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I ruin movies by making them better…in your mind!

I tend to ruin movies by making them better.

See, I’m one of those annoying people who, for entirely selfish reasons, tries to get his friends to watch movies I’ve already seen. The reasons? Mostly so I can have someone to talk about it with, and of course, validation. (“Yes, Randy, that was a good film that I would not have seen were it not due to your incessant nagging. You have good taste in film, and hence are a good person, and you can stop hating yourself now.”) I have a lot of issues on that front.

Anyway, the problem is that I’m a pretty shallow man and hence have pretty narrow tastes. Mostly I just watch Science Fiction films. Current ones, old ones, classics, sclock-fests, I don’t really care. I also like anything by the Coen brothers, up to and including that bootleg of a very drunk Ethan puking his guts out in a toilet, while his sibling is laughing so hard that he can barely keep the shot in frame. (“[Rowlf] For God’s sake, Joel, why aren’t you helping me? [Rowlf]) I also claim to like everything by Terry Gilliam, but I’m lying about that. I really only like three of his films. Some war movies are cool. I mostly pretend they’re happening in space, anyway. Theoretically I like any western that’s more than two hours long, but watching a marathon of Terrence Hill films a couple years ago has made me question that. Oh, right, and I used to like some foreign art films up until I turned 40 and suddenly started finding them all disturbing.

So, really, not a lot of depth there, if I’m honest. Which I just was.

Bottom line: Nobody is interested in the movies I’m interested in, nor have they ever been, nor should they be. Yes, everyone will go to see Star Wars IX: The Legend of Curly’s Gold, but everyone was going to see that anyway, right? I’m grateful to have something to talk to them about, but it’s completely lacking in the ‘validation’ thing I mentioned above. It’s not like I talked them into seeing Colosus: the Forbin Project, or The Andromeda Strain (Both of which are super-rad and bitchin’ by the way). Do you know how hard I had to work to get anyone to watch Blade Runner in the decade between its release and the time it spontaneously became popular? And now everyone thinks it’s the 2nd best SF film of all time, and half the people reading this were born after 1992, so you’ve never known a world in which it was just me and Ridley Scott saying, “No, honestly, it doesn’t suck! And it’s pretty!” And Ridley, honestly, didn’t seem that interested after “Legend” also bombed. (That one totally deserved it. It sucks)

Since nobody likes what I like, I have to kind of oversell it in order to pique their interest. I’m sort of bad at this, in that I tend to be honest. “Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat is, unquestionably, the most original and important thing to happen to the vampire mythos in 50 years. However all that important stuff is in the last five minutes, and you also have to suffer through a pre-acting-lessons Bruce Campbell, which, as you know is painful, but here’s a list of concepts that, while poorly executed through the rest of the movie, are still sort of interested. And again: the last five minutes are the absolute best thing in the entire history of best things themselves!”

Needless to say, my batting average is pretty low.

Which brings me to the way I ruin movies for everyone.

See, I grew up in a semi-abandoned citrus grove that only had three other widely-spaced houses, and the occasional biker gang. Oh, and rattlesnakes. Lots and lots of rattlesnakes. Needless to say I didn’t have a lot of friends to play with. My dad was a dad, and hence mostly interested in sports, and relaxing after a hard week at work. Movies were low on his priority list. My mom…wow. My mom worked as a ticket girl in the box office of a movie theater in the ‘50s, but never bothered to go in and watch any of the movies. In 1977 the last film she’d seen in a theater was “The Sound of Music.” That movie was two years older than I am, and I’m half-convinced that she only went to see it because she used to work for the Von Trapp family. (It’s true! She did!) There was absolutely no chance on selling her on seeing anything, ever.

I had a shot with my dad, though. The problem there was that his attention span for things he wasn’t already interested in – like football – was fairly short. It was even shorter when football was actually on TV while I was making my pitch. This meant I had a very narrow window of opportunity to make my sale. I’d wait for the extended commercial break between quarters, and I only had 15 minutes. Less if he needed to use the can.

Basically I’d stand directly in front of him, and run through the whole plot of the movie at lightning pace. I’d jump around to give an impression of any cool action scenes. I’d deliver dialog in different voices so there wouldn’t be any confusion as to who was speaking – because, remember, I didn’t have time, and he was only half-paying attention. I would quote any cool dialog I could remember, and other dialog I couldn’t quite remember verbatim I’d punch up on the fly. Sometimes I’d hum or whistle theme music. I would describe in glorious detail any cool visual scenes, and then, hopefully, I’d get to the conclusion before “…and we’re back. It’s the fourth quarter, and the Bucs are down 21 points against the Dolphins. For the third time in three seasons.”

I never had much luck with my dad, but I got really good at my weird little presentations. Being constitutionally incapable of selfconsciousness, I started doing them at school. I had a better memory in those days, so I could just launch into one whenever the opportunity arose. These were always extemperaneous, always tailered to whatever the person I was talking to would find cool. Spoilers? Pfeh. Here’s the truth: most people won’t watch movies if they don’t already know how they’re going to end. Audiences are lazy. Particularly with old films, and remember, there wasn’t much Science Fiction in theaters in those days, so much of the time I was just trying to get people to watch, “It: The Terror from Beyond Space,” or “Fantastic Voyage,” or acting out why people shouldn’t watch, “Creation of the Humanoids.” Yeah, that’s right, I could use my skills to plug or kill a movie. I’m just that good.

It got so people would ask me to explain a movie just becaue they wanted to watch my floorshow. My pitch for “Outland” was referred to by a teacher as, “A one man show stage version of High Noon.” Which is pretty apt, really. I did this in college, I did this after college, heck, I still do it now. It’s become reflex. As society’s attention span dropped ever-lower, I got more effective.

Which brings us to the part where I ruin movies:

At some point, people started saying stuff like, “Yeah, ‘Brazil’ was pretty good and all, but I liked your report on it better than watching the movie itself.” Or, “Honestly I think the death scene in ‘The 9th Configuration’ was better the way you did it, then in the film.” or “Your rendition of ‘Forbidden Planet’ didn’t really prepare me for how corny and stiff the dialog in the movie was.”

Eventually, “I liked the Randy version better,” became a common complaint.

Why?

“Well, you get so excited about them, and you’re so energetic, and you emphasize stuff they don’t and downplay stuff they emphasize, and some of your mis-remembered dialog is cooler than theirs, and you leave out the scenes that don’t work. I end up with a picture of the movie in my head, I go in expecting that and I get…just a movie. Not The Randy Version of the movie, which is more fun.”

“And shorter?”

“Oh, yeah, way the hell shorter. I really don’t have the attention span for a three-hour movie.”

The Creation of Man: Greek Style

My son was just discussing the Prometheus legend with me, and it struck me that it’s one of those things everyone has vaguely heard of (“Don’t tamper in the gods’ domain, or they’ll kick your ass”), but most people don’t really know. So here’s the deal:

Titans outrank gods. The Titans ruled the universe. They were pretty awful, though, so the gods rebelled and overthrew the Titans and took over the universe. Several of the Titans recognized that this was for the best, so during the course of the war, they abandoned their own kind and joined the gods.

Among these turncoats were Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus. Their names mean “Forethought” and “Afterthought,” respectively, but I prefer to think of them as “Jerkass” and “Dumbass,” as as Prometheus was a trickster, and Epimethius was, well, dumb.

(“Tricksters” are like Anansi in African mythology, or Loki in Norse mythology [which has nothing to do with the depiction of him in Marvel]. They’re not evil, they’re frequently chaotic and always unpredictable. Think of Prometheus as Daffy Duck.)

Because they’d been allies in the war, the brothers were allowed to live in Olympus. Prometheus was a little paranoid of the gods because they’d just overthrown their more-or-less rightful leaders, and also because they were notoriously fickle. As Epimetheus was kind of a dope, they said, “You there! Go down to earth and do something to make it pretty so we have nice views. We really don’t care what.” Epimetheus then created nature. (Up to this point, earth was just a rock with occasional water)

Prometheus saw this and thought, “Cool! I want to try!” As his brother had already created animals, he decided to make the best animal ever: Man. Mostly he did this to piss off the gods.

The gods were super-pissed, and were looking at wiping us all out, but eventually they realized we were useful insofar as we made the whole ‘offerings’ thing easier. How were offerings done before there were people? Who the crap knows. It’s mythology. It’s drunken and sloppy at the best of times. So the gods allowed us to live, but they refused to let the brothers back into Olympus as punishment. Also, humans were limited to not being immortal, nor having any supernatural powers.

Time passes, and Prometheus has grown kind of fond of his practical joke, so he decides to give them something that will lift them above being mere animals. He sneaks into Olympus, steals fire from the gods, and gives it to man, thus starting civilization. Yay! This was not entirely humanitarian, though. He was still in large part motivated by a desire to piss off the gods.

Which he did. They chained him to a rock, while a giant monster bird would peck his liver out of his body every day and eat it. Prometheus’ liver would grow back every day, and get eaten out again. Because the gods are jerks. This, by the way, is where earthquakes come from: Prometheus convulsing and yanking on his unbreakable chains.

The story continues: Civilization is starting, and while he’s a dim bulb by divine standards, he’s a bright light to cavemen everywhere. The gods decide to punish the thing Epimetheus loved, rather than him directly. They created Pandora from scratch, specifically designing her to be curious. Then they sent her down with her jar full of plague and disease and said, “Don’t open it. Yo! Epimetheus! Marry this chick!” “Gosh, thanks, Zeus!” “Don’t mention it, kid.”

So of course she opened the jar (It’s not a box, it’s an amphora) and let out just every awful thing on earth, torturing humanity for all existence.

The funky thing about this is that Prometheus was a prophecy god. He did all this *knowing* full well what would happen. Talk about committing to a gag! And we’re left to think that even with all the plauges and crap, mankind was still better off than it was before we had fire.

Amnesty International has been protesting for several years, trying to get Prometheus released, but thus far nothing has come of it.

I’M GIVING AWAY FREE COPIES OF ALL MY BOOKS!

IF YOU WOULD LIKE A *FREE* COPY OF SOME OF MY BOOKS, they’re available at Smashwords.

I was gonna space this out over several days, but what the heck, these coupons have an expiration date on them, so let’s get it all out of the way at once

Just go here to find a copy of my book, “It’s Not Rocket Science.” All ya gotta do is go here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/591078 and then use the coupon code VF97F when you’re purchasing it. “It’s just that easy!”

“The Care and Feeding of Nightmares” is my most recent collection, and I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. Go here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/571923 and use the code NT98B

“Ice Cream and Venom” is my first collection of short stories. Go here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/591073 and use this code VZ84U

“The Bones of an Angel” is another collection of short stories. Available here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/591080 and the code is PM79U

“The Undead at War (And Other Stories)” is my most popular book. Just go here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/591076 and here’s your code MJ37R Larry Niven even blurbed one of the stories in that book.

“After Conquest” is a novel I co-wrote. Go here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/584212 and the coupon code is UW73B

There’s also a book of my poems and lyrics on there called “Everything is Something’s Food,” but I’d reccomend you all avoid that one. It’s pretty bad. No coupon for that one, it’s always free. I couldn’t actually take money from people for that one in good conscience 🙂

If you have friends who you think might be interested in this stuff, please feel free to spread this information around.

Thank you for your consideration!

If you’ve been curious about my books, but didn’t want to shell out the cash, now’s your chance to check it out! If you didn’t know that I wrote, well, hey, what the heck, it’s free, right? Might as well check ’em out.

The only thing I ask is that if you do grab a copy of a book, and if you actually decide to read it/them, please post a review on Smashwords and/or Amazon (You don’t have to have purchased a book on Amazon to review it). I don’t even mind if it’s not a particularly glowing review, just please post something no matter how short.

I’m Giving Away Free Copies Of All My Books!

If you’ve been curious about my books, but didn’t want to shell out the cash, now’s your chance to check it out! If you didn’t know that I wrote, well, hey, what the heck, it’s free, right? Might as well check ’em out.

The only thing I ask is that if you do grab a copy of a book, and if you actually decide to read it/them, please post a review on Smashwords and/or Amazon (You don’t have to have purchased a book on Amazon to review it). I don’t even mind if it’s not a particularly glowing review, just please post something no matter how short.

What I’m Writing In 2017 (God Willing)

Good morning! Happy New Year.
 
After taking last year off from writing, I am officially working again as up about half an hour ago.
 
Some of you may recall my friend Jim Graham, who was the author of the “Scat” series surrounding the increasingly bizarre adventures of a 23rd century US Marine. If you don’t, the first couple books are currently free, so check ’em out. 
 
Anyway, he was about 80% of the way through the fourth book in the series, “Big Pharma.” Several months ago he told me he was dying of cancer, and asked me if I’d please finish the novel for him. I said, sure, obviously, and that was the last time we spoke before the end came.
 
Anyway, my friend’s book is the priority above any off my projects. I sat down this morning with a copy of the first book, (“Scat”) and started reading it. By the end of chapter 1 I had two full pages of notes.
 
Basically I think I’m going to re-read the entire series before I set pen to paper (“Finger to Keyboard?”) because I want to make sure I don’t introduce any continuity errors. I want it to follow his story, his style, his vision. I want it to be his book, not mine (Though I’ll gladly accept the “With Randall Schanze” co-credit on the cover that he promised me). Also, it’s British. I don’t want the novel to suddenly turn American. I want it to maintain the cadence and feel of something written by a Brit (Even if that does mean the American protagonist regularly says things like “Bugger” and “Sod off.”)
 
It’s a little daunting. Generally I write and that’s it. It pops out of my head. I write involving stuff I know, or stuff I just make up on the spot. Having to do a ton of research isn’t my normal style. I can do it, I will do it, but the length of time between me deciding to write one of my own stories, and actually starting on one of my stories is seldom more than a few hours. Here it’ll likely be a week or two, assuming real life doesn’t get in the way.
 
And I’ve still got no idea what the plot of “Big Pharma” is. I have the manuscript. I started to read it, but decided it needed to re-read everything from the beginning so I could be in proper context and mindset when I started.
 
Let me give you an idea what a great guy Jim was, though: As he was dying, he said that he had a pretty loyal core of fans who read all his books – moreso than me – and that he hoped my name on his project would increase *my* readership. No, really.
 
It’s an honor to be working on this.
 
In the larger scheme of things, I have several projects I’d also like to have finished this year, to make up for taking last year off. After Jim’s novel, I intend to finish my own longsuffering, way-too-ambitious novel, “The Fall of St. Grissom,” which I haven’t touched in more than two years. I’m going to be co-writing a sequel to “After Conquest,” I’ve got my obligatory annual book of short stories, and possibly a novel about my time in the very weird Accelerated Christian Education system in the 1970s.
 
Time permitting, I’d also like to revise my book of lyrics and poetry, “Everything is something’s food,” to be a little less sucky and a good deal longer, and re-issue that as a kind of second edition. I’m toying with the idea of a short book *about* the deservedly-forgotten series, “Man from Atlantis,” and I’ve toyed with the idea of putting out a book of grade-zed movie reviews, a’la “The Golden Turkey Awards,” which I thought might be fun.
 
We shall see.
 
Anyway, “Scat” and Jim come first. Check back here for progress reports. I’d like to thank my readers (I’m hesitant to claim I have fans) for their continued interest and their patience in 2016.

The Cobra Emperor’s Brave Battle With Addiction

[Over breakfast]
Me: “Someone posted a meme on Facebook saying that Cobra was more racially diverse than the Republican party.”
Bey: “Cobra from GI Joe?”
Me: “Yeah. With the exception of Stormshadow, all of Cobra is white.”
Bey: “Cobra Commander is a lizard.”
Me: “Ok, wih the exception of Stormshadow and Cobra Commander, they’re all white.”
Bey: “What does Serpentor count as?”
Me: “A mean drunk?”
Bey: “No, I mean, he’s composed of the DNA of all these huge insane military leaders…”
Me: “And Eric the Red for some reason, who was none of those things. He just killed a guy in a bar fight, jumped town, discovered Greenla…”
Bey: “I know the story, Dad. Anyway, they’re all different races, so what does that make Serpentor?”
Me: “WHAT other races went in to making up Serepentor? The only one I can think of was Genghis Khan. So He’s slightly Asian.”
Bey: “No! Khan was the one they *couldn’t* get, remember? So they had to substitute DNA from Sargent Slaughter. So Serpentor is white.”

Me: So would their plan have worked if they’d gotten Genghis Khan?”
Bey: “I don’t think so. He wasn’t renowned for his patience.”
Me: “Yeah, but maybe there was some aspect of him that Mindbender needed for this big evil emperor goulash that he didn’t get, you know, like Khan would have been the salt in the soup, and Slaughter ended up being, like, sugar in the soup.”
Bey: “Ew. Maybe. Maybe he just offset other disabilities. Dude, just based on the number of Romans that went into making Serpentor, the guy must’ve been born with lead poisoning.”
Me: “Maybe Sargent Slaughter was a functional drunk? One of those guys who are kinda buzzed all the time, but can keep it together during business hours? It seems reasonable to assume most of his other ‘fathers’ were heavy drinker.”
Bey: “…and he didn’t have Slaughter’s ability just put that on the sheld.”
Me: “Exactly! So the episodes of the show we saw were all centering around his conflicts with the Joe team. What they didn’t show were the conflicts of his day-to-day struggles of coping with his alcoholism and anger issues.”
Bey: “Like ordering pizza!”
Me: [Laughing really hard]
Bey [Impersonating Serpentor’s voice]: “That’s right, I want two extra larges, with sausage and pepperoni and anchovies! And I want it in thirty minutes or less! THIS I COMMAND!”
[Now impersonating bored Dominos employee] “Serpentor, we’ve been through this before…”
[Serpentor’s voice again]: “Yes, I know it’s 3AM, and I’m on a tiny island in the middle of the gulf of Mexico and you’re hundreds of miles away. Your guarantee is thirty minutes or less! Now get it here. This I Command!”
[Employee]: “You tortured and killed our last delivery guy….”
[Serpentor]: “Because you failed to live up to your end of the bargain. Pray you do not disappoint me again.”
[Employee]: “The manager has informed me that you’re on our ‘no delivery’ list, at least until you give back Barry’s body. Sorry.”
[Serpentor]: “But you’re the closest one to my house! What am I supposed to do?”
[Employee]: “You’re the most powerful terrorist in the world, and you’ve got your own country. Don’t you have someone there who can make you pizza?”
[Serpentor]: “No. I had my snake-spears swallow their hearts in a vicious rage after they disappointed me by using canned sauce.”
[Employee]: “We use canned sauce, too.”
[Serpentor]: “Really? Because yours tastes fresh…”
[Employee]: “I’ve got other calls to take.”
[Serpentor]: “Don’t hang up on me! I am Serpentor! The Cobra Emperor! I am made up of the DNA of history’s greatest conquerors! And a WWF star. And also Eric the Red for some reason! Give me pizza! This I command!”
[Employee]: “I’m sorry, sir, no. Maybe try Papa Johns or something.” [Click]
[Serpentor, screaming] “Sound the alarm! Alert all our elite strike teams, we are attacking Corpus Christie, Texas! The Crimson Guard will take point! And prepare my hover-chariot! I shall lead the assault myself! THIS I COMMAND!”
[Tomax, sighing]: “I really miss Cobra Commander.”
[Xamot], “I know, right?”