Thursday, June 16, 2022

Jurassic World: Dominion -- Hated It!


 I went to ridiculously elaborate lengths to get disappointed by Jurassic World Dominion (currently at 30% on Rotten Tomatoes), so I feel like it owes me a ridiculously elaborate bad review, among other things. This one contains spoilers; you have been forewarned. 

I saw it in Hollywood, at the theater formerly known as Grauman’s Chinese Theater – the classic building, not the new multiplex upstairs. I’d never touristed my way inside before, but I saw it in Blazing Saddles (a far better movie than Jurassic World Dominion). I wandered around outside first, checking out the cement autographs of people like Mel Brooks (with his silly sixth finger prosthesis) and Marilyn Monroe (who had tiny little feet). 


Yes, that's an ankle support, I sprained it last month, and was limping around Hollywood with a cane. Hollywood is a perfect blend of cheap sordid sin and lofty ambitions. I stayed at the four-star Roosevelt, something I’d always wanted to do. It’s on the same block with a grungy liquor store that made me think of the seedier blocks of the Tenderloin. At one point I smoked a doobie in a nearby doorway alcove next to Engelbert Humperdinck’s star with a couple of street urchins (we each had our own doobie, nobody wants covid), watching each others’ backs for the po po. Although I doubt if LAPD would care. They have their own star on the walk of fame, down by the Beatles. 

Oops, did I mention weed consumption? I was on a bit of a bender due to some disappointments that I’ll list later, although not a single drop of alcohol touched my lips. I’m what they call “California sober” – the only mind-altering substance I consume is weed, so I consumed a lot of it in various forms during this vacation. I like weed. Unlike alcohol, sugar, garlic, and other substances that make me feel just terrible, weed blends well with my personal chemistry. I don’t like to talk about it a lot because I’m not one of those stoners who feels the urge to wear pot t-shirts and pot hats and pot socks while blasting Bob Marley and talking about pot. I’m a very lawful and low-key pothead, and smoking weed at the Roosevelt is verboten, although they let you vape by the pool. So I did most of my consumption while walking up and down Hollywood Boulevard, having my memory constantly prodded by the names of mostly-forgotten stars. And during the approximately 100-foot walk from my hotel to the theater I consumed an entire preroll of 34% indica (a nice loud strain). 

Mind you, I am only mentioning the fact I was marinated in THC to point out that this godawful train wreck of a movie couldn’t even pass muster with an autistic dinosaur enthusiast who is stoned out of her gourd, sitting in the most iconic movie theater in the world, after being reminded of at least a hundred of her favorite movies while walking to the theater. While on vacation. In a fancy shmancy hotel. During some perfect weather. After a lunch of Sicilian pizza from California Pizza Kitchen, which is among my very favorite pizzas. Still in the throes of K-Pop afterglow. Other than having Taemin give me a shoulder massage while viewing, I can’t think of any possible way my viewing experience could have been any more optimized. 

And this movie STILL disappointed me. 

I’ve been largely out of touch with movies during the 2000s. In the 1900s I was what they call a film nerd, and was always watching weird indie art movies and obscure classics and foreign cinema. 

My absolute all time favorite? The choreography of Busby Berkeley. Gee, no wonder I like K-Pop. If you’re unfamiliar try the Lullaby of Broadway sequence from Gold Diggers of 1935, or the entirety of Dames. Then Mel Brooks, who also loves Busby Berkeley. I’m also quite fond of Tarantino, Kubrick, Hitchcock, John Waters, and (fight me) Paul Verhoeven. There are wide gaps, I don’t like things that are too normal or popular, and there are entire genres (e.g. romcoms, westerns) that I’m more or less in denial about. These days I only keep up with Disneypixarmarvel. I really don’t like watching video anymore. Usually I’d rather just read a summary as I shuffle from one browser tab to the next. 

What turned me from film nerd to video avoidant? This century’s aesthetics, of which this movie is a prime offender. JWDom thinks we would rather see reunions between 80 year old actors than dinosaurs. So we have Ellie Sattler, Dr. Grant, and Ian Malcolm from the first installment, and various characters from the Chrisp Ratt portion of the franchise all getting introduced as though they had vaguely heard of each other, even though one would think persons connected with Jurassic Park would know each other. It’s a small club.

But hey, that’s the target audience for this movie: people who would rather hear Jeff Goldblum snark than look at dinosaurs.

Marvel fans too. The original movie might have been a slow paced ramble past magnificent brachiosaurs as actors make the Spielberg-face and react to whatever CGI will be added in later. This one is your standard White Guys Gotta Save The World Again. 

From Dodgson, the guy who bought Nedry’s shaving cream in the first movie – who is coded quite distinctly as autistic in this episode, with halting speech and angry meltdown. I can’t remember if he was like that before, or if they turned it way up. He’s the villain of this film too, as the characters scramble to prevent a worldwide famine brought about by Dodgson’s giant bioengineered grasshoppers so he can control the world with his evil bioengineered crops. Muahaha.

There are lots of white guys in this movie, although Barry from the other Jurassic Worlds shows up, and there’s a new Black helicopter pilot character, Kayla, who also might be a lesbian (she mentions liking redheads just like Chrisp Ratt). The brown people are mostly in the Tattooine-like dino black market in Malta, where you can bet on raptor fights and score yourself an illegally bred psittacosaurus. Henry Wu has morphed from a villain into a positive Asian character. So this movie is not entirely white, just mostly, especially the putative world-savers. Because the guys who produce movies like this thinks that’s what audiences really crave seeing, I guess. The prime demographic sure can be solipsistic. 

Thanks to Marvel, all action movies now have to be about saving the world. Because the heroes are saving the world, they have license to do antisocial things like violate traffic laws, destroy property, and bark orders at women. It’s like how in medieval festivals the fool wasn’t held culpable for any of his rulebreaking. He’s a man on a mission. 

The first Jurassic movie had plenty of time to stroll through lovely meadows full of dinosaurs, but in JWDom, matters are urgent and the world must be saved. 

From giant grasshoppers.

These hideous football-sized grasshoppers get more screen time than the dinosaurs, as we move to a parallel plot about how Dodgson bioengineered them to eat everyone’s crops but his own, and now they’re going caaa-razzzzzzy!! Fortunately he bioengineered them to automatically burst into spontaneous combustion whenever he gives the signal, because that’s exactly how bioengineering works.

And here’s the part where I move off into a parallel rant. About … I guess I could try coining a word for it, like “SciFiTarianism” or “ScienceFictionTology” but the essence of what I’m complaining about is the way cheesy SF has morphed into a stupid folk religion for ignorant people who don’t know jack about actual science, promulgated by old men still selling last century’s snake oil. In the Sfvangelical subculture, people are always getting cloned. Dinosaurs too. Psychic powers work, and other beings can control your mind, and you can use your brain waves to chuck stuff across the room. People can be programmed to be gay, straight, commie, or capitalist. Time travel is real and routine, and elaborate protocols have been established to prevent paradoxes. Big Science only wants to dominate people and use them like livestock, and scientists are depraved sociopaths. Aliens cruise around in UFOs kidnapping folks and sticking probes up their butts. Organic is always best. Ignorance is blessed. 

The kind of stuff that Qanon believers embrace. Every culture has its folklore, and in harsh times (e.g. plagues) people cling to that stuff, whether it concerns pixies, chupacabras, or JFK clones. 

I was sad on the day I was watching Dominion, because my collaborator and her husband are having long covid issues and she was unable to attend this fabulous Hollywood vacation, complete with a concert by her favorite band. Sometimes I wish my culture had had better stories to rely on so people wouldn’t have cobbled together a bunch of stupid theories taken straight from Sfvangelicism. Full of clones, and evil scientists, and saving the world. Then maybe they would have gotten their shots, worn their masks, stayed home. 

But noooooooo, vaccines are made by evil autistic dudes who try to destroy the world with giant grasshoppers, I saw it in a mooooovie once. 

So. Back to this dismal movie. 

The Jurassic series started out with Michael Crichton’s “what if” and has morphed into something nearly as convoluted as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The dinosaurs have morphed too, taking over most of the planet and integrating themselves seamlessly into the ecosystem. Pterosaurs nest on skyscrapers and soar with seagulls. Parasaurolophus and mustang herds stampede through Wyoming. Adorable miniraptors play in the parks. Occasionally a rex gets loose and eats a bunch of people. 

The movie claims that thanks to modern technology, they can now make even more accurate dinos, so we get the first feathered dinos in the Jurassic franchise, because it’s too late to keep the planet from being covered with dinos so we might as well just make more. We also get a gigantic feathery therizinosaurus, a relatively obscure creature with Wolverine-like claws. 

We don’t get nearly enough of the dinos, and for those who crave more dino action, I recommend the excellent Prehistoric Planet. JWDom is about grasshopper action, mostly. There are a few dino scenes that seem to be mostly interested in recreating prior cinematic moments, like when rexes point their noses skyward and do the mighty roar. 

We get a whole lot of the actors. Nothing like watching a pack of octogenarians evade t-rexes, in between sanctimonious lectures about how we should all save the planet they’ve been busy polluting with their jet set lifestyle for the last several decades. I would’ve preferred to see how all the Jurassic Park kids turned out, but I guess they’re all still too busy getting therapy. Eventually someone will do an 8-minute version of this film that edits all the humans (and grasshoppers) out, That will be the version to see. 

None of these actors have learned anything from the prior movies, because they all manage to get themselves chased by big mean theropods, plus there’s the always-amusing “let’s make the female characters deal with large bugs!” theme that Spielberg has been exploring since the Indiana Jones movies. 

One character has experienced some personal growth during this time: Blue the raptor. She’s a little bigger and has given birth (parthenogenetically) to a daughter-clone, whose function in this movie is to get kidnapped by idiots, raising the audience’s anxiety level. Chrisp, who is now very hesitant to approach Blue, promises to rescue the baby – named Beta by Chrisp’s own clone-daughter.

This is Maisie from the last installment, who is a clone of one of the original JP characters – who died of a genetic disease but not before curing it in Maisie with the kind of simplified Sftarian magicscience that antivaxxers rely on to explain how vaccines turn your DNA satanic. I did grudgingly like Maisie (we have similar taste in fashion), who is always turning her back and stomping off whenever Chrisp acts like a douchebag – I kinda wanted to do that myself but I was in a comfortable seat. 

Both daughter-clones, in fact, are kidnapped by the same idiots and taken to the black market dino dealership in Malta, and it’s up to Chrisp to rescue them, by recreating his motorcycle-with-raptors moment on antique steps. I just read about a couple of drunk American tourists who got in trouble for doing that in Italy, causing extensive damage, but hey, it’s a small price to pay when you’re primarily concerned about stroking the egos of world-saving white guys and their fanboys. Jim Dandy to the rescue. 

While he’s doing that, the original Jurassic Scooby gang reuintes. Ellie Sattler is now a climate change warrior, Dr. Grant is still digging up dinos, and Ian Malcolm is lecturing and signing books. According to the interweb meme factory, we’re all supposed to find Jeff Goldblum incredibly sexy, but the main thing I feel when looking at Jeff Goldblum is strong confirmation of my asexuality. Snarkiness is a major component of my dislike for current movie aesthetics, and it’s a great way to get me to click out of a movie and go do something else. If the characters can’t even suspend their disbelief long enough to put up with this trash, I don’t see why I should be obliged, unless there are going to be CGI dinosaurs or something to hold my interest. Ian Malcolm has turned into a doomer who makes dad jokes, and I find him exponentially more nonsexy in this version. 

After Malcolm and Sattler do some pontificating about doom and the need to save the planet, the whole cast heads to Dodgson’s Evil Sekret Lab (BioSyn -- it's sinful, get it? against life itself!) conveniently located in a dinosaur preserve, because I guess he couldn’t afford regular security guards – or maybe he’s self-aware enough to realize he’s in a Marvel rip-off universe and human security is completely expendable as well as a potential source of expensive wrongful death litigation. 

And then we’re basically doing the whole Dr. Sleep/ Harry Potter and the Cursed Child style greatest-hits/montage, where we are treated to a variety of recreations of camera angles from the original intellectual property. Dinos do battle. Humans sweat and contort their faces between scurrying to new hiding places. The daughter-clones are reunited with their parental-surrogates and niceness is restored to a land which looks tantalizingly chaotic and full of urban dinos (I would totally be in favor of mini raptors and pterosaurs doing pigeon and rodent control in my urban block) and a million stories more interesting than this one. 

Maybe someday people will resume making movies that make me want to be a film nerd, as opposed to movies like this. 

In fact, I'm kind of sad it's failing so hard at the box office, because they're using the same laser pointer + raptors gimmick that Sally and I used at one point in our story, and that might have been worth a few plagiarism points had this movie been successful.

In the meantime, if you want to see far better CGI dinosaurs, check out Prehistoric Planet. I was blown away.

Or  … I was going to do a GoFundMe for Sally, who is facing hospital bills in addition to everything else, although at least she was mercifully spared a majorly disappointing cinematic experience. But I thought I’d try to boost sales of Rhonda Wray: Raptor Wrangler instead. 

If you buy our book, Sally gets (at least) half the royalties, which will help with her bills, plus the more sales Amazon registers, the more it boosts visibility going forward and makes it likely she'll get a trickle of ongoing financial help. It’s not a very expensive book, and you might enjoy it – you don’t have to rate, review, like, or even read it, although those things would be appreciated because they also help our numbers. 

So if you like stories about dinosaurs but wish there was a brave girl sort of like that helicopter pilot pulling peoples’ bacon out of the fire rather than that Starlord guy (or if you’ve ever wanted to be alone in a tropical forest with your bias), this might be right up your alley. 

And you might want to wait until JWDom is available on video, which probably won't take long at all. 





Friday, June 10, 2022

Failure to Launch


The often-postponed launch party for Rhonda Wray: Raptor Wrangler (which grew to encompass my forthcoming book Approaching Storm) has been reconfigured to something small, intimate, and well-ventilated. Co-author Sally Smith and her husband are having some serious health problems, and the risk isn’t worth it. 

Thanks for saving the date. I’m not sure if I’ll be throwing any launch parties – ever – unless I can figure out how to make high tech socially distanced parties that are still fun. 

I’ve actually been re-thinking my novel-writing hobby over this. Originally it was an excuse to throw parties and travel, two things I normally enjoy doing, even more when they’re deductable business expenses. Covid has complicated that and made it hazardous. And on a different level, my recently-acquired agoraphobia has finally gotten me to start talking to a therapist. 

During the pandemic, I grew to love and appreciate my music friends even more. Music sustained me through all the isolation, confinement, uncertainty. At the same time, a lot of my relationships with my literary friends fractured, because science fictional people became my primary source of social anxiety. 

Author Stephanie Burke recently had an incident at a convention wherein a person known as Lisa Adler-Golden ambushed her in public to yell at her over what turned out to be bogus charges, Google it if you’re interested. I’ve run into a few of Adler-Golden’s clones over the years, this is the kind of performance art they like to do to people outside their clique, especially if they’re neurodiverse. Before the pandemic I could probably defend myself by discussing my litigation-related life experience, but these days I’m inarticulate and generally bad at verbalizing, and likely to start using foul language if an old nemesis suddenly appears. In fact, the person who was instrumental in my Single Instance of Workplace Sexual Harassment is going to be pontificating at Worldcon. Meanwhile, Nine Inch Nails is playing at Red Rocks that same weekend, so I’ve made my plans. 

I was still planning a smaller launch party at Baycon in San Mateo, but I’m no longer inviting the general public to that out of concern for Sally’s wellbeing. Plus there’s a very personal story, which I won’t tell with the O. Henry synchronicity intact unless/until I outlive all the other parties, but it involves a major life disappointment, which inspired me to dump all my strong feelings about it into Approaching Storm – only to have an Authoritative Science Fiction Dude tell me in no uncertain terms that I should not write a book like Approaching Storm – because it has sex scenes, and I admitted I’m an asexual writer who had someone with major erotica-writing experience go over those parts to make sure I didn’t write anything too cringey. 

I’ll probably keep writing, because I’m addicted to it now, even though it seems sort of like an exercise in existential absurdity – if I’m not doing it for the money, the rep, the socializing, what’s the point? 

That’s kind of the story of my life as a writer, though. I'm good at things like characters and plots, bad at figuring out what to say. Maybe someday I’ll get it. Until then, I’m just going to keep throwing spaghetti to the wall until it sticks, in a literary sense. And refusing to throw potentially lethal and/or stressful launch parties. 


Sunday, May 1, 2022

Genre Reveal!

My new genre is:

DARK FANTASY

The new title: 

Approaching Storm

Dark Fantasy is right at the intersection of fantasy and horror. Some other Dark Fantasy stories you might be familiar with: 

  • The Dark Tower by Stephen King
  • The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
  • The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  • Tales of Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock
  • Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos by H.P. Lovecraft
  • Pan’s Labyrinth
  • The Dark Crystal
  • The Crow
  • City of Lost Children; and
  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Mine isn’t as good as any of these, except for Twilight. It kicks Twilight’s ass. For many reasons, including: (1) my fantasy lover looks like Taemin instead of Robert Pattinson, plus he understands about consent; (2) Twilight’s hero Bella is a clumsy bookworm who mopes a lot and Approaching Storm’s hero Marissa Storm is an active bookworm fighting Qanons and antivaxxers; (3) Twilight is about some people of European descent and some Native Americans who are actually magic werewolves while Approaching Storm is more diverse including quite a few autistic characters; (4) Twilight makes you wait until book four for an actual sex scene, which turns out to be brutal and disgusting, while Approaching Storm is quite the opposite. 

Editor Sumiko Saulson has done a fantastic job of turning my pandemic ramblings into an actual novel, and I am very pleased with their genre assignment. 

Hey conspirazoids, I've got your storm right here. Coming soon as I get caffeinated enough to finish the final draft. 

And take a new author photo suitable for a Dark Fantasy writer. Which is something I’ve never done before. I have no idea what to wear.



Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Almost ready to launch - Conspiracy Cult Massacre

I'm a horror novelist now.

Conspiracy Cult Massacre is currently with the editor, and I'm working with a brand new cover artist. 

It's the story of Marissa, who loses her family to covid, except for Aunt Lana, whom nobody talks about. But she's willing to give shelter to Marissa, and to Kevin, her nonverbal autistic friend from the hospital waiting room, who is grieving too. 

Then Marissa travels to the south to find her cousin, and Aunt Lana's son, John. Unfortunately, along the way she runs into a conspiracy cult, who believe the world is run by an evil pedophile cabal where world leaders and celebrities abuse children in secret underground bunkers connected to globe-spanning bullet trains. And they've built a detention center where they're holding several suspected Antifas hostage in a former breakfast restaurant specializing in waffles. 

Fortunately Marissa has a good friend who is a transdimensional tantric elf who lives in a tesseract, plotting revenge against his homeworld, although she's not altogether certain whether he's real. Maybe he'll help. 


NC17 for ultraviolence, explicit sex, sexual abuse, cussing, regular violence, racism, sexism, ableism, devil stuff, fulminate of mercury, bondage, gay marriage, Scientology, breath play, two pets get murdered off camera, cannabis smoking, alcohol drinking, all kinds of death, and K-Pop. 

It's in my editor's hands now so I'm not sure if ze will suggest I cut any of that, but I doubt it. Sumiko Saulson knows a lot about horror.

Coming soon.


Sunday, January 30, 2022

It's Live!

 


It’s live! Astrology For People Who Don’t Believe In Astrology – a book about critical thinking (specifically targeted at people searching for “astrology”) and astrology. It’s free this week (starting on the 31st) so I would appreciate it a lot if you grab a free download (you don’t have to read it). It's gonna be five bucks starting next week (six for the paperback) because my bank account is retrograde.  

I just archived most of this blog. Time for new directions. 

I'm not going to promote this book as much as I promote my fiction, but I think it'll find an audience. 

After all, there aren't many books out there that talk about squeegate, ayanamsas, Club 27, whether scorpios all wear latex and why Baader-Meinhof goes with confirmation bias like peanut butter and jelly. 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Astrology For People Who Don't Believe in Astrology

I’m doing something a little different. A book called “Astrology For People Who Don’t Believe In Astrology.” 

If you’ve been hanging around this blog for a while you know I was doing something called The Skeptical Astrologer, where I look at ideas associated with astrology, without endorsing astrology. The Sonny Knight trilogy was an extended riff on astrology symbolism while containing absolutely no mysticism. I grew up surrounded by esoteric symbolism and am absolutely fascinated with it, even though I’m definitely on the nonmystical side. 

I shifted positions though, and in the Introduction I list four specific reasons: (1) a Newsweek cover story from 2017 claiming that all the astrologers thought a pending eclipse would make Donald Trump go away; (2) a multimillion dollar settlement in a fraud case where seniors were datamined through an astrology and psychic reading service; (3) some ineffectual rebuttals I’ve seen from skeptics who are so ignorant of whatever they claim to be against that they stumble into promoting things like ignorance and Eurocentrism; and (4) I lost a good friend a few years back and it had a huge impact. I can’t help thinking that there are a lot of bereaved these days feeling similarly, vulnerable to scams. Not to mention the vast numbers of conspiracy weirdos who have sprouted, some of whom are claiming astrology verifies their predictions (spoiler: no it doesn’t). 

 At first I decided to write a book about The Best Logical Fallacy For Your Sign To Avoid, thinking I could trick people looking for mysticism into reading a book about logical fallacies, but it grew bigger. This is what I’ve currently got for back-cover-copy: 

At last! An astrology book for the rest of us! This book will show you:
  • The best logical fallacy for your zodiac sign to avoid! 
  • The impossibility of predicting a single person’s death let alone all of them!
  • Why you can identify as whatever zodiac sign you want AND find an astrological loophole to justify it!
  • How to tell the difference between a harmless astrology nerd offering spiritual advice within a traditionalist framework and a fraudulent humbug trying to use astrology to separate your Aunt Mildred from her house!
  • What an ayanamsha is, or enough about how astrology theoretically works so you can have better arguments about it that people might actually listen to! 
  • How to write a convincing astrologer character for your fantasy or historical novel!
  • How to detect and avoid doomsday cults, skeevy dataminers and catfishing grifters!
  • Why mercury is always in gatorade!
You will not learn a single thing about your soulmate, personality, individual future or past lives from this book. It won’t show you how to draw up an astrological chart either. However, it just might be the first book about astrology that people who are generally interested in astrology (while allowing that much of what’s written about it is utter codswallop) and skeptics can enjoy together. 

I’m rushing this one because it seems timely and hope to have it out in the next couple of months. I’m not going to do a lot of promotion, other than hoping it’ll maybe catch on. I was thinking about using a variant of my name, keeping Charon Dunn for YA fiction and using Lani or Charon L. or something for nonfiction, but this is a book YAs might like, especially if their friends keep bugging them about Mercury Retrograde and they want a better counter-argument than a broad dismissal of astrology. 

I’m still in love with zodiac symbolism. I still use mystical concepts to structure my stories about non-mysticism, just like all those people who use Bible quotes in stories that aren’t necessarily religious. There is nothing in my book that is hostile towards people interested in religion and mysticism, or people whose interest in astrology does not extend to manipulation and fraud. 

However, for the people who are interested in manipulating and defrauding the bereaved, I’ve got a few things to say that they’re not going to like.

Stay tuned. 

And here's a progress drawing on the gorgeous cover art by renowned artist FNoRD.