For once, a tagline that doesn’t lie. This movie has been scaring me since I first heard about it entering pre-production two years ago. A remake of my favorite movie of all time? That’s some scary shit.
I was lucky enough to land pre-screener passes for the movie a couple of weeks before it was released. I stood outside a theater in an enormous line of hopefuls for more than an hour, only to be ultimately turned away because the theater was at capacity. Rumor had it that some folks had camped out. That’s not an option for this asshole over here; I have a job.
So, instead, as I related here a little while back, I saw The Last Exorcism Part 2: This Time It’s Personal. To add insult to injury, the trailer for Evil Dead was the first to hit the screen during the previews, in all of its demonic, knife-licking glory. I felt a pain inside and fought the urge to cry.
This weekend, it actually opened to the public. I made sure to buy my ticket early. Upon entering the theater, four employees stopped me, checking IDs (unfortunately, not mine) and ticket stubs. They told me there’d been a lot of underage kids trying to sneak in. The theater thought the movie was too graphic to treat this subversive viewing passively. I was intrigued.
When the film actually started, I started to sweat a bit. The film was crystal clear, nothing like the grainy awesomeness of Sam Raimi’s original. But then shit started happening and there was the Necronomicon. When the title hit the screen, I got chills.
The movie, in keeping with the original, had some absurdly good, non-CG gore effects. In fact, I’m willing to say that it’s the best gore I’ve ever experienced. It’s grisly and over-the-top. Fede Alvarez takes you places you just don’t want to go. Nail guns, shotguns, shards of glass, syringes. Never before have so few people experienced so much pain. The impulse to cover my eyes stayed with me until the end.
Contrary to what a lot of folks are saying, this isn’t a humorless movie. Comedy certainly doesn’t take the center stage as it did in the latter two films of the original trilogy, but it’s definitely there. You see it when a roll of duct tape is used to staunch bleeding, when one character is singled out for an inordinate amount of abuse, when a demon vomits in the mouth of a helpless nurse. This is all stuff straight out of Raimi’s catalog. Alvarez never forgets where this shit came from.
To its credit, this film felt more like a sequel than a remake. There is no Ash, because, well, who the hell could possibly play him? The nods to the original are plentiful, but not heavy-handed. I would have included more of them, but, then again, it’s not my movie. As it stands, it’s pretty much perfect.
I never dreamed that I would be able to say that.
On March 28, 2013, news quietly spread that Amazon, that omnipotent, indie-killing ethereal monster, was taking over Goodreads. While the action shocked and angered many, the effects of the takeover are less than clear.
The first issue to consider, I think, is whether or not this action will really make a difference. After all, Goodreads has always had a retail presence. On every book’s record, users have the option to make a purchase on an affiliate website. There is little doubt that Amazon will provide preferential treatment to its own website (and probably eliminate any other purchase options), but this isn’t terribly new. Amazon has been driving other stores out of business for years. But will this mean anything to users as far as Goodreads itself is concerned? Maybe not. After all, Amazon did take over Audible without any really noticeable effect.
But, of course, the concerns are farther reaching than that. It is rather alarming that Amazon is taking over Goodreads when, just five years ago, it took over Shelfari. Of the big three, that leaves LibraryThing as the lone non-Amazon literary social network (there are others, but their usage is nowhere near comparable). One of the greatest things about these sites is that, for the most part, you can get unbiased opinions of books. There’s no worry that some business or another is making negative reviews disappear or hiring people to write positive reviews. There is no doubt that this still happens on social sites, but the incentive isn’t as great. Because there’s no direct purchase on the site, the return on investment isn’t very great. But when Amazon is integrated into the social network? Hmm.
At minimum, it seems pretty safe to assume that these reviews will all be mined for data, as will ratings and comments. There’s just too much information about individual users for them not to capitalize on it all. The shady thing is that all of this information was given in good faith. Voting for this review or joining that group was a way to connect with others over shared interests. There was a high degree of camaraderie in the action, which is now probably going to be stolen to better market products.
Even if nothing poerceptible happens, I think we should all be, at minimum, raising our collective eyebrow in alarm. This thing that Amazon is doing hasn’t really been done before. Like Google and Facebook, they’re slowly taking over independent web spaces. If left unchecked, they’re going to do to the Internet what they did to the real world. We’re getting to the point where everything we do online is being tracked and used against us. It may sound like a conspiracy theory (I happen to have definitive proof that an Amazon rep was on the grassy knoll that day.), but it isn’t. It’s just unchecked capitalism. This is a growing monopoly that isn’t being recognized as one, because it’s hard as hell to realize what is actually happening. Amazon, the world’s largest bookseller, is taking over a social media site. The two seem like different things. But when you realize that Amazon is probably going to cut out all the other businesses who previously were linked to on Goodreads and is going to use its vast resources to use that huge bank of data to better hone its services, the picture gets a little less foggy.
This is just another leg up for a company that needs to be knocked down a peg.
It is a damn shame that there’s a lag between the time a movie is released and the time the RiffTrax for that movie is released. Because if there was ever a movie deserving of such immediate attentions, it is The Last Exorcism Part II.
The movie opens up where it left off- literally. Like a serialized TV show, it begins with a confusing montage of the first film. During this last-week-on-The-Last-Exorcism nonsense, I realized that (with the exception of a giant CG fire demon) I had almost no memory of the first film at all. That probably was a good thing, though. Nell is trying to get over all that shit now; there’s no sense in me drudging up the past.
So Nell has moved into a halfway house for friendly teenage girls in a G-rated re-imagining ofNew Orleans during Mardi Gras. She’s exploring the world with new eyes since her whole town ate the ultimate shit in a big way at the close of the last film. Unfortunately for her, Abalam, her demonic admirer, is totes still into her and is trying to bring her back over to the dark side.
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a movie with a higher number of cheap scares. I reckon it averaged close to four per minute. Every time Nell turned around, a window was breaking, someone was screaming, a car was exploding, or a door was being shut rather too firmly. It was nerve-wracking at first, but it quickly grew to be hilarious. I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. For serious. One of the scares was a gorilla throwing a tire. That’s a spoiler. I’m not even kidding.
There was a strange anti-pagan subtext to the movie. It was very obvious that Nell was exploring this world her father had so carefully protected her from and was turning against everything she knew in the process. Her clothing became more revealing, she stopped wearing her crucifix necklace, and she started kissing boys. She decides that Abalam wasn’t actually real and kind of turns her back on Christianity. When her problems don’t go away, she receives some help from some kind voodoo practitioners, but that doesn’t turn out so well, either. The confusing thing was that it seemed as though the movie was simultaneously pro-Christianity and anti-Christianity. I’d say it was a commentary on the futility of organized religion in dealing with spiritual problems, but it wasn’t. It was confusing as shit.
So why did I see it? Well, I landed some pre-screener tickets to the new Evil Dead remake, but, even though I waited in line for an hour, the theater reached capacity before I got in. It was either go big or go home. I chose the former. You should, too. The Last Exorcism Part II is a must-see, but not for any of the reasons its creators intended.
When I was reading the IndieGames.com blog this evening, as I often do, I read a review for a game that tickled my fancy. This is not an uncommon occurrence. However, this time I was prompted immediately reach for my wallet.
The Castle Doctrine is a deceptively simple game in which you play as a man trying to protect his family and property in a lawless world. Your task is to make your home as robber-proof as possible. When you’ve rigged your dwelling with all the lethal booby traps as you can afford, you offer up your masterwork to other players who attempt to circumvent your precautions and rob you blind. While you’re waiting, you are encouraged to do the same thing to the other players in the game.
My initial attempts at securing my house were pathetic. It took me forever to get anything remotely resembling a passing understanding of the game mechanics. There’s a lot of strategy involved, combined with a fair amount of mechanical logic (properly wiring electricity, etc.). These are not my strongest areas. This put me at a pretty clear disadvantage and I lost my money almost immediately. Gradually, I got better, But not much.
But on to what interests me the most about this game now that I’ve spent a couple of hours playing it. In the game, you have a wife and two children to protect. It’s your job to design a house they can escape from when it’s invaded, as well as one that protects valuables. My house always failed at the latter, which made me a very easy target. I never did much to hide the family, as the burglars typically just walked in and went straight to my safe.
But then this guy comes in. He has equipped his character with a saw, which he uses to effortlessly break through the cheap wooden walls forming the little labyrinth I’ve built around my vault. The coast is clear for him to take me for all that I’ve got. What does he do? He steps away from the safe and clubs my wife to death. Upon returning to my house, I find the poor woman dead and my walls destroyed. To make matters worse, every break-in is captured on video for you to watch once you return home. So not only to you find your family slaughtered and property stolen, you get to watch the blow-by-blow as captured by your home security camera.
I was more affected by this than you might think. There was the initial letdown of having spent so much time on defenses that were so easily defeated, but the arbitrary killing of my virtual wife resonated with me. See, it wasn’t a computer who killed her. It was another player. The Castle Doctrine is a massively multiplayer online game; there is no simulated opponent. Every home you invade was built by someone, and, likewise, every home invader is another real person.
I’m not sure if this is a game or a sociological experiment. The obvious way to win (if winning is surviving) would be for all players to agree to simply not play. That, of course, would quickly make it a very boring game to play. As such, there is the illusion that you should do harm to others, because that is the point of gameplay. It’s like what you do when a city loses power, like what you do when you find a wallet on the street.
What is most impressive about this game is that it very quickly turns otherwise ordinary people into killers and thieves. Just like Stanley Milgram’s infamous electroshock experiments, this game makes you break your own code of ethics and bring harm to other real human beings just because you think you’re supposed to.
And that’s a pretty impressive thing for a game to do.
You’d think that a movie featuring Nazi zombies would be worth watching, but you’d be wrong. This 1980 French snoozefest tells the story of a lake infested with four or five really persistent zombies. Why are they zombies and not just German corpses? No fucking clue. All I know is that when you dump a body into a French lake, it will reanimate forty years later with green paint on its face.
These zombies are unique in that they are very choosy about their victims. They will only eat fully nude young women (with a clear preference for volleyball players) who venture into their murky pond. Of course, it serves them right, as any woman willing to drop her skivvies to jump into that stagnant green slop is asking, bare minimum, for an infection of some sort. It demonstrates really bad judgement. They’re almost begging those Nazis to rub their weird green faces on their necks until the poor gals’ throats start to bleed. It looks uncomfortable enough to be horrifying.
I advise skipping this one. You don’t see a lot of French VHS transfers these days, but still. It barely even counts as a zombie movie. Watch Dead Snow instead.
In a fit of rampant douchebaggery, Terry Deary, author of the Horrible Histories series of books for children, accused public libraries of being responsible for the demise of book stores. He claims that libraries give the commodity away, which is quickly driving a stake into the heart of the business.
“I’m not attacking libraries, I’m attacking the concept behind libraries, which is no longer relevant, because it’s been 150 years, we’ve got this idea that we’ve got an entitlement to read books for free, at the expense of authors, publishers and council tax payers. This is not the Victorian age, when we wanted to allow the impoverished access to literature. We pay for compulsory schooling to do that.”
I cannot immediately recall encountering a more selfish or stupid line of thinking in recent history. Libraries and book stores have existed in loving harmony for a very, very long fucking time. One hopes that Dreary’s historical expertise is greater than his logic.
Big box book stores killed the independent book store. A free market, which is what Deary seems to be crying for, allowed the big to eat the small. Barnes and Noble, which began its quest for world domination in 1917, is now being eaten by a much bigger creature: Amazon.com. If one were to hop on the Internet, one would very easily find Mr. Deary’s entire body of work available via the online retail giant’s website. From where I’m standing, Terry Deary is the one putting book shops out of business.
Deary’s argument is horribly classist. Perhaps an author with 25 million book sales under his belt didn’t feel it, but for the last few years, most of us have been living in an economic recession. It might surprise Mr. Deary to learn that, during that time, libraries were doing something other than taking the food off of his plate. Though maybe we should have, that way people could spend more money on his books without having to worry about feeding themselves.
To each his own, of course. He does have a point, after all. Taxpayers do pay for compulsory schooling to educate children. That said, he is opposed to that, too.
At the end of the day, Terry Deary is a curmudgeonly asshole. His brash, ignorant statements brought out a whole slew of really beautiful support for libraries. I absolutely love the fact that he was baffled by the outcry from fellow high-profile authors, such as Neil Gaiman.
“And why didn’t these same saintly authors march in protest against the closure of Borders bookshops as they did against the closure of libraries?” Deary asked.
God help you, Deary. You mean the megachain that helped to decimate the independent book store? A child could have figured that one out.
At some point over the summer, my car started having issues. The engine wasn’t turning over as efficiently as I would have liked. The battery was dying. Or, with my luck, the alternator was failing. The last time I drove it, I sat in the Safeway parking lot with frozen foods thawing in the trunk, just praying for the thing to start. Thankfully, it did. So when I got home, I parked it on the curb and resolved to never drive it again.
And that was fine. I didn’t need it. I can ride my bike everywhere I need to go in town, and, in those rare instances when I really need a car, we do have a second one. The dust collecting on that old relic became a point of pride- it reflected the sense of independence I gained when I stopped driving everywhere.
This went on until a strange fellow knocked on our door and asked if I would be interested in selling the car. I hadn’t really given the idea any serious thought. The Jetta was just a thing I had, and I was content to let it rot on the side of the road in front of my house. It was there if I ever decided that I needed a car, never mind the fact that it didn’t actually run anymore.
I talked about the possibility of selling my car with a friend whose judgement I trust, and he pointed something out to me: a 2000 VW Jetta is never going to increase in value. It is not a signed Babe Ruth baseball. As it sits, it will decompose and any money that I could have gotten for it will slowly fade away. If I left it there unused, it was only going to cost me money. This made sense to me and forced me to realize that I was stupidly expecting to get back what I had paid for the car on account of a new engine (that had been installed 50,000 miles ago). My logic was faulty.
So I decided that, if the opportunity arose, I would sell it. The fellow who had come to my door inquiring was put off by the price tag and the fact that it wouldn’t start. I couldn’t blame him. These were problems that had to be fixed.
Changing the asking price of a car you are not advertising for sale is easy. Making it run again is a bit more difficult. I thought about it for a few months (these things take time), and did exactly nothing. The universe got tired of waiting.
This afternoon, my father-in-law was kind enough to give me a couple of toolboxes full of old tools. I was thrilled. For the first time in my life, I own a set of ratchets and drill. Once I beheld the greatness of this gift, I knew I needed a project. With my new tools, switching out the battery on the car would be an ideal project.
I watched a YouTube video that told me how to do it. Removing the battery was fairly straightforward, but there were a lot of steps: there was a housing that had to be removed, some hoses that had to be unclamped, and some structural pieces that had to be removed. With a little bit of work, I had the thing out in twenty minutes. I went to the auto parts store and bought a new battery. I was downright giddy as I pulled into the driveway, ready to complete this project that had mocked me for so long.
I put the battery in and attempted to connect it. I started with the ground, as it was the one I was most comfortable with; it just sounds less dangerous. But the damned thing wouldn’t fit. I used a couple of screwdrivers and a pliers to stretch it out enough to fit around the battery pole. Once it was kind of on there, I pounded the sonofabitch home with the handle of the screwdriver. It still didn’t fit. The connectors, clearly, were not the right size for the battery.
I drove back to the store and explained my dilemma. The fellow there looked at me like I was crazy, but entertained my quandry. He went back and started fitting various connectors to the battery I had purchased until he found one that fit. Which happened fairly quickly.
I took it back home and ripped open the package. As I stood hunched over the hood of my car, it started to rain. I swore a lot. The connectors, though they would fit my battery, would not fit my car. I got pissed off and reattached the ground connector and beat on it until it kind of fit. Then I moved over to the positive connector. As soon as it touched the post, sparks flew and I jumped back, fleeing for cover. Wrong order.
I detached the ground and started over with the positive cable first. This, logically, made more sense, as putting both cables on the battery completes the circuit. and when you’re completing a circuit, you want to be holding the ground, not the live wire. This is something a more manly man would have known from the womb. Fearfully, I attached the positive cable only to learn that it was too fucking big.
The impossibility of what I was seeing was pushing me to the point of insanity. What kind of shitty Frankenstein repair had someone done on my car in the past? Why would they make the connectors the wrong sizes? It just didn’t make sense.
And, finally, that was what made the most sense. This situation made no sense, which simply meant I was doing something wrong. After recalling the fireworks that had crossed my line of vision only a few moments prior, I paused to consider what was happening. A battery is a mostly standard-sized thing. As such, battery posts are probably pretty standard. I have one clamp that is too small and one that is too big for a standardized thing. Assuming that my clamps are also a standard size (reasonable assumption), this means that my battery is in backwards.
Dear reader, you probably figured this out a few paragraphs ago. Bravo to you. You get a gold star. Treat yourself to an artisan beer.
The important point here is that I did pretty much everything wrong. What should have taken me half an hour took me two. But, in the end, I tried something new, learned a shitload, and fixed the problem. My car now starts. It runs.
How did I get to this point? A couple of years ago, I had a dead battery and decided to switch the batteries out myself. When I opened the hood, I saw the complexity of the issue and panicked. I ended up calling a tow truck and having the car taken to a shop. For a battery change. Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows that in recent months, I’ve really gotten into DIY solutions. So, in many ways, learning how to install and run Linux on my laptop led to this car repair. At some point, I lost the fear of breaking something irreparably. It’s all just crap. None of it really matters. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t try to figure it out yourself (barring danger to yourself, others, etc.).
Go out there. Fail. Look forward to failing. Just pay attention to your mistakes and realize when a fuck up is just a victory in disguise. Have a good Monday. Go out and do fucking awesome things.
So this was interesting.
I installed Microsoft Office 2010 on my Ubuntu machine a month ago using PlayOnLinux, a process which is pretty simple. During the process, I was never asked for a product key. I thought it was odd, but chalked it up to the fact that I was simply emulating a Windows computer instead of actually using one. It made sense to me that the verification process for Office was probably tied up in the automatic program updates, which don’t work with Linux.
But, like clockwork, after twenty-five or so days, I started getting pop up warnings everytime I opened the program telling me that my 30 day trial was going to expire. That would be no big deal, but I didn’t have my product key handy. It’s lost somewhere in the mess that is my desk.
I had heard before, though, that there’s a way to extend the trial period. I looked into it and, sure enough, it’s as simple as running a program that comes pre-installed in the Office files. You can do it up to five times.
But how to do it in Linux? Well, turns out, that isn’t too hard, either. I opened up PlayOnLinux and selected Office 2010. From there, I clicked “Configure.”
Once in the configuration settings, I selected the “Wine” tab and clicked to open the command prompt.
From there, I simply typed in the file path to “OSPPREARM.EXE”. In my case, it was:
wineprefix\Office2010\drive_c\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\OfficeSoftwareProtectionPlatform\OSPPREARM.EXE
Success. There is, no doubt, a more direct way to run that file from the standard Ubuntu terminal window. But for Linux newbies who aren’t really sure how the hell Office gets installed in the first place, this process is pretty straightforward.
Howdy, y’all. A colleague and I have an article published in the February 2013 issue of Voices of Youth Advocates (VOYA) magazine that outlines best practices for hosting live musical acts in libraries. I also give away all the secrets of putting together some bitchin’ live recordings. Give the digital version of the magazine a look here. Our article is on pages 530-531.