES and also the only game for the system that I have (as of yet) beaten. On the easy setting yes but all the other games have been set to easy to (if available) and I haven’t beaten them yet. The game has received mild reviews because it’s low difficulty, and I suppose that if this was one of the only games I had for the system and spent 50$ on it when it came out I might be a little annoyed, but none of those things are the case. The game is fairly fun, well animated with an interesting (though minimal) story line. In this play through I made it to level 3 (of which there are only 5 I think) not too bad. I did a more thorough review of this game early on in this blog and you can read it here.

 

Road Runner’s Death Valley Rally – I picked up this game because of the low price and because I had a good experience with the other Looney Tunes game for the system (see above), this game is not so good. The game is fast, it’s meant to be fast like a Sonic game, and in a race (putting Sonic and Road Runner side by side) I think the Road Runner might win. Unfortunately the level design is not set up well to accommodate the speed that your main character (the Road Runner) has. There are gages and pratfalls like a typical Road Runner cartoon, but the annoyance in trying to find the exit for each stage. The game leaves a lot to be desired. I couldn’t make it past stage 3 of level 1.

 

Tetris 2 – this game doesn’t work, it’s one of only 2 in my collection that doesn’t, and luckily I have another copy of it on Game Boy, a recent Acquisition. I should take a moment her to make one statement: the Genesis and the NES in my opinion are both superior to the SNES for a number of reasons (which I won’t be getting into here), but the one place where the SNES does shine over the others is in the durability of the cartridges. Most NES and Genesis games I played for these reviews I had to blow several times to make them work. Some took almost 10 minutes and blowing and reinserting to get to work, but the SNES, I only had to blow on one cart one time to get it to function right. Too bad this particular game doesn’t work at all, it seems to freeze at the copyright screen and no button will go past it. Don’t worry, I have another copy of it for another system, and will get to that later in this review.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighter – I’m a big fan of the turtles and at some point I may do a more elaborate review of my two turtles games (see the forthcoming Cartridge Review Vol. 4 for the next one), the first 3 seasons of the show, and the toys. This game itself is really good but like any other fourth generation fighting game very difficult. I had the game set one its lowest difficulty and couldn’t make it past shredder (who I think is the final boss though I could be wrong), I played as Wingnut mostly, I have his toy, but unfortunately the episode he’s in is not on my DVD’s.

 

Game boy – I believe Game Boy is the first system I ever got, as a gift from a guy who worked at an airport and had access to the lost and found. My original gray brick Game Boy is currently MIA, but I still have all the games for it, and with the Game Boy Addapter for the Game Cube, I can still play them all… almost all anyways, you’ll see.

 

4-in-1 FunPak- I’m not sure whether to consider this a multi-cart or just a game that happens to have 4 general games on it. They’re all board games: Chess, Checkers, Backgammon and reverse. Again the question of whether I should do 30 minutes for each arises. The answer, a little different this time: play each game straight through.

 

Chess – one of my favorite games and one of the few “sports” that I actually follow. I’m okay at the game but nothing spectacular. I know chess notation and I have recorded the game here. I played as white with the difficulty set at level 1. I won of course, but it still took me a while to get through the game, 40 movies, I was expecting around 20. If you know how to read algebraic notation you can read the game for yourself here, if not skip to the next. Either way, it’s not very enlightening. 1.d4 d5 2.g3 e6 3.Bg2 f5 4.Nf3 c6 5.0-0 a6 6.c4 dxc4 7.Nc3 Qd6 8.Bf4 Qb4 9.a3 Qxb2 10.Bd2 Bxa3 11.Rb1 b5 12.Rxb2 Bxb2 13.Ne5 Ne7 14.Qb2 Ba3 15.e4 0-0 16.exf5 exf5 17.Bg5 Bd6 18.d5 Bxe5 19.Re1 Ng6 20.exc6 Bf6 21.c7 Ra7 22.axb8=q Bd4 23.Qxf5 Bxc3 24.Qd5+ Be6 25.Qxe6+ Raf7 26.Qxf8+ Nxf8 27.Qxa6 Bxe1 28.Qxb5 Bxf2+ 29.Kh1 c3 30.Qb3 h6 31.Bc1 Bd4 32.Qc4 Be5 33.Bd5 Bf6 34. Bxf7+ Kh7 35.Qd3 Kh8 36.Ba3 Nh7 37.Qc4 Ng5 38.Bg6 Nf3 39.Qc8+ Bd8 40.Qxd8#

 

Checkers – I lost, again playing against the computer on the lowest setting. Checkers is a game I do not understand well. I suppose if I put more time in it I would, but I’m not nearly as interested in it as I am with chess.

 

Backgammon – gave up, did not understand the game, and couldn’t figure out where I had to move the pieces. I got a backgammon app for my phone, maybe after I play more I can try it again on the Game Boy… or maybe not.

 

Reversi – lost. The game looks interesting though, in fact more interesting then backgammon, I may start playing this game more frequently.

 

Donkey Kong – I played this game once when I got it and didn’t like it that much. The trailer I saw for it, when it was available for the 3DS Virtual Consul showed a game considerably different then what I played when I popped it, or so I thought. At first it seems to be more or less a direct port of the original arcade game, which I don’t like all that much, but that’s only the first level, more of a demo level really. The actual game is more like the Mario Vs. Doneky another series I love. I still don’t like this game quite as much as MvDK but it’s much better now that I’ve played it a little more. Also the art on the cartridge is really good. The game boy may have some of the best artwork out there, which is surprising given how small the medium is to work with.

 

Kirby’s Star Stackers – This is my favorite game on the system, without a doubt. I have it on my 3DS as well and play it all the time, and I’m also quite good at it, I’ve cleared out all of the round clears at least twice and the highest score I’ve gotten in a single game is around 1,500 points. I don’t have an exsact figure because I had deleted the file a few months ago, so I could go through the game fresh again (this is something I do often in games I really like). In the half hour I played I only did the challenge, only one challenge, I wasn’t even close to losing and got a score of 632 points.

 

Maddan 97 –  I played this game for 7 minutes for this test, that’s all I could take.

 

Metroid – I’ve had this game for quite a while, this time around I really enjoyed it and got further than I ever had before, though exactly how far that is and where I can’t really say as I am not very familiar with the game itself and the series. Even though the game is streamlined, there is still and awful lot her to explore, worth checking out.

 

Mickeys Dangerous Chase – I did better on this game the first time I tested it then this time around, and I also liked it more then. I can’t get past the speedboat section (beginning of level 2 I believe). You can play as either Mickey or Minnie, I chose Minnie of course, but I don’t think that makes a huge difference. A lot of game overs in the half hour test.

 

Pac-Man – classic arcade game, supposedly “Mrs. Pac-Man” is the superior game in every way, but the original is a great, highly addictive (and at times annoying), game. I don’t think I need to explain how this game works to anyone really. After a half hour of ply I got a high score of: 14710 points.

 

Solomon’s Club – This is one of those, semi-rare puzzle platformers and my favorite of the genre (if you count the Mario Vs. Donkey Kong games as pure puzzle games, which I do). It’s one of my favorite games for the system, but not a very popular one. I picked it up in the Game Boys hay day for 12$ at Toys ‘R Us, taking a gamble at the time and getting a good pay out. There was a similar NES game called Solomon’s Key, which I have on the Wii virtual consul. that game is not as good though, it doesn’t have a level select the way that Club does, and it seems harder, though that may just be me, I think the first level is the same in both games, but I’ll have to double check. In the half hour play test I cleared out the first two levels (each one with 10 rooms). Despite the NES game being the lesser of the two, it’s still and automatic pick up if I should find it.

 

Space Cadet Adventures – for a while this was my least favorite game on the system, but I think that’s gotten beat now by Madden 97 (which is a little unfair but…). The game is unfriendly at the very least: 3 hits, 3 lives, no continues, there is health to regain but the controls are suggest, especially the hair ball projectile. To make matters worse, everything can hurt you, from a flying lightbulb to a puddle on the floor to, sound waves, and even certain buttons on the in game computers. Playing it this time however I seemed to do better than I had before, not great but better, it seems that your fingers will know what to I do after the first couple of times around. Apparently you do get to play as Ren lost on a foreign planet, but I’ve never made it this far myself. Perhaps this game would in fact be worth a serious review, especially considering it is based on their best episode, but before that happens I have a few other reviews to get through.

 

Mario Land 2: six gold coins – my first game for the system, my favorite platformer for the system, and also my favorite of the traditional Mario games. I also have this on the 3DS virtual consul, it’s that good, probably my second favorite game for the system overall, but it doesn’t beat out Star Stackers because little does. In the half hour run I was able to acquire gold coins from the Space Zone and the Mario Zone. I’ve made it to warrior before but I’ve never beaten him, maybe one of these days.

 

Tetris – Another one of my favorite series and one I’m pretty good at too. Interesting to note that almost everyone that had an original game boy had this game… almost. It was a pack in title for the game boy and is largely if not directly responsible for cementing Nintendo’s place in the hand held market during the era. Why? Tetris is a game that appeals to a wide verity of players: hardcore gamers, puzzle fans, casual gamers, and gamers of any age. The same strategy was employed with the launch of the Wii and Wii Sports. I say almost everyone had this because I didn’t, not for a while anyways; it was one of the last games in bought for the system in its prime. Anyways what can be said about Tetris? I lost a few times in my half hour run (I haven’t played for a while) and the best score I got was: 17817.

 

Tetris 2 – My SNES copy doesn’t work, but this version does. I also had the option to pick it up for the NES, but the same game on three different platforms is a little too redundant for me at this point. The game is considerably different then original Tetris, you’re given a few flashing pieces and you have to match 3 of a kind to clear pieces out. Once you’ve cleared all the flashing pieces you move to the next round. In the half hour I made it to round 9. The game is based on individual puzzles rather than a continuous infinite game (the latter of which I tend to greatly prefer). I don’t mind the setup, if infinite play is also an option, but when it’s the entirety of the game, that’s a problem, for me at least.

 

Tetris attack – Again a very different game then Tetris and Tetris 2, and one of my favorites on the system. The pieces continue to move up and you flip two pieces at once side by side to match 3 or more in a row or column to clear them out. Yoshie and other less recognizable characters make an appearance. The music (if you pick Yoshie at least) is by far the best music for any game on the system. Playing continuously I lasted about 20 minutes and got a score of 8,688 points. I picked this up from the bargain bin at my (then) game store for 2$ I think and it is the best Game Boy game I’ve gotten there and maybe best overall game I’ve gotten there as well… maybe.

 

Yoshies Cookie – Unfortunately this game doesn’t. I have gotten it to work once in the past, and it’s a puzzle game, but not an infinite play one. The cover art is nice thought.

 

Game Boy Advanced – interestingly my GBA collection is by far the most valuable by per game average as all of them (all 4) are complete in box.

 

Harvest Moon: More Friends of Mineral town – One of my wife’s games which I didn’t play. If I remember right, I got this game for her for her birthday or maybe a (dating) anniversary along with the Game Boy Micro. This is not a game you can make significant progress in in a half hour even if I did play it, which I didn’t.

 

Shaman King Legacy – Another one of my wife’s game, and since I know almost nothing about it, and I don’t want to potentially mess up her save file (if there is one), I didn’t play it for this review.

 

Super Mario World: Super Mario Advanced 2 – This game (along with the next) my wife made me pick up when they were on clearance at the department story she was working at. I got it brand new for 6 or 12$ at the time. I’ve only played it a few times, I remember once (probably the day I got it) we had played it together all the way to the haunted forest zone (not sure what it’s called) and got stuck there. In this half hour of play I beat Iggie’s Castle. Also I realized that there is a bonus game on the cart, the original Mario Bros. game, but with greatly improved graphics. It also seems to be easier to play. I got a score of 79,440 before getting a continue screen.

 

The Legend of Zelda – This is somewhat surprisingly one of the most valuable games in my collection, and the reason I won’t pick up the original Legend of Zelda for the NES yet, because I already have it and I know that I physically can’t get past the 4th temple (You can read more about that in my larger review of the game). In this run, I started a fresh game and in a half hour of play: I died 11 times, beat the first temple, got bombs, the bow, and arrows, and I did all this without using a guide or external map, and I’m fairly impressed with myself at that.

Magical Gastronomy

Greetings (Again) My Loyal Readers,

This may be the first time this has happened, but, believe it or not, I have another story fresh of the press, less than a week after my last.

Magical Gastronomy from The Ginger Collect

 

This story I from the debut issue of a brand new publisher called “The Ginger Collect.”

Unlike the previous stories published this month, this one has considerably more meat to it, as it should, considering it is about food. At just over 4,000 words, it is considerably longer then the last two stories combined.

I am very happy to have this story published, as it was first submitted (and rejected) almost 5 years ago, and in that time it has been submitted to 8 different places (including the Ginger Collect), Rejected 4 times, ignored (asked for a re-write, then ultimately withdrawn after being ignored again from one place), submitted to one publisher that closed while pending, and then finally accepted.

In short it took a lot of work to get this one published, but it was work I am happy to do as long as people read it.

The story may not be for everyone, but I hope you take a look at it nonetheless, and if you do enjoy it, that would be even better.

 

P.S. if you didn’t get to read the last story, here is a link for that one too.

 

The Easter Bunny on a Glass Elevator Going Down

Greetings all my loyal readers,

I have for your pleasure my second story published this year: “The Easter Bunny on a Glass Elevator Going Down” from Foxglove Journal. Yes, Easter is still a few weeks away, but I don’t like to wait on these things that much.

There are several songs mentioned in this story, so if the story has peaked your interest here are some of the songs.

The main song: “Losing My Religion” by REM

Heart of a Dragon” the DragonForce song that sounds like “Peter Cottontail”

And “Peter Cottontail” (for comparison of course)

And though I’m not a fan of the song, here’s Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)

There’s other songs mentioned but they should be familiar enough.

If you can’t wait to get some more “awesome” stories from Zach Smith, I have some good news. Another story was picked up a few weeks ago. I don’t know when it will be published, but it should be imminent. In the mean time you can check out the rest of my blog.

Enjoy,

Zach.

Stories I-K

I Know What You Need – Starting off this batch of stories is one from Stephen King’s “Night Shift.”  Night Shift is a strange collection, it’s not bad, some of the stories are actually quite good and clever, but it is much less mature then his later works. Unlike his later collections the stories in this collection are almost entirely horror based, and all but one or two are actually short story length. This story is about a college girl that falls in love with this mysterious and somewhat nerdy kid who always seems to know just what the girl needs. This is probably the second best story from the collection, my only problem with it is the title, the title is applicable of course, but it’s kind of bland and there could probably be a better one.

I Want to Live – a candidate for my favorite story form the BASS Century (the other being Gish Jen’s “Birthmates”), this was the first and for a long time only Thom Jones story I had ever read. Since then however I have read one entire book by him, and while two or three of the stories (in that book) are really good, the rest are basically just variations on the same handful of topics. It seems that every story he writes is either about Death, Diseases, Boxing, Africa, Cars, or some combination of the above. This story falls into the Death and Disease category and it’s beautifully written. Jones has his own voice that seems to be cultivated almost independently of any particular influence. It’s a combination of minimalism mixed with train of thought and colloquialism. Three styles which shouldn’t be able to work together, but in this story Jones is able to do just that. Perhaps if he chooses other topics to cover in his stories he would have had a more lustrous corer, but hey there may still be time.

Illinois – one of the historic semi-non-fiction stories from Munro’s “The View from Castle Rock.” It’s not one of my favorite stories from the collection, as it is a western tale and deals largely about a baby and raising a family while fording the wilderness. I have little interest in these topics (i.e. babies and families), but that’s just me. On the plus side it is short, clocking it at a little over half an hour, so you won’t get weighed down in it for too long if you don’t like it.

In Another Country – this is one of the Hemmingway “War Stories,” written in the minimalist vein in which almost nothing significant happens, and there’s almost no plot at all. There is a line in this story where the narrator says he got his medals because he was an American, where as the others (Italians) had earned their medals from the time they spent on the front. That says an awful lot about the meaning the story is trying to convey.

In Sight of the Lake –This story is about a woman who goes to a town she is not familiar with to find a doctor the day before her appointment so that she doesn’t have to look for the doctors on the day of the appointment. Which is not a terrible idea to tell you the truth. This is one of the rare Alice Munro stories to have an unexpected twilight zone-esqu twist ending.

Incarnations of Burnt Children – for a while this is one of the very few audio stories I could find from Wallace’s third story collection “Oblivion.” The story was actually read by Wallace himself at I believe a book signing. Not one of my favorite works of his, probably my least favorite from the collection. It’s about a baby that is accidentally scolded. It ends in a bizarre way that is open to interpretation. The story is painful to read, but on the plus side it is very short.

The Interior Castle – I’ve read this story a few times and I’m still not quite sure what it is about, but I think this fogginess is intentional and also well used given the circumstances. The story is about a woman who has survived a car accident and is in a hospital going through surgeries and so on. You never really find out who the woman is, no friends or family seem to come and visit her, etc. If the intention of the story is to mimic the haziness an accident victim is wont to experience, then the story is highly successful and deserves to be in the BASS century collection. To me, this one is worth a few more reads .

It Grows On You – this is another good, but somewhat weird, story from Kings “Nightmares and Dreamscapes” it’s not really all that scary, and has a high literary value to it. There is actually a whole lot that goes on in this story even though almost nothing actually happens, kind of like a Seinfeld episode. It’s basically about a haunted house and all the townsfolk speculations about it.

The Ivory Acrobat – this is a story about an American woman living in Greece working as a teacher and dealing with the aftermath of an earthquake. The name comes from a gift that the woman’s friend gives her, a small statuette of an acrobat jumping over a bull, the original statue (according to the story) had been destroyed in an earthquake some 80 years before. Like most of DeLillo’s stories, it is very vague and difficult to understand.

The Jelly-Bean – I’ve read this story before, a few times I think, and never really understood it or liked it, until this go around. It’s more or less about wealthy college and post-college hedonism, like a less disturbing 20’s era Less Then Zero. (Maybe it was more disturbing and controversial for the time it was written). It’s one of Fitzgerald’s better stories (now that I’ve had time to digest it) and certainly better then the choice from BASS-Century.

Jerusalem’s Lot – easily the best story from King’s “Night Shift” and clearly the one he spent the most time on. It’s also the longest from the book, and I would put it easily in his all time top ten best stories. I was a little disappointed to find out that a lot of things from the story were taken from Lovecraft, but not greatly. The story is told in Epistolary form about the strange Abandoned town of Jerusalem’s Lot. Evidently this is the same place as ‘Salam’s Lot (note the parenthetical mark at the beginning of the title) for which the novel and movie of the same name take place. The story is about the spiritual remains of a satanic puritan splinter group, which is a pretty interesting idea in itself. Definitely worth the read, and it is a little more spooky then most of his stories.

John Billy – one of the stories from Wallace’s “Girl with Curious Hair” collection. I have mixed feelings on this particular story. It’s written in a southern dialect and it’s about a guy named Chuck Nunn Jr. who’s superhuman exploits are highly reminiscent of Chuck Noris Jokes. That’s the down side to the story. The plus side is that it is a pretty interesting story, and is told in an interesting way. One of the characters in the story T. Rex Minogue, has throat cancer and has to talk through a synthetic voice box, which the narrator uses in order to affect the voice, which is a nice touch, Robert Petcoff (Wallace’s Standard Reader) is quite a good voice actor.

The Killers – this is actually my favorite Ernest Hemingway story, at least from all the stories I’ve read by him (which isn’t a huge amount of them). it’s based in part on a painting I really like called “Nighthawks” by Edwin Hooper. The story is a very early example of minimalist writing, both in them and writing style, little happens in the plot and the sentences are generally very small and simple. Personally, having spent a lot of time in diners, I like the back and forth with the two gangsters trying to order dinner when only the breakfast menu is available: “I can make you ham and eggs, bacon and eggs, liver and bacon, or I can cook you a stake.” what a great line.

Killing – a John Updike story that deals with divorce and the death of a parent. The main character has taken her father off life support and is waiting for him to die. After the funeral her ex-husband comes to visit and support her and the kids and the two end up sleeping in the same bed, but he is unable to perform sexually and finds this to be a vindication that he is truly in love with his current wife. It’s good but not Updike’s best.

Winter Movies

I make a lot of goals or intentions for what to do throughout the year, most of which I don’t fulfill, but this one I have been. last year I tried to watch one movie a week, and I ended with well below half of that goal, this year I am well on pace to achieve this and maybe even make up for the quantity I missed last year. Here are all the movies I’ve watched so far this winter (starting on January 1st).

 

The Short List:

  • God’s Gun^
  • Bulldog Drummond’s Peril ^
  • Time Raiders
  • Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge^
  • The Front Page^
  • The Pale Face^
  • Grumpy Old Men^
  • The Flying Deuces^
  • Groundhog Day*
  • What’s Up Tiger Lilly*
  • Airplane*
  • British Intelligence^
  • His Private Secretary^
  • Palooka^
  • False Pretenses^
  • Fando Y Lis
  • The Milky Way^
  • Dead Again
  • Conan the Barbarian
  • The Last of the Wild Horses (MST3K)

Key:

* = Movies I’ve seen before

^ = Movies from Bargain Bin DVD Boxes.

 

Commentary:

 

God’s Gun – A very good western starring Lee Van Cleef (in two roles) and a very young Leif Garret. This is the 4th movie I’ve seen off my Western 20 movies for 5$ DVD, and all 4 of them have been great so far, and I didn’t even think I liked westerns that much, but I guess I do.

 

Bulldog Drummond’s Peril – Noir/Comedy, not bad, not the first Bulldog Drummond movie I’ve seen and probably not the best either.

 

Time Raiders – interesting Chinese kung-fu/adventure/fantasy/archeology movie. My wife read the book that the movie is based on and then made her mom and I watch it. It was pretty good.

 

The Front Page – a Pre-Code Comedy based on a play of the same name about Tabloid reporters. The movie is too long and convoluted to be good, but it gets an extra star for being pre-code and a very good punch line ending.

 

Grumpy Old Men – Never saw this movie before, though I think I saw a few small pieces when they first showed it on TV.  Right at the beginning, when Walter Matthau greets Jake Lemon with “Mornin’ Dick-head” you know this is going to be a funny movie, and it was. Extra points for Burgess Meredith (in my opinion one of the greatest most underrated actors of all time) in the roll of Lemon’s rakish and hard living 90 year old Father. I am adding this movie to my cannon of movies to be watched during the Christmas season. The others of which are: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Polar Express (recently added), What’s Up Tiger Lilly, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Bank Dick, The History of Mankind, my 1988 Xmas Tape (several times-blog entry forthcoming), Rifftrax Starwars Holiday Special (also several times), 1995 Cartoon Box.

 

The Flying Deuces – when I first got into old comedies (back in 2001), I came across Laurel and Hardy and wanted to see some of their films. My mom said “you might not like their stuff,” well it turned out she was right (it happens once in a while), because it sucked. Most of it I didn’t find funny, and half of it I couldn’t even tell what was supposed to be funny. The famous flying sequence for which the movie is named is only maybe 10 minutes at the very end of the film, whereas the rest of it is about Hardy joining the French Foreign Legion to get over a girl.

 

Fando Y Lis – I’ve wanted to see this movie for years, it’s frequently put on lists of very bizarre movies, and it is unarguably the weirdest movie I’ve ever seen. Not bad, it’s definitely one to look into and think about and discuss long after watching it, but it is not for the weak of heart. The film is so strange that when it was first shown in Mexico (the director’s native country) the audience literally rioted.

 

The Milky Way – the first Harold Lloyd movie I’ve ever seen, and not bad, definitely willing to check out his other films. This one is about a boxer (one of several boxing related movies this season).

 

Dead Again – we did this movie for the film club, I had never heard of it before and I don’t know who recommended it, but I really enjoyed it. Magical Realist Historic Noir Rom-Com, I never head of a combination like that before. And it works really well, 5 star movie all the way. It may have only been a 4 star, but the stellar performances of minor characters played by Robin Williams and Wayne Knight, and the few unlikely plot turns puts the movie easily into the highest of ratings.

 

Conan the Barbarian – really liked this movie. The acting is pretty universally bad (James Earl Jones notwithstanding) however the Score, Scenery, Action and Plot make up well for the words that the actors struggle to deliver. I immediately noticed that Subotia’s theme music is almost the same melody as “Firewings” by Aquaria, and the Orgy Temple Attack is again very similar to “Epicus Furor” the opening song off “Symphony of Enchanted Lands” by Rhapsody of Fire. Check out the links to see the similarities, they are striking I assure you, and there are probably other musical homages by later power metal bands, but I don’t know what they are off the top of my head. I don’t know how often I’ll be rewatching this movie, but I am looking forward to the sequel (included in the same DVD Box)

 

The Last of the Wild Horses (MST3K) – Not one of MST3K’s best episodes. I was hoping it would be good because the first quarter or so of the movie is actually watched by Dr. Forester and TV’s Frank, while Mike and Crow are evil and conducting the experiment due in part to a switch between an alternate universe. However the jokes fell a little flat throughout, audio was not good and hard to make out at points, and the movie also seemed like it might be okay, certainly not one of the worst they did (though that could just be my predisposition towards Westerns, also this is one of the few if not only western they ever did).

Every Woman in the Afterlife Hates You

Greetings loyal readers.

First I’d like to apologize for the lack of blog posts so far this year, hopefully this is the end of the two month long dry spell, and I can/will post things more frequently in the future. I’ve been working on some things, but there hasn’t been as much time to write this year as I was hoping for, oh well.

Anyways I am pleased to present the first newly published story of this year. Its part of the winter 2017 issue of the Corvus Review, which is a publication I have not been published in before. The story is a flash fiction, of the magic realism/humor variety, and was inspired in part by Stephen King’s “Afterlife,” Andy Weir’s “The Egg” (he’s author of novel that the Martian was based on), and one of the ending sequences from “A Scanner Darkly.”

Like the story “Syphon Theory” this is another story that was written and edited and in the form you see it here within a single hour.

You can find the new story here on page 42 of the issue.

Enjoy.

P.S. it has recently come to my attention that this is my first published F-Word. Not sure why I’m proud of that but I am. I try not to use a lot of profanity in my writing, though sometimes it calls for it, and if used sparingly the few times it is use, it hits well, kind of like using exclamation points.