The Top 5 Halloween Movies You May Not Have Seen

We've all seen the well-known Halloween classics like It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and, of course, Halloween. But have you seen these lesser known gems?

5. Donnie Darko (Theatrical Release)

Donnie Darko is a mind-bending masterpiece. The story follows Donnie, a troubled high schooler who is haunted by visions an approaching apocalypse: a countdown to Halloween. As the end date approaches, Donnie is guided by a frightening rabbit named Frank to commit increasingly dangerous acts of vandalism and judgement. Donnie Darko is a Halloween film that shouldn't be missed. (Skip the director's cut of the film, which detracts from the film's esoteric grace by over-explaining the plot.)

4. Arsenic and Old Lace

On Halloween, Mortimer Brewster marries the love of his life, then visits his two aunts to share the news. However, trouble abounds when he learns that his adorable aunties murder men and bury their bodies in the basement. Things get worse for Brewster when his violently psychotic brother comes home after a world wide tour of homicide.  Arsenic and Old Lace is hilariously suspenseful and delightfully morbid. It is a classic that everybody should see. So why not see it this Halloween?

3. Murder Party

Murder Party is true gem. Christopher, a somewhat dull and lonely man, finds a discarded invitation to a "Murder Party" that will take place on Halloween night. Upon arriving at the party, poor Christopher learns that the invitation was bait to lure an unsuspecting victim to be tortured and murdered. Fortunately for him, the murderers are incompetent art students who can't even decide on pizza toppings, let alone how to commit the crime. What follows is a hilarious character study that satirizes the shallowness of the art scene and the meaning of "cool."

2. At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul

At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul is the quintessential Halloween movie despite the fact that it doesn't take place on Halloween. I'm serious. This move is filled with more Halloween sounds and images than any of the previous movies on this list, or any list for that matter. Just watch the clip of the first few minutes of the film below and you will see what I mean. Made in Brazil in 1964, At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul is frightening even by today's standards. The film's villan, Coffin Joe, is a deranged undertaker who terrorizes his local village. The film is so terrifying that it begins with a witch who warns the audience not to watch it. Don't listen to her. Watch it now.

1. Trick 'r Treat

Trick 'r Treat isn't the quintessential Halloween movie. Trick 'r Treat is the spirit of Halloween, captured in a movie. The film is a collection of intertwining Halloween themed stories: a murderous school principal, a vampiric killer, a grizzly town secret, and a vengeful Halloween spirit all terrorize a small midwestern town. Trick 'r Treat is a love letter to Halloween that is meant to get you into the spirit of the holiday.  You must watch this movie. Just remember: never blow out a Jack-o'-lantern!


Why I traded my Xbox 360 for a PS3

This article will outline my personal reasons for making the big switch. I am not writing it to explore why one console objectively is better than another. Both systems have their benefits and faults. Rather, the following paragraphs are an investigation why the PS3 is better suited than the 360 to my lifestyle and gaming preferences. It is my hope that this article might be useful to anybody who is considering making the same choice that I did or anybody who might be trying to decide which console to initially purchase. Admittedly, this article contains a bias toward the PS3, which should be obvious since that is the console that I ultimately chose.

What about the Wii?
I did not consider trading my 360 for a Wii because of one very important reason: I already had one. However, to anybody who is unsure of whether or not to purchase a Wii, I would recommend purchasing a Wii + one other gaming system. Even if you are an avid Nintendo fan, I would still recommend also getting another system. The Wii was my initial purchase for this console generation. I felt disconnected from the bulk of the gaming community for the two years that it was my only console. The Wii offers little in online play, has no achievement/trophy/reward system, and, with a few exceptions, has inferior ports of multiplatform games. The motion controls for the Wii are an (often aggravating) innovation and their accessibility makes the system ideal for people who don’t normally play games. But most hardcore and even many casual gamers will sigh as they read about the generous amount of exciting titles being released weekly for the PS3 and Xbox 360 while they wait for months for Nintendo to release its next gem. Trust me. I’ve been there. As a final note I do want to point out that, for the classic gaming enthusiast, the Wii Virtual console does have some excellent games to download. Nintendo favorites like Zelda 64 and Super Mario Bros 3 can be found there, as well as rarer games like Secret of Mana and River City Ransom. The virtual console also allows gamers to download games from other older systems like the Sega Genesis, TurboGrafx-16, and even the Neo Geo. There is good stuff here for the retro gamer.

The Breakdown
The decision to switch systems should not be taken lightly. I realized that making such a choice carried with it a lot of potential loss: my games, achievements, online friends, downloadable games and add-on content, and the added financial cost. To weigh my options, I researched the two consoles in various categories and their respective subcategories. They are the headers in which this article will be broken.
I never would have traded my 360 if not for the release of the PS3 Slim and the concurrent price drop. When the original PS3 was released, I thought that it was a behemoth monster: massive, clumsy, and unattractive. The PS3 Slim is an improvement, but is by no means a small system, being only slightly smaller in width and height than the 360. The PS3 Slim requires a stand to safely stand it up vertically, which costs about $20.00. I just have mine sitting horizontally. It is a surprisingly quiet machine, especially when compared to the rather loud 360, and even runs more quietly than the Wii. Of course, the most important issue of hardware is the famous failure rate of the 360. Basically, if you own a 360, its failure is practically inevitable. Listen: if you buy one, then you shouldn’t be surprised if and when (and I do mean when) it breaks. Microsoft does offer a free 3 year warranty for when your 360 does break, and shipping it to them for repair is quite painless. Ultimately it cost me about 6 dollars in shipping to fix mine. The repair takes about 2-3 weeks, and you get a free month of Xbox Live for your troubles. The process was fairly painless, and I have to commend the ease with which Microsoft honored its warranty. No hassle. No fuss. However, this still does not satisfy the dissatisfaction that I felt from purchasing faulty hardware. It also caused me to worry that my 360 might break again I have heard that a small number of PS3’s may fail also, but I have much more confidence in the PS3 than I did in the 360.

What about Blu-ray?
Blu-ray was another significant factor in my decision to get a PS3. Simply put, Blu-ray is awesome. The picture quality of a film on Blu-ray is phenomenal. Additionally, many films have added special features that are only available on Blu-ray format. Some of the special features require internet connectivity, and so can only be run by a Blu-ray player. But sometimes special features that could easily have been on a DVD are absent except for on the Blu-ray release. For example Trick R Treat’s Blu-ray has added commentary and special features such as deleted scenes and a short documentary about the history of Halloween. These features are conspicuously absent from the DVD. Bottom line: Blu-ray is replacing DVD. I wanted a Blu-ray Player. The PS3 can play Blu-rays, DVD’s and Demon’s Souls. Sold.

Initially, when considering whether I should make the trade, the differences between the PS3 and 360’s controllers were an issue. I love the 360 controller. It just seemed to fit perfectly with FPS style games. The analog sticks have excellent placement, and the trigger button feels natural when using it to fire a weapon or use an attack. But then I rented Street Fighter 4 and was introduced to the 360 controller’s D-pad, which is probably the worst on the market. So it can be said that the 360 controller has its ups and downs.
Having now made the switch, I can easily say that the PS3 controller handles as well as the 360’s. I have had no problems playing any of my favorite FPS or fighting games. The PS3’s dual joysticks are comfortable and easy to use. The D-pad is much better than the one on Microsoft’s machine. Also, unlike the 360, which requires 2 AA batteries, the PS3 controller does not require any. When its charge depletes, simply plug it into the console and it will recharge in a couple of hours. It should be mentioned that the USB cord that connects the controller to the system is quite short. However has never been an issue for me personally. Ultimately, I do not miss the 360 controller like I thought I would.

System Menu
The advantage goes to Microsoft’s 360, whose menu is more streamlined and intuitive than that of the PS3. Without going into to much detail, I will simply state that the 360’s is easier to navigate. It is better organized and it loads faster. It took me a bit of searching through the PS3’s menu to locate how much system memory was left, for example. However, it should be noted that, no matter how complex, any interface can be learned until it becomes like second nature. In game, however, is where the 360 interface shines. During a game pressing the “home” button on the controller brings up a more streamlined version of the menu that loads quickly and allows players to easily and quickly check achievements and the status of online friends. Additionally, allowing players to voice chat regardless of what game is being played or DVD watched is an excellent feature that I still don’t see implemented on the PS3. Comparatively, pressing the “home” button on the PS3’s controller brings up the entire system menu, which can feel clunky. The PS3’s menu, though inferior to the 360’s in speed and ease of use, has a sleeker design that makes it feel less toy-ish. Finally, the 360’s menu has much more advertising, some of which play video and audio while you navigate.

Of course, the games are ultimately the deciding factor in choosing a system. Even after weighing the traits of both of the systems, my personal preference for the PS3’s library is what made me make the trade.

I owned a 360 for almost exactly one year, and that year was 2009. Even though that year of gaming was awesome for me, it was also filled with its share of disappointments. Because I got my 360 so far into the console’s lifespan, I was able to pick up a plethora of great games for cheap. Even though I was impressed with the power of the system, many of the 360’s exclusive titles disappointed me. The first one I played was Perfect Dark, which was so boring that I didn’t even finish the single player. The awkward control setup in Dead Rising was a deal-breaker for me. Mass effect was okay, but the load times killed the experience for me. I didn’t bother with Fable 2. Halo 3 was fun, but it felt stale. Prey: meh. Left for Dead was great, but was too short even with the multiplayer. I did not like Gears of War. It just wasn’t for me. I could go on but what it basically came to was that I found myself spending most of my time on games that were out for both platforms, like Fallout 3 and Street Fighter 4. It is unfortunate that I never picked up Lost Odyssey while I owned my 360, as it seems like a game that I would have liked.
Conversely, since I’ve gotten my PS3, I’ve almost exclusively played the exclusives. The Slim that I bought came with God of War Collection and Little Big Planet. Already I was happier with both of those games than I previously was with my entire collection of 360 exclusives. Over the next few months I picked up Uncharted 2, Demon’s Souls, and Valkyria Chronicles. The Ratchet and Clank series offers an action platform experience that is unmatched on the 360. Metal Gear Solid 4 was pretty good when you were actually playing the game. And I still haven’t even tried Killzone 2 or both Resistance games. Ultimately, I feel that the PS3’s exclusives are better suited to my tastes.

Now, there is an issue of multiplatform gaming that must be addressed on both systems. Some games on either system might play or look better than the other. The most famous case of this might be the PS3’s lackluster port of Bayonetta. Some games may have additional content that is not available on the other system, like playing as the Joker on the PS3 version of Batman Arkham Asylum. Either way, I do not believe that the performances of multiplatform games should have any effect on which system to choose. Sure, I can spend hours nitpicking about the textures and frame rate differences in the PS3 and 360 versions of Fallout 3, but ultimately it does not matter. I’m still going to get the game no matter what system I own. Now, if you own both the PS3 and the 360, these differences will matter to you as you can choose your platform. As for me, who does not want to own both systems, I say “who cares?” Okay, so installing games on the PS3 is a hassle, but once I’m actually playing the game, I’m not thinking of the install anymore.

Downloadable Games
The differences in the games here are quite extreme. The Xbox Live Arcade has some excellent titles, including Duke Nukem, Doom, Castle Crashers, Shadow Complex and many great games from RARE’s N64 years like the Banjo series and Perfect Dark. There are also some original Xbox games to download, but I was never too interested in them, though will mention that the game Stubbs the Zombie has an excellent soundtrack. There is also an impressive amount of Indie games on the 360’s service. My favorite indie game, I Maid a Gam3 W1th Zomb1es in 1t, provided me with many hours of entertainment for cheap. However, the PSN Network Store offers more of what I like because of the original PS1 games that are available for download. Final Fantasy 7, 8, Tactics, Grandia, and Wild Arms were some of my favorite games that I wouldn’t mind replaying. Plus, they are very reasonably priced considering that those actual game discs sell for up to 50 dollars. My girlfriend is happy playing her downloaded versions of Sypro and Crash Bandicoot. Everybody wins.

Online Capabilities
These days, most consumers are not comfortable shelling out over 60 bucks a game unless there is some serious replay value (does anybody else remember paying $60-$70 dollars for SNES games back in the day?), which is now usually relegated to the online portion of the game. Of course, there is the issue of price, since the PS3’s network is free, and the 360 requires a subscription fee of around $50 per year. Frankly, the fee is not that bad. Beyond that, there is the also issue of hardware. The PS3 Slim has a built-in wireless modem, whereas the 360 requires a cable, unless you want to shell out an extra $100 for an attachable wireless modem. When I had my 360, I used the wireless modem and it was fast and totally dependable.

I would also like to draw attention to how online capabilities are differently used by each system. It is worth mentioning again that 360 allows for players to chat online via headset regardless of whether they are playing the same game or not. This feature is, for lack of a better word, awesome, especially since there is almost nobody worth talking to online in any game that you might be actually playing. The PS3, however, implements its online capabilities in more creative ways. The most obvious examples of this are found in games like Demon’s Souls and Little Big Planet. The PS3 also has Playstation Home, which is a small virtual world in which your avatar can interact with others via keyboard or (if certain conditions are met) voice chat. Playstation Home has not garnered my attention for more an about an hour, but I guess that there are some that will find value in it. Both systems (and also the Wii) are compatible with Netflix. I do not think that the online aspect of either system should be a deciding factor in which one you buy. Just make sure to look into what kinds of games you would rather play. As far as I can tell, there is little difference in performance for both systems when it comes to my favorite multiplatform multiplayer games. However, I often hear from gamers that the 360 is THE system for online gaming. Why? I don’t really know. Having owned both systems, I can say that both are adequate for online gaming, with different strengths.

Ultimately, I decided to go with the Playstation 3 for various reasons. Of course, as mentioned above, I simply like the PS3 exclusives more than the 360’s. But there are other reasons that have affected my decision. My girlfriend, for example, views the Xbox 360 as a “gamer” system, did not like the 360 controller, and would not play games on it with me. She would only play games on the Wii. However, now that I have a PS3, we play many more games together. She went from only playing Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros to playing Fallout 3 and Borderlands. I think that her willingness to play these games on a PS3 rather than a 360 comes from how the PS3 is marketed. Even though the games are the same, she thinks that the Playstation 3 has a more “mature” feel to it. Whether she is right or wrong is irreverent to me. I’m just happy that we’re playing Super Street Fighter 4 together.

Ultimately, I greatly prefer owning a PS3 Slim than a 360. Blu-rays rule, I prefer Demon’s Souls, Uncharted 2, and Little Big Planet to Halo, Gears of War, and Left for Dead (i.e.: I prefer the PS3 exclusives to the 360’s), I don’t see a winning difference in online gameplay for multiplatform games in either system, and finally, the PS3 has sparked my girlfriend’s interest in games that don’t include Mario or Yoshi.
Will all readers who read this article and make the same comparisons come to the same conclusion? I doubt it. But either way, I hope that this article proves useful to anybody who is thinking of trading their 360 for a PS3.


Graffiti on UT Campus

Found both of these on the same box on Guadalupe.  Even though they are most likely different artists, but they seem to go well together.  The added green scraps and pink tag on SMUT make it work well with "Kits Smokes Blunts." Nice coincidence.


Slug Bug?

Volkswagen has a new commercial for its boring minivan with a made-up word for a name:

So Volkswagen launched a campaign called Punch Dub to encourage people to hit each other upon sight of every Volkswagen, including boring minivans.

Is this really catching on? I'm out of touch with the minivan driving suburban crowd, so I don't know. Either way, it doesn't make any sense to me.

The commercial should have said "The only minivan with the soul of a Volkswagen Beetle."

But then that wouldn't make any sense either.

Because minivans don't have souls.


Last Night in the House on 7th St.

(This post was actually written on the night of March 31, 2010)

There are boxes stacked up around my bedroom. They reach varying heights, reminding me of the broken ruins of ancient Greek columns that I have only seen in textbook photographs and old postcards at antique stores. The few items that remain unpacked are the computer that rests beneath my fingers, a picture frame that holds a photo of my grandfather pressed against the dried flowers that once adorned his casket, and a photograph of the backyard in which I spent my childhood.

In a fit of nostalgic bliss, I imagine that I am a child again, being playfully chased by my dog, a miniature spitz with a chronic ear infection, as I run through an invisible battle field of monsters, aliens, and school bullies that can only be defeated from a blast from my Nintendo Zapper with a cut-off cord. With me are my two best friends, who would often show up at my home missing a shoe or a shirt. We let out our shrill pre-pubescent battle-cries as we bravely rush to defeat our enemies and save the entire world: my backyard. I imagine myself wrapped in the arms of my grandfather, who would tell me, tiny hero that I was, that I could do anything if I put my mind to it. I was safe and contained in those timeless days of childhood where the future seemed impossible and the world would never end.

It is getting late and I need to go to sleep. The movers will be here early tomorrow. I grab my camera and take a photograph of the front of my (soon to be former) home. An object that has no meaning unless it is woven to a story. The story of this house, as I remember it, is one that is characterized by slow progress and numerous failures. Perhaps shedding this home will cause me to shed the qualities of myself that have held me back thus far. I need to move forward. I need a change in scenery.

I need a new haircut.


Dr S Battles the Sex Crazed Reefer Zombies: The Movie: The Interview

If you were at the right place at the right time during the SXSW film festival, you might have caught the screening of Dr S Battles the Sex Crazed Reefer Zombies: The Movie. The plot follows a young cheerleader who gets caught in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Fearing that she has no where to run, she follows the enigmatic Dr S as he tries to find a cure for the zombie infection that he caused. It is a story of science gone awry, redemption, and sacrifice. Most importantly, it is the story of a hero who drives a hot rod and blasts zombies while dropping lines like: "Warning, marijuana will induce hallucination, violent behavior, and my twelve gauge shotgun up your ass!" We cheered and laughed as Dr S massacred the zombies. The movie is filled with subtle references to famous horror movies and itself can be considered homage to classic b-movie horror. I caught up with Brian Ortiz and James Hartz, the film's director and writer respectively, after the screening and asked them a few questions:

TalkHard: First off, how did you come up with this idea?

James: Bryan came up with the title and characters for the “Grindhouse” trailer contest.

Brian: My producer asked if I wanted to participate in the contest. I was reluctant at first, but one day this image of a doctor killing teenagers popped into my head. Then that turned into a scientist with a shotgun killing kids in the woods. Over time the idea developed into the film we have today. I let my brain sink into the movie knowledge I have obtained over my life and I combined all of the things I love about horror into one man: Doctor S.

TH: What projects did you all work on before Doctor S?

J: I helped out of a few of Bryan’s short films while he was in college, which sounds like we were making porn and I’m fine with that.

B: We were working on shorts for various contests at the time. We filmed Four Minutes Till the End, which took us all the way to the Cannes Film Festival and Big Scary German, Fantasy Inc., and a few others.

TH: The film pays homage to a combination of 50’s instructional videos, vintage horror, and the Evil Dead series. Were there any specific influences that you had in mind when you were developing it?


J: Definitely. Evil Dead and Shaun of the Dead were huge influences. Both, in turn, owe a lot to George Romero’s zombie films. The Resident Evil movies had some small influence. Old Propaganda films (i.e. Reefer Madness) were highly influential. Also, MST3K played a big part.

B: We took a lot from all of these sources. We examined them closely to understand what made them so successful. Once we thought we understood those mechanics, we were able to apply our own sense of style. As James said, both Sam Raimi and Edgar Wright were largely a part of the analysis, combining what we wanted to do with the lessons they taught us. We also took names and characters from our favorite movies and used them as city names and references sprinkled throughout the story.
J: Outside of the film, comic books were a big influence, especially when it comes to that wonderful over-the-top action and attitude for the film.

B: But the icon, the legend that is Bruce Campbell is what we borrowed for the base line of Doctor S.

TH: How did you come up with the character of Dr. S?

B: I wanted nothing more than to create a character that was larger than life and someone that I could become a fan of, but I couldn’t do it by myself.

J: Bryan created the character initially. When we wrote the script and developed the character of Doctor S, we knew we wanted to have this redemption story arc, so Dr. S becomes this anti-hero type who is struggling to better himself, deal with his horrible past, and face the consequences of his actions.

B: We wanted to see someone who was selfish and self-sacrificing at the same time.

J: This is why I think the flashback scenes are important. The audience needs to see that Doctor S was a selfish, power-crazed asshole before all of the atomic reefer stuff. That way he is not off the hook and the audience has a reason to go along on his journey with him, even though they may not like him.

B: Plus, we wanted to get crazy and have someone who could say anything and do anything.

TH: Were there any scenes or ideas that you loved, but you couldn’t get in?

J: There was a scene that took place in a gas station that evolved into the soldier scene in the hospital. Originally, there was a zombie fight there. Also, we had a few great ideas for a chase scene in Mary Jane’s neighborhood. Hopefully, I can put these into the comic adaptation.

B: Still, almost everything we wrote got put into the movie. Of course, we would have loved to take some of the scenes and push them further, faster, harder, stronger (yes, like the Daft Punk song).

TH: Being a native of San Antonio, I recognized a lot of the filming locations that you chose for the film. Did you develop the script with those locations in mind?

B: Yes. I knew a lot of our budget limitations, so I used all the resources I had to complete the film. Most of it was shot on campus at the University of the Incarnate Word and they were really gracious in letting us shoot there. We shot in the wooded area in the back of the school and really worked that area. We used their parking garage to cover the underground lab shots. The city of San Antonio was good to us when we did have to shoot out in the city. I knew when we were writing the script that location was important, but I tried not to let it hinder our ideas. Some locations we had in mind, some were serendipitous, like the hospital scene, which was a last minute change that worked out for the best.

TH: What was the biggest challenge that you had during production?

B: Keeping up the energy and keeping the cast and crew in high spirits is always a challenge. As the director you are the driving force of the production. On top of that, when your people are working for free and the love of the project, you really have to keep your cool and drive the project home. Of course, along the way we ran into production problems…lack of money… constant changes and adaptations to onset problems, the typical movie stuff.

J: I remember that there were quite a few special effects/make-up issues that slowed things down. Securing locations was another huge challenge.

B: Everybody was really professional and made the job as easy as possible for me and put up with a lot of changes and reshoots. The pressure of actually finishing the project is always hard. Sometimes you want to give up because it’s so hard. Yet you can’t because it needs to happen and too much time and love was given to the project.

TH: Was there anything that you expected to be challenging that wound up being pretty easy?

J: Not really.

B: No. The movie was a welcomed challenge from beginning to end.

J: I don’t think there is anything about making movies that is easy. Fun, yes, but not easy. When we lost the first car we were going to use, I thought that replacing it was going to be a big problem. In the script, the car was a hot rod and we had secured a Mustang, but the owner backed out at the last minute. Fortunately, our friend, Mike, was able to supply his Model A and it became one of my favorite bits in the movie.

TH: The zombies in the movie have a distinctive look and sound, with their sunken in eyes and their ghoulish voices. I was wondering why you made that design choice?

B: We had a lot of discussions with the special effects team about the look of the zombie. They aren’t zombies in a traditional sense of being dead, but are infected and transformed.

J: I remember that we toyed with the ideas of having their eyes turn red, having their eyes drip blood, or their eyes just be empty sockets with smoke billowing out of them.

B: Their look is an extreme take of stereotypical attributes of drug use.

J: It plays off the idea that reefer gives you this drowsy-eye tired look.

B: Plus, I like the idea of a dual voice when it comes to evil characters. Using both a high and low pitch give the creatures a sense of being insane and disturbed.

TH: Earlier cuts of Dr. S were in color. Why did you decide to change it to black and white? Did you make any other changes when you made that shift?

B: I decided to make the change because black and white is something I always wanted to do. Even though it looks beautiful in color, the black and white gives the film a vintage look. Plus, I liked the stark contrast in black and white, kind of like Frank Miller’s Sin City. Harsh shadows and deep blacks dominated the film and just added that heavy tone I needed.

J: I remember when Brian first showed it to me in black and white; it was one of those Satori moments. It helped the look, tone and feel of the film to a near infinite degree.

B: And adding the dirt and grain was the final touch to the whole film.

J: Since the black and white gave the movie a more serial and propaganda film quality, it was easier to add the Cinis Labs short in the beginning and all the movie commercials.

TH: Why did you decide to break the film into 3 acts?

B: After the first cut was done I noticed it felt choppy and in pieces. I realized that visually and story-wise, it felt like three parts. So with my theatre background it only felt natural to cut up the piece into three acts.

TH: Are there any important messages that you want your audience to leave the film with?

J: Not particularly. I mean, I don’t think that anyone goes to see something called “Dr. S Battles the Sex-Crazed Reefer Zombies: The Movie” and expects a message. Although, there are some ideas and themes if you read into it: the dangers of placing trust in the government or science to solve all of your problems for you, the high cost of acting out of selfish pride or anger, fear as a tool of control, and, of course, kicking some ass with a hot cheerleader by your side is always awesome. Always.

TH: Brian, do you have anything to add?

B: I want to give credit to Evan Boston and Peter Egly, who helped write the movie. This film was made for YOU the audience, for the fans of Evil Dead who want to laugh and scream at the screen and clap in excitement. This is made with a thank you to every director and storywriter before me, and finally this film is made with love and laughter for your enjoyment.

TH: Finally, what are your future projects? (Spoiler)

J: We are coming out with a series of audio dramas that tell the story of what Dr S was doing for the 1000 years. They’re called “Dr S Battles Through Time: The Audio Adventures.” Those should be coming out soon on our website. Dr S will be teaming up with some of history’s greatest figures! From our brains to your ears! Also, I’m searching for an artist to work on a comic book adaptation. Oh yeah, coming this fall, because you demanded it, “Dr. S Battles the Sex-Crazed Reefer Zombies: THE MUSICAL!” A live stage show! That’s right true believer!

TH: Any chance of a sequel?

J: You bet your sweet ass there is a sequel planned!

B: It’s my dream to have a trilogy one day.

J: So start preparing yourself for all the new flavors of sock-rocking whoop ass that we’re piling on to the epic sundae that is Dr. S!

B: And for future projects from Film Classics, go to:


If Everybody's Beautiful...

I want to be beautiful. I'm saying this with a complete lack of irony. Really. I want to be beautiful. Don't you? Tonight was the 7th annual Pretend You Are Rich Art Auction. Presumably, it ended about three hours ago. It was held at The Pump Art Complex, a collection of studio spaces and a community of artists. The auction was an exercise in fantasy, a night when the artistic community of Austin could come together and become something that many, if not most of them are not: wealthy.

But this article is not about the auction. That will come later. This article isn't really about anything. I have no map that marks a path for these words. I'm not even sure of my intent in writing this. Except that...

I'm not beautiful. Are you? I have, throughout the course of my short and short-sighted life, lived on the edges of the realm of the ugly. In show business, we call them character-actors. You can be either Juliet or Juliet's maid. My dear readers, you are in the electronic presence of Juliet's maid. In my younger days, being ugly was horrible. Given the unspeakable cruelty of children, it's not hard to imagine why. I've never understood why people believe that children are innocent, kind, perceptive, or sacred. I don't buy it. Human nastiness is most likely born of ingorance, and there is no human creature more ignorant than a child. As I grew older my ugliness became empowering. My very existence was a "Fuck you!" to all of those heartless bastards who took for granted that they were beautiful. My ugliness was freedom. I chose to be ugly. I made ugly decisions. Ugly was beautiful.

So I was an ugly child. Not surprisingly, I am an ugly adult. I have been, at least subconsciously, aware of my ugliness all of my life. But it had not become so evident to me as earlier tonight, during the auction, when I engaged in the communal fantasy of wealth, stardom, and beauty.

Fantasy should be easy for me. After all, I got my bachelors in fantasy with a fool-hardy major in theatre arts. And yet, tonight, as I stood up on that stage, with my tuxedo, my clip-on bow tie, my costume spats, as I looked around the room at our guests and patrons, called to them to spend real/pretend money, the stark reality that was hidden beneath our phony fur coats, our fake pearls, became evident.

And so now, here am I, kept awake at one in the morning, wondering, how can I become beautiful? Decorations, tattoos, piercings, cuff-links, designers shoes, hair-gel, mascara, are all distractions that hide the truth of the naked body. Similarly, knowledge, hobbies, habits, ironic references, interests, abilities, and our ability to boast of them to others; all are distractions which we emit to draw attention away from the fact that we are vulnerable. At the heart of our vulnerability lays... is it ugliness?

I can't speak but for myself.


ugly is beautiful because it is real. Ugly is the only beauty. You can pile as much money and charisma as you like on ugly and call it beautiful. But you are lying, and you won't realize the truth and tragic beauty in ugly until there are no distractions except for you and the mirror.

Don't shatter it.



My Introduction to The Landmark Forum

Okay, I’ll go
For the past month or so, a friend of mine had been trying to convince me to attend an introductory meeting for something called The Forum. When I asked him to describe The Forum, his answer was hard to grasp. Apparently, even though he was already fairly happy with his life (and making good money), The Forum helped him realize his unreached potential. He told me that taking it made him a better artist, businessman, and person; that he owed his current successes in his company to The Forum, as well as his being able to establish a civil relationship with his former wife. Upon hearing me tell him that I wasn’t interested in a self help program, he insisted that the Forum is not, absolutely not, a self help program at all. All he wanted me to do was attend an introductory meeting in which I would meet a representative, and if I decided to attend, then I could sign up for the price of $425. I declined to attend. But he continued in his pursuit until ultimately, over a pleasant dinner and a couple of drinks, I graciously, yet grudgingly agreed to attend the next introduction.

I took some time over the next few days to read up on The Forum via the net. What I found was quite interesting: a multimillion dollar company, accusations of cult-like activity, banned from operating in France, complaints of brainwashing, and a close connection to the now debunked est programs from the seventies.

Here are some links to articles and information about The Forum that are much better than mine:

Inside the Landmark Forum, Karin Badt
The Landmark Forum: 42 Hours, $500, 65 Breakdowns

Investigation: is the Landmark Forum a cult?
The Landmark Website

What is left unsaid?
So I would guess that if you are the skeptical type, then the top two links will appeal to you, and if you are the Chicken Soup for the Soul type, then you fancy the bottom two links. Either way, all of them conspicuously omit some aspects of The Forum. The skeptics either neglect to mention progress made by other Forum takers, or, if it is mentioned, it is done in a way that implies their gullibility. The writer for the Guardian who came out in support of The Forum fails to mention the large chunk of the seminar that is dedicated to indoctrinating its students with the desire to sell it to their friends and family. So who is right? Generally, I will usually side with the skeptics, and this is no exception.

Volunteering? Really?
Those who had a good experience with The Forum, such as my friend and his family, would never admit that they are actually selling it to their friends, but instead say that they are trying to share something life changing, something important and inconceivable until it is experienced. Sound familiar? It should if you have ever been courted by a religion or a cult. You would think that The Forum is Jesus from the way that its participants speak of it. It seems like The Forum uses the same selling tactic as some religions, which is to convince their customers that their product, enlightenment, is completely unobtainable except through them. Quite evangelical.

Participants in The Forum are so dedicated that they volunteer their time to help it gain new customers. I can’t understand why they would do this. They are basically working for free to make money for other people. Landmark Education, the company that owns The Forum, is a for-profit company. Like all other companies, they only care about their bottom line. That is not to say that those who volunteer are trying on purpose to make money for this company. They must believe that they are spreading good news and helping other people. Maybe they are. But, as a consequence of their good intentions, an international multimillion dollar company is making tons of cash.

Think of the children!
A remarkable and somewhat deplorable development in Landmark Education’s seminars is their offering of classes to teenagers and children. Given how The Forum’s participants are indoctrinated with the evangelical tendency to convert their friends and family, it makes good business sense to offer classes to their kids, as kids can not decide for themselves whether they should take it or not. Their parents will most certainly enroll them. Strangely, Landmark’s website notes that for parents to register their children for the 8 – 12 year old sessions, the child must chose attend on their own. This is preposterous, of course, as no child would even be aware of, let alone want to attend The Forum unless brought in to it by their parents. I have never met anybody whose children have attended the program, so I will not make any assumptions about whether they receive the same “hard sell” that their parents did. I won’t pretend that I’m even remotely concerned for the kids themselves. I’m not one of those “won’t somebody think of the children!” assholes that you see clogging up the news. I merely want state the opinion that offering a self-help program of this nature to children is absurd, and the only people who will not think it absurd are those who have already attended The Forum. Luckily, Forum initiates who can’t wait to get their family and friends involved can enroll their own children for $400 - $500 dollars, each.

Alas, I won’t go
So, armed with all of this information, I attended my introduction prepared to receive the “hard sell” that I had read so much about. What I actually got was a warm and friendly reception by my friend and a Landmark volunteer. We chatted and had coffee before going into the benefits of the Forum. The ordeal lasted a few hours, throughout which the Landmark volunteer spoke with me using a combination of her personal experiences and an obvious script. We made a list of parts of my life that were working and parts that were not. Every life could be better, so when I talked to her about how I wanted to improve my life, I made it clear that I was already comfortable with how I was handling my issues. My personality type is one that is quick to deal with hurtles and patient in doing so. I get along  with all of my family and friends. I have a healthy romantic relationship. I am well aware of my foibles and have clear approachable goals for my future. To put it bluntly, I lead an enjoyable, low stress, and happy life. Even parts of my life that could be better are still pretty good. Keeping that in mind, I simply could not see any immediate benefit to attending The Forum. I imagine that these kinds of introductions might appeal to those who are confused or perhaps just to those who feel like they are missing something that they can’t quite finger. These people, who may be in a vulnerable point in their lives, must be Landmark’s bread and butter. When my volunteer realized that I was satisfied with what I had, she shifted the focus of The Forum from the realm of what we know to the realm of possibility. I might think that I am happy and that I have everything I need, but I don’t know what else is out there that I don’t even know I want. The Forum will help me discover this…new possibility. I wasn’t buying it. I like having things in front of me. If I am going to pay hundreds of dollars for something, I want a clear physical benefit. The idea of paying for possibility seemed absurd to me. Possibility is free. It’s effing free.


Ultimately, I turned down their invitation to purchase my attendance at a seminar. They graciously accepted my answer and thanked me for attending.

Certainly not me
So, does Landmark Education deserve all of its controversy? I still don’t know, and doubt I ever will. I never attended one it its seminars nor do I see myself doing it in the future. The Forum, however life changing it may actually be, is clearly a self-help program that uses questionable selling tactics. The product? Enlightenment and freedom. The cost? $425. There are many out there who would pay millions for what The Forum is offering. But certainly not me. I’m not saying that I’m enlightened or that I’ve reached my full potential. But I’ll venture that I can get there even with a Forum-free life.


The Long Winter

Marcos is leaning against the railing in front of the store doing his daily leg stretches. His leg is lifted on to the railing in a manner that resembles a practicing ballerina. The damp morning air is slowly being replaced with the fresh warmth of a new season. Across the highway, the once barren trees are shyly beginning to reveal their greenery. Bushes and shrubs are swaying in the warm breeze, the dark violet hue of their blossoms mark the end of a long winter. It was, for us Texans, one of the coldest in recent memory. Gas bills soared and sales numbers plummeted. As for the sales staff, Soul said it best just now,

"Shit, everybody's gone."

Last winter was harsh indeed.

Marcos is now standing to my left, his backpack resting on my desk. He quit this morning. His ride should be here in two minutes, he says. The sales managers pass by and shake his hand, joking in a manner that hides their sadness to see him go. Jeffrey tells him that even that greener grass on the other side might be hiding some manure. I can tell that they want him to stay. So do I.

“So what do you think man?” He asks me. I look up at him as I type this.

“I’m sorry to see you go Marcos, you’re good friend.”

"You're gonna be a good attorney," he replies. Marcos has been here for a long time. His desk has been just to the left of mine for maybe a year or longer. His ride pulls up in front of the store. Marcos, whose presence commands an odd combination of intimidation and humor. Marcos, who looks like he could be a old-time Chicago gangster, who has two grown children living outside of Texas, who is turning 54 years old next week, is walking through the big glass doors at the front of the store. Goodbye Marcos.

I delete his voicemails and change the name on his extension to GT, who is my new neighbor to the left. GT is back after a long absence from work due to his developing arthritis in his feet. I remember visiting him in the hospital when it happened. His feet swelled up to the size of bowling balls, but the doctors didn't quite know why. Today, he is better, though sometimes he walks with a cane. GT is 29 years old. Sometimes I wonder if the doctors would have found a solution to his problem if he had insurance. Or money, which is something that all of our sales guys are lacking right now. GT's limp, along with his rather beak-ish nose, makes me think of a bird with a broken wing.

My switchboard lights up with callers. A customer accidently leaves the big glass doors wide open as he walks out with GT for a test drive. The weather is beautiful so I leave them. Warm air and the sounds of a busy highway flow inside. The long winter is over and hopefully Marcos was our last casualty.


South Lamar & Treadwell



5th and Congress

Wheat Paste Mural
Artists: James Huizar, Randy Muniz, Bartley Kibbe, Tony Diaz, Failure

Spray painted mural
Artist: Federicko