I was having a very 2018 thought today: I was considering listening to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s,” and the easiest way would be to download it from Amazon Music (available through with your Prime membership, check Amazon, the company that cares). The problem would be that when you listen to it on Amazon Music, there are half-second breaks between songs. So instead of having the opening song flow smoothly into “With a Little Help From My Friends,” it goes silent for a moment, then resumes.

Not the worst problem, of course, but it stopped me from going on because it was “not how they intended.” And I continued to think about the concept of this album, and how it was supposed to be like a concert, with songs transitioning into each other with barely a break at all.

And then it hit me: that’s not what concerts are like at all. Continue reading ‘Realization: The Beatles Messed Up “Sgt. Pepper’s” Concert Idea’


The world of supervillany was predominantly male. A ratio of twenty-seven male villains for every woman. And most times, the one in twenty seven amounted to less than a costume — a graduated sidekick looking to make a name for herself. They had the desire, but most lacked the ambition.

Valentina Vartan, on the other hand, had ambition. She was one of the most ambitious things on the planet, without qualification of gender, race or species. She had conquered cities, vanquished heroes more powerful than herself, and had come to be known as one of the greatest villains alive.

That qualifier — “one of” — gnawed at Valentina’s ego. Despite her many criminal accomplishments were many, the only way she could ever be known as *the* greatest — singular and alone — was to eliminate any and all competition. Greatness could only be achieved through victory over all. The only other name in the same tier as Valentina’s was Rance Raptor. He was seventy-six, a full three decades Valentina’s senior. In Valentina’s mind, she was obligated to do all that was necessary to give Rance Raptor and the entire patriarchy a permanent rest. Continue reading ‘V I L L A N Y (a short story)’

But first, a sports story: I was a lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs. I owned lots of gear and went to many games. I was a paying customer — practically a citizen or constituent of Wrigley Field. In 2008, the Cubs were the best team in the National League, with their best chance at a World Series in decades.

They lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Dodgers. Not just lost: swept. And not just swept. Destroyed. It was embarrassing. It was so embarrassing that I began to ask, “What am I getting from this relationship?” Continue reading ‘Campaign Finance Reform: Nothing Changes Unless We Change It’

This week I am finally finishing something I’ve put off for years: I’m getting through “The Godfather Part III.” I’m watching at night. I’m on Day Three.

I’m sure people have expressed why this film falls short of its predecessors. So I’m doing that, too.

It’s odd how you can see the movie running out of steam. It starts out in an ok place, with Michael regretting his past sins (mostly for killing Fredo), and we learn he’s spent most of his adulthood seeking absolution. He has become a figure of charity and has now angled his way toward running the bank of the Vatican, in a “the ends justify the means” kind of way. Had this movie focused solely on Michael’s path, it might have succeeded. Continue reading ‘Um… “Godfather 3.”’

This November was National Novel Writing Month — and I suppose it’s that way every November. What makes this particular November unique is that I participated in NaNoWriMo. Me — the guy who labors to write confusing opening paragraphs!

For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is a kind of “honor code” participation where you agree to write a novel containing at least 50,000 words in the span of a single November.

It was a lot of fun, and I learned a few things, too. Continue reading ‘National Novel Writing Month Experienced, Enjoyed’

Recently got this album. I’ve given it many listens.

But I made the mistake of listening to it after reading the 33 1/3 book on “Ramones.” Besides dealing with the making of that album, the book goes deep into the pre-punk and punk mentality. Lots of DIY type stuff and about how it compared to the preceding rock of the era.

Then I listened to “All Things Must Pass.” Continue reading ‘Fact: “All Things Must Pass” is the LEAST Punk Rock Album Ever’

“The Last Jedi” is out. It has been largely considered a critical success, and many of the fans I’ve spoken to tend to agree. However there is a very vocal collection— and it doesn’t seem to be a majority share — of people complaining about “The Last Jedi.” Some are calling it the worst “Star Wars” movie to date, which may represent the truest form of pop culture amnesia we’ve ever seen. The main complaints have to do with the characterization of Luke Skywalker, the odd pacing, unsatisfactory resolutions to teases from the prior movie, and one of the sub-plots seemingly going nowhere. While I cannot argue against someone’s opinion, I have a theory as to why these angry feelings are being expressed so strongly by fans (and it’s not just because it’s Star Wars; these seem to be especially strong even for that franchise). The theory is: “The Last Jedi” is not like any other Star Wars movie, and that freaks some people out.

I believe most of these upset fans are, like me, fans of the original trilogy. And like me, they may have watched those movies one hundred times each. They have thought about them, digested them and made them part of their lives. They have also allowed the original trilogy of movies to inform the way they believe stories should work. As a writer, I have recognized this in myself, and it’s been difficult to fight off its influence. “Star Wars” is so universally popular, that you can explain most things by using its general story structure. In that popularity, the story structure has now become The Story Structure. This is partly by design, with Lucas pulling many important elements of popular myth and Joseph Campbell and all else to create something foreign yet familiar. And while adults who watched the original movies may have seen the references to Westerns and Samurai movies, we younger fans saw only “Star Wars.” It was central and Starting Point A, as far as we were concerned.

Young minds absorb things and often commit them to a simple “That’s It” kind of finality. So for super fans of this series, their brains (our brains, I’m not off the hook) may have taken these story beats and techniques and said “That’s it.” We compare all other stories, movies and everything to these things.

This is where “The Last Jedi” makes a bold choice to NOT follow that mold, and therefore makes itself a target. People use “break the mold” a lot, but with “The Last Jedi” we can all clearly explain what the mold to break was, and how it was broken. The previous seven “Star Wars” movies have years between their in-movie events. They contain twists and turns based on established characters and their families. They do not contain flashbacks. And when you get down to it, we’re really talking about the way the original trilogy unfolds: introduce characters with a series of adventures, have a meditative and moody middle chapter in which there is a major twist, followed by a tidy resolution. “The Last Jedi” teases itself as if it will fit into this established mold, then loudly rejects it. And it teases so much (with trailers and expectations and the enjoyment had by “The Force Awakens”), that the fanboys went in expecting to see “Empire.” They may have gone in looking for something that contains not only the twists involving family revelations, but also the same film structure.

That’s my theory anyway. One crew of viewers (“Star Wars” fans) who come to expect certain techniques and elements in what they see in a “true story,” and another crew of viewers (the rest, including critics) who might be more willing to accept something different.

Or maybe they just hate it. Either way, it’s kind of fascinating to see this play out. Everyone is trying to convince their opponents that they’re right, which always works great and everyone changes their minds.

For a video version of how I see things, I defer to this guy:

THE LAST JEDI: Backlash is Missing the Point