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Archive for January, 2013

Three Reviews:

Zero Dark Thirty (Movie, 2012) 5/5 Stars

No Easy Day by Mark Owen (Book, 2012) 5/5 Stars

The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden by Mark Bowden (Book, 2012) 5/5 Stars

Movie trailer for Zero Dark Thirty

I cheered when I learned Osama Bin Laden was killed by Seal Team 6 on May 1, 2011. I’ve wanted that evil man dead ever since I learned he was behind the 9/11 tragedy. Fuck Al Qaeda, and all the deluded jihadists who think terrorism is the way to change the world for the better. Terrorism is not the answer.

When I heard there was going to be a big Hollywood movie I knew I was going to watch it. I also knew I was going to read some books about the hunt for Bin Laden. I think it’s therapy for me, closure for the horror that was 9/11, one of the worst days of my life. Those of you too young to remember what happened, may not feel the same way, and I think that’s fine. I hope you aren’t traumatized like I was.

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I’m not going to forget what al Qaeda did on September 11, 2001. I’m not going to forget United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania because the passengers fought back. They saved the Capitol building in Washington D.C., or possibly the White House. The terrorists responsible deserve to die or spend the rest of their lives in a very uncomfortable prison.

I’ve now read two books about this topic, The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden by Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down, which is more of a historical account with high-level interviews and tons of fascinating information, and No Easy Day by Mark Owen, the Navy Seal who was there on the raid. I learned from those books, and from terrorism expert Peter Bergen’s online articles that the info that led to Bin Laden was not gained from torture. I do not support torture, though I can’t say I’m unhappy about certain terrorists suffering. Still, torture is wrong.

The facts are that torture did NOT give us the info that led to the killing of Bin Laden. The movie, Zero Dark Thirty, hints that torture helped get the info, which is wrong, but it lets the audience draw their own conclusions. If you want to know the truth, read those books I’ve mentioned and the forthcoming one from terrorism expert, Peter Bergen. I might read it, as I don’t know yet if I can close this chapter of my life. I want to close it.

I personally felt that the movie makers (Kathryn Bigelow–director, and Mark Boal–the screenwriter) were indicting the use of torture, not glorifying or justifying it. They will not come out and give their opinions to the press, but I think they do not agree with torture. They just didn’t want to make their position clear in the movie. The movie is not partisan. Both the right and the left can appreciate and enjoy this movie. It’s a little slow for some people, but I found it fascinating from beginning to end.

Now, I believe the people who freaked out about the torture shown in Zero Dark Thirty missed the point. The writer/director are putting the abuses by the United States government on the record. Forever.

The U.S. should not have used “enhanced interrogation techniques” because torture does not produce good intelligence, and it’s morally wrong. The FBI model of interrogation is far superior to the CIA method used in the wake of 9/11, and documented in Zero Dark Thirty. Read up on the subject if you want to learn more. Draw your own conclusions.

I personally think the movie was great. One of the best of the year for sure and worthy of the Best Picture Oscar nomination. I’m glad I read the books first though, but Zero Dark Thirty is an exceptional film and presents the spirit of what happened, if not the exact details as I’ve learned them.

It’s a thriller, combined with a CIA procedural, and Jessica Chastain, playing the CIA analyst, “Maya,” was incredible. Extreme dedication and tenacity can accomplish anything. Sometimes you piss people off along the way of getting the job done, like she did in real life. I applaud the real Maya, and all the people who worked on finding Bin Laden. The two books give a lot more information about specific details regarding her that did not make it into the movie. Read them for more.

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I hope Jessica Chastain wins an Oscar for her performance, and she was nominated for Best Actress. She’s my new favorite actor. I first saw her in auteur director Terrence Malick’s movie, Tree of Life (2011) where she stars alongside Brad Pitt. It’s a bizarre and beautiful movie. Worth a watch, but in Zero Dark Thirty, Chastain provides the thread that spans the TEN YEAR hunt. See her also in director Guillermo del Toro’s horror film, Mama coming in early 2013.

The U.S. intelligence and military people kicked ass, and though it took a long time, they tracked that piece of trash Bin Laden to his hideout and killed him. The Seal Team would have captured him if he surrendered, but he did not surrender, and presented a threat to our soldiers, so they shot him. In the eye. Then in the chest a few times when he was twitching on the ground in his room with two of his wives standing over him.
 
Read Mark Owen’s book (Amazon link here) to learn more about the raid, but the movie shows it in almost real time what the soldiers were doing. I highly recommend the Navy Seal account, but Mark Bowden’s book has some details that really complement the first hand account.

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My quick review of No Easy Day by former Navy Seal, Mark Owen is simply this: it’s a great book. It should have been written. Mark Owen (not his real name of course) fought for the U.S. Constitution for over a decade, which guarantees his rights to have written the book, which does not include any classified information. To those who revealed his real name and put his life at risk: shame on you, Fox News. Mark Owen is not a fan of Barack Obama. You idiots went after a guy on your own team. Did you even read the book before you decided to out him? Morons. I guess I should not be surprised.

So, No Easy Day chronicles Mark Owen’s life as a Navy Seal. This is his autobiography, and most of the book is about his experiences leading up to his last mission. I found it all incredibly moving and a tribute to the U.S. military, as he intended. The Navy Seals, and all their support are true heroes. The chopper pilot who saved the mission is the biggest hero of all. He gets shorted in the movie, but not the books.

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My review of The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden by Mark Bowden: It’s an amazing book (Amazon link here). I became a fan of Mark Bowden after reading Black Hawk Down, which describes the tragic events in Somalia where a mission went wrong in 1993. Bowden is a fabulous journalist and writer. This is a very fair account of what happened during the ten years leading up to the raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan. This book divulges a lot more information than No Easy Day, but it’s all unclassified, which amazes me. There is far more sensitive information in The Finish than No Easy Day. I wonder if I should really know what I know about our intelligence services. Let’s just say that super computers and game changing tactics wiped out al Qaeda in Iraq, and helped find Bin Laden.

The analyst, “Maya,” and a whole heck of a lot of other people helped bring Bin Laden down. As an aside, I learned that the real Maya was given an award and a monetary bonus for her incredible work, but she was refused a promotion. That is serious bullshit. Unless she’s so good at the level she’s at, and that’s why they didn’t promote her, but from what I’ve read, her bosses don’t like her attitude or whatever. I don’t know all the facts, but it seems totally wrong to me. Promote her. That woman knows how to get things done. The speech that Maya makes in Zero Dark Thirty to her boss, and is hinted at in the books, will blow you away. I want to watch the movie again just for that.

I felt a lot of closure watching Zero Dark Thirty, and reading these two books, regarding the trauma of the 9/11 attacks I still carry around in my head. Learning so many of the details helped me deal with the horrors I remember.

The movie and the books also hold up a mirror to what the U.S. and our allies have done to combat terrorism, and a lot of it is not good. Torture was the wrong way to go. The movies and books also show the true evil of al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden, a mass murderer and coward of epic proportions.

Go see Zero Dark Thirty and judge for yourself. See the movie, then read some books.

Here’s a pure movie review I agree with:
Movie Review http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/entertainment2/55586120-223/cia-bin-laden-maya.html.csp#comments

This is a well written and balanced article about the movie, written by Andrew O’Hehir.
http://www.salon.com/2012/12/29/the_zero_dark_thirty_debate_isnt_really_about_torture/

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Let the Right One In

Review of “Let the Right One In” (book and movie) and; “Let Me In” (movie) and; “Let the Old Dreams Die” (short story)

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Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (English translator: Ebba Segerberg 2008)

I read an incredible and gripping vampire novel, one of the best books I’ve ever read in the genre, Let the Right One In, the international bestseller by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindquvist. Five out of five stars.
Amazon Link:

Before I read the novel, I watched both the Swedish and American versions of the movie, and then had to read the book to learn more about the fascinating characters. I was captivated and obsessed after watching the movies, both in the same night. I rented them from Blockbuster Video on Blu-ray, and they are available for purchase on Amazon as DVDs, On-Demand or Blu-ray.

The translator (Ebba Segerberg) did a fantastic job and I highly recommend this to Stephen King fans and vampire fans. Overall, the book is in the same vein as the Anne Rice vampire novels, but with a great new spin that I shall not spoil here. Lindqvist has a fresh take on the vampire mythos, but gives many nods to the traditions of the modern genre. It’s a horror novel, and it is quite gory and scary at times, but in reality. There is also a fair amount about pedophilia, and murder. Few of the characters are at all likable, but they are fascinating. Lindqvist is a master at characterization, and this book truly about finding great love. Yes, it’s romantic. I swear!

Let The Right One In (Swedish movie 2008)
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The story is set in Sweden in 1981, and is about a 12 year old boy, Oskar, who is bullied and has some serious psychological issues. Oskar has a tough life and often fantasizes about killing his tormentors. He’s going down a dark life path when a strange girl moves in next door. Her name is Eli. She does not go to school and appears to live with her father, and has absolutely no problem wearing a t-shirt and no shoes in the bitterly cold winter night. Makes you wonder what sort of person is immune to cold. Is she a little girl at all, or something more sinister?

Swedish movie trailer (English subtitles). Five Stars

Let the Right One In (Swedish movie 2008) here.
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Eli and Oskar become friends and the story goes from there. The novel has a lot more than the movies, as it has several other story threads from many different characters. It’s really a milieu story, showing a lot about the world and the people who live in the Stockholm suburb of Blackberg. There are some really dark and depressing characters, especially Hakan, who appears to be Eli’s father. He’s a very sick man.

I blasted through the novel and read it in only a few days. It scared the crap out of me a couple of times and Let the Right One in is an instant classic. It’s easy to understand why they made two films (Swedish and an English version) from this novel.

The ending of the book was good, but the movies did it even better. I’m glad I had seen the movies first and I think seeing the movies first is the better idea, as the book is always better, so you won’t be disappointed in the movies, as they do leave out a bunch.

The ending was not my favorite, because I think Lindqvist wasn’t sure what to do. The fantastic news is that he wrote an epilogue to the epilogue! He put out a short story collection with the epilogue to Let the Right One In, called Let the Old Dreams Die. That is the title of the story about what happens to the characters in the novel. It’s a brilliant short story and fills in the gaps and explains what happened. I loved it. The short story gave me chills and I’ve been thinking about it for days. If you do read the book and enjoy it, you must, must, MUST, read the short story: Let the Old Dreams Die. It was a little slow, but masterfully done and you will love the ending. The most important questions are answered.

Let The Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist
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Amazon Link for the book: here
I give the short story four and half out of five stars.

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The American movie is also great, though I liked the Swedish one better, Both were awesome, don’t get me wrong. Both should be viewed. The Swedish one is slower, more contemplative, and the characters more likable, I think, especially Oskar. Consider watching the Swedish one first, as it’s more pure and closer to the source material. The screenplay for the American version is terrific, though, and the actors top notch. The American version is faster, scarier, has more Hollywood effects, and you can tell you’re watching a Hollywood horror movie.

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Chloe Moretz in Let Me In (2010)

The American version, Let Me In (2010) stars Chloe Moretz (she was in Kick Ass) and Kodi Smit-McPhee. These young actors deliver astonishing performances. View it on IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1228987/

Here’s the movie trailer for the American version. Four and half out of five stars.

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Okay everyone, here’s the introduction to the SAMURAI SERIAL NOVEL I’m co-writing: “THE DROWNING EMPIRE” with my fellow “Writer Nerd Game Night” friends (we play once a month). It’s basically Legend of the Five Rings fan fiction based on a samurai role-playing campaign I’m playing in with Larry Correia, our New York Times Bestselling author and Incredible Game Master. This is such a great story and Larry is sharing it free every Friday on his blog.

Legend of the Five Rings is an incredible role-playing game. Check it out. Please.

The details . . .

The players/co-authors:

Patrick Tracy–playing Moto Subotai of the Unicorn Clan, swordsman, archer, horseman, and poet–Subo is the best friend of my character Akodo Toranaka, and official hostage of the Akodo family–watched over of course by Toranaka.

Me, Paul Genesse, playing Akodo Toranaka–top graduate of the Golden Plains Dojo, a man dedicated to all tenets of Bushido, a swordsman and tactician, destined to be a great Lion Clan general and follow in his father’s footsteps someday . . . unless the Fortunes are cruel and his Secret Enemy (not in the group mind you, takes their revenge).

Steve Diamond–playing Ikoma Uso of the Lion Clan . . . “Nothing to see here, I’m only a bard,” Uso says (yeah right!) as he kicks everyone’s ass with his giant sword, a “no-dachi.” Uso has the help of one of his twisted ancestors, who haunts more than his dreams. Read Uso’s intro to the campaign on the link below.

Yoritomo Oki of the Mantis Clan, who is a lecherous and greedy drunken sailor with a gambling problem who is also the best archer of his generation, played with gusto by Tony Battaglino.

The lumbering oaf of a warrior, Suzume Shintaro of the lowly Sparrow clan who is the most honorable and gullible samurai (with a huge bladed spear!) and wannabe historian you’ll ever meet, played by with quiet panache by Zachary Hill,

Lastly, Tamori Isao of the Dragon Clan, a half-mad shugenja (wizard-priest) who speaks with the spirits far too often, and is haunted by the death of his mother, killed by a terrible tsunami. Isao is played by Brad Torgersen, whose fiction in this serial novel will blow you away.

All of the player/authors, and especially the game master, are excellent writers, and this is going to be a fun ride, as the samurai heroes try to save the Emerald Empire from certain destruction.

Larry Correia has created an epic storyline and we’ve already written over 100,000 words in what we’re calling, THE DROWNING EMPIRE. “Fear the water . . .”

Read the introduction here on Larry’s blog.

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Ten Questions

I was tagged by awesome author, Bryan Young, who sent me these ten questions.

1) What is the working title of your next book?

Medusa’s Daughter, Book 1 in the Medusa’s Curse trilogy.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’ve always been fascinated in the Medusa myth, in which the god Poseidon is supposed to have raped Medusa, and then the goddess Athena curses vain Medusa (her own priestess!) with the power of the gorgon. I decided to spin the story in my own way, taking a more realistic approach, similar to what author Mary Renault did. Renault is the J.R.R. Tolkien of historical fantasies set in ancient Greece and I’m a huge fan. Medusa’s Daughter is quite a bit different though, as I didn’t write in the first person like Renault, nor did I take out all the supernatural magic. A Medusa story has to have magic.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Mainstream or fantasy, depending on how it’s marketed.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Medusa: Angelina Jolie or Kate Beckinsale
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Nerissa (Medusa’s Daughter): Jessica Alba or Alexis Bledel

Nikandros (Nerissa’s love interest): Jake Gyllenhaal or Liam Hemsworth

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5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Medusa’s daughter has inherited her mother’s terrible curse and longs to escape her lonely life on the shattered island where her mother and aunts have been exiled, but when a mysterious sailor washes ashore she falls in love, then discovers there might be a way for the curse to be broken, she must look into the eyes of her true love, but if he’s not, she will kill the only man she ever loved.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It will be represented by an agency if all goes according to plan.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

One year, but I shelved the first draft to work on other projects, and dabbled with it off and on for six years, not touching it for years at a time. Finally, it’s almost ready as of January 2013. I’ve got about 60 pages left to rewrite at this time. During those six years I worked full-time as a cardiac nurse at a big hospital, wrote and published three novels in my Iron Dragon series, wrote a dozen short stories, and served as the editor of the first four volumes in the Crimson Pact anthology series, which is made up of eighty-something stories, and clocks in at over half a million words. Medusa’s Daughter is finally my main focus again.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

New York Times’ bestseller, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (2012), which is set partially during the Trojan War, and is told in the point of view of Patroclus, the companion of Achilles.

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9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Medusa, the evil gorgon who haunts my dreams.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I visited Greece in 2006 to do some research, and have read a lot on the subject over the past years, fiction and non-fiction. I’ve tried my best to imagine what it was actually like to live in ancient Greece, and create realistic characters and a compelling story. The main reason is to read about Prince Nikandros, and of course Nerissa, who has one of the most diabolical mothers of all time.

Read the opening chapter of the current draft of Medusa’s Daughter here,  or view the first novel in his Iron Dragon series here, here.

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