Movies Seen Recently: The Dirty Dozen, Amadeus: The Director’s Cut, Man in the Moon

51FuTYPeTbL._SX200_QL80_[1]The Dirty Dozen (1967) – They’re rough! They’re tough! (Except Donald Sutherland.) They’re filthy!  This movie set the standard of the “unorthodox fighting force” war movies for decades to come.  I watched it with my thirteen-year-old daughter, who stayed through the entire running time and when it was done, said, “That was a very good movie.” Pro Tip: Station the woman-hating zealot murderer outside the chalet where he might encounter a female and go all apeshit, okay?

51iXs1pVlAL._SX200_QL80_[1]Amadeus (1984) – This is the first time I had seen the extended “director’s cut” with an extra twenty minutes of footage… and I don’t like it.  I think that restoring the plotline of Salieri attempting to seduce Stanzi, especially where it lies in the storyline, dilutes the impact of Salieri’s utter rapture at Mozart’s talent leading directly to his vow against God.  Likewise, the two scenes in the subplot of Mozart teaching the family with the unruly dogs, while amusing, are more distracting than they’re worth.  All in all, the theatrical cut is my preferred version.

photo_2_0a5a8149c975b91040d028874f768456[1]The Man in the Moon (2013) – Didactic, sometimes ham-handed, and definitely not the “new art-form” that producer Glenn Beck announces it to be at the start.  But this taped stage performance, combining filmed segments, acrobatics, pyrotechnics, and a Georges Méliès-inspired Man in the Moon dominating the stage, is certainly interesting.  I don’t know how comfortable I can ever be with a summary of human history that skips from Noah’s ark and the tower of Babel directly to Abraham Lincoln (!), but the final speech of the Man in the Moon to humanity at large is certainly worth listening to multiple times.


What’s in a name? Puh-lenty.

Will I ever get bored of zeroing in on the “unique” names of Utah and the environs? There’s no sign of it as of yet.  Here are the highlights of another hefty list of local families:

  • Aleesa (female)
  • Alexus (female)
  • Amee (female)
  • Angye (female)
  • Annistin (female)
  • Bowie (male)
  • Braden (male)
  • Brayden (male)
  • Brenden (male)
  • Carin (female)
  • Casen (male)
  • Cassidee (female)
  • Ceirra (female)
  • Channon (female)
  • Ciaira (female)
  • Danaka (female)
  • Darryan (female)
  • Daxton (male)
  • Deegan (male)
  • Derryck (male)
  • Deziray (female)
  • Emeri (female)
  • Fayth (female – twice!)
  • Gelise (female)
  • Jamelyn (female)
  • Jerykka (female)
  • Kadee (female)
  • Kalissa (female)
  • Kamree (female)
  • Kariann (female)
  • Kaylee (female – twice)
  • Kaylin (female)
  • Kendree (female)
  • Kennady (female)
  • Kirana (female)
  • Kordyn (female)
  • Leesa (female)
  • Loydene (female)
  • Madelayne (female)
  • Madisyn (female)
  • Maecie (female)
  • Maegan (female)
  • Makinzie (female)
  • Payten (female)
  • Reddek (male)
  • Robbye (female)
  • Sabrie (female)
  • Shaylee (female)
  • Shaylee (female)
  • Shaylie (female)
  • Shyanne (female)
  • Talon (male)
  • Talor (female)
  • Tayne (male)
  • Tifanie (female)
  • Tresttan (male)
  • Tyce (male)
  • Uinta (female)
  • Xzavier (male)

Movies Seen Recently: Strange Invaders, The 5th Wave, The Creation of the Humanoids

51JW363GJKL._SY445_[1]Strange Invaders (1983) – I don’t normally post any sort of review of movies that I don’t manage to finish, but in the case of Strange Invaders I’ll make an exception.  the premise of the movie — aliens take over a small town in the 1950s and keep in unchanged for decades — could be the foundation for a good movie, but this isn’t it.  Everything is slow, slow, slow, and the protagonist is ineffective and nebbish, so much so that halfway through, the script starts casting around for a different protagonist.  Wallace Shawn has an early role in this, leading to my formulation of a new rule: If even Wallace Shawn is boring in your movie, your movie is too dang boring.

51S1LtXFOjL._SX200_QL80_[1]The 5th Wave (2016) – The first act is a series of emotional punches as a systematic alien assault destroys the Earth’s infrastructure, as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl.  Everything from the midpoint on is dominated by a stupid teenybopper “Your lurv turns my alien nature all human!” relationship, and a plot twist that (a) I saw from so far away that I don’t think I need to wear glasses anymore, and (b) is really dumb.

51gtXHzl4EL._SY445_[1]The Creation of the Humanoids (1962) – This isn’t exactly a good movie, but it’s also definitely not a stupid movie.  Set in a civilization rebuilt after an atomic war, the plot — such as it is — posits a society propped up by a class of sentient androids, whose near-humanity is seen as a threat by a reactionary force calling itself “The Order of Flesh and Blood,” dedicated to keeping the robots in their places.  These robots are in the classic Asimovian mold, being entirely guided by an inborn ethic of helping the human race, but what the human race needs and what it may want to believe it needs are two separate things… Most of the movie is composed of conversations — between robots, between humans helping the robots’ beneficent schemes, between members of the Order, between a high-ranking member of the Order and his sister who’s recently gotten herself a made-to-please-her robotic “companion” (there isn’t a legitimate word describing this kind of male concubinage), between humans falling in unlikely love…  Nothing but rhetoric and general talkiness as far as the eye can see, but if you accept that the storyline’s mostly an excuse for an ongoing philosophical discussion, it’s not half-bad.


More local names!

In my professional duties, I have opportunity to run across long lists of names of local individuals and their families. Now, you all know my predilection for documenting the, um, “creative” names (or the standard names (mis)spelled “creatively”) in this corner of the world, and brother, this list was a doozy.  It also gave genders, which renders some otherwise unremarkable names as real head-scratchers.

  • Abbygail (female)
  • Adasyn (female)
  • Addalyn (female)
  • Addeline (female)
  • Addisen (female)
  • Aerial (female)
  • Alee (female)
  • Alivia (female)
  • Amzie (female)
  • Anessa (female)
  • Arynne (female)
  • Ashlan (female)
  • Baron (male)
  • Baylee (female)
  • Berkley (female)
  • Blaiklee (female)
  • Bodee (male)
  • Brakston (male)
  • Braylee (female)
  • Breah (female)
  • Brilynn (female)
  • Brinn (female)
  • Brooks (male)
  • Brylee (female)
  • Bryleigh (female)
  • Calder (male)
  • Cambree (female)
  • Campbell (female)
  • Camryn (female)
  • Candon (male)
  • Carder (male)
  • Celestia (female)
  • Charlsee (female)
  • CheRanda (female)
  • Coral (female)
  • Corban (male)
  • Daija (female)
  • Dannae (female)
  • Dayne (male)
  • Delanee (female)
  • Devri (female)
  • Dustee (female)
  • Easton (male – twice)
  • Ellisyn (female)
  • Emaiya (female)
  • Emeral (female)
  • Emerlyn (female)
  • Emmily (female)
  • Emmit (male)
  • Eniyah (female)
  • Grahm (male)
  • Haileigh (female)
  • Iailey (female)
  • Idalys (female)
  • Jaden (male)
  • Jadyn (female – twice)
  • Jaeleen (female)
  • Jagger (male)
  • Jaiten (male)
  • Jannet (female)
  • Jara (female)
  • Jaxon (male – twice)
  • Jaxson (male – twice)
  • Jaxton (male)
  • Jayde (female)
  • Jaydee (female)
  • Jayden (female)
  • Jayrich (male)
  • Jayse (male)
  • Jenifer (female)
  • Jensen (female)
  • Jentry (female)
  • Jett (male – twice)
  • Jordilynn (female)
  • Jordyn (female)
  • Josanna (female)
  • Justyn (male)
  • K’nai (male)
  • Kabree (female – twice)
  • Kaden (male)
  • Kaeley (female)
  • Kaesen (male)
  • Kaisley (female)
  • Kalise (female)
  • Kamron (male)
  • Kandis (female)
  • Karter (male)
  • Kasen (male)
  • Kashton (male)
  • Kason (male)
  • Kaycee (female)
  • Kayden (male)
  • Kaylee (female – twice)
  • Kaylor (female)
  • Kayt (female)
  • Keagan (female)
  • Kelsee (female)
  • Kendall (female)
  • Kenli (female)
  • Keslen (male)
  • Kiley (male)
  • Kingston (male)
  • Kinley (female)
  • Klint (male)
  • Koralee (female)
  • Kristena (female)
  • Kymberli (female)
  • Kynlee (female)
  • Kyreese (male)
  • Kyrian (female)
  • Lathen (male)
  • Laynee (female)
  • Lezly (female)
  • Lillyanna (female)
  • Linsie (female)
  • Lissetta (female)
  • Lundyn (female)
  • Lyllyrose (female)
  • Mackenzie (male!)
  • Macyee (female)
  • Madaliene (female)
  • Madisan (female)
  • Makai (male)
  • Maxon (male)
  • Mayely (female)
  • Mayla (female)
  • Maysa (female)
  • Maze (male)
  • McGregor (male)
  • McKadie (female)
  • McKaylie (female)
  • McKinlee (female)
  • Mclaine (female)
  • Mersaydi (female)
  • Mikkel (female)
  • Myca (female)
  • Naiya (female)
  • Natausha (female)
  • Nickole (female)
  • Paisley (female)
  • Parx (male)
  • Paxon (male)
  • Paycen (male)
  • Payton (female – twice)
  • Peyton (female)
  • Peyton (male)
  • Presley (female)
  • Presli (female)
  • Preslie (female – twice)
  • Quinn (female – twice)
  • Raegan (female)
  • Raigen (female)
  • Reace (male)
  • Rhylan (male)
  • Rory (female)
  • Samee (female)
  • SanDee (female)
  • ShayLynn (female)
  • Shelbee (male)
  • Stephlynae (female)
  • Stetson (male)
  • Taelor (female)
  • Tailer (female)
  • Taryn (female)
  • Tavian (male)
  • Taylar (female)
  • Tayler (female)
  • Taysen (male)
  • TeGan (male)
  • Telena (female)
  • Trevin (male)
  • Trilby (female)
  • Tystann (female)
  • Zerik (male)


Utah names!

My son Jason’s high school graduation place today, and you know what that means — I get to look through the graduation program for “creative” names! Note that it’s the adult education class, so there are quite a few ESL students; I have to be careful not to include any legitimate names from non-Anglo-Saxon cultures.

The list:

  • Broc
  • Nahshon
  • Blayke
  • Kaiya
  • Alexia
  • Kyler
  • Breeanna
  • Baylynn
  • Caiden
  • Kelcie
  • Jordyn
  • Jerrin
  • Minji
  • Kayden
  • Ailee
  • Kaycee
  • Tashina
  • Kurrie
  • Logun
  • Jessenia
  • Nakeena
  • Tanilyn

(Oh, and congrats to Jason.)

Sal Velluto Fundraiser Artwork

Last yesterday was the fundraiser to help local comic mainstay Sal Velluto with his bills from cancer treatment. I was honored to be included in the artists (I asked to be one of them) sketching for Sal.

I’m actually surprised there was enough interest to keep me mostly busy.  I did three commissions: two of Cthulhu, and one of Frankenstein’s monster.  And when I didn’t have commissioned work to do, I sketched out of my head — and then sold four of those sketches, too.

Here are the sketches I didn’t sell and brought home:

sal_0001 sal_0002 sal_0003 sal_0004

Also put a couple of my woodcuts into the silent auction.  Overall, the event raised about $3,300 for Sal.  Woo!

My story in REDNECK ELDRITCH: “Ostler Wallow”

Redneck Eldritch ebookI am very proud (I think not inordinately) of my story, “Ostler Wallow,” which appears in REDNECK ELDRITCH published earlier this spring.  I’m so proud, in fact, that I’m reproducing here the “sneak peek” posted this morning on the Cold Fusion Media website:


I aint had the dream abowt the corners for long years. I didnt no I misst it. Wen I first had it over and over, way back in the bigining, the corners fritened me so bad I almost left the wallow and wats here. But now I no that the corner cuttin into you is the only way corners can embrase you.

The first I heard that the old bastard was dead, I was down at Roy Sadley’s store on a Tuesday morning; on top of the normal things Beth had sent me for, I needed a new mattock blade, as I’d sharpened the old one down to a nubbin I could shave with. Roy Sadley saw me come in, and the first thing he said was, “Phineas, your grandpap’s passed on.”

At first I thought he meant my grandfather Grandin, my mother’s father—he’s the only one I ever thought of as “my grandpap”—but that good man had already been been seven years in the Lutheran churchyard in Timoree. But Roy just went on.

“It was my Jude that found him,” he said. “We hadn’t seen Ephraim for a few weeks past when he said he’d be in, and I had stuff for him, so I sent Jude to truck it up to him in the Wallow, and that’s how he found him in the cabin.”

Ephraim. So that would be Ephraim Joel Ostler, my pap’s pap. I didn’t really know how Roy expected me to react, so I just shrugged.

“All gotta go sometime,” I said, just to be saying something.

“True ’bout most people,” Roy agreed, “though I ain’t sure I figured it applied to Ephraim. He’s still up there—Jude just barely got back, and he didn’t know what to do—so I guess you’ll want to go up there for him?”

I said, “Why?”

That took Roy back a step, and his bad eye rolled in surprise. “Well, he is your own blood kin—”

“I only set eyes on the old bastard three times in my life, and never spoke a word to him ever. I’m guessing if there’s someone who wants to take the effort to gather him and put him ’neath the dirt, they’re welcome to. I’ve got other things to do.”

Roy was so shocked that both his eyes looked straight at me, up and down. “You listen here, Phineas,” he said in a rough voice, “I don’t say you gotta make up and like him now that he’s passed, but there’s some family responsibilities you gotta take as the eldest, the man of the family. Obligations, even, no matter love nor hate.”

“So let my cousin Walter deal with it,” I said. “He’s older than me.”

Roy looked at me like I’d started speaking in tongues. “The oldest Ostler,” he said in a voice like you’d speak to an idiot child. “Walter can help with the funeral and the like, heck yes, but he’s a McKinnon. You’re the last Ostler, and that means something.”

I didn’t like the look in either of Roy’s eyes, so I glanced around the store to give myself a break from them. Sadley’s is a comfortably shadowy old store, with windows hazed over with dust and smoke so that sunlight coming through softens and blurs all around. There were a couple of old-timers by the small stove with the coffeepot, playing cards with a deck that I knew for a fact was missing the three of hearts. They kept their eyes on their cards and played right ahead, but I could tell all the same that they were both listening to Roy and me. Sadley’s hadn’t had a working radio since a tube blew in October, so there was nothing else to listen to.

“Fine,” I said. “I need sugar and coffee and a new mattock blade, and ring up an extra dime so I can use your phone to call Walter anyway.”

Roy’s face softened, and his bad eye went back to looking at whatever it wanted to. “Ain’t no need of that, Phineas,” he said. “You go right ahead and make the call.”

Sometims I feel like I got a therd eye in the back of my hed that dosnt see all the normal stuff that the Ssun shows becus it dont need lite to see by. It can see by the glow of the Edjes that are all around us, fillin the distans bitween all the things. The eye aint alwaz in back of my hed, somtimes its too the side or rite up top, but becus it dosnt see with lite it dosnt go blind with the Sun. And somtimes I dont no were it is, but it sees down, strate down, to all the things I love, and it sees so much it openss my Mouth and lets out all it sees in words and notwords til I got no breth left.

Most families around these parts have their own mountain or hill. When I say “have,” I don’t mean that they’ve got title to it, with fancy pieces of paper and something written in a book down at the county courthouse away in St. Stephen. Those families have been up here since before there was any county courthouse, or any St. Stephen, and we own what we own because we own it, not because a paper says.

Like I said, most families got a mountain or something. The Ostlers, we’ve got the Wallow.

It’s away west off the land we live on, right in the crotch made between Blair Mountain and the Godfrey Ridge, a low spot where the rain runs down and makes a huge soggy puddle with inlet and no outlet, always in damp shadow because the sun don’t shine there except right at midday. It’s like our own little swamp in the hills, with plenty of frogs but no fish because there’s no way for them to have gotten there. In the middle of the Wallow is a hump of black rock with moss growing up all sides, and on top of the rock is the hunting cabin put there by my great-great-great-grandfather Ostler.

That’s where old Ephraim Ostler, my grandpap, had lived since the night that he killed my grandmother and got driven out of the house—the same house I live in now—by my pap, Eliazar Joel Ostler, when he was all of thirteen years old.

I think I heared its Name in my dream last night, but it wasnt ear-hearin, I only heared it with somethin deep in the senter of my head, a part that almost doesnt no how to hear because it hasnt heared for so long, for ages and ages back throu Fathers and Sons. But I heared it with that somethin in my head, I heared its Name or mabe only part of it becose it felt like its hole Name wouda bin too big for my head to hold it in at onct. And becose it warnt ear-hearin, its nothin I can say with my maoth, but thats okay becose I dont think its somethin I have a right to say. Names is presious, and even the little bit I got is presious, and I am to keep it safe and presious.

Walter had a telephone in his house, and his wife Clara picked it up after two rings. Walter had grown up here in the hills but Aunt Rose had let him go away for school when he was fourteen, and he never really came back. He’d gone off to the war—he was in the Pacific, though he never saw any fighting—then went to university and came out a Doctor of Divinity. Now he lived down in St. Stephen and was the pastor of a Methodist church. Clara said he was out and she’d have him ring me back as soon as he got in, but I knew Beth would be wondering where I’d got off to if I stayed down at Sadley’s too long, so I told Clara the main points about old Ephraim’s being dead—main points being all that I knew myself—and told him to call back and talk to Roy if he wanted to help me clean him out the cabin in the next couple of days.

Roy was listening, and as I hung up, he said, “Don’t you think you oughtta go up there right away and collect him?”
While I’d been putting the call through, Roy had pulled everything on my shopping list to the front counter. I hoisted the bags up and balanced them on my hip.

“He’d dead already,” I said. “A day or two ain’t gonna make him any more or less dead, is it?” I pushed out the door without waiting for an answer. From what I’d been taught by my pap, anything short of leaving the old bastard to turn to bones by himself in the Wallow was more than he deserved…


This is just one of the stories in the anthology Redneck Eldritch, available now!

Woodcuts and such.

“Nathan,” you ask, “why are you so silent? What are you working on that keeps you away from your own blog?”

That’s a fair question. I wish I had more to tell you, or more that was in a stage at which it could be told about: I’m under contract to edit a couple of novels for another publisher whose name you would know (in other words, not for my own Cold Fusion Media), I’m working on formatting for a second edition of The Golden Age of Crap (now with full-color movie posters!), I’ll soon be starting some revision/editing/ghostwriting work on a nonfiction book by a former employer, and sooner or later I’ll get the finishing touches on the second Cheap Caffeine print volume. And I’ve got several objets d’arte in various stages of incompletion.

What I have to show you today, though, is something that I’ll have available at the benefit for Sal Velluto, a local mainstay comic book creator paying for cancer treatments.  The event is most of next Saturday (June 11) at Dragon’s Keep in Provo, Utah. And along with doing custom creature sketches for whatever the going rate is for those — all proceeds going to Sal, of course — I’ll have the first of these new woodcut prints I’ve been working on:


I’ve got another, bigger one I’m hoping to have complete by then, but if not…

Movies Seen Recently: Feast, The Martian, Captain America: Civil War

51b3GJKZUFL._SX200_QL80_[1]Feast (2005) – If you’re looking for a movie which concurrently honors and subverts horror movie tropes, forget the criminally overrated Scream. Feast does it much better.  In classic fashion, a mismatched assortment of stock characters (no character names, only labels and life expectancies) are trapped in a middle-of-nowhere bar by a trio of fast, vicious monsters of no particular origin.  There’s gore and violence, and blood isn’t the only bodily fluid in abundance; this movie definitely sets out to be a monster horror movie.  Recommended if you like this kind of thing — definitely avoid it if you don’t.

51rmwZQM9GL._SX200_QL80_[1]The Martian (2015) – It’s Cast Away meets “Space Oddity!”  You’ve all heard about it — most of you have probably seen it — so I don’t need to tell you about the premise, etc.  In this fiercely plausible near-future story of survival, the most improbable detail is that NASA would send viable, raw, non-frozen potatoes as foodstuffs.

cacvCaptain America: Civil War (2016) I have been more pleased with each successive entry in the Captain America subset of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because they’ve gotten my favorite character right.  Cap has always been Marvel’s answer to DC’s Superman — not because he’s powerful (really, he’s got no superpowers beyond being in tip-top shape), but because he’s a moral icon.  He is a strong character built on strength of character: a firm moral compass, a natural capacity for leadership, and a willingness to sacrifice for the greater good.  And since DC’s movie strategy seems to be to move Superman away from being a paragon of “truth, justice, and all that stuff” into being an emo outsider with heat vision, Captain America has emerged as pretty much the only cinematic superhero who retains the “hero” part.  Civil War demonstrates not just his loyalty — there are all sorts of movies in which the protagonist goes to great lengths for a friend, and sometimes filmmakers behave as if they believe this virtue, in isolation, enough to make a character worthwhile — but his unwillingness to cede his moral compass to the control of another.  For Steve Rogers, whether scrawny or brawny, it’s always about fighting for the right, even if you have no illusions that you’re going to win.  I wanted to stand up and cheer in the theater (embarrassing my daughters) when Cap, bloody and nearly broken in the final confrontation, drags himself to his feet and coughs, “I could do this all day.”

And while this was Cap’s movie, it was also an ensemble movie at least as much as the last Avengers movie.  Every character was well-drawn and believable in motivations and conflicts, and — wonder of wonders — a fight that involved a dozen different and distinct characters wasn’t a headache-inducing crapgasm of flash and sound.

I’m glad that I live in the century in which motion pictures can finally do justice to what made the comic books of my childhood great.

World Horror Con Schedule!

zombee03[1]I’ll be at World Horror Con, April 28th through May 1st in Provo.  Here’s my schedule as it currently stands:

Thursday at 2pm:

“Revisiting Lovecraft: Why is he popular and who is writing Lovecraftian horror?” (with Dan Wells, Jason V. Brock, Michael R. Collings, Eric Swedin)

Thursday at 9:30pm:

“Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse” (with Carter Reid, Michaelbrent Collings, Jaleta Clegg, and Joe McKinney)

Friday at 10pm:

“Freestyle Gargoyles” (see here)

Saturday at 2pm:

“Monster in an Hour” (with Carter Reid, Keith Thompson, and Newton Ewell)

Sunday at 12:45:

“Why We Love Lovecraft” (with Eric Swedin, David J. West, and Carter Reid)

And somewhere in there, there’s supposed to be a group reading by all of the contributors to Redneck Eldritch in attendance. In between, I’ll mostly be at a table in the dealers room, with a bazillion just-released copies of Redneck Eldritch for sale. My understanding is that the dealers room is open to the general public — you don’t have to purchase a con membership to come shop.

(Dang — that Friday night’s gonna be late. I had planned just to ride the FrontRunner to and from the con on Friday and Saturday, but I don’t think I’m gonna be able to catch a train Friday night. Anybody got a couch in Provo?)