midweek music: “Til the Money Runs Out”

I’ve always loved Tom Waits both as a singer/songwriter — his lyrics are fantastic, evocative stories, his vocals smoky and atmospheric — and as an actor. His work in The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus as the devil was superb, and his lack of award consideration a crime. I also just got to rewatch his wonderful turn in Mystery Men when I did that for the great superhero movie rewatch.

This particular song is one that was used on an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street back in the day, and it was mostly because of that particular use of it that I bought the album Heartattack and Vine, the title track of which quickly became one of my favorite Waits songs. However, for today, I simply give you the song that led me to the album, “Til the Money Runs Out.”

Star Trek Discovery: “What’s Past is Prologue”


Saru has his third crowning moment of awesome in a row, Lorca embraces his MU-ness, we get mirror-Landry and mirror-Owokusen in addition to mirror-Georgiou and mirror-Stamets, lots of death, great action scenes, a weird rekindling of the Georgiou-Burnham relationship, and did I mention Saru’s crowning moment of awesome? My review of Star Trek Discovery‘s latest, “What’s Past is Prologue.”

An excerpt:

My third-favorite moment in the episode was the scene between Emperor Georgiou and Burnham in her little sanctuary. The emperor is holding mirror-Burnham’s insignia, which is all she has left of her protegée. Burnham is still holding Georgiou’s insignia. One of the things I liked best about “The Vulcan Hello” was the mentor/mentee relationship between Georgiou and Burnham, and one of the things I liked least about “Battle at the Binary Stars” was that Georgiou’s death meant we wouldn’t see any more of that, except maybe in flashbacks and tie-in fiction.

That relationship is why Burnham is unwilling to once again stand on an enemy ship and see herself live and Georgiou die, so she grabs the emperor and pulls her along in the transporter beam. She winds up in the mainline universe, which I can’t imagine will make her happy. The emperor had already lost her throne—Lorca’s very public takeover of the Charon pretty much spelled the end of her reign even with Lorca’s defeat—and she was looking forward to an honorable death. This isn’t that, and I can’t see her thanking Burnham.

two months of Patreon

So I’ve been on Patreon for almost two full months now, and I think it’s going well. If you haven’t been part of it, you’re missing out on some excellent content, if I do say so myself. If you want to read my reviews of TV shows and movies, if you want to see excerpts from my upcoming work, if you want to read chapters/stories as I finish them, if you want to read vignettes featuring my original characters, if you want to be my convention buddy, this is the way to do it.

Here’s what I’ve posted up there so far, and what you’ve missed out on by not supporting me, divided by pledge amount……


$1/month and up: At this level, you get one movie review per month, which is a pretty good deal. In December, I reviewed Star Wars: The Last Jedi. An excerpt:

People in this movie try to be heroes, and they’re the ones who fail at it (Poe, Kylo). People who don’t want to be heroes anymore are forced back into it (Luke, Finn). And people who don’t look for heroism and don’t consider themselves heroes wind up being the most heroic (BB-8, Holdo). And those who seek to be better heroes get hard lessons in how incredibly difficult that is (Rey, Paige).

I have to admit to particularly liking the fact that Poe, Finn, and Rose’s batshit crazy plan to turn off the tracking system on Hux’s ship was such a complete and total failure. In fact, that very plan was what led to half the transports going to Crait getting destroyed. So many times in fiction the scrappy characters who decide to go their own way without approval from the bosses turn out triumphant, and it’s tired and stupid and dangerous.

Because Holdo was absolutely right. She did have a plan, but all she knew about Poe was that he was a recently demoted jackass who got a lot of people killed. She had no reason to read him in on the plan, and he should have followed the chain of command. But he didn’t, and because of it, a lot more people died—for the second time in a row, as his previous disobeying of orders to do something crazy resulted in all their bombers being destroyed.

In January (just today, in fact), I reviewed Proud Mary. Another excerpt:

This is not to say that Proud Mary is a great movie—it isn’t. It’s fun, [Taraji P.] Henson and [Danny] Glover in particular shine, as does the great Xander Berkley as the Russian mobster whose death sets the story in motion. The plot is very straightforward and kinda manipulative, and I wish that Mary wanted to get out of the life because she wanted to stop killing people, not to be a Mom to young Danny. Having said that, the fact that she takes responsibility for what she did to Danny’s father is a step in the right direction of nobility. Besides which, the chemistry between Henson and Jahi Di’Alio Winston as Danny is simply perfection. Winston looks to have a great career ahead of him, as he nicely conveys Danny’s loneliness, smarts, and desperation. (I also like the fact that they don’t go with the obvious cliché, and have Danny know full well that his father was a piece of shit, and probably deserved to die, for all that it left the boy screwed.)


$2/month and up: At this level, you get regular cat pictures. My original thought was once a week, but the Patreon’s been up for eight weeks now, and I’ve posted 24 cat pictures, so if you’re in it for the incredible cuteness of the two friendliest black cats in creation, Kaylee and Louie, then you’re very much getting your money’s worth.

Here’s one of the cat pics, just to tease:


That’s Louie showing why we nickname him “Speed Bump.”


$5/month and up: At this level, you get a weekly TV review. Thus far, nine reviews have been posted — besides the weekly ones, I also put up an old review of Feed the Beast from 2016. My new reviews have included both reviews of new shows and looks back at old ones:

  • Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (following the show’s fifth-season premiere)
  • MacGyver (the new reboot on CBS, specifically of the second-season episode “War Room + Ship”)
  • The Librarians (following the first four episodes of season four)
  • “Twice Upon a Time,” the Doctor Who 2017 Christmas Special (which also looks back at the show’s previous Christmas Specials)
  • Major Crimes (following the series finale)
  • Breakout Kings (a look back at the 2011-2012 series about a unique task force in the U.S. Marshal Service)
  • Black Lightning (following the first episode)
  • The Alienist (also following the first episode)

Here’s an excerpt from my review of “Twice Upon a Time”:

Together, First and Twelfth Doctors find themselves renewed by an encounter with a World War I captain, and with a high-tech library computer called Testimony. Testimony reminds the Doctor that he is about helping people (as the Master stated explicitly in that great phone call in “The Sound of Drums”), that he has made the universe a better place. Best of all, though, is that the strongest metaphor is an actual historic event: the Christmas truce of 1914, when opposing sides during World War I simply stopped fighting and celebrated the holidays together. There could be no better touchstone for a Doctor Who Christmas Special than a day when a war was suspended by a holiday that celebrates peace.

(One of the best moments in the episode, by the way, is when the Doctor unthinkingly refers to the conflict the captain has come from as “World War I,” and the captain—very well played by Mark Gatiss—is rather devastated to learn that there will be another war to follow the war to end all wars.)


$7/month and up: At this level, you get weekly excerpts from my work in progress. Thus far, that has been exclusively A Furnace Sealed, the urban fantasy novel I’m trying really hard to finally finish. The first of at least three novels about a nice Jewish boy from the Bronx who hunts monsters, I’ve provided this set of patrons with eight excerpts from the novel. Here’s a bit from Chapter 5 (patrons get the entire scene, not just this fragment):

“Nah, he ain’t here,” Medawe was saying. Unlike his uncle, he was born in the Bronx, so he didn’t have Ahondjon’s thick west African accent. “It’s Sunday, he’s in church. … Nah, I ain’t telling you what church. … What, you telling me you found Jesus now? Bullshit. Just gimme the message, I’ll let him know when he gets back. … I don’t know when, I ain’t found no Jesus, neither. ‘Sides, you know how he likes talking to folks. Could be hours. … Yeah, well, fuck you too.”

Shaking his head, Medawe pressed the end button on the phone.

“Another satisfied customer?”

Medawe snorted. “Yeah, somethin’ like that. What’cha need, Gold?”

“I need to talk to Ahondjon. He really in church?”

“Hell, no. Only time his ass goes into a church is to deliver their holy water.”

I blinked. “Wait, churches buy holy water from him?”

“They do if they want the shit that works.”


$10/month and up: At this level, you get a new character vignette every month featuring one of my original characters. I haven’t come up with January’s yet — I still have three days! — but December’s was a bit featuring Cassie Zukav, weirdness magnet, entitled “A Windy Night in December at Mayor Fred’s Saloon.” An excerpt:

“So,” Larry said as Meredith put the pint filled with lovely amber brewed beverage in front of me, “whatcha got planned for Christmas?”

“Working. Debbie’s going home to Boston to visit her family, so I’m running the B&B while she’s gone.”

Larry shook his head. “It’s Christmas, you shouldn’t be working.”

I took a sip of the beer before answering. “First of all, the B&B’s open, and somebody’s gotta run it. Second of all, I’m still Jewish. Third of all, I’m also still a Norse fate goddess. Two ancient religious traditions I’m linked to, neither of which gives a shit about the birth of some dude in Jerusalem two thousand years ago.”

“He wasn’t ‘some dude in Jersualem,’ he was our lord and savior.”

“Yours, maybe.”

EDITED TO ADD: After writing this post, I came up with January’s vignette — it’s a bit with the Super City Police Department called “Plea Bargain.”


$20/month and up: At this level you get a sneak peek at my first drafts. When I finish a chapter of a novel or a short story, you get to read it in all its unfiltered glory (NDAs permitting, anyhow, since some of my work is subject to those). Thus far, it’s just been one chapter of A Furnace Sealed, as the holidays and the death of my brother-in-law has put a crimp in the forward progress……

Right now only one person is at that level. Y’all are missing out!


$25/month and up: Nobody has taken advantage of this level yet, though I also haven’t actually been to a convention since I started the Patreon (I had to cancel my trip to MarsCon because of the aforementioned death in the family). But if you do sign up for this, you get live videos of my trips to conventions, and also audio from one or two of my panels. It’s almost like being there, except without having to pay for a hotel room or travel or crowds or anything!


I think you’re getting a superb value for your shekels if you sign up. Remember, each level includes everything under it — so if you go for the first-drafts at $20/month, you’re also getting the movie and TV reviews, the cat pictures, the vignettes, and the excerpts of works in progress. And in the coming week, there’ll be a new TV review, a new vignette, and more cat pics to add to the above list.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up!


from the archives: “This Land is Your Land”

Inspired by my wife, Wrenn, I wrote the following a year ago today on Facebook. Still holds true, more’s the pity.


Arlo Guthrie has said in concerts about his father Woody Guthrie’s songs that on the one hand, it’s amazing that decades later, his songs still resonate and are important, so long after he wrote them and after Woody died. On the other hand, it’s really too bad that the world still sucks.

Here’s his father’s best-known song, one we need to remember. Especially the last three verses:

by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York island,
From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters,
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway;
I saw below me that golden valley;
This land was made for you and me.

I’ve roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving, and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting, a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple, I saw my people.
By the relief office I seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land really made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway.
Nobody living can ever make me turn back.
This land was made for you and me.

another signing for Mine! in Montclair tomorrow!


This is kinda last minute, but I’ll be joining a bunch of the contributors to Mine!: A Celebration of Freedom & Liberty for All Benefitting Planned Parenthood for a signing at East Side Mags in Montclair, New Jersey from 1-6pm tomorrow, Saturday the 27th of January. 

Besides me, who wrote “In Defense of Self” for the anthology, present will be Dave Kelly (“It’s All Mine: A Tale of the Night Watchman”), Matt Miner (“Resistance is Fertile”), Liana Kangas (“I Stand With You”), and Fabian Lelay (“White Coat Syndrome”), along with, I’m sure, tons of others not yet announced.

So come on by!

faw down go boom


Yesterday was kinda crazy. I had to get up at 5.30am — a time of day I rarely see, and usually from the other direction — to drive to Lambertville, New Jersey for LitCon! This was the brainchild of Maureen Smyth, the librarian at South Hunterdon Regional High School — basically a literary conference for the high school kids. There were a mess of writers and people in writing-related fields giving talks on various things, plus a keynote by kids’ book author Matt de la Peña.

There were four sessions, and guests could pick whatever they wanted to talk about. Unfortunately, because this was a Thursday and because I had to get back into Manhattan to teach my afterschool karate class, and Lambertville is two hours away. I could only do the morning sessions (and also see de la Peña’s speech and get the free lunch), so I just did my usual talk on career management. (As I said to one fellow guest, this is stuff I wish someone had told my aspiring-writer self when I was a teenager…..)

After lunch (during which I got to chat with several of the other guests, which was very groovy), I hied myself New York-ward, getting back in plenty of time to teach my class. Then I went home and took a nap before dinner, and then I had to sit down and suffer through watch the 1990 Captain America and the 1994 Fantastic Four for “4-Color to 35-Millimeter,” which were as bad as I remembered, but not as difficult to watch as I’d feared. Honestly, watching Howard the Duck a week ago was a much more soul-destroying experience — CA and FF were just laughably bad.

However, I’ve spent the last 30 hours running around like crazy and not getting enough sleep, and I have to teach the kids fighting class tonight, so I’m thinking there’s a very long nap in my immediate future………..


4-Color to 35-Millimeter: Captain America (1990) and Fantastic Four (1994)


Marvel spent the 1980s and 1990s selling their movie rights to pretty much anyone who came along, and it resulted in a lot of bad movies, many of which took forever to be released, if they were released at all. This week, the great superhero movie rewatch looks at two that never got a theatrical release, and really didn’t deserve one. I suffered through the 1990 Captain America and the 1994 Fantastic Four so you don’t have to! You’re welcome….

An excerpt:

What’s particularly appalling about Captain America is how utterly ineffectual the title character is. In fact, he’s practically irrelevant. In World War II, he only goes on one mission, and he pretty much fails at it, getting his ass kicked in nothing flat. Yes, he saves the White House (though, again, why did he wait until after the transatlantic flight to kick the tail?), but that’s the sum total of his accomplishments in this movie. Kimball got himself free from his cell, at which point he called the Marines in, and that was pretty much it for the Skull. Without Cap there, he never would have even armed the bomb. And it’s only because Cap was present that Kolawetz and Bernie are killed and Bernie’s husband is wounded. The hero of World War II only went on one top-secret mission, and then he was on ice for fifty years. If it wasn’t for Sharon, he wouldn’t have found out anything about the Skull, and she’s as effective in storming the Skull’s HQ as Cap himself.

what’s coming on the great superhero movie rewatch


The history of superhero movies based on comic books has two distinct eras, and they’re handily demarcated by the start of a new century. For a long time, superhero movies were a sub-standard ghetto, with occasional bits of brilliance, and a lot of nonsense. Even the stuff that was of higher quality — for example, The Incredible Hulk TV movies that spun off into what was Marvel’s only live-action success for a very long time — was always done with a sense of not taking the source material seriously. Heck, Kenneth Johnson, the show-runner for the Hulk series, has gone on record as thinking of comic books as an inferior storytelling medium.

But that all changed with the release of X-Men in 2000. Made by Bryan Singer, an avowed fan of the comics, he was the first of a succession of writers and directors who came to superheroes from a place of affection, and who saw the comics, not as four-color embarrassments, but as something to do justice to.

Anyhow, I’m rapidly running out of 20th-century films to cover in “4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch” over on Tor.com, and once that happens, there’ll be a slight adjustment. With a few exceptions, I’ve settled into doing two movies per week, but at the end of February, that won’t always be the case. Some of the 21st-century films in this rewatch will get solo entries.

Here’s the tentative, subject-to-change plan through to the end of June:

  • 26 January: Captain America (1990) and Fantastic Four (1994)
  • 2 February: Generation X and Justice League of America
  • 9 February: Blade, Blade II, and Blade Trinity (this is the last time I’ll do as many as three films in one week, as it’s really too much, but these three kinda should go together)
  • 16 February: The Spirit (1987) and The Spirit (2008)
  • 23 February: X-Men
  • 2 March: X2: X-Men United
  • 9 March: X-Men: The Last Stand
  • 16 March: Superman Returns and Hulk
  • 23 March: Spider-Man (2002)
  • 30 March: Spider-Man 2
  • 6 April: Spider-Man 3
  • 13 April: Daredevil and Elektra
  • 20 April: Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army
  • 27 April: Witchblade and Catwoman
  • 4 May: Constantine and Man-Thing
  • 11 May: Fantastic Four (2005) and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  • 18 May: Batman Begins
  • 25 May: The Dark Knight
  • 1 June: The Dark Knight Rises
  • 8 June: Ghost Rider and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
  • 15 June: V for Vendetta and Watchmen
  • 22 June: X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine
  • 29 June: Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2

After doing the two Kick-Ass movies, we’ll look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the subsequent six weeks will cover “phase one,” including the first two Iron Man films, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and finally Avengers. I’m hoping not to miss time, but real life does sometimes intervene — assuming real-life lets me off the hook, though this will carry me to mid-August.

Again, this is tentative and subject to change. But it’s the current plan. (I’ve actually got the whole thing planned out to the end of February 2019.) Hope y’all will join me for the ride.