Veronica Mars lives on…in books

VMars coverI’ve got a new post up at Smash Cut Culture, and it’s all about Veronica Mars‘ transition into a novel series…plus a quick comparison to Buffy‘s transition into comic books.

Check it out, please, along with the other writers’ pop culture commentary on this new site.

(Spoiler: Yes, fans should read this book. I’ll be sure to pick up the next installment.)

In other news, Smashwords has a sale going on this month. Lots of e-books are 25 percent to 100 percent off (yes — free e-books!) with coupon codes. Both RIP: Choices After Death and Earths in Space: Where Are the Little Green Men? can be yours at half the cost with promo code SSW50 at Smashwords only.

Probably a good day to check out Smashwords. And a good day to look at Smash Cut Culture.

Anything with “smash,” I guess. Oh, just go and pick up an Incredible Hulk comic while you’re at it.

The forgotten origin of Smurfette

I smurfed across a piece of pop culture trivia while babysitting my niece last night.smurfette

After playing with my old Smurfs figurines for a while, she wanted to see an actual Smurfs cartoon. So I went to YouTube and searched “Smurfs.”

One of the first results was an episode titled “The Smurfette,” labeled as “S01E01” (though IMDB.com says it’s the 21st episode, which came out in 1981).

Turns out, Smurfette was not a naturally born Smurf, nor was she a natural blonde.

Smurfette was a creation of Gargamel. He intended this black-haired girl Smurf to infiltrate the all-male Smurfs and spy on them. Continue reading

I missed having Jon Stewart as my commencement speaker by one year

ap_jon_stewart_100510_mainGraduation season has reminded me of something:

I was one year off from having Jon Stewart has my college commencement speaker.

The host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show is a fellow William & Mary grad, about 20 or so years ahead of me, and he delivered the 2004 commencement address. I graduated in 2005.

We juniors were a bit frustrated.

Granted, some of us did get to see him the fall of our sophomore year, when he gave a free Q&A at William & Mary Hall as part of that year’s Homecoming festivities. That was fun. I remember him alienating half his audience by going off on an anti-fraternity and sorority tangent.

“I am not your brother,” he told members of the frat he used to belong to, before later back-pedaling just a bit to assure everyone that Greek life does have some positive benefits. That might have eased some of the distraught looks he was receiving from his fans. Continue reading

X-Men: Days of Future Past, the comic book — a look back

X-Men_v1_141Lots of people are enjoying the latest installment of the X-Men film franchise, Days of Future Past. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 92 percent fresh among critics, and 95 percent of RT users have given it their seal of approval.

Most X-Men comics fans are familiar with—and love—the original Days of Future Past storyline that appeared in Uncanny X-Men #141 and #142 in 1980. For the rest of you, I’ll provide the retrospective and a glimpse at some X-history. Spoilers ahead for the comic book; movie spoilers won’t exceed what you see in promotional materials.

The comics storyline came out at the end of the collaboration between writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne. These two are largely responsible for the X-Men becoming such a popular property.

The original run by series creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960s was never anywhere near as successful as Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four. The series went on for 60-some issues with various writers and artists before regressing to a string of reprints of earlier issues. The series succumbed to cancellation, and Professor X, Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, Angel, and Marvel Girl (Jean Grey) spent the early 1970s in a sort of Marvel limbo. Readers might find them in guest appearances, and there was even an attempt to spin Hank McCoy/The Beast off into a solo series piloted in an anthology called Amazing Adventures. (That’s when he became blue and furry for the first time, which he brought on himself, in the spirit of what we see in the movie First Class.) That lasted maybe eight or so issues, but Beast then found a home as a member of The Avengers—where he still was at the time of Days of Future Past. Continue reading

I’m now a certified group fitness instructor

I went ahead and earned my certification to teach exercise in a group setting, just like you’d expect of any author.

I enrolled in the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America’s group exercise instructor certification class as a back-up plan before I was hired as the editor of a community newspaper. Since I had paid for the course and had started studying, I figured I might as well see it through.

My passing score and AFAA certificate arrived in the mail the other weekend, proving I’m certifiable.

I have no idea when I’ll ever make use of it. My day job doesn’t lend itself to part-time moonlighting, and I’ve already been neglecting the marketing of my books. But it sure feels nice to have.

This really came about following my stint as a martial arts instructor last year—something else you naturally assume every author and editor has on his resume. Continue reading

A background actor’s life is not for me

Turn_TV_series_logoI’m going to be on national television this weekend. If you don’t blink, you might even see me.

You may have heard about Turn, the television series that filmed in Virginia and recently started airing on AMC, the same station that has brought us Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead.

They needed a bunch of extras (I’m sorry—“background actors”), and I was in the mode of trying new things, so I tried it.

I won’t be trying it again. Continue reading

Defending the “How I Met Your Mother” finale

how-i-met-your-motherSeems the How I Met Your Mother finale has upset a lot of fans. While it wasn’t a perfect episode, I thought the ending made perfect sense, and I appreciate the motivation and subtext it brings to the whole premise.

Yes, we’re entering SPOILERS territory here. One more spoiler-free paragraph as a buffer, and then it’s spoiling time.

I started watching HIMYM at the end of the second season, loved it through the fourth, went back and got the DVDs of the episodes I had missed, and I eventually lost patience with it sometime in the sixth or seventh season but returned for this last season. The show went on far too long; this was a four-season premise, maybe five. Not nine. And that’s the real problem with the finale. Continue reading

Boys — It’s not a woman’s job to look pretty for you

When actress/writer/producer/singer/gamer Felicia Day cuts her hair, that’s all some guys can focus on.

So here’s my anti-sexism two cents.

I see it frequently in the comments sections of various websites, most often YouTube. A video features a pretty woman displaying her talents — whether it’s singing, acting, magic, whatever the case may be — and the comments become a forum on her looks. Boys discuss to what degree they would or would not “do” her, and they find no other aspect of the video sufficiently noteworthy to comment. It’s the digital equivalent of catcalling.

They act like they’re somehow owed beautiful women to ogle. They lament that a particular woman isn’t hotter, and meanwhile they haven’t exercised all week.

Remember this, boys: It’s not a woman’s job to look pretty for you.

I understand most males are genetically hardwired to appreciate a woman’s beauty. “Appreciating” is fine when done with respect. “Objectifying” is not. And in every woman, there’s a lot more than beauty to appreciate.

Now please direct your attention to the Bangles. Yes, the Bangles from the 80s. Hopefully, the sheer randomness of the example will stun some sense into you.

Watch this video of the band rocking out to “Hazy Shade of Winter.” Look beyond their appearance. Observe their eyes and how much fun they’re having. Pay attention to their talent. Notice the charisma they exude as they do what they love and excel at it. And then love them for it, regardless of whether you find them attractive.

That’s the key here. You have to love people.

Love doesn’t have to be romantic or mushy, and it shouldn’t be reserved solely for people you want to sleep with. Love is simply appreciating people for who they are — an unconditional acceptance of another person’s humanity.

Next time to you see an attractive woman, whether in person or in the media, pay attention to who she is (without any creepy staring, of course).

You may appreciate her physical beauty, too, but only as you would a work of art — and you don’t want to fondle or catcall art, right? But remember this about art: there’s always more going on than you can see. More layers of complexity exist than you’ll ever know. So much goes into the making of art — lots of good days, lots of bad days, lots of sacrifices, lots of compromises — lots of hopes and dreams — just like a lot went into making you who you are.

You’re a work of art. She’s a work of art. You’re a person, so she’s a (surely you can fill in the blank by now).

Appreciate the whole woman. She’s not there to give you pleasure. She’s there to strive toward her own dreams.

And think: If someone brightens your day — if a woman’s charm lifts your spirits — how do you return the favor? Become a man capable of brightening a person’s day. If you’re not in a position to do it for her, then help out someone else.

Going back to the whole Felicia Day haircut incident…You know what’s great about Felicia Day?

She’s found a way to earn a living doing what she loves, and she’s accomplished it with a do-it-yourself attitude. She made The Guild happen. She made Geek and Sundry happen. She’s an entrepreneur who has created things that bring joy to people. Her stuff might not be for everyone, but there’s a segment of the population out there whose lives have been somehow enriched by her efforts. Could be she’s given them a laugh or she’s let them know, “Hey, it’s okay to openly enjoy these geeky things.” And it looks like she’s enjoyed doing it.

That and more make her an amazing person. Not her haircut.

This writer played Nintendo last night. What happened is worthy of an overblown Internet headline the article can’t possibly live up to.

I indulged in some old-school Nintendo last night. The classic Ninja Turtles arcade game. TMNT_II_Snow_Level

There I was, clobbering foot soldier after foot soldier, as I noticed my fingers becoming sore and stiff, and this persisted as I tore through the Technodrome and began battling Krang. I sought to employ my old strike-withdraw-strike strategy, but my fingers were not properly responding to my brain, resulting in a sluggish Leonardo.

So I hit Krang, Krang blasted me, and back and forth we went for a while. I was nearing the end of my life and decided to go for broke and launch an all-out assault — just jump in there and hack and slash away in a Wolverine-esque berserker fury until one of us fell. Continue reading

Go see Gravity

Gravity-posterMost movies I see in the theater these days are based on pre-existing properties, and that’s sad. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed The Avengers and the Iron Man movies, and I’m looking forward to the next X-Men, but I’d love to see Hollywood tell more good, original stories that are uniquely suited for the medium — stories that aren’t crafted by committee by-the-numbers fashion to appeal to the greatest number of people.

I’d love to see more films like Gravity, a new film by Alfonso Cuaron starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney (and basically no one else).

Gravity is an amazing movie, and you need to see it. If you’re a filmmaker or a writer of any medium, study it. Continue reading