Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mocking TSA Before It Was Cool

Conservatives finally found the courage to mock the Transportation Security Administration for the TSA's asinine non-security measures. I've heard these so-called "conservatives" -- who claim to support small government -- on talk radio, mocking the TSA's porno-scanners and sexual assault pat-downs.

No, it's not "about time." It's long past "about time." Where were these "conservatives" when the TSA's measures first went into effect? Or when the ridiculous non-safety procedures piled on and on?

The truth is, anyone who criticized the TSA several years ago would have been derided by "conservatives" as a terrorist-lover. A supporter of "Islamo-fascism." Or as Ann Coulter might put it, a "cheese-eating surrender monkey."

For that matter, where were the progressives? I hear that Saturday Night Live ran a sketch criticizing the TSA last week. Yet years ago, many progressives too were afraid to criticize our current wars and non-security measures in public, lest the critics be called "anti-patriotic."

Yes, a minority of progressives, and even s few conservatives and libertarians, did criticize the TSA early on. But they were the relatively few, because it wasn't cool or safe to criticize the TSA.

Perhaps the earliest opponent of 9/11 hysteria was former Libertarian presidential candidate Harry Browne, who criticized the Afghan War on 9/12.

Now I'll blow my own horn. I marched against the Iraq War before it began, along with a minority of Americans who were ignored at the time. I participated in an antiwar play in 2005.

And in 2006 ... I wrote an antiwar/anti-Patriot Act -- and anti-TSA -- screenplay called Pentagon Possessed: A Neocon Horror Story. In 2007 it was a quarterfinalist in four screenplay contests. It's still available for production. (plug, plug)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Theofantastique Interviews Thomas M. Sipos About Horror Film Aesthetics

Theofantastique interviewed me about my book, Horror Film Aesthetics.

Read the interview for a free peek into my views on the subject.

Or just buy the book at Amazon.com!

Monday, October 11, 2010

More Verizon Broadband "Sucks" Wireless Ripoffs

There are many creative ways in which Verizon Broadband "Sucks" Wireless rips off consumers. Here are several ways:

When you sign on, Verizon locks you into a two-year contract. There's a big termination fee. However, if you don't need their broadband wireless service for an extended period, you can suspend the service -- for a $15 suspension fee.

But here's the real ripoff: The suspension only last 90 days. You must call Verizon again after 90 days, to re-suspend. Otherwise, Verizon reactivates your service and starts charging you.

Why not allow you, the consumer, to keep your wireless suspended until you're ready to use it again?

Because Verizon hopes you'll forget after 90 days. Then Verizon can reactivate, and you won't know until you see your bill. And you'll have to re-suspend, plus pay for the time your wireless card was on, but you didn't use it, since you thought it was suspended.

I suspended my card in July, wrote down on my calender that I had to re-suspend in October. Only I re-suspended on October 11, when I should have re-suspended on October 4 (I am told), so now I'll be charge for 7 days usage that I never used.

This "automatic re-activation after 90 days" is all very sleazy. But Verizon gets still sleazier. Here's how:

Verizon doesn't tell you that you can suspend their service. In all the promotional junk they use to tout their service (coverage, how great it is, how much it costs, the two-year service contract), I've never seen any mention that you can suspend the service.

In past years, I left my broadband wireless service on for months of non-usage, because I figured I'd need it again in a few months. Verizon never told me I had the option to suspend. I had to stumble upon that little factoid.

How so?

I called to terminate my two-year contract in July, though I had six months left on it, and only then did Verizon tell me about their option to suspend for 90 days (and you'd better keep track when those 90 days are over).

BTW, Verizon Broadband Wireless is as slow as molasses, with frequent drop-offs. I only use it because I need internet when I travel.

I've used it in Queens, NY (slow), in Denver, CO (extremely slow), and in Santa Monica, CA -- where it doesn't even work.

My Verizon cell phone also has difficulties in Santa Monica. My surfing the internet shows that Verizon wireless services often fail near the beach, and Santa Monica is a beach town.

If you travel and need broadband wireless, you may have no choice but to be ripped off by Verizon or some other carrier, but know that you are being ripped off.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hollywood Witches's First Two Reviews

Hollywood Witches has begun to rack up reviews.

Steven Martinovich of Enter Stage Right says:

"Though the inner machinations of Hollywood have been well explored by both writers and filmmakers for decades, Hollywood Witches is still an entertaining read if only because of its unique premise. It obviously targets the liberal pretensions of Hollywood and one could argue that its villain, Däagen, has a point when she argues that diversity in Hollywood is a myth – though her agenda promises to do little to rectify the problem.

"It has genuinely humorous moments and although the witchcraft angle leads to some rather incredulous plot twists, overall it serves its subject matter well."


And Lars Walker of The American Culture writes:

"The chief eponymous witch of the story is Diana Däagen, a figure of satire, gargantuan in her vices and terrifying in her lack of self-awareness. A failed actress, she now works as 'development executive' in a movie studio. She believes herself intensely spiritual and full of love for all humankind, but that doesn’t prevent her from treating her underlings like dirt, using black magic to thwart or kill her enemies, and planning to murder thousands of people at once -- all for enlightened, politically correct purposes, of course...

"Author Sipos has a gift for dialogue (promising in one who -- one assumes -- is a screenwriter), and can be very funny... Hollywood Witches is a commendable effort, which will entertain readers with strong stomachs."

Saturday, August 14, 2010

First Halloween Sighting in 2010 -- August 13th

Halloween being my favorite season of the year, I like for it to begin early and last a long time. By Halloween season, I mean all the decorations, store items, lawn displays, haunted houses, etc.

In 2007, I made my first Halloween sighting on August 7th. That was my earliest sighting to date.

This year, my first Halloween sighting was on August 13th. I was at Wilshire West Car Wash in Santa Monica, CA. They sell greeting cards there, among other items, in the waiting area. Halloween cards were already on display, despite it being over 2 1/2 months away.

BTW, if you want to watch a horror film on Halloween, the best Halloween horror film remains Halloween III: Season of the Witch. This was supposed to be the Halloween series's new direction. From this film onwards, no more Michael Myers. Instead, a new film installment every year, with an entirely different story and cast of characters.

It didn't work out. Halloween III: Season of the Witch was a critical and box office bomb. The fans wanted more Michael Myers. But I disagree. The first Halloween film was great, but it should have been the last Michael Myers film. The series went progressively downhill after the first film, with the notable exception of Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which told a most Halloween appropriate tale, returning the holiday to its dark Celtic roots.

Halloween H20 is the only Halloween/Michael Myers sequel worthy of the first film, taking the story arc full circle, with a darkly innovative performance by Jamie Lee Curtis.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Amber Benson at the Viscera Film Festival

On July, 17, 2010, I attended the Viscera Film Festival, which I covered for the Hollywood Investigator.

Founded by Shannon Lark and Heidi Martinuzzi, the Viscera is a horror film festival devoted to "horror by women." To win a Viscera Award, a film must be created entirely by women, in front of and behind the camera.

Lark also founded the Chainsaw Mafia film collective, while Martinuzzi runs FanGirltastic.


One nice thing about horror film festivals, apart from seeing horror films, is the chance to meet horror celebrities. Among the people I met was Amber Benson, perhaps best known for her role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though she's appeared in many other horror films (e.g.Intermedio and One Eyed Monster). Benson is also an author.


An old cliché is how "nice" celebrities are in person, but Benson's affability seemed sincerely. Asked to pose for a photo, she behaved as though she were the one receiving the favor.

Every year I run the Tabloid Witch Awards horror film contest and festival. I follow the screenings with panel discussions with the actors and filmmakers. I want every film represented, but since there are so many short films, a constant concern of mine is that the panel may end up crowded.

I like small, intimate panels, so we can have a discussion. I thus have a rule: only one representative from each film can sit on the panel. I worry when I have over four people on a panel, and have (luckily) never had more than eight.

Time constraints often prevent breaking up a panel into two smaller panels.

I guess Viscera was also constrained by time. They had only one panel -- with over 20 people participating! Even so, everyone seemed to have a good time, audience and filmmakers alike.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Lenovo Offers Crappy Support

I'm still trying, now and then, to fix my Thinkpad T40's problem.

A friend tells me that my problem is that since I replaced the hard drive, installing a new Hitachi TravelStar 80 gig 7200 rpm drive in a laptop that was released in 2003, I likely need to update the BIOS. He says this can easily be done. Just put the new BIOS onto a USB flashdrive. When the laptop boots up, it will first go to the USB port, and update the BIOS.

I don't know if that's easy. I went to the Lenovo website, searching for the right BIOS update. Nothing clearly related to my hard drive, and no mention of a BIOS update that can be put on a flash drive. Instead, the website was full of info on how to burn the BIOS update onto a DVD.

So I called Lenovo's toll free help line. Plodded my way though their horrible and annoying phone menu. (Are there any large companies that don't have horrible and annoying phone menus?) I finally connected to a live person.

I spent more time giving him all sorts of numbers from the underside of my laptop. After which he told me that my laptop was past warrenty, so I didn't qualify for assistance on the free help line. He said I could only seek help on the website.

I know my laptop's past warranty. I'm not looking for Lenovo to replace the hard drive or DVD drive. (I already replaced both, out of my pocket -- and bought a new edition of Windows XP since Lenovo doesn't include Windows DVDs with their systems.)

I told the customer service rep that all I wanted was for someone to email me the correct BIOS update. He said I didn't qualify for help on the phone line, and "I am now disengaging this call."


His exact word. "Disengaging." I was "disengaged" by Lenovo. A nicely sterile way of saying "F--- you."

I felt like I was brushed off by Hal 9000.

Since both Lenovo and the HAL 9000 have roots in IBM (even if unintentional), this seems appropriate.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hollywood Witches Is Now Available in Trade Paperback

Hollywood says it loves equal opportunity and multicultural diversity. Development executive Diana Däagen thinks the studio's hiring is based more on ageism, sexism, and nepotism.

And so, surrounded by followers of Wicca, astrology, Native American shamans, telephone psychics, UFO prophets, a channeled warlord from Atlantis, and the alchemy of Hermes Trismegistus, Diana's coven of New Age witches hatch a plot to infiltrate and diversify the entertainment industry until Hollywood "looks like America" -- no matter how many eggs must be broken along the way.

Only the intrepid supermarket tabloid reporters of the Hollywood Investigator and Weekly Universe family of family publications can stop Diana's path toward world media domination.

Hollywood Witches is an urban fantasy/satire, available on both paper and on Amazon Kindle.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What's My Thinkpad T40's Problem?

I own a Lenovo Z61m (bought 2006) as my main laptop, but I still used my T40 (bought 2003) as a backup.

Recently my T40 began having problems. I tried to restore it to its original Windows XP Pro settings via the Access IBM button, but the whole thing crashed and refused to work.

I changed the BIOS to boot from the DVD drive, and tried installing Linux onto it (to save money -- why buy a new operating system for a 2003 laptop?), but always got errors messages (that vary) partway into the installation.

Messages like:

The following file did not match its source copy on the CD/DVD/target/lib/firmware/atmel_at76c503-rfmdaccbin

Or:

[Error 2] No such file or directory:'rofs/var/lib/dpkg/info/hplip-data.nist'

Or:

ERROR 5 INPUT/OUTPUT ERROR

Or:

ERRORS FOUND IN 52 FILES

Some of these errors suggest I might need to clean the DVD or DVD player, but I tried 4 different Linux DVDs; three Ubunto, one Fedora. Two were newly bought, pristine Ubunto DVDs, the other two were scratchy DVDs borrowed from the library.

Eventually I replaced the hard drive with an 80 gig Hitachi Travelstar, 7200 rpm. The problems persisted.

So I replaced the DVD optical drive. The problems persisted.

So I bought a new copy of Windows XP. The problems persisted.

Now I have a 2003 Thinkpad with a brand new hard drive ($120), DVD drive ($50), Windows XP Pro ($50), and two new copies of "free" Ubunto Linux ($30). And it still doesn't work.

A friend suggested I need to update the BIOS firmware so it recognizes the new Hitachi hard drive. I don't know how to do this, or if that's the problem.

Anyone know how I can I fix my T40?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

You Can Read a Kindle -- Without a Kindle

Want to read socio-political satires such as Hollywood Witches, Pentagon Possessed, Manhattan Sharks, or Vampire Nation on a Kindle -- but don't own a Kindle? Don't fret! 

You don't need a Kindle to read a Kindle ebook. You can read Kindle ebooks on your laptop, cell phone, iPad, or many other devices by downloading these free Kindle apps from Amazon!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hollywood Witches Finally Available

Hollywood says it loves equal opportunity and multicultural diversity. Development executive Diana Däagen thinks the studio's hiring is based more on ageism, sexism, and nepotism.

And so, surrounded by followers of Wicca, astrology, Native American shamans, telephone psychics, UFO prophets, a channeled warlord from Atlantis, and the alchemy of Hermes Trismegistus, Diana's coven of New Age witches hatch a plot to infiltrate and diversify the entertainment industry until Hollywood "looks like America" -- no matter how many eggs must be broken along the way.

Only the intrepid supermarket tabloid reporters of the Hollywood Investigator and Weekly Universe family of family publications can stop Diana's path toward world media domination.

Hollywood Witches is an urban fantasy/satire, debuting as an Amazon Kindle ebook. Look for a paper edition later in 2010.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Horror Film Aesthetics Book Out This May

This May will see the released of my new book, Horror Film Aesthetics. What's it about? Here is an excerpt from the Preface:

"This is a book about horror film aesthetics. That sounds abstract and theoretical, but quite the contrary, this book is intended to be pragmatic. A practical and useful guide for aspiring horror filmmakers. This book analyzes how various cinematic tools -- acting, makeup, costuming, set décor, framing, photography, lighting, editing, and sound -- have been used by past films to effectively (or in some cases, ineffectively) create horror on screen.

"This book is an 'aesthetic how to' guide for horror filmmakers. Not to help them copy past films, but rather, to spark their imaginations. To expand their understanding of the horror genre -- its nature and appeal to viewers -- and their appreciation for the full creative potential of their film and video equipment. Aspiring filmmakers often read technical manuals to learn what the buttons on their cameras do, but they don't bother to learn how to use those buttons creatively. I know this as a horror film fan, critic, and journalist, and also from screening films for the Tabloid Witch Awards horror film contest and festival, which I founded in 2004 and continue to manage.

"This is not a book about how to use film and video gear. This is a book about how to use film and video gear effectively. In a way that conveys your horror story and themes in a clear, entertaining, and frightening manner.

"Student and independent filmmakers should find this book useful, but it is also intended for the hardcore fan. I hope this book will enable fans to 'see things' in horror films they may have previously missed, and thus gain a deeper appreciation for the genre. An appreciation that leads to greater viewing pleasures."

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Verizon Wireless Broadband Disconnects

Not only does my USB Verizon modem disconnect a few times every hour. But when I try to reconnect, Verizon's program insists that the modem is still running "in another session." So I can't reconnect.

I close the program. I pull out and reinsert the modem. Yet when I run the program again, it sometimes still insists the modem is "in another session."

The only way to fix it is to reboot the laptop entirely. Very time-consuming and annoying. It can take an hour to send a few emails.

Verizon Broadband Wireless is only to be used as a last resort, for when there are no other connection options.