Archive for March, 2013

Halflings CourtWhen I was a kid, I successfully campaigned for my Boy Scout patrol to change its name from the “Owl Patrol” to the “Vampire Patrol.”

See, this was about 1979, and vampires were still pretty freakin awesome. Animated corpses with diabolical powers clawing their way out of their graves, hell-bent on tearing open some throats? Come on. What’s in that scenario for a 12-year-old boy not to love?

Little did I know that pop culture vampires had already begun their steady decline into wussification (which I’ve previously touched on here).

Anne Rice — a guilty pleasure of mine, I must admit — painted them as a bunch of preening pretty-boys in “Interview With the Vampire,” published three years earlier. In subsequent decades, they would increasingly become the domain of black-lipstick-wearing goth types.

Then the “Twilight” series came along. And in retrospect, we might as well have dubbed ourselves the “Twinkly Happy Prancing Little Unicorn Patrol.”

But vampires aren’t the only folkloric creatures to make a pop culture transformation from scary and dangerous to twee and sparkly. In a previous generation, the same thing happened to fairies.

Yes, fairies. As in Tinker Bell. As in the gay slur referencing the (offensive, ignorant and untrue) stereotype of gay men as a bunch of mincing weaklings. As in the benign, childlike beings that have graced countless pieces of eye-searingly tacky home décor. Those things.

They used to be badass. (more…)


Posted: March 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

I misspoke this morning at McDonald’s, and accidentally ordered an “Egg McGuffin.” It came in a black briefcase. Then Nazi spies stole it, and I had to get it back.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love horror movies. But my friend Rob Schlotz REALLY loves them. Every week, he scours the local Redbox for horror films and checks out every one of them. And for the record, yes, he does have a life. More so than I do. Although that’s not setting the bar very high.

As far as I’m concerned, that makes him eminently qualified to review horror movies. See, he and I don’t always agree on movies. In fact, we frequently disagree — leading to bitter arguments, slammed doors, tearful recriminations and, not infrequently, fisticuffs.

But I want to provide reviews on this blog that will be valuable to horror fans. And I figure that since Rob’s such a horror fan, that’s precisely what qualifies him to write reviews. If he likes something, and you’re as big a horror buff as he is, you may like it too.

Another advantage is that Rob checks out the “Grade B” offerings in addition to the mainstream Hollywood stuff. And as I’ve written about before here, Grade B horror films have historically produced some hidden gems. Maybe Rob will stumble across a few of them.

We’ll see how this goes, but I’d kind of like to make this a regular feature. Feel free to chime in if you have any comments, or if you just want to welcome Rob aboard.

Well, enough of my gum-flapping. Take it away, Horror Maven! (more…)

stewieI guess I’m weighing in a little late in the news cycle about Seth MacFarlane’s now-notorious Oscars hosting gig. But I’m not really going to talk about the gig itself, so much as what it illustrates about the nature of humor. And in that respect, a little bit of perspective is probably a good thing.

As a writer of humor – or what I HOPE constitutes humor, anyway – it’s a debate that I’ve followed, in the hopes that I might glean some insights.

MacFarlane, of course, took a lot of criticism for the jokes he made. Many observers, including Jamie Lee Curtis and Jane Fonda, branded him as sexist. Particularly infuriating, from the critics’ standpoint, was a musical number titled “We Saw Your Boobs,” which was essentially a listing of movies in which female actresses showed their breasts.

Another factor in the controversy, for better or worse, is the fact that MacFarlane’s appearance accomplished exactly what the Oscar programmers hoped it would. Ratings were up, particularly among the coveted 18-to-34-year-old demographic. (more…)


David Groff is an American expatriate living in Japan, where he studies martial arts and translates classic samurai texts.

Wow. I feel like just typing that sentence made me cooler.

Anyway, I recently reviewed his translation of Miyamoto Musashi’s 17th Century work, The Five Rings. You can see that review here.

David agreed to a follow-up interview where he discusses his martial arts training, the challenges of translating a work like The Five Rings, and the always contentious issue of samurai vs. ninjas.

How did you end up in Japan, and handling this translation?

I came to Japan in 1997 as an English teacher. I’d been kicking around doing a variety of jobs since college, and did a brief stint teaching Italian at Penn State, where I realized I really enjoyed teaching. I thought about doing graduate study in Italian and pursuing teaching that, but then I thought, “Hey, my Italian is decent, but my English is really good. I bet I could teach that somewhere…” I’ve always had a bit of wanderlust, anyway, so I got an English-teaching certification and started looking for places to go, and I’d been interested in Japan for a long time… there were a lot of jobs here, and they paid well (I had a bit of debt at the time, and with the exchange rate a salary in Colombian pesos was just not going to make a dent in that); I had an interview in New York, and a few months later I was on a plane. (more…)