Saturday, December 10, 2011

Don't Hate on Christmas

Here's my letter to the editor, which appeared in the December 10, 2011 Santa Monica Daily Press:


Mr. Jorg Aadahl ("Different take on Christmas," Letters to the Editor, Dec. 5) is apparently offended that Christmas doesn't have a "neutral name." He prefers that we say Yuletide because it is "all inclusive, for everyone."

But no holiday is "all inclusive." Not everyone chooses to celebrate Chanukah, Halloween, Thanksgiving — or even Yuletide. Nor is there any reason that 100 percent compliance should be a requirement. If one were offended because someone wished them a "Happy Chanukah" or "Happy Thanksgiving," that person would be regarded as a bigot, or just plain weird.

Christmas alone is deemed offensive because not everyone celebrates it. You needn't belong to a religion or ethnicity to appreciate its culture.

Non-Chinese people visit Chinatowns all over the U.S. to enjoy Chinese New Year parades. Non-Latinos visit Olvera Street for Cinco de Mayo and Dia De Los Muertos celebrations. People of many religions visit Native American reservations to admire their religious dances.

Likewise, there's no reason that non-Christians can't look at (and even enjoy) a Christmas lights display. It's not a forced conversion.

Mr. Aadahl also tries to invalidate Christmas for its pagan roots. But many holiday customs are rooted in archaic or discarded practices. Trick-or-treating is no longer about bribing dead spirits to leave us be. Yet that does not invalidate Halloween's modern celebrations.

Thus does Mr. Aadahl criticize Christmas both for being too Christian ("non-inclusive") and not Christian enough ("pagan roots"). He should learn to appreciate that ours is a diverse society, and that Christmas — and Christianity — are significant parts of that diversity.

-- Thomas M. Sipos, Santa Monica, CA

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Cult of Apple

Steve Jobs is dead, and that's unfortunate from a human standpoint. But I don't get all this fuss over how he and his company supposedly changed technology.

I bought my first computer in 1986. Right now I'm on my 9th computer, which runs
Windows 7. All my life, I've been a DOS/Windows user. I’ve never owned an Apple anything. Nor a Mac, nor anything beginning with an i.

Once, I used a computer running an Apple operating system. It was at Kinko's. I didn't realize it was running Apple (or Mac, or whatever they call their OS) until it CRASHED, and I had to call the clerk for help.

That's right. The Apple OS is so similar to Windows, I didn't even notice I was running Apple rather than Windows. And Apple CRASHES, same as Windows.

(Or rather, same as Windows used to crash. Windows 98 crashed a lot. I've not had crashes with Windows XP or Windows 7.)

Back in the 1990s, I'd read that Apple had about 5% of the OS market share. Windows had the rest (excepting maybe 1% for "others" like Linux and OS/Warp 2). Apple users urged me to switch to Apple. They spoke with religious hysteria. I got the impression they were afraid that Apple might soon go bust, so they wanted to entice other people into buying Apple, to bolster the company's market share.

Apple users have long sounded cultish to me. I've built a dozen or so websites from scratch, using Windows-based Netscape Composer, and then later, Dreamweaver. I've written all my books and scripts on Windows-based software (first WordStar for DOS, then Movie Magic Screenwriter and Open Office). I listen to MP3s on a Sansa Fuse (not iPod) player. My cell phone was Verizon, until I canceled due to their inaccurate billing.

Apple products are, I'm sure, no better than the rest. They just cost more, and have glitzier marketing.

That's the secret of Apple. Glitzy marketing, so as to create a sort of personality cult around the product. Yes, they've run some great ads. But like most ads, they're about image, not reality.

If Apple users were truly the anti-corporate/radical individualists they posture as, they'd switch to Linux.

Windows for the masses. Linux for the rebels. Apple for the poseurs.

-- Thomas M. Sipos

Thursday, October 06, 2011

When Screamfest L.A. Was Young

Today Screamfest L.A. is the largest horror film festival in Los Angeles. A big, splashy event with big studio support.

Yet I remember Screamfest before it was Screamfest.

In 2001, the first annual Screamfest was a small event, an early pioneer in what became this past decade's horror film festival boom. I attended that first Screamfest L.A., reviewing its films for

Horrorfind has long since taken down all its film reviews, mine included. But now a blast from horror's past -- I've uploaded my 2001 Screamfest L.A. report to my Communist Vampires site, which you can read here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Republican Zombies, Democratic Vampires

I've never been much for the theory that horror films "reflect social anxieties." I think horror has other primary appeals, such as its "sense of wonder" (something by no means exclusive to science fiction).

However, someone has crunched some box office numbers and TV ratings, and has concluded that vampires films are more popular during Republican presidencies, whereas zombie films are more popular under Democratic presidencies.

S. Peter Davis theorizes that this is because conservatives/libertarians perceive the Left as vampires, whereas liberals/progressives see the Right as zombies. And each of these groups, when out of power, suffer greater "social anxiety," which is reflected in the horror films released at that time.

It's a amusing article. Even better, Davis cites my book, Vampire Nation, as proof of his thesis.

Read Davis's entire article.

Friday, July 08, 2011

McFarland Releases Cover for Horror Film Festivals and Awards

McFarland Publishing has released the cover for my upcoming book, Horror Film Festivals and Awards.

Although I was not consulted on the cover, I like it. It has a retro, 1960s pop culture, beach party feeling.

It's funky -- and a bit ironic, since most horror film festivals have been founded since 2000. But no matter, for as coincidence would have it, I am a fan of The Horror of Party Beach. (Not a huge coincidence -- I enjoy most horror films.)

I'm currently proof-reading the, ehr, proofs. I am also now creating an index for the book.

The book includes a listing of thousands of past winners, from dozens of horror film festivals and awards, over the course of decades (some 400 manuscript pages when I submitted the book). So the index should take a while. I expect to finish it by late August, although I'm hoping it will be sooner than that.

Either way, Horror Film Festivals and Awards should be available for purchase by late 2011.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What's Wrong With the Saturn Awards?

In 1997 I wrote an article about the Saturn Awards for Horror magazine. Horror folded before printing it, but my article was eventually published in my 2001 horror collection, Halloween Candy.

Back then I thought that the Saturn Award was the definitive horror film award. But times change. This past decade has seen a mushrooming of horror film festivals and awards, including the one I founded: the Tabloid Witch Awards.

With so many horror film awards around these days (a phenomenon that I discuss in my upcoming book), the Saturn is no longer so special.

Although dated, I now offer this article for free online, as a retrospective of the state of horror film awards in 1997.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Verizon Sucks: Steals Another $50 from Me

Despite my past problems with Verizon wireless billing, last December I made the mistake of upgrading to their new 4G network.

In late January, I asked Verizon to Suspend my 4G service (for a $15 fee, saving on the monthly $50 charges). Verizon told me my service was Suspended.

Then I got my bill. My 4G service was NOT Suspended. I was charged the full $50.

I called to complain, waited and waded through Verizon's robotic phone menu, and finally told my problem to a human being. She told me that she would fix the problem, crediting me back the money I should have saved.

On my next bill, I saw that I had only been partially credited. I was still overcharged $33. Feeling the futility of dealing with Verizon, I let it rest.

In early March I traveled again, so I un-Suspended my 4G service. In mid-March I asked to re-Suspend service. Verizon assured me they had done so.

Naturally, on my next bill, I saw this was NOT the case. I was charged the full $50.

I phoned again. This time Verizon told me that they offer the option of SUSPENSION WITHOUT BILLING or SUSPENSION WITH BILLING. Verizon had thought I wanted SUSPENSION WITH BILLING.


Who would want SUSPENSION WITH BILLING? What's the point of suspending your service if you're still going to be billed?

I finally told Verizon to disconnect the service, despite the ADDITIONAL $160 disconnection fee. The Verizon rep told me "What I can do is charge you the $50, and ask my supervisor to credit you with the $50 on your next bill."

But I knew from my previous dispute just how worthless Verizon's promises to "credit back" are.

I suppose I'll pay the $160 disconnect fee, and dispute the $50 fee on my credit card statement.

I still use Verizon landline and cell phone -- they're next to go. I've had it with Verizon.

PS: If you're wondering if Verizon's 4G broadband wireless is as fast and reliable as Verizon claims, well, it's faster than their 3G ... when it works. But their 4G is not as fast as home wifi.

And Verizon's 4G still has problems with "going dormant." If you stay on any webpage for a minute or so, the 4G will go dormant, and you can't click to another page. Sometimes, you'll have to disconnect and reconnect to get out of dormancy mode (i.e., to wake up the damn 4G modem).

Then there's the problem of the modem disconnecting on its own. That still happens.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why Do Horror Films Suck?

Actually, I don't think horror films suck, but there have been some awful ones this past decade -- and some great ones!

Even so, that's the topic of a discussion panel on which I'll serve, at the upcoming 2011 World Horror Convention.

Here are the details:

Why Horror Movies Are Terrible

7:00 PM Friday, April 29 – Dezavala
[that's the room's name]

Brad Keene, Thomas Sipos, Joe Hill, SG Browne, Gemma, Files (M), Mark Wheaton

It's not even a question -- most horror movies are terrible, with stories that would be rejected from the smallest zine, acting to embarrass late-night Creature Feature hosts, and YouTube-ready cinematography. But WHY? Is it truly difficult to make an effective horror film, or are the producers and audience just so indiscriminate that quality isn't worth the bother?

I didn't choose the topic, but I do have some things to say on it. Which recent horror films are admirable -- and which are execrable? And why are the latter films are terrible. (The panel's topic.)

I'll also participate in the mass book signing on Saturday night:


7:30 – 10:00 PM Saturday, April 30 – Phoenix Central

I'll have copies of Vampire Nation, Hollywood Witches, and Pentagon Possessed for whoever wishes a signed copy.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Horror Film Aesthetics Nominated for a Rondo Award

My book from last year, Horror Film Aesthetics, has been nominated for a Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award, in Category 10 (Book of the Year).

Anyone can vote online, in any of the award categories, by going to the Rondo Award site.