My Writings. My Thoughts.

The Way Cup Sinners

// March 9th, 2010 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

So here’s something that’s a bit out of left field.  I was asked to do a recording session a couple weeks ago for a buddy of mine who is an engineer/DJ/musician.  Clint was the dub master for a reggae band I played with about a year ago.  Clint always impressed me with his encyclopedic knowledge of old jazz records and most of the music he does on his own tends to be mashups of things that are old timey.  Clint is fixing to release something for Scribble Records in the near future and hopefully this will be on that release.  The tune is based on an old Jabbo Smith recording from the 20’s called Wake Up Sinners.

The Way Cup Sinners

Oscar followup

// March 8th, 2010 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

Well, the Oscars are over and looking over my picks, I picked the winners with a 58% accuracy.  While this score would have flunked me on a test in high school, I still feel like it’s a pretty decent score and it enabled me to win $375 in the Oscar pool I was in, which is really what counts.  A lot of people are griping about Sandra Bullock winning Best Actress and to them I say, watch the movie and while I don’t feel hers was the best performance this year, you can’t say it’s not “Oscar worthy” when you compare it to some of the performances in the past that have won Academy Awards.

I’m really happy Jeff Bridges won and that the song from Crazy Heart won.  Now that I’ve had a chance to watch that movie a second time, it’s definitely my favorite of the year.

I’m also happy that The Hurt Locker won best picture.  I loved Avatar but would have sort of felt bad for it to be called the best film of the year.

It’s the Oscars! It’s the Oscars!

// March 6th, 2010 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

It’s Oscar time! For years now, I’ve celebrated Oscar season with more enthusiasm than Christmas. I tend to get more gifts from the Oscars than I ever do at Christmas anyway. This is the fifth year that I’ve been organized in my efforts and as soon as the noms are announced, I download a ballot and start frantically trying to figure out which movies I need to see to make an informed decision on who’s going to win and who isn’t. And most years I do pretty darn well with my predictions. Two years ago a scored a whopping 83% which means I only missed four awards out of the 24 major Oscars. I literally was giddy at the end of that show at my prowess. But last year I suffered a crushing defeat, scoring worse than I ever have since I’ve been keeping track, getting only *5* awards correct. The bitter irony was that last year I busted my ass and watched more of the movies than I ever had and many of the awards I lost, I had seen all the movies in the category.

So I learned an important lesson last year and that is to not get so attached to the movies. After the show as I looked at my ballot that I had scribbled invectives on as the show had progressed, I saw a clear pattern which was that I was picking movies I thought should have won. The key to playing this game is to pick the movies you think will win based on how the industry works and that does not always mean the best movie or actor wins. So this year I tried to be more detached, we’ll see how I do.

This was a great year for the movies and I thought we got a lot of diversity which I always like seeing. None of the movies featured in the awards this year made me fall in love with them immediately like when we had No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood in the same year. But I’m fairly certain that after repeat viewings, I’ll find several that will be on my favorites list. Those of you who read my Avatar review will be surprised to hear me say that, because it certainly looked like I fell in love with it. Truth be told, while I still think it’s great, as I sit here now I have no desire to put it in and watch it again. But had I the time, I’d definitely watch The Hurt Locker or Crazy Heart again or for that matter I’d watch A Serious Man long before I’d watch Avatar again and I’ve already seen that movie twice.

I’ve got to say, though, that this year my preparations were seriously derailed by Precious. That movie was so fucked up it actually made me not want to watch any more movies for days. It’s a great movie with amazing performances but man, it is so dark it was a major chore to get through.   Ultimately, Precious has the one performance I’m positive will yield an award this year. Well, I’m also pretty confident in Jeff Bridges chances.

So here are my picks. Feel free to follow along on Sunday and revel in my triumphs and feel my shame when I mess up. Feel free to download your own ballot and follow along here.

Leading Actor – Jeff Bridges is the man. A combination of a great performance in a great movie and his years of not getting recognized means this year is his year with little doubt. Jeremy Renner deserves special mention here as he did a fantastic job and with different competitors, he might have won.

Supporting Actor – Cristoph Waltz from Inglourious Basterds. I love Tarantino and I liked this movie a lot but not as much as I expected to. But I’ll keep watching it nonetheless, in part because of how awesome Cristoph is in it. I’d love to see Harrelson get this award because I think his performance was among the best in his career, but my gut is telling my Waltz will get it.

Leading Actress – Gabourey Sidibe from Precious. Most critics I think are predicting Sandra Bullock for this and Bullock is good but Gabourey is better.

Supporting Actress – Mo’Nique from Precious. There’s no doubt in my mind on this. I have a hard time thinking of any other performance I’ve ever seen that has made me hate an actor or actress as strongly as I hate Mo’Nique right now. Well, I hate Hayden Christensen for what he did in the two Star Wars movies but that might be a tad different type of hatred.

Best Animated Feature – Up. Never vote against Pixar.

Art Direction – Avatar

Cinematography – The Hurt Locker. This is a tough one to call. I loved the look and feel of Avatar, it really was something wonderful. But The Hurt Locker was a different beast entirely and I really want it to win. There, I said it. I’m picking from the heart and not my head. I also thought Inglorious Basterds had great cinematography, it just wasn’t as transcendent.

Costume Design – The Young Victoria

Directing – Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. This one will probably hurt my percentage because I know there’s a good chance Avatar will nab it but that’s just plain wrong.

Documentary Feature – The Cove

Documentary Short – China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province

Film Editing – Avatar

Foreign Language Film – The White Ribbon

Make Up – Star Trek

Original Score – Up – Michael Giacchino is awesome. I didn’t think this is his best score but who cares?

Original Song – The Weary Kind from Crazy Heart

Short Film Animated – A Matter of Loaf and Death

Short Film LA – The New Tenants

Sound Editing – Avatar

Sound Mixing – The Hurt Locker

Visual Effects – Avatar

Adapted Screenplay – Up In The Air

Original Screenplay – Inglourious Basterds

Best in Show: Avatar

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls Review

// March 2nd, 2010 // 1 Comment » // Uncategorized

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I feel it’s important to disclose at the outset that I have more than a passing familiarity with the author of this book.  We have been friends since the early 90’s and I’ve enjoyed a certain vicarious thrill in watching him progress through his career.  We’ve even collaborated at various times, if I can use that word in a ham-handed manner to describe any contribution I may have made to our different projects, one such project being  a newsletter we published together for a now defunct rock band.  We shared a common sense of humor back then and would often laugh together at poorly written letters he would receive from madmen at the day gig he labored at.  But Steve’s career and mine took different paths and I lost touch with him as the years passed..

It was then a shock and delight for me to discover that Steve had been tapped to write the sequel/prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  I had been a fan of PPZ since I first saw it.  I was a publishers wet dream, in fact, as PPZ had been a rare impulse purchase for me.  I had been in a bookstore buying a DVD and happened onto PPZ as I was standing in line to checkout.  Glancing at the cover, I knew immediately what it represented.  Now that is saying a lot when you consider that PPZ is conceptually a bit of a head scratcher.  How do you even go about pitching something like that to a publisher in an industry as beleaguered as the current  literary world is?  But, there it was and somehow I knew exactly what it was meant to be and bought it on impulse.  And of course PPZ delivered on its promise, sold a gazillion copies, got awards and all that good stuff.

But as much as I enjoyed the original PPZ, I had little urge to return for more.  I had been made to read Austen in high school and hated the experience.  As much as I appreciated the irony of bundling zombies with my boring, stuffy romance, one trip to the well was enough for me.  Further, it was seeming that more people were jumping on the literary mashup bandwagon and as much as I appreciate the business machinery needed to detect and exploit a trend, trends are for commoners and I certainly fancy myself to not be in that category.

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So how is it that I find myself not only reading a prequel but taking my time to write a review about the experience?  In part I suppose it’s because the author’s a friend of mine but in truth that only amounts to a fraction of my motivation.  The fact that Hockensmith would feel that the project is worthy of enough time and effort to actually write the book is compelling to me because his snobbish pedigree as a geek is beyond reproach.  This is the man who first managed to bring me back down to earth and inform me in no uncertain terms that The Phantom Menace did indeed suck and George Lucas had in fact, raped our childhoods (childrenhoods?).  Steve is a dude of absolute unflinching credibility when it comes to ferreting out which genre projects are good and which suck hind teat.  So if he feels like he has something of worth to add to the zombie / comedy / romance / literary mashup genre, then by gum I have little doubt of its value.


And that’s what I find most compelling about the book itself.  It’s an intelligent approach to a potentially tired genre.  How zombies behave, how they came to be zombies and most importantly how they are killed are all rules very carefully followed by the author.  It’s absolutely clear that Hockensmith has spent the same kind of time pondering these types of things that we as fanboys have.  At one point, we learn one of the characters has disguised himself as a zombie to try to figure out if they can detect him and if so, how.  Every true fan of zombie action films has found himself considering that point at some time in the past.  If zombies are stupid, witless creatures driven by animal instinct, why don’t they turn on each other?  What is that “zombie essence” that they sense in their zombie peers that causes them to dine on the living instead?  While it’s not necessarily essential that an entry in the zombie canon answer these types of questions, it absolutely is essential that the questions get posed in the first place.

For that matter, how does a zombie shit?  Or does it evacuate its bowels at all?  From a purely physiological standpoint, the zombie as a creature is bent on consuming living flesh so the assumption is there that the matter that is consumed at some point is processed and waste is produced.  These are the types of undead issues that have to be explored or else the piece of zombie fiction is hardly worth the effort to “consume” as a reader (or viewer in the case of zombie flicks).  As with other art forms, zombie literature has reached the point of deconstructionism.  Good zombie literature knows to explore and investigate as in Shaun of the Dead in the scene where the protagonists attempt to blend themselves in to the zombie horde.  Bad zombie literature, as is the case with the Jenna Jameson vehicle Zombie Strippers!, is too stupid to know better when they end up producing zombies that have the power of intelligent speech without ever really exploring what it really is beyond rotting flesh that constitutes a zombie in that universe.  Shame on you Jenna for exploiting fanboys so!

This book does a great job at slowly developing a sense of dread, which is of course another hallmark of zombie literature.  While the first 50 pages can be perceived as a tad slow moving, you eventually come to realize that the pacing is actually pretty carefully designed to contrast the earlier sections with the later chapters where the protagonists are under siege.  This is the most overt Romero /Dawn of the Dead reference in the book.  To me, this homage was very welcome and almost necessary if you’re going to reference Dawn as the title of the work.

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It’s important to take note of the artwork in this book.  As in the other Quirk titles, the prose is broken up nicely with “etching” style artwork.  These pieces not only add nice punctuations to the story but also make for a very satisfying literary package, something Quirk is now known for.  The artwork in DOD is leaps and bounds better than what was found in the original PPZ and really adds to the experience greatly.  It’s worth checking out the artist’s website which can be found here. I trust we’ll be seeing more from this artist in the future as he possesses a rare talent indeed.

In closing I’ll say that I enjoyed this book considerably more than the first PPZ.  The author here had the advantage of being able to play in the Austen universe (or Austenverse, I suppose) without necessarily being bound to the events of Pride and Prejudice.  This leant him a considerable advantage in avoiding some of the stuffy pitfalls the first novel faced.  Having said that, at times the book crosses the line into some campy territory and your mileage may vary as to how much of that you can tolerate.  All in all, I’d give it four severed zombie heads out of five.

Click here if you’d like to learn more about the author, Steve Hockensmith and purchase his other novels.

If you enjoyed this review, please bookmark this page and visit again. 

Or find me on Facebook where I’m a lot funnier.

Be sure to visit the Quirk Classics website.  If you go to the following link and mention you read my review, you’ll automatically be entered into their contest and be eligible to win valuable prizes detailed below and at their site.  If you mention Cool Stuff For Nerdy People, maybe the Quirk folks will send me more stuff to review!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls – Pre-review hysteria

// March 2nd, 2010 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

All righty. So I’ve got this buddy who I’m very proud of. In the decades I’ve been hanging out with him, he has literally (ha, pun intended) followed his dream and become a published, regularly working author. He’s got his own series of books and has enjoyed a fair amount of success with them. But I was delighted last year to discover, in a newspaper article no less, that he had been tapped to write the sequel / prequel to the enormously successful Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. That book sold over a million copies, made the New York Times bestseller list and is currently being produced as a major motion picture starring Natalie Portman, some little strumpet who previously starred in Leon: The Professional as well as a couple sci-fi movies.

Sooo, the prequel: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, written by my friend, Steve Hockensmith, hits bookstores on March 23rd. The publishers sent me an advance copy last month and I’ll be publishing my review of it here tomorrow as part of their March 3rd “All-Out-Worldwide-Zombie-

Blog-Explosion 2010″. As part of this promotion, *you* can be a big winner. After reading my review, you can go to their public message board and post your thoughts which will auto-magically enter you in their contest. They’re giving away 50 Quirk Classic’s Prize Packs with a retail value exceeding $100. These packs include:

-An advance copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls
-Audio books of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as well as Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
-A password redeemable online for sample audio chapters of Dawn of the Dreadfuls
-An awesome Dawn of the Dreadfuls poster
-A Pride and Prejudice and Zombies journal
-A box set of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies postcards

Go to this link and post that you read my review on this blog to be automatically entered in their contest:

This will be well worth checking out, my friends. Over the last month I’ve really spent some time checking out Quirk Publishing and all their products and they really do it right. The artwork they use is really quite striking. They sent me one of the posters which is now featured prominently in my house and elicits a chuckle from those few lucky enough to see it. So come on back tomorrow, read my review and then go to the Quirk website to win one of those prize packs. (and also pre-order your copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls. You’ll be glad you did….

In the meantime, you can find the Quirk Publishing website at:


// March 1st, 2010 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

Welcome to Cool Stuff For Nerdy People, mach II.  The original CSNP was a blog published pretty randomly and infrequently in the early aughts to highlight goofy and occasionally inspired bits from the outside world of things I found relevant.  The blog fazed out and the content I normally would publish got put up on Facebook which I found to be easier to update.  V.2 came about recently as I became more pissed at Facebook for constantly changing their layout and the limitations of FB on publishing and formatting.  So welcome to the new CSNP.  Be sure to friend me on Facebook to catch my content updates there.