Wonder Woman: A Dark Fantasy-Adventure

Wonder Woman was written by Zack Snyder and Allan Heinberg and directed by Patty Jenkins [Monster (2003) and The Killing (2011-2012)]. It stars Gal Gadot [Keeping up with the Joneses (2016), Furious 7 (2015)] as Diana, Chris Pine [Star Trek (2009), Hell or High Water (2016)] as American spy Steve Trevor, and Danny Huston [Hitchcock (2012), Robin Hood (2010), 30 Days of Night (2007)] as General Ludendorff.

Diana/Wonder Woman is a young, fearless woman with a mysterious destiny who lives on an idyllic island with fellow Amazon warriors. They spend their days preparing for a conflict with the Greek god of war, Ares. One day, a pilot (Steve Trevor) crash lands in the ocean and Diana saves him. The German Navy is in pursuit, and after a brief battle the Amazons defeat the German search party. Diana helps Trevor get off the island and return to 1918 Europe, where she thinks Ares has orchestrated the First World War.

Wonder Woman is enjoyable and fast-paced. It’s 141 minutes but never feels that long. The action is never exhausting until the end, when of course there has to be some apocalyptic battle between Wonder Woman and Ares. Through interacting with a cast of characters from 1918 Europe and America, Diana becomes disillusioned with humanity. In the end, Trevor’s sacrifice to destroy a new poison gas developed by General Ludendorff’s chemist, Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya), makes Diana realize humanity might be worth saving after all.

The “fish out of water” scenes are genuinely funny and charming. The interaction between Diana and Trevor is great, but you never really have a sense of them falling in love (they share an identical dance scene to the one between Peter Quill and Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy to establish their chemistry). It’s another “two hot people hook up”-type of romance.

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Shades of Gray: Abraham Milestone’s Revenge

The following is an excerpt of a short story from my book Shades of Gray: Strange Tales from the Old Dominion, now available exclusively on Amazon Kindle. Order it today for only $2.99.

FBI Agent Annetta Nixon stood with her cell phone pressed against her ear at the crest of a hill near an abandoned Baptist church just outside of Norfolk. A sprawling cemetery rested a few yards behind the white, clapboard church, and a large neo-classical mausoleum sat in the middle of the cemetery. The setting sun painted the sky orange.

“I’m here,” the agent said. “I don’t see any activity.” She ran her free hand through her short, brunette hair and scanned the area with her well-trained eyes. “I’m going to proceed to the church—will report back if I find anything.”

She slapped her phone closed, slid it into her pocket, and moved that hand over the grip of her pistol just in case. Cautiously, she headed toward the church doors. Before she could determine whether the rusted chain around the handles was locked, the sharp wail of a siren pierced the air and a searchlight fell against the dirty white walls of the tabernacle. She sighed in frustration.

Two squad cars, one blue and one white, pulled up the driveway to the summit of the hill. Virginia Beach Police Department was painted on the side of the blue cruiser, and Norfolk Police Department on the side of the other. They stopped just behind Agent Nixon’s car, blocking her exit, and two uniformed men got out. One of their doors struck her vehicle, but neither police officer seemed to notice.

“Good evening ma’am,” the lead officer, who wore a dark blue shirt, said as he approached the church. The officer that followed wore a tan shirt, but the pair were both noticeably overweight.

Agent Nixon readied her badge. “My name is Annetta Nixon, FBI,” she said with authority. “Can I help you gentlemen?”

“We got a call about some vandals up here,” Kipp Leet, the lead officer, informed her.

“No one is supposed to be up here after dark,” the other officer, Ron O’Dell, a local Norfolk policeman, added.

Agent Nixon glanced up at the sky, which was still illuminated by the last rays of sunlight. “I’d say it’s a little early for a trespassing charge, isn’t it?” she asked with a touch of sarcasm. There was no response from either of the two police officers, so she continued. “I’m here to investigate the possible site of a meth lab,” she said. “If either of you would like to assist me that would be fine, but otherwise please stay out of my way.”

“Excuse me, but who gave you the authorization?” Officer Leet demanded. “This is a city matter. You don’t have jurisdiction here.”

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Heart Island in Bloom

Boldt Castle. 1 Heart Island, Alexandria Bay, New York 13607. (315) 482-9724

All-American Diner Tour: Magic’s Diner in Felts Mills, New York

Located along State Route 3 between Felts Mills and Great Bend, New York, Magic’s Diner (formerly Magic’s Golden Unicorn) is a country-style diner known for its “Mountain Challenge” and is a favorite of soldiers from nearby Fort Drum.

According to their Facebook page, Magic’s Golden Unicorn opened in November 2014. It rebranded as Magic’s Diner in May 2016, but retained the same menu and staff. The “Mountain Challenge” consists of two eggs, two pieces of bacon, two sausages, toast, home fries, and two 32 oz buttermilk pancakes (4 lbs!) for $13.95. As of writing this, only eight people have successfully eaten the entire meal.

In terms of food quality, my several visits to this diner have been a mixed bag. On one visit, I ordered a ham and cheese omelet and it was runny and undercooked, but the potatoes were well done. On another, I ordered one extra-large “challenge” pancake and a side of bacon, which was more than I could handle. The pancake was thick and tasted great. A friend told me he was inspired by my effort and also hoped to eat a big pancake in the future. The service has always been good. Their waitresses are friendly and helpful.

On Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. they offer a breakfast buffet and hold a “cruise in” for classic cars, imports, and motorcycles on Tuesday nights from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the summer.

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Civil War Ballads: Two Little Boys

American composer Theodore F. Morse and lyricist Edward Madden wrote “Two Little Boys” in 1902 as a music hall song about two brothers who dream of growing up and joining the cavalry. The Country Gentlemen recorded a version for their album Bluegrass at Carnegie Hall (1962). Like “Marching through Georgia,” this song also gained international fame. In 1969, an Australian entertainer named Rolf Harris popularized it on his BBC variety show in the United Kingdom, and today it’s more well-known across the ocean.

Two little boys had two little toys
Each had a wooden horse
Gaily they played each summer’s day
Warriors both of course
One little chap then had a mishap
Broke off his horse’s head
Wept for his toy then cried with joy
As his young playmate said

Did you think I would leave you crying
When there’s room on my horse for two
Climb up here Jack and don’t be crying
I can go just as fast with two
When we grow up we’ll both be soldiers
And our horses will not be toys
And I wonder if we’ll remember
When we were two little boys

Long years had passed, war came so fast
Bravely they marched away
Cannon roared loud, and in the mad crowd
Wounded and dying lay
Up goes a shout, a horse dashes out
Out from the ranks so blue
Gallops away to where Joe lay
Then came a voice he knew

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Predictable Race a Media Conundrum

I used to love reading the news, now I can’t stand it. The national news media has become an absurd a parody of itself. In the latest freakout, the news media convinced millions of people that the special election to fill Georgia’s sixth congressional district was a crucial test for Donald Trump’s presidency. Republicans have held the district since 1979.

In a result that should have shocked no one, Republican Karen Handel, Georgia’s secretary of state, defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff, a 30-year old newcomer who doesn’t even live in the district. What is surprising is how well he did–48%. Unprecedented Democratic spending made this the most expensive House race in history. We were expected to believe this election was a referendum on President Trump and a Democratic victory would be devastating to Trump’s agenda. One “expert” even predicted (hopefully, I assume) rain would keep Handel’s voters away.

Look at this NPR headline:

“Karen Handel Hopes to Win Traditionally GOP House Seat”, as though she’s the underdog! In the wake of Handel’s victory, we’re told Democrats are “despondent” and the electoral loss was a “massive blow.” “When will they [Democrats] win?” CNN, based in Atlanta, Georgia, asked. “Democratic strategists and candidates are pondering what went wrong.”

Who decided this race would be an easy win for Democrats? Why was it even important to begin with? (Even if Ossoff won, Republicans would still have a 43-seat majority in the House)

In the end, voters voted business as usual. Frank Bruni at the New York Times at least gave an honest assessment when he wrote, “Democrats were swimming against the current in Georgia. The House seat that their sights were on had been safely in Republican hands for nearly four decades. Georgia’s Sixth District is purple only if you scrunch your eyes just so. If you un-scrunch them and look at it honestly, it’s red.”

The election was actually really close. In previous elections in that district, Republican candidates have won by a landslide. Ossoff is the first Democratic candidate in that district to win over 40% of the vote since 1974. Why isn’t that a news story? Suddenly there’s “nothing to see here” because events didn’t pan out as hoped.

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