Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Z is for Zombie

If you're a fan of zombie movies, I strongly recommend World War Z: An Oral History of the First Zombie War by Max Brooks. I just finished this book the other night and found it thoroughly entertaining.

What makes this different from any zombie movie I've ever seen is that whereas most zombie flicks only follow one group of (usually) randomly collected people struggling to survive against the undead onslaught, this book takes a global perspective. The first chapter opens with an outbreak in a remote Chinese village and we follow the story as the "disease" quickly spreads.

While refugees are the fastest cause of the initial spread, the author uses some other interesting scenarios. For example, it's true that China illegally exports organs and the author makes use of this fact when an American businessman visits Brazil to receive a heart transplant. He's given an infected heart and is soon devouring one of his doctors (the other survived to tell the tale). In fact, the entire book is a survivor's story since the war has been over for a decade. (I'm not giving anything away, this is in the prologue when the author reveals his desire to write about the war. Of course, even though the war is over, there are still white zones -- hot spots that,while contained, are completely infected.)

Brooks is also clever in looking at the geopolitical picture. Israel, realizing the impending danger while most countries are still in denial, takes immediate action to build a national fortress, one that results in civil war. Meanwhile, two other nations (I won't say who, but it's not who you would expect) end up in a brief nuclear exchange because of the flood of refugees along the border. South Africa is forced to use a Machiavellian plan that was originally created in the 80s by the Apartheid government in case of a "black uprising." Even the U.S. armed forces are forced to adapt to new weapons and tactics after losing many battles including an infamous one just across the Brooklyn Bridge (they learn machine guns and high explosive rounds aren't very effective against an enemy that can only die by having its brain destroyed).

The bottom line is that this is more than just a book about zombies. It's well written, smart, and while it gives a global perspective, it does so through a series of very personal narratives.

Babel... more like Crapel!

I'm constantly amazed at what passes for good cinema these days. I've long argued that movies made in the past five years or so have followed a serious decline in quality. I'm not just talking about the blockbusters, but even the so called art house or indie movies. Even the few films I enjoyed don't seem to have the rewatchability (is that even a real word?) of most classic films.

What brings me to this current diatribe? The film Babel. How was this nominated for Best Picture (or anything else for that matter)? After muddling through this train wreck (which, thanks to the subtitles, allowed me to watch most of the film at 2x speed sparing me wasting a full 2 hours and 20 minutes of my life), I felt compelled to read what other reviewers thought of this film. Some gush, but there was one line on that had me laugh out loud.

If misery is your pornography, Babel is your holy grail.
Dave Calhoun TIME OUT

And runner up was this little gem:

If Babel were a football game, I'd flag it 15 yards for piling on.
David Ansen NEWSWEEK

Bottom line, spare yourself sitting through this film and instead partake in a more productive activity for two hours -- like cutting yourself or sniffing paint. You'll probably feel better about yourself and the time will pass more quickly.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Afterlife on Tom's

Afterlife has no shortage of press and I may start posting articles, reviews and columns in here. Below is simply the latest (just out today!) and although I'm only including the section that discusses Afterlife, there is a link to the original article at the end. Enjoy!

Another cool graphic novel is "Afterlife" by Stormcrow Hayes and Rob Steen. Hayes is also a striving screenwriter from L.A. It deals with Mercutio, a man who dies shortly before he’s to marry, and searches for his bride among the billions of dead souls in the afterlife.

"Afterlife" is a manga comic published by Tokyopop. Hayes and Steen first got together in 2001 because they wanted to break into comics, and they wound up freelancing at Tokyopop, Steen doing layouts, Hayes doing adaptations. Soon they decided to pitch an original idea to the company. “We wanted to come up with a project that very much fit both Tokyopop and a manga audience,” says Hayes. “The original idea was very bare bones. I simply had the idea of cops in the ghost world. It was supposed to be an overcrowded city of the dead. The idea definitely evolved dramatically, especially once Rob started drawing the world itself.”

Soon the idea became big enough that Hayes wanted to “tackle the bigger questions, such as the meaning of life! I think this book has something for everyone: action, adventure, a love story, and philosophical musings about our existence." The first volume is available on as well as other outlets.“Also I’m sure your local comic shop can order it as well,” says Hayes. “Let’s face it, if you’re going to order it, you should support your local comic shop over some corporate conglomerate, right kids?”

Read the original article here.

Buffy, The Vampire Slayer

I was reluctant to watch Buffy, The Vampire Slayer . Apparently, I'm not alone. Perhaps it's the campy title, but despite repeated pleas from my buddy Mike to check it out, I simply wasn't interested. My turning point came last year when I finally watched Firefly on DVD. Mike kept telling me, "If you like Firefly, you'll love Buffy."

He was right.

Season one begins slowly. Buffy was a mid-season replacement and clearly didn't have the budget (nor was CGI as abundant as it is today) to pull off some of its ambitious ideas. The season's lead villain (or "big bad") also wasn't that appealing. However, the monsters never were the point of the series which is why it's easy to overlook the lackluster special effects in favor of the characters and dialogue.

However, season two is where the show takes off -- and never slows down. This season (probably my favorite of the seven) has it all: comedy, tragedy, horror, romance, and probably a host of other genres and styles I can't think of. By the time I watched the season finale, I couldn't believe there were five more seasons awaiting me. After all, it seemed as if they had done it all. I wondered, where could they go from here? Fortunately, the show manages to entertain and enthrall throughout its entire seven year run (despite the addition of Dawn).

This year marked the tenth anniversary of Buffy's premiere. I may have come late to the party, but better late than never.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Force Quit

Normally, I'm not a fan of blogs (hence, why I remain reluctant about my own endeavor into this mostly tedious medium). However, there is only one blog that I actually really enjoy reading. Not only is it hilarious (or at least entertaining), but the folks involved actually manage to update it regularly.

I'm referring to Force Quit.

Force Quit is the child of Joe and Caitlin, two extremely talented writers. The blog can be about anything from randomly overheard conversations at an advertising promotional party to political commentary to movie reviews or an extremely abusive "advice" column from Commander Joey.

Either one of these two writers could command their own blog, but by combining their talents, they guarantee a regular stream of interesting anecdotes and prose. However, be warned, there is an extreme discrepancy in the attitude and demeanor of each writer. In one of her own posts, Caitlin describes the difference in their world views between an optimist (Caitlin) and a pessimist (Joe).

Pessimism, however, doesn't even begin to describe the Joey. His unique world view is easily offensive (to most), venomous and dark. That's why I love it. But for every abusive post by Joe, you'll find it counterbalanced by Caitlin's more humane, though equally funny, approach. At the very least check it out and judge for yourself!

Just in case the hyperlink doesn't work for any reason, here is the url:

Update & Interview

Originally, the intent of this blog was exclusively to post my semi-weekly column that I was writing for the Sri Lanka Daily News (for more information on that, read the very first entry). However, with the resignation of my friend and editor-in-chief Bandula Jayasekara, that has come to an end. So I've decided to hijack this space to write about, well, whatever the hell I want!

So what will I write about? Well, I have some column ideas that I never quite finished but would still like to find an outlet for. I'm sure I'll include those at some point. Otherwise, I'll simply use this space to mention any other random thoughts and ideas I have which is how I imagine most author blogs are used. This will include recommending books (often), movies (rarely -- why do most movies suck these days?), and whatever else comes to mind.

I'll also be using this space to highlight my career (or lack thereof), including signings, convention appearances, etc. I'll jump right in by mentioning my recent interview on Geek World Radio ( I was recently a guest of hosts AnnaMay and Dave who were very delightful and entertaining. We mostly discussed my graphic novel, AFTERLIFE, but we also briefly delved into my past, the creative process, and how Afterlife was conceived. Click here -- or else the link below will take you directly to the podcast of the show:

Otherwise, I invite you to check back regularly for random ramblings news and updates.