What YMCA by the Village People can teach us

This is a classic song from the late ’70s, and it’s worth talking about for a few reasons.

First, the People of the Village prove that band members don’t need to dress the same, seeing how every other rock and punk band tries to stand out by putting on matching (a) black leather jackets and black guyliner, (b) spandex with long, permed blond locks, possibly paying homage to Heather Locklear or (c) ironic suits and ties worn with red Converse sneakers.

You don’t need to memorize the band members in the Village People because their outfits give you a handy shorthand. Plus it’s more interesting. Even KISS understands this and varied the crazy costumes and makeup enough so fans could dress as their favorite instead of throwing on a generic leather jacket and some mascara to be “you know, somebody from the Flaming Squirrels, maybe the  drummer.”

Variety is good, even when it comes to the hairstyles of boy bands, which should be banned by the Music Police.

Second, this song proves the power of third-party validation. That’s a fancy way of saying, “Hey, it’s great that every singer, actor and C-list celebrity talks smack about how great they are, yet their ethos is crazy weak when they do so, seeing how we look sideways at their sincerity and self-interest. What’s far more believable, and effective, is to praise somebody — or something — that doesn’t share your first and last name.”

Instead of singing a song where the Village People brag about how many boats they own, and how their singing is so great that we know there’s life on Mars because there are 17 different Village People superfan clubs in the southern hemisphere of that planet alone, they spend an entire song bragging on this unlikely place: your humble, local Y.

And they make it fun, and memorable. This video gave birth to a little YMCA dance of forming the letters people around the world know.

Well done, People of the Village.

Related posts: Music Video Monday’s Greatest Hits

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist and scribbler of speeches. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award. Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

3 Comments

Filed under 2 Music Video Monday

Spring Break, so it’s time to break things, then fix them all up

It’s spring and I’m doing maintenance on the silly blog.

Some things will get ALL BROKEN AND SUCH before emerging shiny and new, like an ugly larva spinning a cocoon before emerging as a giant, super-powered moth that battles Godzilla and stomps all over Tokyo.

If you have suggestions, ideas or requests, shout by the comment magic, the Twitter or even the magic of emails — but do not leave a voice mail, which are obsolete and annoying anyway, plus I would wonder how you got my digits in the first place, which would be creepy and such.

Also: There are crazy amounts of summer movies coming out, and yes, I’ll be dissecting the ones I see. Good times. 

Also-also: Thanks to all the folks for suggestions on (a) great books to read on break and (b) crazy bad books to bleed red on. I have a beautiful honking pile of book-like substances now. 

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot who wrote a thriller that won some award.
Represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

3 Comments

Filed under 5 Random Thursday, Housekeeping, Uncategorized

Everybody panic: expert says Yellowstone Supervolcano could ‘destroy the United States’

So people are freaking out because (a) the Yellowstone supervolcano blows up every 600,000 years, (b) it would turn North America into a sea of ash and create a mini Ice Age, (c) the magma pit under the supervolcano is causing earthquakes and bulging and  (d) there’s a viral video of bison running along a highway, supposedly fleeing the coming explosion.

Well, grab your bug-out bag and run for the hills.

Except it might not happen for another 100,000 years. So there’s that.

This video lends weight to survivalist types pointing at the stockpile of canned food and ammo in the basement and saying, “See? It was all worth it. Throw the tent in the pickup and let’s head to the Yukon.”

On the other hand, a supervolcano is a complicated thing. It doesn’t sleep for eons and suddenly wake up to go boom, as this man of science explains in a smart, rational look at Yellowstone.

And finally, this park ranger at Yellowstone, who sort of knows more about the bison and the supervolcano, seeing how it’s his job, destroys the whole “the bison are fleeing, so we must run for our lives, too!” thing.

In the end, I disagree with the viral video folks and End of the World theorists saying “This is it.” Will this supervolcano go nuts? Someday. Scientists say there’s a 1 in 10,000 chance Yellowstone will blow in our lifetime.

Those odds make this far, far more likely than (1) a zombie infestation, (2) U.N. black helicopters coming for your shotgun or (3) killer robots that transform into cars making a mess out of Manhattan. If you’re going to be smart about being prepared, yeah, it’s worth thinking about Yellowstone.

But it’s not worth obsessing over, and there’s no need to panic.

It’s far smarter to think about heart disease, traffic accidents, cancer, getting mugged in a dark alley, diabetes, climate change.

Will you likely dodge most of them? Sure. But 10 out of 10 people die, those are known dangers and it only takes one of them to get lucky and add you to the list. It’d be smart to prepare and prevent the most likely dangers, seeing how they’re basically sure bets compared to Yellowstone going boom or a giant asteroid slamming into Florida because Bruce Willis was too busy making THE EXPENDABLES 12: BUSTING OUT OF THE NURSING HOME.

So while I agree with survivalists about being prepared for more than a flat tire, you should be brutally practical and look at the odds, then spend time and energy on the most likely Terrible Things You Would Like to Avoid, and 99 percent of those problems aren’t solved by me stocking up on more cases of MRE’s. Though I do have a killer plan for making any house zombie proof.

The Red Pen of Doom’s Greatest Hits Collection: 10 Epic Posts

  1. Epic Black Car deserves good owner; are you worthy?
  2. The Mother of All Query Letters
  3. Why every man MUST read a romance – and every woman a thriller
  4. The Red Pen of Doom impales FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
  5. The Twitter, it is NOT for selling books
  6. A BOWL OF WARM MILK AND MURDER
  7. 30 achy breaky Twitter mistakeys
  8. Writing secret: Light as air, strong as whiskey, cheap as dirt
  9. The Red Pen of Doom murders THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand
  10. Quirks and legs matter more than talent and perfection

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Photo by Suhyoon Cho

 

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award and is represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

3 Comments

Filed under 1 Survival Sunday, Gear, guns and such, Zombie apocalypse

Super-powered mutant Avenger of the ocean: The Mighty Cuttlefish

I understand an octopus, a squid and a clam. Clams have shells. Squids and octopuses (octopi?) have tentacles and such.

But this alien beast has a shell — inside its body.

The cuttlefish’s bone is made of aragonite, the same special metal used to graft Wolverine’s claws and skeleton* and Captain America’s shield** — but not Thor’s hammer, which came from the heart of a dead star.***

Plus it’s got all kinds of other mutant super powers, like a poisoned beak, tentacles, a giant brain, secret alien-like jaws that sneak out of nowhere to eat fish — and color changing powers that make it practically invisible.

Think you’re iPhone’s fancy Retina screen is amazing? The cuttlefish has 200 iridophores and eucophores per square millimeter, which equals out to 359 dots per inch. Want one of those 4k screens but don’t have $10,000 to buy one? Make friends with a herd of cuttlefish and get them to spread out on your living room wall, then fire up THE MATRIX, but not the two sequels, which were a waste of Keanu Reeve’s precious time and $279 million in CGI effects.

Here’s a good look at the cuttlefish from my favorite animal documentary series on the planet, True Facts:

*Note to comic book gurus: Yes, I’m kidding. Wolverine’s claws and such are made of adamantium, which is created when titanium dioxide reaches the earth’s mantle and is compressed by millions of pounds per square inch at 4,500 degrees Celsius, then remerges to the surface through millions of years of plate tectonics along with the help of all kinds of Red Bulls and shots of bourbon while the comic book writers at Marvel try to make it all sound two-thirds scientific, one-third magical and 143 percent awesome.

**Also, the famous shield of Captain America is actually made of vibranium, a real metal alloy that’s also used in the manufacture of the B-2 stealth bomber because of its unique radar-absorbing properties. Vibranium is only found in one place: the southern pole of Mars, meaning all traces of it on earth came from a massive asteroid striking the pole and sending debris raining down upon Africa, the only continent where vibranium can now be mined. Buying this so far? Okay. There are these penny stocks, and if you know which ones to buy, you can turn ten cents into a dollar, $1 into $100 — and $100 into $100,000. All you have to is subscribe to my financial newsletter to learn the secrets of true wealth that Wall Street doesn’t want you to know.

***Actually, that part is true. Dead star, all the way. Not making it up.

The Red Pen of Doom’s Greatest Hits Collection: 10 Epic Posts

  1. Epic Black Car deserves good owner; are you worthy?
  2. The Mother of All Query Letters
  3. Why every man MUST read a romance – and every woman a thriller
  4. The Red Pen of Doom impales FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
  5. The Twitter, it is NOT for selling books
  6. A BOWL OF WARM MILK AND MURDER
  7. 30 achy breaky Twitter mistakeys
  8. Writing secret: Light as air, strong as whiskey, cheap as dirt
  9. The Red Pen of Doom murders THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand
  10. Quirks and legs matter more than talent and perfection

###

Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Photo by Suhyoon Cho

 

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award and is represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

4 Comments

Filed under 5 Random Thursday, Animals, monsters and monstrous animals, Muffin chokers

Give me something, something I can read

I’ve got a long road trip and 10 days of no exercise allowed after a spot of surgery (it’s not a tumor!).

So I need things to read. You know, book-like substances, printed bits of dead trees.

And I want a honking pile of them.

Therefore, good people, my plea is simple. Sock it to me:

  • Nominate a popular book that’s actually horrible and I’ll bleed red all over the first page
  • Tell me your Favorite Book of All Time so I have something delicious to chew for hours
  • Hit me up on Twitter, gmail or the comment sections if you want to collaborate on an insanely creative and secret project
  • Give me a movie or music video you want dissected and taken apart, to see how it works like magic or smashes into the hard, heartless rock named Fail
  • If you’re not a nancypants who’ll wind up in therapy, ship me the first page of your WIP and I may ink it up and whip it back, because EDITING IS CRAZY FUN

Also: You’re right, that headline riffs on a Don Henley song. Here it is, live.

The Red Pen of Doom’s Greatest Hits Collection: 10 Epic Posts

  1. Epic Black Car deserves good owner; are you worthy?
  2. The Mother of All Query Letters
  3. Why every man MUST read a romance – and every woman a thriller
  4. The Red Pen of Doom impales FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
  5. The Twitter, it is NOT for selling books
  6. A BOWL OF WARM MILK AND MURDER
  7. 30 achy breaky Twitter mistakeys
  8. Writing secret: Light as air, strong as whiskey, cheap as dirt
  9. The Red Pen of Doom murders THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand
  10. Quirks and legs matter more than talent and perfection

###

Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Photo by Suhyoon Cho

 

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award and is represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

24 Comments

Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday, Fiction, Red Pen of Doom, Romances; also, novels with Fabio covers, Thrillers and mysteries

Why the classic movie DUNE is a hot mess

I remember watching DUNE in the theater and thinking, “Whoah.”

Then again, I was a whippersnapper with no taste when it first came out. So on Old Movie Night, we popped in DUNE and fired it up.

Oh my.

There’s no doubt that DUNE is a hot mess. The question is, why?

Suspect No. 1: Horribly Cheesy Special Effects

This is a good place to start. You can’t excuse David the Lynch for not having access to better special effects, not when this movie came out after all three of the original STAR WARS movies were out.

Check out the trailer and tell me the effects are up to snuff, even for the era.

So, the effects in DUNE are Dr. Who-level lame. You expect the rocks to some styrofoam they bought off the old Star Trek set.

But bad effects aren’t the main reason this film is a hot mess. An audience will forgive bad effects if the story and characters are compelling.

Suspect No. 2: All Kinds of Crazytown

You don’t hire David the Lynch to direct a normal movie. You hire him to spice things up and go a little nuts.

Being absurdly weird can earn your movie cult status, with college kids playing it simply for the biggest excesses and worst moments of wackadoodle.

Moderately good or bad things are mediocre and boring. Give me stuff that's horrifically good or amazingly bad, then we'll talk. Kthxbai.

Moderately good or bad things are mediocre and boring. Give me stuff that’s horrifically good or amazingly bad, then we’ll talk. Kthxbai.

Then again, the tough part is once you base-jump off the Cliff of Normalcy, there’s no guarantee your chute will open.

And this film sprints away from Normal, stiff-arms Edgy and slides right into Bizarre.

This is half of the reason the film is a hot mess. You’re constantly distracted, sometimes by the bad effects, but more often by the weird, bizarre and gross sideshows that don’t truly move the story. The Baron Harkonnen’s massive zits get a ton of screen time. The Guild Navigators are grotesque. The bad guy troops have reverse mohawk hairdoes while the good guys wear surplus World War II uniforms. It’s constantly and consciously odd, which pulls you out of the story.

But if the story kept moving, I wouldn’t have had time to focus on all the weirdness.

Suspect No. 3: Ponderously Beating the Audience with the Cudgel of Pretentiousness

This is the true culprit.

Audiences will believe in sorcerers and elves if you don’t explain them. They’ll buy lightsabers and aliens who are into M & M’s — but not if you get pretentious and deep trying to explain all those things.

See, audiences want to believe. If you set things up from the start, they’ll stick with you. What you can’t do is (a) switch mid-way though a normal book or movie to say “Hey, actually the hero is a vampire. Surprise!” (b) commit the Hollywood sin of double-mumbo jumbo — trying to have a story that’s about dragons and trolls … plus space witches with lightsabers or (c) constantly stop the story to intrude with pretentious narration and dialogue that’s on the nose.

It’s that last sin that DUNE commits right away, with a long narration setting things up following be another and another and another.

Every time the story moves forward two inches, somebody has to stop to explain it to the audience for three minutes, as if we aren’t smart enough to watch the story and understand.  It feels less like a movie and more like a lecture. Then the credits roll.

I bet there’s a supercut of DUNE somewhere, a lot like STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM EDIT where some kind person sliced out all the boring nonsense, like Jar Jar Binks and all the talkative scenes where George Lucas is patiently over-explaining things to you and ruining the Force forever by saying it’s caused by space bacteria or whatever. No.

DUNE breaks new ground with the Unnecessary Voiceovers by having every actor whisper a voice-over of what they’re thinking, which is usually stuff the audience already knows, but hey, beat them on the head with it again.

Which is too bad. There are great actors in here like Kyle MacLachlanPatrick StewartSting and Jürgen Prochnow. A less wacky, less ponderous film with the same cast would have been awesome, even with the same cheesy special effects. It would also be far shorter and more watchable.

Related posts:

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award and is represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

4 Comments

Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday, Fiction, The Big Screen

Why boy bands — and girl bands — will haunt us forever and ever

Why is there an endless supply of cheesy all-boy bands?

The thing is, there always has been, and always will be. Because they are meeting a market demand for a demographic that will never, ever go away: tweenagers. Specifically, tweenage girls.

Smart music moguls know this. They also are smart enough to realize that a bunch of 16 to 20-something boys are far, far more likely to hang around playing Call of Duty for 12 hours a day instead of sweating out dance moves while planning possible world tours.

They also know that a group of good-looking singers, male or female, is inherently more attractive than a single singer. There’s science to this. There’s also the fact that a solo artist means betting against them going to rehab, firing you as their manager, deciding to become a punk rock singer or otherwise turning into the Justin Bieber monster of today and losing all his fans.

But if you’ve got choreographers, songwriters and PR people on staff, then hey, you’ve got a machine, a license to print money, and all you need are some good-looking kids with some talent. And it’s actually not smart to bet everything on what you think is your most talented quartet of boys, because tastes in music are fickle for grownups, much less tweenage girls. If you’ve got a factory capable of cranking out boy bands, the best thing to do is keep on cranking them out, because soon enough, the boys will (a) get too old for your demographic or (b) your best singer will go solo and (c) the band will die.

We saw this with the ’90s with bands. But it’s just as true today. One Direction is a reality-show band put together by Simon Cowell’s machine.

And to be honest, girl bands are the same thing, aimed at the same demographic. Think it’s tweenage boys going to Spice Girl concerts or all these Japanese girl bands? Nope. It’s tweenage girls.

This makes perfect sense. Fans of action movies will show up at the megaplex and buy $9 popcorn whether the hero shooting zombies is a muscled tough guy or a hot-but-tough girl. Genre, not gender, determines audience.

When you get older, and hit college, you start to develop taste and would rather die than get caught listening to a NKOTB song. Instead of becoming popular by following the tweenage herd, you seek popularity by being a hipster who only listens to indie bands nobody’s heard of, bands you adore and then abandon at the first sign of success. THIS IS THE LAW.

So though I enjoy making fun of boy bands (and girl bands) as much as anyone, you have to admire how producers create and package these machines. It takes a village to raise a boy band, and to count all the profits before they implode. But by then, you’re on the next one.

Related posts: Music Video Monday’s Greatest Hits

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award. Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

3 Comments

Filed under 2 Music Video Monday