Tuesday, December 27, 2011


A little over a year ago I posted a blog on this very site that made a few bold accusations in regard to Marvel Comics "borrowing" a few ideas from me. Through the magic of the interwebs and the great Jim Shooter's blog, I came in contact with Tom Brevoort, the Senior Vice President of Publishing at Marvel Comics. While Tom and Jim seem to have some "issues" to work through, Tom's posts on Jim's blog were reasonable and thoughtful, so I thought that it couldn't hurt to reach out to him to see what he had to say in regard to my contentions.
Yes, I will take the first appearance of The Punisher off your hands, Mr. Brevoort.
I fully expected to be ignored and/or swept under the rug but, amazingly, Tom took the time to respond to my accusations in a considerate, 2000+ word email that I took to heart. I believe the guy. Here are some notable excerpts from that email:

"...I can tell you absolutely, without any reservation or hesitation, that nothing entered into it outside of the ideas, conceptions and brainstorming of the creators involved." 

"Our creators are perfectly capable of coming up with the storylines themselves—they don’t need to steal ideas from other people. And if somebody walked in the door with ideas that good and the ability to execute them, we’d hire them—we’re in the business of cultivating talent, not swiping from them." 

"This all sounds very cold and clinical and down-putting I’m sure, but let me assure you, seriously, legitimately, and properly, there is no way that anybody involved in HOUSE OF M or CIVIL WAR lifted the concepts for those stories from you or what you proposed. I’m sure that this will be a difficult thing for you to accept, having lived for so long with an anger towards Marvel and these people, but it is absolutely and unequivocally the truth."

Now, I'm sure some of you out there will say, "He's just handling you, you fool! They'll do anything to avoid a messy lawsuit!" and I thought that myself at first...


...He didn't have to say anything at all to me. Not one single, syllable. He could have just sat back, watched his Disney stock options climb through the roof and said, "I'm not touching that mess with a 10 foot pole!" I already made it abundantly clear that I no intention of suing anyone. Even if I wanted to sue, I just don't have the resources (i.e. money) to take on the Marvel/Disney corporate giant. That's a fucking windmill I just cannot tilt. So, he could have just avoided me and my potential, legal morass altogether, added my email to the crank pile and that would have been that. In fact, I would have been more suspicious if he did do that. I would have thought he had something to hide, was afraid to say anything to me and would err on the side of caution. But I got just the opposite: 2000 or so words of truth and common sense. And I, for one, completely appreciate that time and effort. 

There's a saying that goes, "It takes a big man to admit when he is wrong." Now, I'm not saying I'm a "big man" or anything like that but I was wrong here and I can cop to that. And honestly, I'm kind of glad that I am wrong because being wrong here restores my faith in humanity...just a teeny, tiny bit.

And that's kinda cool, I think.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Interview with Rawson Stovall

You can find the printed version of this interview in this month's Retro Gamer (UK) Magazine (issue #97). The interview was edited extensively for space...but I think what the man had to say deserves a little more room. Many thanks once again to Rawson for agreeing to do this; you inspired me, as an 11-year-old lad growing up in Philadelphia, PA, to do what I do today.

Rawson Stovall was the kid friendly face of video game journalism in the 80’s. At its zenith, his pioneering “Video Beat” column was syndicated in newspapers all across the United States. Today, Rawson is a producer for Electronic Arts, working on titles such as “The Godfather” and “The Sims.”

Do many people remember you as the "Vid Kid?"

Sometimes people do, especially people who are still in the game industry. I ran into the legendary David Crane at an event at Stanford University and when he remembered me it just made my day.

When I first started on The Godfather I met with Wilfredo Aguilar, who was the Art Director on the game. I had actually met him years earlier when I was a kid when he was an artist at Imagic, which I was lucky to visit because it had been onbe of my favorite companies. In Willy's office at EA is perhaps the only full-sized Demon Attack poster left in existence. I was just staring at it and I mentioned visiting Imagic years earlier and he exclaimed, "I know you -- you're the Vid Kid!" He had remembered the suit-wearing, briefcase-carrying 11-year old version of me.

If/when they do remember you from those days, do they cite you as an inspiration for wanting to become a video game reviewer/journalist?

I mainly meet people who are working in production. Usually they don't know and I usually don't bring it up. At some point, though, it eventually comes out, including the old pictures. If someone does remember me they often tell me that what inspired them was seeing a kid go out and do something -- which meant that, really, they could go out and accomplish something as a kid as well, that age alone shouldn't be a barrier to entry. That means a lot to me, because when I was young and writing my column I was extremely motivated by proving that I could accomplish anything that adults could.

For the first couple years I sold my column to newspapers myself. If editors or publishers seemed like they were going to be naysayers about a kid writing video game reviews I would point out that, at the time, people were paying 7-8 times as much for a video game than for a movie and that there was no shortage of movie reviews in their papers. And, so, if only from a consumer protection standpoint they should offer some reviews. I would also ask them who would know better about video games than a kid? In those days kids were the primary target audience for video games. This helped sell them on the column and on me.

What was like to be a guest on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson?"

It was awesome, but it was filmed in front of a large audience, which was new to me and made me nervous. So, I just never looked at the audience, never even turned my head so that I would accidently see them. This meant I never really met Ed McMahon, even though he was sitting right next to me, because that would have required me to turn my head and see the audience, which I was certain would cause me to freak out.

At the time, I knew that "The Tonight Show" was a big deal but I never knew how big it was until I got older. When I was a kid, I was never allowed to stay up late enough to really watch it. So I never had the context of that show's almost historical impact. If I had known any of that it would have made me more nervous.

The whole family drove out to Los Angeles for the taping of the show. We actually rented an A-Team-like van for the drive, so the whole road trip felt like the movie Little Miss Sunshine or Vacation. We stayed at this big hotel in the valley near the NBC lot. The taping was at the end of the day and we, very conservatively, just stayed at the hotel that day. I was such a bundle of energy and nerves by mid-afternoon that my parents told me to go walk around the hotel lobby to burn of some of the energy. Maybe they were thinking that we would just stroll around but instead my sister and I subsequently spent an hour running up the down escalators and down the up escalators until I got back to the room just exhausted. I think my mom freaked and gave me soda and coffee to pep me up because it was show time and we had to head to the studio. I think I've been drinking coffee ever since.

Do you still have the "Vid Kid" suits and/or briefcase?

You know, I do still have the briefcase. I couldn't give that up. And I still have a tiny Members' Only jacket that's covered with Activision "high score" patches for games they did for the Atari 2600. True story.

What was the impetus for making the switch from writing about video games to developing them?

I wrote my video game column every week for ten years, from age 10 to age 20, covering the era from the Atari 2600 to the Super Nintendo System. I was honestly just ready for a change and I was young enough, and fresh out of college, and had moved to California from a small town in Texas so it was the ideal time to try something new.

What I found out was that years and years spent critiquing games and the elements about them that work and don't has translated very naturally into the role of producer. For me, it has been more of a natural transition than, say, to programming or even designing.

Because I grew up with video games and sometimes spoke for the industry to the press, I was always a fan of the industry's early roots as a very mass-market, family-oriented, living room-centric form of entertainment. My feeling has always been that the video game industry, both as an art form and as a business, needs to be as evangelistic to new and non-core gamers as possible. Games like The Sims is a great example of the success that can be found when you include people who were, by and large, ignored from the late 1980s to the late 1990s.

Overall, I like to think that I have always been the biggest fan of innovation and envelope-pushing in the industry in whatever stage or form that comes, sometimes it's graphics, thematic expansion, genre redefinition, or other times it comes in the form of crazy new play styles like some Wii games. Right now, I think we are in a new golden age of video game creativity and quality. Some of those games are very complex, deep and engaging PC experiences like The Sims 3, and others are very accessible, very simple, fun iPhone/iPad games.

What is it like working on a franchise as well-known as The Sims?

The best thing about working at the Sims Studio is working with the people that are overall responsible for it. You can't have one of the most popular and long-lasting game franchises in history without having some of the most talented, creative, and fun people in the business behind those games. Plus, it's great to work on games that have such a wide and dedicated fan base. Different people play The Sims 3 in different ways, some people like to tell stories, or create crazy situations and see how they pan out, others like to play with life, others like to play architect, fashion designer, interior designer, and so on.

Nerd alert -- I sometimes describe the Sims as the forerunner to the "holodeck" in Star Trek. If gaming technology ever advances to real life-like holograms then The Sims, at that point, will have advanced simulated personalities and A.I. to the point where the holodeck will in fact become a reality.

Any interesting/anecdotal Will Wright stories you'd like to share?

Sorry. There is a conference room named after him, which is kinda cool.

Beyond the obvious, what do you think is the biggest difference between the video games of today opposed to those of yesteryear?

Almost all games of yesteryear were ultimately designed to beat you, the player. Almost no one would actually finish those games; excelling at video games was primarily only about high scores or how far you got; the game itself was only a medium or an arena in which you really competed with yourself. Now, most games are specifically designed to be beaten. Hurdles, obstacles, puzzles, power-ups, etc. are all very purposely placed to make the game winnable yet make you feel like you are very special because you beat it. I think there's some kind of life analogy here somewhere.

What is your best/fondest memory from your time as the "Vid Kid?"

I got to meet a lot of cool people, from game designers to industry legends like Nolan Bushnell and even 80's icons like Mr. T and Andre the Giant. I got to introduce the original Nintendo Entertainment System at its US unveiling in 1985 and afterwards the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto (though it was very early in his career) and Hiroshi Yamauchi, who was the CEO of Nintendo at the time, called me up and we talked about the various appeal of different video game elements. Though the conversation was hard because we had to speak through a translator.

What were some of your favorite games of your "Vid Kid" era? And of today?

I never really had a specific favorite game from the Vid Kid era, but I do have a level of affinity for games like QiX, Dig Dug, Pac-Man, Demon Attack, Centipede, Kaboom!, Cosmic Ark, Joust, action games that couldn't ever really be beaten (unless you were insane.) Other games that come to mind now, as I'm thinking about it, that I liked:  Pitfall!, M.U.L.E., Maniac Mansion, H.E.R.O, Death Sword (which I think was known as Barbarian in the U.K.). Oh, the list can go on and on.

As for now, I think a team of ninjas might apparate in my living room and kill me if I didn't say that I was playing a lot of Sims Social on Facebook lately. But, really, the truth is that I am playing a lot of Sims Social on Facebook lately. It's a fresh new take on a franchise that I've spent years with and it's impressive that they were able to take The Sims and use it to really polish and add depth to the Facebook game genre. Other than that, I tend to travel a lot and so I?m actually playing a ton of games on my iPad, which I think is enjoying a Golden Age of gaming creativity, even though they are often smaller games.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bill Kunkel 1950-2011

This is another piece I wrote for Retro Gamer (UK) Magazine. The great Bill Kunkel passed away last month and I wrote a eulogy/obituary for the magazine. It appears in November's issue, # 95.

The revered “Game Doctor” essentially invented video game journalism as we know it.

One of the great lights of the industry, its initial, gleaming beacon if you will, has been extinguished. Bill “The Game Doctor” Kunkel passed away at his home in Michigan early Sunday morning, September 5th from an apparent heart attack. He was 61-years-old at the time of his death and is survived by his wife, Laurie, and his siblings, Stephanie, Karen, Joellen, Ken and Stuart.

Bill’s career started off humbly enough, writing and photographing for various wrestling and science fiction fanzines. He then went on to write for Marvel, DC and Harvey Comics, working on such popular characters as Spider-Man, Superman, Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost. But it was in 1978 that he found his stride with the “Arcade Alley” recurring feature in Video Magazine. Launching off the success of that article, Bill, along with life-long friends and business partners, Arnie Katz and Joyce Worley-Katz, started the first magazine entirely devoted to video games, Electronic Games. It was there that Bill took up the pseudonym of the “Game Doctor” and invented many of terms and concepts (such as “screenshot,” “playfield” and “Easter Egg”) we take for granted today.

After Electronic Games folded in 1984, Bill, Arnie and Joyce went on to form Subway Software, designing such games as Micro League Wrestling, Batman Returns and The Simpson’s: Bart’s Nightmare. Bill himself would later join Running With Scissors and have a large role in the two Postal games. He also returned to comics for a stint with Platinum Studios in the late 90’s.

On top of all that, Bill provided expert testimony is several, high-profile video game related lawsuits (Atari v. Magnavox, Nintendo v. Galoob and Capcom v. Data East) and taught game design/theory courses at The University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV).

No words could better sum up who Bill Kunkel was, and what he stood for, than the words written by Arnie Katz in the foreward to Bill’s 2005 memoir, Confessions of the Game Doctor: “Bill Kunkel fought for the idea that gaming could interest adults at a time when the mainstream media dismissed players as glassy-eyed pubescent joystick addicts. He has always battled for information over ignorance, truth over convenience.”

With the Game Doctor’s untimely demise, the video game world has lost one of its first, true renaissance men. Anyone who has aspirations of becoming a video game journalist or game designer would do themselves a great service by checking out Bill’s seminal “Game Doctor” pieces, his incisive “Kunkel Report” articles and, of course, his aforementioned memoir.

Bill’s distinguished career touched and influenced myriad people throughout the video game industry. These are but a few who had kind words about the man after learning of his death...

Vince Desi, CEO Running With Scissors

“Bill was my friend, my advisor, and a founding member of Running With Scissors; he was our Editor In Chief. He was truly the Godfather of Video Game journalism, and a true Don in the game industry. He was smart and respected, and brutally honest, something this industry and world desperately needs. Bill always liked to say, ‘Life will kill you.’ God Bless him.”

Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, CEO Platinum Studios

“Bill was a good friend and a good person.  Nothing was ever too much for him to try and tackle.  What he did take on he approached in a wonderful and innovative manner.  He will be missed but also celebrated.”

Tommy Tallarico, CEO/Producer Video Games Live

"Growing up I remember reading Bill's columns in Electronic Games Magazine. I had the great pleasure of knowing him and being his friend for 22 years. Yo Bill...save me a seat in Heaven by the Intellivision console! Me and you in Downhill Skiing!"    

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Interview with Director Duncan Jones

This interview originally ran in this month's Retro Gamer (UK) Magazine (issue 93). Unfortunately, I was forced to heavily edit the interview due to space constraints within the magazine. The kind folks at Retro Gamer are allowing me post the full, unedited version (the Director's Cut, if you will...) of the interview here on my blog, which is great because Duncan had so much to say that was spot on and interesting that I truly hated whittling it down.

So, without further ado...

Duncan Jones is the director of the sci-fi films, Moon and, most recently, Source Code. He is also the son of one of the most iconic rock stars of all-time, the “Starman” himself, David Bowie. On top of that, Duncan has a deep appreciation for retro gaming and technology of all sorts. You can follow him on Twitter @ManMadeMoon.

As a filmmaker, do you ever think that a truly great video game film will ever be made? If so, what would that film be?

I absolutely think a great video game film can and will be made.  The inspiration for a good movie can be just about anything.  Take "The Social Network" for instance; Facebook is hardly an obvious choice for movie material.  Really it’s just about finding the key element of drama, an interesting setting, a fascinating character that can lead to an engaging story, and games have a plethora of these.  As always, though, it’s all about the script.  I think one of the common mistakes that is made in trying to turn video games into movies is to believe that all is required is to tell the story of the game in a linear format.  That's not going to do it.  You need to isolate and use only those elements that actually work.  Only those elements that are original and have dramatic potential... It can be done, and I think there are many games that have great source material, but really it’s going to take a combination of great writer, inspired director, and a franchise owner who is willing to let go enough to allow what needs to be done, to be done.

great film (and book), High Fidelity, was famous for its lists of “Top Fives.” What are your “Top Five” classic video games?

Totally unfair, as I have FAR more than a top five.  In fact I KNOW this is not a top five list, its just 5 treasured gaming memories, but it’s the best I can do.

The game that first tapped my imagination like nothing I had experiences before was Richard Garriot's "Exodus - Ultima 3," on the Commodore 64.  That was the game that first motivated me to buy a ring binder and a stack of graph paper, to draw pixel accurate maps and lists of reagent costs.  After that game, I was Lord British's subject, and Origin Software was my church.  The cloth maps, the "relic" inside... marketing?  Maybe... but inspired.  Garriot was a genius.

For sheer arcade fun, the Amiga served up an amazing array of titles, but I’m going to pick out just a couple for my top 5 list.  The Bitmap Brothers fantastic "Speedball 2:Brutal Deluxe," and the equally amazing movie-game from Cinemaware "It Came from the Desert."
I remember getting my first PC, a 486/66 where you had to manually set your config.sys and autoexec.bat files.  A nightmare, but the only way you were ever going to play the amazing titles available on that format.  The best of that time was the space opera “Wing Commander” series, but a spin-off of that series was the excellent Privateer, which was a bit like David Braben's Elite on steroids. Amazing game, and yet another that had me bringing out the old ring-binder to keep notes on prices in various sectors.
I'm going to bring up another Cinemaware title now, back from the Amiga days.  "TV Sports Football."  Cinemaware was doing something here that modern sports games have completely lost sight of; they were having fun with the sport!  They had mock interviews and a sense of a life beyond the game itself.  I think it’s a lesson a lot of sports games could do well to relearn.
I feel sad having such a short list here.  I would want to give special mention to Amiga's Dungeon Master, Bards Tale, Barbarian, Sanxion, (introducing me to high culture as it used Prokofiev's classical composition "Montagues and Capulets,") the original Apple 2 version of Castle Wolfenstein and Wizadry and Daley Thompson!  Hit those two keys, my son!
What was your system/computer of choice back in the day and why?
Had a few but the real stand out was the Commodore Amiga.  Amazing colour, stunning sound, cool design.  And just to top it off, I recently saw THIS! 
Do you play many “current gen” titles? If so, which ones?
I have an Alienware laptop I am using to play Steam games now until a good enough new PC game comes out to warrant a desktop.  Hearing that the new Battlefield might be the one, but we'll have to wait and see.  I have a PS3 and a Wii, but they gather dust, more than anything else.  Play more games on the iPhone, to be honest! 
Beyond the obvious, what do you think is the biggest difference between today’s great games and the great games of yesteryear?
Humour and surprise.  Like the Spanish inquisition!  Old games used to be less corporate... they were less afraid, less rigid.  OK, so sometimes they got the play balance wrong...maybe you occasionally had to really struggle to get past a section that a modern game would be designed to let you succeed at, but that was the point!  You felt a real sense of accomplishment.  Also, because they were being made by small teams of really passionate people, and not by squadrons of corporate producers, they had a whimsy to them that we have really lost.  And it really is a loss.  That whimsy is something I really do miss.  Come back Origin & Sierra... come back Cinemaware and Lucasarts.  We need you now more than ever.
If you had a crack at making your own game what kind of game would it be?
Probably something retro!  Seriously.  I think I would try to distill the best memories I have in games into a small, tightly made package that could be played on an iPad, phone or browser... and if that went well, I would go for a great big fuck off RPG sprawler, like Richard Garriot used to make!
In your opinion, will there ever be a “perfect” synthesis of film (i.e. cutscenes, a la Metal Gear Solid 4) and gameplay?
I don’t know how out of the norm I am, but in all honesty, I rarely care about the story in games I play.  I tend to skip and/or ignore cutscenes.  Unless they are really visually spectacular.  Blizzard cutscenes keep my attention.  The reason I play games though is for the interactive opportunities.  If I want someone to tell me a story, I go see a movie. 
I don’t know if you’ve seen the mock up of Moon as a classic LucasArts adventure game but what are your thoughts on it? Would you/could you “let it happen” as the article suggests?

Brilliant bit of work that has not gone unnoticed.

What is your favorite video game theme song/musical score and why?

Well Jonathon Coulton's "Still Alive" at the end of the first Portal game was a touch of genius, and as I mentioned above, Sanxion introduced me to Prokofiev, but for sheer "put a smile on my facedness" I have to give it to the “Wanderer” from Ultima 3.  Ahhh, memories...

Did you ever get a chance to play any games with your famous father?

Nope. Was never his bag.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What Lies Beyond...?

The year was 2003. A whirlwind romance led me down the aisle with little doubt or complaint. I was madly in love, this much I knew.  But, what I did not know was that a few scant months later I would meet another young lady who would capture much more than just my imagination…

Her name was Jade – a mysterious and exotic moniker to be sure.  She was quite the girl; the kind you don’t easily forget. She was a freedom fighter, a daring photojournalist and badass martial artist all rolled into one dynamic package. We shared a rollicking adventure together, she and I. We freed her home planet of Hillys from the clutches of the nefarious DomZ and all was right in the world.

And then, just like that, she was gone. One can only hold a tigress by her tail for so long, I suppose…

My cheeky, dime-store-novel introduction aside, Ubisoft's Beyond Good and Evil was a game that had a profound effect on me on various levels. In year that saw the release of the latest flavors in huge selling franchises like Pokemon, Zelda and Grand Theft Auto, BG&E wasn’t a mega-seller by any stretch of the imagination. But it was a critical darling, an “arthouse” game if you will, that had character, moxie even; something most franchise sequels sorely lack. The experience, as a whole, seemed to be screaming out, “Hey, look at me! This is how it’s done!”

The specialness of BG&E begins with its rock solid and diverse play mechanics. Whether you were piloting the hovercraft, sneaking past Alpha Section troopers, snapping pictures of the Hillys wildlife or laying the smack down Dai-jo combat staff style, all the elements came together seamlessly to form a most coherent whole. This is something BG&E shared with many favorites in my gaming past: Raid Over Moscow, Infiltrator and the Beach Head games on the C64 and Metal Gear Solid on the PS1 most notably. Why more games released today can’t/won’t do this is a mystery to me. And no, an insipid collection of mini-games with the word “PARTY” slapped on the box does not count.

Then there was Jade herself who was, and still is, something of an anomaly in regard to female video game characters. She’s “Zen chic,” to coin a phrase: she’s strong and empowered without just being a bitch, yet maintains a lithe femininity and beauty (green lipstick, FTW!) that’s all wrapped up in a distinctly proportional body. 

Don’t feed the people, but we feed the machines/Can’t really feel what international means...”

Every time I hear that line from a favorite, Rush song of mine thoughts of Beyond Good & Evil always pop into my head. For those who have played the game the reasons why the first part of that lyric carries weight should be evident. It’s the “international” in the second stanza that didn’t hit me until later on. To me, most RPG’s have patently Eastern feel and the majority of FPS’s have a Western flavor, BG&E has an international flair that I found entirely refreshing.  From the Rastafarian rhinos at the Mammago Garage to the Asian ambience of the Akuda Bar and the down home, Middle American “go get’em” attitude of Uncle Pey’j, this game had a global appeal that almost anyone could identify with and which, I think, is directly related to the myriad gameplay styles I mentioned earlier. And in keeping with the international theme, I thought it would be interesting to call on some “worldly” journalist friends to get their perspectives on Beyond Good & Evil.

Malaysian game journalist, Ian Miles Cheong , sees the politics of the game mirroring current events: “Beyond Good and Evil  was lighthearted, but it presented serious topics like freedom of information and human rights without being patronizing. It was a game that respected the player's intelligence. In many ways, the pro-democracy demonstrations that are currently happening in the Middle East remind me of Beyond Good & Evil. The game really managed to capture that revolutionary atmosphere from the perspective of a photo-journalist intent on revealing the truth of the society she lived in.” 

Pete Davison, British contributor to such sites as GamePro, Games Are Evil and The Big Pixels, was drawn in by the visuals and the uniqueness of Miss Jade: Two things specifically stand out when I think about Beyond Good and Evil:  the visual design, and the main character Jade. The distinctive visual style, where no two lines are parallel and everything is deliberately quite ‘angular’ mean that the game has aged very well and still looks good today -- good enough for an HD re-release without any significant upgrades needing to be made to the graphics, in fact. It's actually a very similar approach to what Blizzard did with World of Warcraft's visuals, and it worked well there too.

“Jade, meanwhile, is one of the best female protagonists we've seen in the medium. She's got a distinctive ‘look’ of her own -- from her clothes to the way she moves; she has a likeable personality that means the player is happy to play as her; but more than anything, it's refreshing to play as a female character who isn't overtly sexual and is in possession of a pair of breasts that don't defy all known laws of physics.”

Maria Montoro, Owner and Editorial Director of Game Dynamo (Spain/USA) was brought into the experience by the soundtrack but stayed for the diverse gameplay, much like myself: “The soundtrack of Beyond Good and Evil was an epic element that unconsciously transported you to the beautifully depicted world of Hillys, smoothly dragging you even further into the story. The variety of gameplay styles was a breakthrough. Fighting and platforming had been done before, but the addition of elements like clever puzzles, stealth, racing, and even a couple of arcade games into the formula made this game so unique. You never knew what waited around the corner, as you headed towards the slaughterhouse or visited the local bar. Plus, snapping pictures of odd creatures and collecting pearls was oh-so-rewarding that it kept pulling me forward.

“The remastering of the game for Xbox LIVE and PSN couldn’t make me happier; I can’t wait to relive this enthralling experience with HD visuals, which will make the presentation even more magical than it already was. Hopefully this release will have a grand welcoming, resulting in a truly official and unstoppable comeback of the franchise.”

Much like Maria echoed my sentiments regarding the gameplay, I wholeheartedly echo her anticipation for the upgraded, HD version of Beyond Good and Evil hitting XBLA and PSN this week.  And although there have been tantalizing hints at a sequel, a Ubisoft producer plainly stated  (via Gamespot and Eurogamer) last week that if the sequel to the game is ever to see the light of day, this “new” version of BG&E needs to sell. So, if you are a truly a fan of the game, now is your chance to show it. Return to the planet of Hillys and revisit your good friends (and hated enemies) there. For those of you who don’t know what all the fuss is about, well, now is your chance to explore this eclectic, pan-cultural hybrid of awesomness.

It was a true crime that original Beyond Good and Evil didn’t get into the hands of enough gamers when it originally came out. It would be even more of a crime if the gaming world as a whole was denied a sequel to this truly singular title.

Let’s not have that happen, shall we?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hollywood Night Terrors

"Well...my last job is a really long story filled with sighs."

~ Scott Pilgrim, Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life

That great quote from the first Scott Pilgrim book (also in the movie) pretty much sums up my "Hollywood" experience: a very long story filled with very long sighs. Lots of "hurry up and wait" bullshit. Lots of near-misses. Lots of pretentious douchebags who don't know their assholes from their elbows, etc. Good for Ricky Gervais taking the piss out of a few of 'em the other night!

Anyway...a brief summary: I had some (relatively minor) successes as a screenwriter in the mid-to-late 90's. After nothing concrete panned out from that, my buddy George and I decided to take matters into our own hands and make a movie of our own. The indie film scene produced many great talents (and films) from that era: Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Linklater, et al. So we figured, why not us too? During that time we sat down and wrote several treatments (basically a movie in summary, or short story form) for movie concepts we had rolling around in our brains.

One of the stronger ideas we had was for a film called "Night Terrors." For the uninitiated, night terrors are very intense and disturbing dreams that typically plague some children, then mysteriously go away as they grow older. I had just started working as a sleep technologist not long before we wrote it, so that's where the basic premise came from. Everything else contained in the treatment came from the research and brainstorming sessions George and I had over the next few days. After that, I know we both pitched it to a good many people. Hell, I liked the premise so much that I almost turned it into a comic book/graphic novel at one point in time.

Well, it seems that someone else liked that idea a whole lot too...because someone helped themselves to it. Ironically (or sadly...not sure which...a little bit of both, I guess), while working as a sleep tech the other night I happened upon  a movie titled, "They." It came out in 2002 and I only vaguely recall it being in theaters.  It isn't very good, but that isn't the point.

Now I don't want this to turn into "Crazy Jer's Blog O' Conspiracy Theories and Wildly Random Accusations" so I'm going to post our treatment here and also the trailer for "They." If your interest is piqued after seeing and reading what is posted here, then you can check out the whole movie and make up your own damn mind. I already know what camp George and I are in...



We open in a dark malevolent wood, filled with tall black trees, as if burnt in some great fire.  A young boy, barefoot and breathless, runs through the towering timbers along a winding trail.  As he looks over his shoulder, he sees his pursuer gaining ground.  All we see is a dark shadow claiming the trail and trees as it approaches like a black void.  The boy looks forward at what appears to be a clearing at the end of the forest trail, so he runs even faster.  But the menacing dark entity closes in.  Then at long last, the boy reaches the light of the clearing, but as he exits the forest, he sees that what lies beyond is even worse.  It is an endless field of spiders and snakes.  He begins to scream in terror.
            Bob and Sandy Owens are sitting in their den, watching the late news, when a blood curdling scream shatters their relaxing evening.  They run upstairs to check on their 10 year old son Andy, but what they see would terrify the heart of any parent.  Andy is sitting up in bed, wide-eyed and sweating, clutching the sheets so tightly that he is tearing holes in his bedspread.  Also, he is screaming at the top of his lungs.  When his mother tries to comfort him, Andy has only one response “No!  Get away from me!  I can’t run through the spiders!”  The strangest part is that he is still asleep.  No words of consolation from his parents can ease his terror, for he is trapped between worlds, experiencing what is medically termed Pavor Nocturnis, commonly known as a “Night Terror”.
                James Stenton, a young clinical psychologist, is studying sleep disorders at a small university hospital, and he has become quite enthralled by this still unexplained phenomenon.  Unlike nightmares, which occur in the lighter stages of sleep, a night terror occurs in the deepest stages of sleep, and mostly in children, who almost never remember the event after they wake up.  Usually the only remnant of the experience is an indescribable sense of fear, and vague images of spiders and snakes. 
            Stenton encounters the boy Andy when his parents enroll their son in the sleep research center, and Andy becomes one of his many research subjects.  The intrepid researcher has amassed data from across the world, but like many before him, he has never found an answer to the origins of night terrors, but one night when he uncovers a disturbing clue.  He observes in the demographic data that people with histories of night terrors tend not to have children of their own.  Stenton interviews his subjects about this unusual trend, but they cannot provide him with a valid answer, other then a feeling that they do not wish to bring children into this world.  Thus he turns to his mentor and friend, Doctor Sharif Amenokous, world renown anthropologist and parapsychologist.  Amenokous suggests looking beyond the numeric data for the true nature of things, so Stenton attempts hypnotizing his patients to uncover their unconscious secrets.
            Since his adult patients can provide informed consent, he studies them first.  He notices some very odd behavior, but nothing substantial.  But one night as he and Amenokous are reviewing tapes of hypnotized patients, Amenokous notices that a certain obscure phrase is repeated by two unrelated subjects from completely different parts of the world, “Run, Moloch is coming.”  The scientists don’t know what to make of it until Andy’s parents insist that their child be hypnotized.  It seems that Andy’s night terrors are increasing in frequency and intensity, and it has them at their wit’s end.
            Much to their astonishment, the boy is the key to unraveling the riddle of the night terrors, for under a state of hypnosis, he reveals a truth so chilling that the two scientists forbid the parents to attend the sessions.  The boy reveals that night terrors are actually spawned by events taking place in another reality, a dream-like parallel dimension in which the souls of children are held captive by a dark being named Moloch.  In other words, the terrors are occurring as the children are experiencing fearful events in this other world, and the reason why they don’t remember it is because the events are so terrifying that a conscious mind is not capable of withstanding or even comprehending such an intense level of fear.  It is no wonder that screaming is result.
            Over series of torturous sessions, Stenton speaks to the boy’s subconscious mind to unravel the world of Moloch.  In the process, he is contacted by another soul that has been lost for many years, a young girl named Eve, who speaks through Andy’s body to tell the story of Moloch.  Stenton learns that Moloch is a demon of such malevolence that he is without form, a virtual black cloud of fear.  However, he can appear in visions as a tall dark man with coal-pitch voids for eyes.  The goal of his existence is to steal the souls of children and keep them trapped in his netherworld, a place formed completely of fear.  Everything that children could possibly fear is found in his kingdom, and he pursues the children through the grisly landscape of endless forests and fields full of spiders and snakes.
            Eve tells of how the children are ever fleeing from Moloch, but they cannot escape his world because of the barriers that enclose them.  She says that even if you do find a way out the Endless Forest, the Field of Spiders and Snakes lies beyond.  Then if you manage to cross the field, you find the Wall of Bones, a huge endless barrier that encircles the entire kingdom.  It consists of the skeletons of countless victims who have tried to escape.  The bones are razor sharp and upon them rot the impaled bodies of thousands of poor souls who have tried to scale the macabre wall, and failed.  No one has ever escaped, and legends say that even though Moloch’s world is truly terrifying, the world beyond the Wall is even worse, and that it may even be Hell.
Since Andy is a newcomer to Moloch’s realm, Eve acts as his guide and becomes his friend.  She also introduces him to other children whose bodies remain on earth, but whose souls are forever trapped.  Eventually Andy’s parents learn of the true nature of Andy’s condition and put their hope and trust in Stenton to rescue their son from eternal damnation.  Thus Eve helps Andy navigate the “physical” aspects of Moloch’s world, and Stenton works with Andy to help him navigate through Moloch’s fearful influence. But it is Andy who eventually finds a way to help Eve and all the other children survive by realizing that all of the elements in this strange land are things that inherently frighten children.  So he learns to battle through his fear to overcome the apparently inescapable obstacles that Moloch has created to confine the children he has captured, including the Wall of Bones.
            In a gripping finale, Andy confronts Moloch’s rule by conjuring the bravery to overcome his fear of death and injury.  He crosses the Field of Spiders and Snakes, and then the Wall, for he discovers that it is not the Wall of Bones that holds him captive, but the wall of fear –a barrier that traps us all.  Thus, Andy’s soul returns to his living self, and his parents are overjoyed that the night terrors have ended, but Andy is not quite prepared to put it all behind him.  Stenton can sense that the boy is still worried, and when he asks why, Andy replies that too many children are still trapped.  He says “I need to go back to help them.  I have to.”  So Andy, armed with the power of courage, returns to the netherworld to liberate the souls of the children he came to know, and countless others that have been living in the world of Night Terrors.


Thursday, January 6, 2011


My wife and I watched a movie tonight that kind of upset and disturbed me because, well, it was just too goddamn real. And it wasn't because the writing or special effects were just that great...no, this was REAL on human and personal level.

It was real because it was just that...truly human and personal, which can be scarier than any-damn-thing at times.

Everybody lies and everybody tell stories or sells some bullshit from time to time. And there are also times when we really don't like ourselves, or our lives, too much. As long as no one really gets hurt, well, what does it matter, right?

Catfish explores just those points from all angles...and it is unflinching in its portrayal of such. I strongly urge anyone who likes documentaries, or simply has a Facebook page, to check this movie out.

I wrote a fictional story, waaaay back in 1997, which explored issues that were extremely similar, although my (the protagonist's) solution was a bit more intense and macabre than the one found in Catfish, the themes (and solutions) that are touched on in both ring true, regardless.

This story was originally printed in GQ magazine in August of 1998. It is called "The Acid Bath."

“At length, I would be avenged; this was a point definitely settled - but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.”

~ The Cask of Amontillado, Edgar Allan Poe

“What a tangled web we weave
when we first practice to deceive!”

~ Sir Walter Scott


What it comes down is this: she shouldn’t have sent me that last e-mail. It was a taunt. It was an insult. It was affront that could not, would not, be ignored. “And my name isn’t Emily Kristine Ross either,” the message read. I could almost hear her saying it in that annoyingly droll British tone.

She sent it two hours after her previous message, that message essentially telling me to perform a certain sex act upon myself, which by all practical accounts is quite impossible to perform on oneself. You see, sending that message two hours after the first tells me that she thought about it for awhile. She actually sat there thinking of more ways to toy with me, as if she hadn’t scrambled my poor brain enough already. And all I wanted to know was how she was doing. Bitch. Cunt. Slut. Whore. Oh, I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!

It’s the forethought thing that sticks in my craw. Malicious intent, I believe it is called in first-degree murder cases. Did the accused plot and plan the crime before she actually did the deed? In this case, there is no fucking doubt about it. This is my call to arms, my rallying cry. Just like, “REMEMBER THE ALAMO!” all those years ago from some long forgotten war, I have, “AND MY NAME ISN’T EMILY KRISTINE ROSS EITHER!” It isn’t as catchy but hey man, it’s got a good beat and you can think evil thoughts because of it.

And that is what I do. It is my job. I sit here in front of my computer, the monitor casting off a warm, ethereal glow, in a most contemplative mode. Thinking only the basest and most vile thoughts one can imagine. I find it very liberating. I don’t really know, or care, for that matter, what that says about me as a rational person. All I know is at this moment, it feels good, damn good. Still meandering about my inside my mind (a scary place it is, I tell you!), musings of wickedness pervading, I envision myself as the mad troll stomping about in Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King, wreaking havoc and widespread chaos throughout the land. I want death. I want destruction. And I want it on tap. Hearing that furious music rattle through the confines of my skull, sets the blood-a-pumping and stands the minute hairs on the back of my neck at attention. Ahh, the thoughts of deviance and despair, what beautiful music they make!


Her nickname was “outshined,” mine was “Wildstar.” We both knew the origin of each other’s nicknames, hers being the title of a kick-ass Soundgarden tune and mine being a character’s name from the classic Japanese anime series “Space Cruiser Yamato.” We just clicked from there.

Yes, I admit it. I met “Emily” on-line. In a porn-star’s chat room, no less. So, I suppose you wouldn’t be entirely incorrect in saying that this “relationship” was doomed from the get-go. I mean, what kind of backward-ass-fucks frequent chat rooms? The kind that lie to you about everything under the sun, that’s who. But we’re not just talking about your average run-of-the-mill chat room goons, we’re talking about porn chat room goons. These are the mongoloids that log into a room and the first thing they type is, “WHO WANTS TO LICK MY PUSSY???” or “WHO WANTS TO SUCK MY BIG, FAT COCK???”, depending on gender, of course, which is tough enough to determine in the land of chat as it is.

Until now, I totally denied the fact that we met in a chat room. I told everyone that I met this supremely cool English babe through work, which isn’t all that far from the truth. I was in work, bored out of my gourd, when we met. I wouldn’t have been on the Internet, slumming in a porn star’s chat room, if I had mucho important work-type-stuff to do (wink, wink, nudge, nudge…). But that semantical nonsense isn’t important right now. What is of import is that everyone bought my story. Hook, line and sinker. Christ, I believed it. That’s the true sign of a really exceptional bullshitter, when the bullshitter can force himself to believe his own bullshit and almost make it a reality. It’s either that, or the sign of a completely delusional mind. Whatever. I don’t particularly care to go the self-analysis route right now, thank you very much.

Over the course of three months or so, a day did not pass without “Emily” and I speaking. Some days I would get absolutely nothing accomplished at work, for I would be too damn busy chatting with her on-line, or on the phone. We had so much to say to one another. We shared the same wickedly twisted sense of humor and the simple enjoyment of kicking back with a beer while critiquing the finer points of “A Clockwork Orange.” The day she called and told my secretary that she was an executive from George Costanza’s fictional “Vandalay Industries” is a classic that I will not soon forget. That plastered a smile on my face for days. We had so very much in common that it fucking scared me. It was getting to the point were we would finish each other’s sentences. I was wigging out, man. Shit like this just doesn’t happen to me. I even confided in a friend that I though she was my female doppelganger. She was everything I needed, wanted, desired in a woman, mentally and physically. In my mind’s eye, she was the Venus in my clamshell. The yin to my yang. The Cher to my Sonny. The jelly to my peanut butter. You get the idea.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention one significant thing. “Emily” and I never actually met in person. You see, she was staying in Phoenix and I live in Philadelphia. There was much large talk of a palatial weekend rendezvous but lies and deceit put an abrupt end to such plans. This was almost exclusively an on-line relationship. And that is where she fucked up. She assumed that she was safe from me, that her Internet anonymity would keep her true identity hidden. LOL, that’s “laughing out loud” for all you people with real lives who have not experienced chat room giddiness.

Let me tell you a little secret, I could track down a pile of antshit on the Internet if I felt the need to do so. I am the Lord of the Internet, master of all that I survey. I’m the fucking Internet daimyo. I own the ‘net and everything on it. It is my domain. And I have her e-mail address, “ZOE006@fhl.com.” That’s more than enough for someone with my skills. So, in less than forty minutes with a little hacking, cracking, phreaking and sneaking, I have everything I need to put my plan of vengeance in motion. Real name, address, credit card numbers, the whole kit and kaboodle.

Guess who’s coming to dinner, “Emily” and it ain’t the natty dreadlocks.


Jerry Seinfeld was right. Airplane food sucks. This is my first trip on an airplane since I was twelve and my parents took me to “the happiest place on earthtm”, Disneyland. I don’t get out much anymore but it’s Phoenix or bust now, baby. Airport terminals suck even more, as does the whole “rental car” experience but through the grace of God (i.e. Bill Gates…well, he’s my God anyway…and one fine day, I will be as cool as Bill, I mean God…), I made it through the whole ordeal relatively unscathed.

That night, in my crappy hotel room (unfortunately, being Lord of the Internet doesn’t pay all that well…), while praying at the portable Temple of Bill (i.e. laptop computer), the plotting part of my revenge ended and the practice part began. First and foremost, I cancelled all of her credit cards and emptied all of her bank accounts. I know that’s kind of passe’ nowadays but some classics need to be heard every now and again, don’t you think? Secondly, I shitcanned all of her passport and visa information. Try getting back to jolly, old England for High Tea with the Queen Mum now, bitch. And finally, I located a chemical supply store in downtown Phoenix where I could purchase mass quantities of the most corrosive substance on Earth, Hydrochloric acid. Isn’t living in the Information Age a grand thing?


Okay. Now I feel really retarded. Move me to the head of class, Miss Crabtree, if you please. I am ready to dazzle the world with my awe-inspiring intellect. I am the sharpest pencil in the box and don’t you forget it.
I’ve been sitting in this fucking miniscule rental car in the blistering fucking Phoenix sun, with four, count ‘em, four fucking five-gallon jugs of Hydrochloric acid, all fucking day. No “Emily” in sight. I got to her apartment complex at the crack of dawn and now it is black, black, night. I’m tired. I’m cranky…no, check that, cranky is what little babies get when they’ve been crawling around in a wet diaper all day. I am pissed off to the nth degree. One question has been rambling through my brain for the past hour or so, dare I sleep? I wonder how these other psychopathic stalker types do it, stay frosty and mentally nimble during a loooooong stake out because I am one whipped puppy right about now. Maybe some research on Bundy, Berkowitz and the boys would have been in order before my little endeavor here. Research was never my strong point, I’m more of an action man. Fuck all this crap, I need to sleep.

Where is this wench??


I awake to the offensive, white hot clamor of a car alarm. Where am I? Who am I? What I am doing here? I loathe when I wake up and I don’t know what the fuck is going on. Soon enough, it all comes rushing back to me with the suddenness of a premature ejaculator. I’m a man on a mission and you can bet your ass, I choose to accept. It’s now 2:45 AM. I have been unconscious for over two hours. Have I missed my quarry? A quick scan of the parking lot brings a smile to my sleepy features. Lady Luck is smiling like a motherfucker on me this evening. Take me to Vegas this instant and let’s bet it all on black, baby.

The reason that the fine BMW automobile is wailing away like a twice stuck pig is due to the fact that some drunk asshole has puked all over it. The same drunk asshole is now leaning against the Beemer for balance purposes. That drunk asshole happens to be my “Emily.” My girl. My prey. This is going to be much easier than I thought. Woooohooooo. Luck be a lady tonight…

I exit my car with greatest of ease, for I am the man on the flying trapeze. I glide on over, just a valorous knight on his way to help out a damsel in distress. She’s too busy spitting bits of goo out of her mouth to notice me just yet. This has to be quick, quick, quickie-quick. Speedy Gonzales quick. Don’t want any nosy lookie-lou’s, or fat-ass donut munchers popping up to spoil all of the fun that is to come. “Hello, Emily, ” I say, with my best Cheshire Cat grin at the ready.

She glances up from her vomit. It takes her a few moments but finally, she recognizes who I am. The expression that sweeps across her face at the moment of my recognition is nothing short of priceless. A combo maneuver of terror, surprise, amazement and alcoholic stupor that only forces the grin on my face to grow to near insane proportions.

“It’s y…,” she starts. I am upon her before she can finish. She doesn’t even have time to consider screaming.


So, now I have an extremely naked and most unconscious female handcuffed to the sturdy, wooden chair in front of me. She didn’t lie to me about her looks, which is surprising. She is a dish. We exchanged pictures across the ‘net on several occasions. Each one of her pictures looked better than the last. And she looks even better in person. Good enough to eat. Yum-yum. Many depraved and wonderfully twisted thoughts are zipping and zapping through my head like hyperactive chain lightning at this moment. Shall I detail them for you now? Nahhhh, I have I better things to do right now. Let’s just say the majority of these meditations involve fresh produce and small farm animals. ‘Nuff said.

I fully expected her to be a nasty heifer-beast. I mean, she lied about every other fucking thing, why not this? I suppose when you look as fine as this, there isn’t any real reason to lie. Her looks are immaterial. Cindy Crawford or Mama Cass, it makes no difference whatsoever. She still has a lesson to learn and I’m gonna learn her real good.

A few splashes of water, splish-splash, and my darling is awake. She almost immediately understands the gravity of her situation. At first, she is angry, indignant. As she well should be, I have stripped, gagged and incarcerated her in her own domicile. She tries, most futilely, to break her bonds and scream for help. Her anger gives way to frustration and frustration gives way to tears. It’s a fucking beautiful thing to watch, I must admit. Glee, glee, glee and rapture! Her sobs grow in volume. She has seen me grinning away as if I was the King of Crackheads. Enough nonsense. It is time for my fantasies (and oh, how I dreamed of this moment!) to become reality. First, the tongue-lashing, then, the bath.

Hot damn, I should have been a Nazi.

“So, Emily,” I begin. I continue to call her “Emily.” To me, that’s her name. I don’t know this other person, who the records tell me she is.

“What made you think that you could fuck with my head and get away with it? What is it with the women in today’s world? The majority of them think that they are untouchable, that they have some kind of unspoken defensive prerogative, which protects them and allows them to treat men like dogshit. To make up any fucking lies they want and then walk away, leaving the poor, male asshole with his dick in his hands and no green in his wallet. No blood, no foul, they say. Oh, I am woman. I’m mysterious and that’s the way it is. I can’t and won’t ever rationally explain my actions or thoughts to you, you lowly, pathetic fuckwad. Well, ‘Emily,’ that kind of thinking, if you want to call it that, ends here. Tonight. Right here in this very room. Tonight, I’m taking one back for myself and for my male brethren. Tonight, we get even. So, you better pray to whatever god it is you pray to and get your shit in order ‘cause you ain’t gonna be around much longer.”

That being said, I leave her wide eyed and wondering, and I move behind her couch where my lovely, liquid avenger hides. At a leisurely pace, I roll each jug into the bathroom. So she can watch. And think. What I wouldn't give to be inside her mind right now. I would almost give up the actual deed itself, just to be inside her head, to know what obnoxious tortures she is envisioning. Oh, the delectable, maddening torment she must be experiencing as I wheel four huge jugs of something into her bathroom. Something that she damn well knows does not contain her recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.

With great alacrity, I dump the contents of the jugs into the tub and then return to my sweetie-darling in bondage. We cannot leave her in waiting, can we? No, no, certainly not. I return to her with the last jug still in my hands. Purposely, I let some droplets of acid drip off the end of container onto the bare flesh of her thigh. “HISSSSSSS,” says the acid as it smokes and chews through her milky skin. And she shrieks. Oh, how she shrieks. Even though it is muffled, it is still a shriek. For now, she knows.

“It is time,” I say in an evil voice that would put Vincent Price to shame. I place the jug on the carpet, fish the handcuff keys from my pocket and free the feet, hands and mouth of my darling-angel. Oddly enough, she doesn’t attempt an escape. She just sits on the chair, blubbering. It seems she has accepted her bitter fate. In one quick motion, I gather her from the chair and carry her, fireman style, to the soothing bath that I have drawn for her. This bath, my bath, will take you further away than fucking Calgon ever could. It will cure all your ills and take away all your pain forever. And isn’t that what the majority of us really want? To make it all stop. To make all of this silly bullshit we call “life” just fade away into nothingness. Ah, but I digress…

Now standing in front of the tub, facing her death and doom, she breathlessly mutters one word over and over. The word is “please.” Does this mean, “please do it,” or “please don’t do it?” I’ll surmise she is leaving that decision up to me. You get the big thumbs down, baby. Caligula eat your heart out.

“Goodnight sweet Emily and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest,” I whisper into her ear, almost singing Horatio’s classic epitaph for his dear friend. Usually, I try to avoid stealing from the main man, Willy S., but in this case I can’t help myself. The line works too damn well. What I can I say? I’m a sucker for great theater and that’s just what this scenario is, great, no, check that, outstanding fucking theater. The Greeks would have eaten this shit up for sure. Christ, they would have undoubtedly asked for seconds. But yet again, I digress. Could it be that I am stalling? Not a chance…

My arms flex forward, shoving her trembling, naked body into the bathtub. General chaos ensues. Splashing. Thrashing. Screaming. Yelling. That only lasts for a few seconds and then there is silence, for you see the bathtub contains mostly water. Three parts water, one part acid, or 15 gallons of water to only five of acid. I’m enough of a crazy bastard to plot this crime and trek across the country to implement said crime but I’m not enough of a crazy bastard to actually disintegrate a person in a bathtub full of Hydrochloric acid. This whole thing was set up to teach my dear, sweet “Emily” a lesson and a person can learn no lessons when they are dead. This much I know.

She sits in the tub of mostly water, her brilliant, gleaming eyes questioning me. Probing me. Sizing me up. I sit down on the tiled floor, so that I can look directly into those ice-chip-blue eyes. Ah, her eyes! Even in those crappy digital pictures that we swapped across the ‘net, I could see that her eyes contained something extraordinary. That these amazing, azure eyes possessed some hypnotizing quality that broke many a poor boy and God, I know I’m one. Who was it that said the eyes were the gateway to the soul? Whoever said that was a fucking-dead-on-balls-genius.

“You know, ‘Emily,’ my parents were married for 33 years,” I start, my eyes locked in with hers. My glare is nowhere near as potent as hers is but I can still stop a man dead in his tracks from 50 paces, if the mood moves me. “And the last year and a half of that marriage was pretty shitty. You see, my Dad had lung cancer and it was fucking ugly. That man suffered. He suffered through the chemo and the radiation and all that nonsense and it did not one drop of good. Not one, in fact, it made him worse. The cancer still migrated, traveled, whatever you want to call it. Give it a name, the malignant shit was ripping through his body. Finally, it wound up in his brain and that’s when the real fun began. He started to forget things. He lost his mobility, his equilibrium and the control of his bowels. Not to mention the fact that he looked like a goddamn concentration camp survivor. He was a shade, a fucking shadow, of the man that was. And my mother, boy, she was a total mess. Every night towards the end, she would sit there, beside that hospital bed. Watching. Waiting. Sometimes she would have to change him out of his adult fucking diaper and let me tell you what a pleasant sight that is. As she was changing him, she would stroke his head and body and she would moan, literally moan, ‘Oh, my Jimmy, Oh, my Jimmy…’ over and over and over. She may as well have been dying with him. I think she wanted to die with him. I mean, because he was checking out her life was over,” I pause, bowing my head but I can see that “Emily” is nothing short of engrossed.

“Telling you all this upsets me but not in the way that you would think. I miss my father, don’t get me wrong, his end was horrible and most undeserved. But what really gets to me is that I know, I fucking know, that I will never know a love and devotion like my parents had. That kind of love is a thing of the past, almost non-existent today. And that makes me sad, ‘Emily,’ very sad.”

I glance up to her. I don’t know what even to call the look that I see on her face. She leans forward and kisses me. Hard and passionately. “Please,” she murmurs quietly, “call me Zoe, that’s my name.”
I had every intention (as far as she knew), of evaporating her silly ass and now she wants me? What kind of sicko is this chick anyhow? This is what is wrong with women today. I try to kill her and now, somehow, I am desirable. Twisted. Fucking twisted. She is the reason why Jerry Springer, Montel, Ricki Lake, et al., get the ratings (and the guests) that they do.

I thrust “Miss Fucked-In-The-Head, 1998” away from me with all of my might and beat a hasty retreat. Exit, stage left.


Dawn is breaking. A gorgeous calligraphy of light showers across the Phoenix sky. And here I sit. In my cramped rent-a-wreck. In the same damn parking space. Nothing has changed. Nothing has moved. She didn’t even call the cops.

Two thoughts have been buzzing through my brain since I left her and I can’t, for the life of me, get them to leave. Would you like to know what they are?

One: I now know that I will never even come close to understanding the complexities of the female “mind.”

Two: This world is one incredibly fucked up place.

Here endth the lesson.