Brown River Queen cover art

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Movie Review: Battle Los Angeles

Will aliens never learn?

By now, you've probably seen the trailer for Battle: Los Angeles.  The trailer looked great -- a sky filled with marauding alien aircraft, strange figures moving stealthily through the smoke of battle, the pound and rattle of heavy artillery and automatic weapons fire.

As a sucker for effects-filled run-and-gun alien smash-em-ups, I awaited the opening of this movie with unseemly glee.  I was there opening night, crossbow loaded and ready to (quietly) dispatch any cell-phone talkers in the theatre, eager to finally see a movie that rivaled Aliens for sheer effects-laden fun.

Battle: Los Angeles did not disappoint.

There's no long windup.  We are briefly introduced to the small Marine unit we'll be following throughout the movie, and then the aliens just drop out of the sky and wreak epic havoc upon the city of angels.

We're also told the same thing is happening across the globe.  Cities are being wiped out as the aliens drop into the seas just off the coast and begin their deadly march inland.  No warning, no demands, no communication of any kind -- they just smash down, stand up, and start the slaughter.

The Marines are ordered to head beyond the defensive line, into the battle zone, to rescue a number of people trapped in a police station.  Go in, get them out, get them back to safety.

Of course, things don't work that way.  But enough said about that.

The action is intense and non-stop.  I mean it.  Non-stop.  These poor slugs don't get a minute of peace.  And the effects are miraculous; short of actually blowing the crap out of a none-too-affluent section of LA, including the freeways, I have no idea how they did this.  The look of this film is amazing.  I swear I was covered in a gritty layer of concrete dust by the time the credits rolled.

Do our brave Marines survive?  Does the obligatory child survivor oif the attack make it?  Do we finally show these upstart aliens how we do things downtown?

See the movie.  You'll have a blast.

That was the good.

Now for the ugly.  There may be spoilers ahead, minor ones, but if you're sensitive to these things please stop reading now and look to your right and click on a book and buy it.  Yes.  That one. Now buy another...

Nearly every alien invasion movie ever made shares some of the same dumb-headed flaws, which I shall enumerate below:

1) The aliens want our water.  Yes.  Our tasty, tasty H2O.  Forget the fact that the cosmos is literally awash in the stuff -- there's even plenty of ice on the Moon, for Pete's sake -- but apparently ours comes from sparkling artesian springs and lizard-faced space bugs just find the stuff irresistible. NOTE TO MOVIE MAKERS -- anybody with a high school chemistry lab can *make* freaking water.  Anybody with a space armada can just fly around and scoop the stuff up.  Fighting for it is just dumb.  But not as dumb as using water for fuel.  ANOTHER NOTE TO MOVIE MAKERS -- The amount of energy (chemical, kinetic, thermal, what have you) available in water is well-known.  You can break the chemical bonds between H and O all you want, but you're not going to power starships or weapons with it.  And even if you could, just grab it from places where heroic Marines won't fight you to the death for it.  Duh.

2) The aliens want our women.  Maybe they don't have any of their own.  Or maybe the entire alien attack fleet is composed of loser aliens who couldn't get dates.  But seriously?  I think maybe this speaks more toward the social lives of the script writers than anything else.  That wasn't a part of Battle: Los Angeles, but I wanted to mention it anyway.

3) The aliens want to eat us.  Again, the critters in Battle: Los Angeles showed no desire to do anything to humans but shoot them in the head.  Which is refreshing, since people don't taste too good and anyway they blew up all the liquor stores, so where would you get enough red wine to go with your meal?  Silly aliens.

Of the items above, only #1 applies, and that's if you count a news report blathering away in the background in a single scene.  I dismissed it, and enjoyed the movie despite it.

Favorite scenes from the movie:

1) The impromptu alien autopsy, conducted by a veterinarian and a seriously disgruntled Marine on a still-living alien.  Cutting up a twitching, chittering space baddie with a k-bar knife, looking for interesting organs to shoot -- that's just good fun.

2) The driving-an-armored-vehicle through a mob of surprised aliens scene.  Think octogenarian at a street market, but with .50 caliber guns blazing.  Hey, aliens!  What weighs six tons and just ran over your freakin' head?  This guy!

3) "We already ate breakfast."

So I give Battle: Los Angeles two furiously grinning thumbs-up.  It was loud, it was fast, it was fun.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Un-American Activities -- Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid!

Pick pretty much any moment from any day, and you'll find a group of highly-paid Congresspeople sitting in a room and wasting their time and our money.

And that's fine.  I long ago reconciled myself to the notion that government is the well-dressed equivalent of a dog's breakfast.  Nothing of note ever gets done, but the messes left behind are always epic.

But there are days such as today, where even my abysmally low expectations are set far too high.

I speak of course of Representative Pete King, and his hearings on the subject of Muslim radicalization within the US.

You'd think these imbeciles would learn something from the asinine antics of their brain-damaged forebears.  Joseph McCarthy, anyone?  Communists hiding behind every shrub, every fountain, every comic book?  Except of course there weren't any.  McCarthy ruined lives and careers but his army of hidden Communists never materialized because they never existed in the first place.

Sigh.  Pete King probably has a brass bust of Joe McCarthy on his mantel.  Or full-length nude photos of McCarthy in his desk.  Because King is determined to not only follow in McCarthy's footsteps, but actually exceed the man's dedication to the ideal of finding monsters hiding in every corner.

This time around, it's not Communists, but....<gasp> Muslims.  Or, as Joe King doubtlessly prefers to pronounce it, moo-slims.  They're radicalized, infers Pete.  Radicalized and ready to throw down some jihad any second now!  Blood and apple pie will run in the streets! Hide the wimmin and grab yer guns, boys, 'cause the mooslims is a' comin!

So what does Pete do?

He drags Muslim Americans onto the Hill, and grills them, ostensibly in the hope that they'll get distracted by the cameras and blurt out their sinister plans to blow up the nearest Dunkin' Donuts before nightfall.

That's what outrages me.  No American citizen -- be they Muslim, Baptist, Hindu, whatever -- owes Pete King or anyone else an 'explanation' of their beliefs or their patriotism.

That's supposed to be one of the central perks of being an American -- that you don't have to explain your beliefs to anyone, least of all a bunch of jackbooted government thugs.

I've worked in a university setting all my life.  I've worked with Muslims.  I've worked with Hindus.  With Buddhists.  I've even worked with members of even more exotic sects, such as Methodists and Presbyterians.

According to Pete King, I should have been blown up years ago.  Or if not blown up, converted to radical Islam.

Oddly enough, neither has happened.

Not even close.

Okay, I have developed a fondness for Indian food.  Maybe that's the sinister gateway to terrorism.  From Chicken Korma to radical Islam, in five easy steps?

Want to know about the people I've worked with, laughed with, talked with, over all these years?

They're just people.  The Muslims wanted to go home and see their kids like everyone else.  The Hindus, ditto.  Aside from differences in lunchtime preferences, and who drank coffee and who didn't, I didn't see any significant variations in behavior.

Just what am I supposed to be afraid of?

These 'hearings' are ridiculous.  Ridiculous and insulting.  And as far as I can tell, the only people engaging in overtly un-American activities are Pete King and his cronies, who are obviously engaged in demonizing Muslims as part of a painfully transparent effort to revive the post-911 paranoia just in time for the 2012 elections.

To my Muslim friends out there, I apologize.  Fat lot of good that does, huh?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Spy

One of my favorite blog-related activities is checking the 'audience' monitor to see where readers of this blog are from.

This week, we've picked up readers in Iran, India, Singapore, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and Spain!  So hello to all you folks, wherever you hail from.

I imagine quite a few of my international readers first starting reading the old blog (may it rest in peace), which was basically a non-stop rant against a certain former presidential Administration and its penchant for instigating pointless military escapades.  I also devoted several hundred pages to describing the overly carnivorous eating habits of former Vice President Dick 'I Crave the Blood of Infants' Cheney, who I still consider one of the most evil men to have ever gutted a live wildebeast for his midmorning snack.

Well, sad to say, I've calmed down a bit.  Not because I'm a huge fan of the current occupant of the White House, but because I've decided it doesn't really matter who's sitting behind that desk.  They aren't the ones running the show.

But for my international readers, I will offer a brief summary of the current state of affairs here in the States.  To wit:

1) American Foreign Policy -- Troops in Iraq?  Check.  Troops in Afghanistan?  Oh yeah.  Billions poured daily into wars without goals or end?  You know it.  Payments to 'allies' such as Pakistan, which are immediately funneled into supplying the very people shooting at us?  Made daily.  The only conclusion I can draw is that American foreign policy is still being drafted by a super-secret combination of Ouija Boards which channel deceased Halliburton executives and are operated by meth-crazed Rhesus monkeys.

2) American Domestic Policy -- This one is easy.  400 -- that's four hundred -- Americans have more wealth than 155 million other Americans combined.  Which makes it easy for the super-rich to buy more than enough congresspeople to keep tax cuts for the rich and the industries they favor firmly in place, while the middle class vanishes like snow in a blast-furnace.  Everything else revolves around this simple axis of wealth.  Coming soon:  You'll either be rich in America, or very very poor.  Welcome to Third World Homeland.

3) The 2012 elections?  Get ready, folks, because this will be the single most stunning parade of sheer idiocy that you've seen since, um, 2008.  Gingrich, Palin, Santorum -- forget the carnival freakshow, because this is going to have it all, and then some.  And, as I said before, the real icing on the cake is the futility of the whole wretched star-studded spectacle.  It doesn't matter who wins.  The 'winner' is just a cardboard cut-out propped up on a stage for the rubes to throw things at.  The real decisions are made quietly, without any fuss, in a cherry-paneled room somewhere over snifters of brandy and five hundred dollar cigars.

See why I basically stopped even mentioning politics?

Anyway, welcome to the blog.  Drop me an email at and say hello!

Monday, March 7, 2011

MidSouthCon 29 Approacheth!

First, a reminder -- hotel registration for MidSouthCon 29 is open until the 11th at the Con rate.  Eighty-five bucks a night for the Hilton isn't too bad, either.

This will only be my second convention.  I'm really looking forward to it -- it's fun to hang out with with my spiritual kin.  Too, I love the costumes.  And the dealer's room.  And the art show.  And the awards banquet, and the panels, and meeting various luminaries in the field.  It's a good time, and if you've never been to a SF/fantasy convention, MidSouthCon is a great first stop.

By the way, if I spot any Kindlers at the Con, I'm going to ask to take your picture (with your Kindle) and post it here on my blog.  I'm just curious about how many SF/fantasy fans are also e-book enthusiasts.

In other news, Markhat fans can expect the print version of The Banshee's Walk to hit the stands on June 7 of this year.

That's about it for now.  Time to get back to work!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lots O Links!

If you hooked me up to a brain activity monitor right this moment, all you'd see are nice flat lines.  I don't know why, but I'm just spent.  There's not a clever thought or catchy phrase anywhere near my noggin now.

But a lack of anything significant to say has never left me silent before, and I'll be darned if I'll start now.

So -- links!

Passing the Narrows.  This is one of mine.  If you've got a Kindle e-reader or you have the Kindle app on your phone or other device, you can grab this for less than a buck.  It's a quick read, about a crew of desperate Confederate war vets taking their steamboat down a haunted stretch of the Yazoo River.  It first appeared in Weird Tales a few years back, and it's always been one of my favorites.  Guess who the character Swain is based on!

World War Z.  Yeah, this is zombie fiction -- but hang on a minute.  That's just the backdrop.  The book is nothing short of brilliant, in both its depiction of a world mauled nearly to death and the tiny acts of heroism and sacrifice that always go largely unnoticed in any massive catastrophe.  Read it, and I promise you'll never hear wind in the trees at night quite then same way ever again.

Living Ghosts.  This is music; specifically, the Amazon MP3 album by band Absinthe Junk.  If you want the iTunes version, well, search iTunes for Absinthe Junk -- if there's a way to link to an album in the iTunes store it's unknown to me.  But it's worth the effort!  Junk is sort of the angry love child of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.

The Black Company.  This is an old-fashioned paper book.  It's fantasy, but unlike any fantasy you're likely to have read before.  Gritty, unflinching, brutally honest -- this is war in the trenches.  Not for the faint of heart.

Fark.  We're painfully aware that the world is a chaotic, dangerous place ruled only by the laws of Whim and Caprice.  Fark is a weird news website that collects the freakish best and random worst of Planet Earth and lays it all out in a neat column for your perusal.  With snarky one-line descriptions, and a weekly Friday game of 'Match the Mugshots With the Crimes.'  If you don't Fark, you should...

Regretsy.  You've probably never heard of a website called 'Etsy.'  I hadn't.  Etsy dot com is a marketplace for hand-made items of all sorts.  Think about that for a moment.  Yeah.  Exactly.  Etsy may have started out as a showplace for folk art, but wide swaths of it quickly devolved into a hilarious free-for-all of hilariously mis-shapen pieces of 'found art' which appear to have not been crafted by hand but rather with foot.  I know, I know, it's not nice to mock the clumsy and the inept, but man is it fun.