Going Too Far…

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In my Tumblr blog I mentioned how some movies go too far, a subject I have mentioned here too, and I think it’s a subject worth exploring further. To see what I said there go here – Chris’s Tumbr.

For everyone there is a line, a sort of psychological place where we will not cross. It’s a mixture of morals and societal politeness, and it’s a place we rarely dare tread because we don’t like the look of the place. Now, it’s often things like dark horror that people color as the proverbial bad side of town, which is a shame. In horror we are able to face things that in normal fictions (art, literature, music, etc.) we cannot and dare not examine. With Freddy Krueger we can examine the idea of sins of the paste returning, the suburban fear of a child molester and kidnapper, and the fear of our children becoming teens then adults. There is so much richness in horror, even the awful stuff. In the other  blog I mention the ‘rape/revenge’ subgenre as one that has turned my stomach of late, and that’s true, because as little as I liked the movies to begin with, when you take the humanity out of the films then they lose their power altogether. Then it’s just a freak show and you’re just seeing how much you can take.

Humanity is key. Give people human characters, and give them consequence and you can get away with anything.

Case in point – the film Irreversible, a film both lauded and hated at once but not forgotten. The film is played backward and shows the effects of a night gone horribly wrong, beginning with the consequences of it all and ending with how it all began, an ‘ending’ that is far more shocking in the context of the film. Now this is film that is largely about a sexual assault but its the brutality of the assault, mixed with the wonderful characters, and then added to the horrible consequences of it all that makes it so powerful of a film. It is the actions that we are focused on, and the tragedy. The acts of violence have their impact because we care so much about the woman that they happen to. In lesser hands this is a lurid film that sensationalizes the violence and makes it (or attempts to) sexual. That is the difference to me in so many of the modern works that try to be so shocking – in trying so hard to shock you they forget that what is truly shocking is when awful things happen to people, not characters.

I saw George Carlin once and he said this, to paraphrase – rape isn’t funny, but if it’s Porky Pig raping Daffy Duck, that’s funny. He is saying that the act has no power until you add the details. The act is the setting for whatever you want it to be. Same goes for any story, visual or otherwise. The great Art that we love we love because we feel a connection. That’s the power of it.

Anyone can create tragedy and horror, but with nothing behind those acts, they are just that, acts. They are window dressing for an empty store. Too many works see the horrific act and have nothing to tie it to, so they emphasize the act at the cost of the rest of the work. A dog attacks a doll, big deal? A dog attacks a strong man, oh, yikes, but not terrible. A dog attacks an infirm old woman who is a survivor of a distant war? Terrifying. Why? Because the more we gave you to work with the more you personalized it. Why do we care about Harry Potter or the vampires and werewolves as much as we do? Because they are real to us, thus, their perils are real. Make something real and you can do anything.

I reached the age a while ago where I stopped being shocked at the images people can conjure up for people to gawk at. There’s a point where even if you haven’t seen it all, you have seen enough. Sure, you can shock me, but that doesn’t mean you got to me, or pried into my mind. It means you momentarily disrupted the norm. Heck, bad peas can do that. If you want to make an impact you have to see beyond the gore, beyond the shock, and to the core of what you are trying to say and say that. If you can say it through people and things that affect us then you have created Art. You have created power.

Otherwise you’re just peeing in the pool where everyone’s swimming. It’s gross. It’s inconvenient. But it’s something you get over. To be effective, you want to make US pee in the pool. Then ya won.

c

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For Granted

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    I have been thinking a lot lately of the ideas of legacy, and have talked about how I hope my own legacy will play out, but there’s another aspect of this that I want to talk about today.

As a writer and artist with very limited income it’s pretty hard to find to do the things you love and to pursue your art. Now, I will never say that the struggle to find that time, and to make the proverbial ends meet doesn’t add to your development as an artist and doesn’t add to your work but I cannot imagine what it would be like to have the means to be able to buy more books, do more art shows, and have more promotional material. Part of selling your art, book or otherwise, is the promotions and if you cannot do shows, have a website, or have material for people to look at to send them somewhere in search of your work then you cannot connect with them. But money is a bit tight for me, or a lot of artists and writers, to be able to focus on getting your work out there, and to be able to get the promotional work done.

    Frustrated with trying to find new ways to promote my stuff and to get the funds to support it a friend recommended looking for grants. Alas, grants are things that everyone wants and few have. A grant is an allotment of funding for a specific period that will allow the grantee to focus more on whatever project they pitched. Grantors are very specific with what they want to fund, and who, and so what money that is out there gets much, much smaller when you start reading the fine print. And it’s their money so why would you give money to people and projects that don’t fit your criteria. It doesn’t make sense. It’s like hiring someone who doesn’t have the right qualifications for the job they want. But there are so many of us out here who are struggling and of us, how many will find the funds, or the time to continue?

It makes me wonder.

    I have a hope, and it’s a dream, but it’s not one that is impossible. Flint is my home. I grew up in a small town not far from here and that’s where I am from but Flint is my home. There are a lot of super awesome artists, musicians, poets, writers, (and I usually just put us all under the Artist umbrella but sometimes it helps to point out who I mean when I say that) and we’re all struggling. And in a city like Flint, with a declining population, a struggling economy, and such a huge brain drain with the youth leaving we need to start providing a base for them to build their futures from. We need to give them the tools to remain here.

And so we come to the dream.

    It’s my dream that some day I will be in a place where I can create a grant/endowment in Flint for the local artists here that are struggling. There are a lot of people here who work in the arts but my interest would be the people more like me, who are working to make something for themselves and who are not established. I have monetary ideas in mind – enough to help but not enough to support the person, if you are not willing to work AND work on your art then you’re in the wrong business, bub – and have an idea how to go about it but, ah, the when. That I cannot say. I have so much I need to accomplish on my own before I can pretend to start offering anyone some manner of financial help, but some day, some day I will do this. And I want to put it on record because that is how serious I am about it. I think there’s a foolish misconception with grants that they are free money and that once you get them you are set. Not true at all and it wouldn’t be that way for what I have in mind. I want someone to use that money toward the ‘art’, whatever it is. Be it promo material for a book, or paying for some other expenses, say a copy machine for a ‘zine. Something has to be produced when all is said and done. Work has to be done.

Naturally the hardest part here is two-fold – coming up with seeder money and then having money that feeds back into the seeder money so it’s perpetual. And that is why I am not able to do this today. Just not something financially feasible. But some day.

Some day.

And imagine if more people did that – not just gave money to an organization but made it possible to support people who have the same passions that they have? Similar dreams. That’s what I want to do. Some day.

And why?

    Because I owe so much to my family for their financial support, to my friends for their moral support, and to the people who take a chance on my work, be it art or word, and I need to pay those debts back some how. Hopefully the day will come sooner than later when I am able to do just that.

c

New and Improved

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Can I just ask you, and I mean this seriously, how the heck is something both new and improved? I don’t get it. Just don’t get it. I mean, how do you improve something that just came out? Seriously?

Anyway… Here are a couple paintings I did last night. Had a a struggle with them. I think it’s because I try to cram my painting time into one evening and then I get freaked out. And darn it, I want to paint something, not just shapes. I want to paint a thing. I kinda dig them. One is a three part painting the other is Checkers. All of it done in acrylic and painty pens.

Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! – review

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Easter Bunny, Kill, Kill

I am officially old. When I was a kid I would have gotten a kick out of a movie like this – gross, rude, and pulling no punches. Now though, well, I just need more. The fact is that this looks far too much like the movies my friends and I made as kids but, alas, it just doesn’t do it for me anymore. The novelty of the gross-out film back in the day was that there were not many of them out there, and the ones that WERE out there were hard to track down so when you found one it was bit of a treasure, even the bad ones. Now though, gross-out movies are simply a dime a dozen. So, sure, EBKK is different, for sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s good.

On Easter Eve a foul mouthed robber dressed as the Easter Bunny robs a clerk at a liquor store and, as a last thought, kills the man for no apparent reason. The killer is Remington, a thief and murderer who has somehow hooked up with an attractive young nurse with a disabled son. Whenever he’s alone with the boy good old Remington makes it his mission to torment Nicholas, the son. The only refuge Nicholas has is his room, and the childish hope that his dead father will return to save him from the bad man that has invaded his home. When Nicholas’s mother leaves Rem in charge for the night while she goes in for a double shift at work, Rem decides it’s time to party. After calling over a pedophilic ‘friend’ to keep Nicholas occupied Remington heads off in search of hookers. Little does Rem know though that someone has heard Nicholas’s pleas for help and has come to take revenge on the invaders in the home, and does it all dressed as the Easter Bunny. But who is beneath the mask, and will they be able to stop Remington before he hurts Nicholas for good?

As low grade and low budget as you can get, it’s a credit to Vicious Circle Films that they took a chance on the film, but man, this is pretty rough stuff. Were it not for the novelty of the holiday on hand I dunno that this is a film that would have gotten a second glance. The film is gross, to be sure, but there are a million gross films out there. What I give the filmmakers credit on though is their restraint. There is one sequence that could have gone too far, and by that I mean it would have been needlessly disgusting, but they showed restraint and I admire that. The film’s acting goes from over the top to Community Theater, but it all works. Mostly. The writing is awful, and is way too ham-handed with the comedy and sleaze. The treatment of Nicholas the son is pretty awful but again, it was nice to see some restraint. The filming is pretty awful BUT there are some inspired moments, and the same goes with the editing, so there is promise on that end. Oh, and it is definitely gory, if that is what you’re looking for in your movie viewing. I will give it this – the ending reveal was a bit of a surprise, so kudos with that. All in all though, this is just another made on video sleazefest that got lucky and got some distribution. I wasn’t shocked, I wasn’t thrilled, and more than anything I was just hoping it would end quickly. There are some glimmers of hope here but the movie is only going to be interesting to people into this sort of stuff. You know who you are, you dirty dogs you. For me, once is more than enough.

4.5 out of 5

Upcoming Dates…

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This Saturday, June 26th I will be at the Flint Farmer’s Market from 10 AM – 2 PM selling books and being generally awesome.

Tuesday, June 29th I will be at the Flint Public Library with Flint author’s Glen Birdsall and Dangerous Lee at 6PM to discuss our books and to keep it generally real.

Both events are free as heck so come on out.

The Blood Red Prairie – a story

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In honor of Father’s Day I wrote my dad a short Western. I hadn’t written a Western before and it was pretty fun. Not sure I’d do a lot of them but it’s always good to try something different to see what you end up with. This is what I came up with.

The Blood Red Prairie

The sound of the wagon coming was like thunder on the dry dirt and it startled the pony, which bucked against Marie. He grunted and laid a hand on the pony and it quieted down immediately. The pony was carrying twenty pounds of dynamite and he had something special in mind for that, so it’d do no good to him if it made a mess of Grazer’s Point, a settlement only three months old. He took his hand from the pony and laid it against the side of Marie’s head and she whinnied her approval. She didn’t much care for wagons herself, or coaches. That made three of them. Ever since Junesberg he had been no fan of any big transports, whether they carried people or, other things. He looked up from Marie and gave the wagon a look that dropped the driver’s head and made him slow up as he passed.

Slow.

Slow was good.

Slow was always good.

He closed his eyes and could see the bodies hanging from the grove of trees just outside of Junesberg and knew that if he wanted, he could smell them too, just as he knew who they were, and who’d put them there. He opened his eyes and spat a wad of chew into the dirt and gritted his teeth. Yeah, sure, the bodies, the smell, but there was something else too, the woman, the woman who was responsible for it all, and that was why he was here. That was why he had the dynamite. And for the first time in ages he smiled, his face crackling as he did and dirt flaking free, and with the dirt came the blood as his lips cracked apart. He spat again and this time there was more blood than chew but he liked it. Preferred the taste of the blood because it meant he was here, alive, and that he still had time to finish what he came here to do.

He took a deep breath and swung a leg off of Marie, then the other one and dropped onto the dirt softly. A mongrel came near and growled at him but Marie stomped her front legs and sent it away to cower beneath the general store. The man stretched and his back exploded with cracks that followed his spine all the way up to his shoulders where he cracked his neck as well. He laid his left hand at his side and felt the familiar shape of his knife and, satisfied, looked up to take in the town.

Grazer’s Point was new alright, and it hurt his head to look at it. The paint on the buildings was still new, and, apparently, not completely dry as on the Livery the red paint had run and pooled around the building like blood, a strong rain having washed much of that hard work away. Much of the town was still under construction, and it spoke volumes to the man that it looked as if the Jail would be the final building to be completed. He had seen the town’s Sheriff, napping in a rocker on the porch of the Saloon, his gun lying on the wooden planks between his feet. There was trouble here. Danger. And worse, there was ruin coming here. He had seen towns like this for weeks, towns set up to lure the farmers and the gamblers alike; towns set up to suck in money and keep the locals busy enough to not get riled when the rains weren’t coming for a few weeks at time. These towns were naïve though, and it was that naïveté that always brought the trouble. It was that sort of mind set that brought the likes of the Lady Hush, who he’d been chasing since Junesberg. She with her easy smile and easier legs but who knew far too well the workings of the human heart, and knew how to crush the life from it with a bare hand, or worse, to convince someone to do it for her. That’s what had happened to him. That’s what had happened to…

He spat and began walking towards the Saloon. It was near to sundown so people were heading out of town and back for their camps or their farms. A couple of old timers were getting their pack mules geared up for some panning in one of the nearby streams or rivers. A few stragglers were wandering over to the saloon, the wagon driver among these. There was a hotel above the Saloon where any visitors in town could stay a spell but other than a few strangers and the local shopkeepers who lived above or in back of their stores there wasn’t much life here.

This was new all right.

But not for long.

There was one place she’d be by now, and he knew it, it was just a matter of where in the hotel she was and who she was with. He picked up his pace, anxious to be before her again, to have one hand in her hair and the other holding the blade at her throat. He was almost at the steps when Marie whinnied and he turned to see two men approaching her and the pony. He turned away from the Saloon and its hotel and dropped his hand onto the knife and cleared his throat.

“Nice night for a stroll, eh gentlemen?”

“That so, mister? See, we was just sayin’ how it seems a bit cold out. Might want to bundle up. Eh, Sam?”

“Yessir, might want to bundle up. And hey, there’s a right nice blanket right there on that pony.”

“Hmm, if you boys are so dainty as to think that a late Summer breeze is too cool for you then ya might both need something from a bottle to warm ya, and not off the back of my pony. Now what say I buy you two fellas something that will put some hair on yer chests?”

He wrapped his hand around the hilt of the knife and watched the men in the fading light to see who would move first. He hated this, this posturing. It was a waste of time and he had better things to do. He saw the one on the left’s eye start twitching and knew it wouldn’t be him. It’d be Sam, the other fella. He turned his attention to lefty and let Sam think he was being forgotten. He smiled at lefty and stood easy, letting his shoulder slump as he pulled the knife from its sheath. Sam cleared his throat and he looked over to see the man brandishing a small gun. Sam held a finger up to his lips and nodded toward the pony. He smiled and shrugged at Sam to tell him to take what he wanted but as soon as the bandit reached forward the pony reared up and let out a terrible howl. Sam took a step back, startled but before he could get his bearings the knife was sticking in his throat. Sam sputtered in disbelief and looked at lefty, who could only look back, just as stunned. He moved quick then, dashing forward to grab lefty’s throat in his hands and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze until his hands turned white and lefty was limp. His heads was pounding, the sweating rolling hard down his face and cooling him, bringing him back to himself. The world had started to go black for a moment, and that’d be no good. No, he needed to stay calm. At least for a while. The pony was still agitated so he laid a gentle hand on it and it calmed down immediately. He’d found her tied around the legs of a man who’d been buried upside down in the desert and had he found her a day later she’d have been dead with her old master. It was no wonder she was a bit skiddish.

He took a deep breath and held it as he checked beneath the blanket on the pony and saw that the dynamite was still there, untouched, and he let his breath out slowly. Good. He stepped over to Sam and shook his head. Stupid, it was all so damn stupid. He pulled the knife free and wiped Sam’s blood on his pants then sheathed it again. He looked around and it was full dark now and there were no eyes on him so he leaned down and grabbed Sam by the legs and started dragging him towards the Post Office and Town Hall building, where he could stash the bodies beneath until he was done with his business.

It took twenty minutes to clean up the mess the boys made but it was done now and he was tired. Time was short for him and he knew it, the cough that had started so casually now bringing blood up thick and black every time it came. Still, as short as time was, he had time enough for one more night’s sleep and tomorrow, tomorrow he could finish what he came to do. He patted the dynamite gently and smiled again before petting Marie, who nuzzled against him. He took both animals by their reigns and lead them around the back of the buildings where he could set up camp.

Dawn would come. Sooner than it seemed on a night like that, and then, and then, and then Lady Hush will find out how hot Hell really is.