A Controversial Open Letter

I would like to share an open letter to those of you who have not yet pre-ordered my new novel, Benjamin’s Parasite:

February 28, 2009
Tampa, Florida

Dear Sir or Madam:

DEAR GOD, WHY NOT??? What have I done to receive this cruel treatment??? Aren’t we friends anymore? Please, if you buy just this one I’ll never ask for anything else on this blog for as long as it’s updated on a semi-regular basis! Oh, please, I need this so bad…I’m succumbing to tears of sorrow and shame right now…please, please, please, please, please don’t let my career flush down the toilet like a bloated dead goldfish…

Sincerely Yours,
Jeff Strand, Published Author

Tod Clark, the ultimate finder of errors in not-yet-published novels, said “I really think Benjamin’s Parasite is the best book you’ve written to date. I will be talking this up to anyone who will listen; it was one fun-filled, action-packed book.” 

And I didn’t get Tod’s permission to quote him on my blog, so if you order a copy based on that, it will be oooooh so naughty!

If you order before February has ended, you increase my chances of making it onto February bestseller lists, and thus you contribute to my comeuppance when I’m all like “Yeah, baby, I made it onto the February bestseller list! I frickin’ rule!!!” and then somebody says “Yeah, well, February is the shortest month, isn’t it?” and then I’m all humbled and stuff. 

Click the following URL now. Do it. C’mon, do it. It won’t hurt you none. 

http://www.horror-mall.com/BENJAMINS-PARASITE-by-Jeff-Strand-Trade-Paperback-p-19043.html

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Le Barf

Trivia: Three of the five Best Picture nominees feature graphic scenes of people throwing up. (The Reader is extra chunky.)

During the puke scene in last night’s episode of Lost, I wondered when regurgitation became okay on prime time TV. Not in an offended “This must stop before our children are ruined!” manner, but simple curiosity. Was there a breakthrough puke moment, in the way that Psycho featured the first time a toilet was flushed on the screen? 

Does anybody know? And do you think that vomiting scenes in movies and television are too prevalent in contemporary society?

Discuss.

Oscar Stuff

Okay, yesterday I saw all five of the Best Picture nominees and ate more popcorn than a human being really should consume in a 13-hour period. Slumdog Millionaire was definitely my favorite of the five, followed closely by Milk. I also loved Frost/Nixon and (surprisingly) The Reader. I enjoyed The Curious Case of Benjamin Button but didn’t think it was even remotely Best Picture-worthy. 

Both Sean Penn and Frank Langella would deserve a Best Actor win, but I think it will go to Mickey Rourke, even though I haven’t seen The Wrestler. Brad Pitt is a terrible choice. At no point during Benjamin Button did I really feel like I was watching a child in an old man’s body, or vice-versa–amazing special effects, yeah, but not a great performance. (In fact, until the very end, I wasn’t quite sure if he was aging backwards mentally, or just physically.)

I’ve only seen one of the Best Actress performances, but I’ll predict the one I saw: Kate Winslet in The Reader, even though it’s really more of a supporting role. 

I think Heath Ledger is a deserving lock for Best Supporting Actor. The Joker was awesome. Although it would be the greatest thing in the entire world if Robert Downey Jr. managed to win for Tropic Thunder. When most actors say “Golly, I never dreamed in a million years that I’d be up for an Oscar for this role!” you know they’re lying their asses off, but in this case I can’t imagine that Robert Downey Jr. filmed his “you never go full retard” speech and thought that he would be an Academy Award nominee. 

WALL-E can’t possibly lose for Best Animated Film, and should probably be up for Best Picture. But I can’t help but think that the Academy had a different calibre of nominees in mind when they created the category–pretty much every year has a “Bolt? Seriously?” pick.  

The screenplay awards are tricky because, well, I haven’t read the scripts. But, again, Benjamin Button, which must have 20 different scenes where they cut back to the story being told in the present, is a lousy choice. 

On Friday I saw all of the Live Action and Animated Shorts. For Live Action, I’m rooting for The Pig, a dark comedy about an old man about to undergo surgery who finds comfort in the dumb little painting of a pig on his hospital room wall, and his distress when it’s taken down. I also really liked New Boy, although it seems unlikely to win. On the Line would’ve been my top pick except for the non-ending.

It almost seems kind of unfair to have Presto on the list for Best Animated Short Film, since it has the mega-budget power of Pixar behind it…although my favorite of the bunch is This Way Up, which is about two morticians trying to deliver a casket to a gravesite. Oktapodi packs an enormous amount of entertainment value into its two minutes, and Lavatory – Lovestory is a charming little film with minimalist animation. The winner will probably be La Maison en Petits Cubes, which is the one serious film of the bunch, but I hope not.

So, in summary: Go Slumdog Millionaire!

Cramming For The Oscars

Tonight I’m off to see all of the Oscar-nominated short films (both live action and animated) at the Tampa Theatre.

Tomorrow, I’m going to the Best Picture showcase at AMC Theatres, which will have MilkThe Reader, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Slumdog Millionaire, and Frost/Nixon back-to-back, with unlimited popcorn!

I’ll be sure to share my soon-to-be-informed predictions shortly after that, cuz I know you won’t stop clicking “refresh” until they show up!

Benjamin’s Parasite: An Excerpt

Hey, kids! Here’s a quick scrap of BENJAMIN’S PARASITE for your reading ecstasy. Remember that the book is currently available for pre-order from The Horror Mall in a nice affordable trade paperback edition right here:

http://www.horror-mall.com/BENJAMINS-PARASITE-by-Jeff-Strand-Trade-Paperback-p-19043.html

And, yes, I realize that the book is called BENJAMIN’S PARASITE but the kid in the below excerpt is named Brian. This snippet is from the first chapter. Hosts change…

____________

Brian’s mom left, shutting the door behind her. She hadn’t even asked about his stomachache. No sympathy at all. Just because he’d faked it the past few times didn’t mean he was faking it this time. He let Dale know that he had to go, and then logged off.

Really, five hundred words weren’t all that many. If he set his alarm early, he could write them before school. And he’d be nice and refreshed when he finished the essay, which would make for a much higher quality final product. And maybe his stomach would hurt bad enough in the morning that his mom would have to let him stay home, giving him the whole weekend to finish it up.

A perfect plan.

He shut down his computer and turned on the television and his video game system. It was Carnage-A-Plenty time!

The game’s opening screen appeared. It was blank at first, until various internal organs splattered against it, spelling out the game’s title in guts and trickles of blood.

Carnage-A-Plenty proceeded to the character selection phase. You could play as Goregantua (weapon of choice: axe), Shreddy-Or-Not (weapon of choice: razor blades) or Rendfield (weapon of choice: cheese grater).

Brian selected Goregantua.

The game then asked if he wanted to play in Violent Mode or Peaceful Mode. If he selected Peaceful Mode, Gandhi would appear on the screen, smile, wave, and then get beaten to a bloody pulp by men with crowbars, after which the game would automatically revert to Violent Mode.

Brian selected Violent Mode, and the game began.

The premise of Carnage-A-Plenty was simple: kill stuff. The more stuff you killed, the more points you got. This was not an unusual concept for a video game. What made Carnage-A-Plenty better was that you received additional points for further mutilation of the corpses. The greater the mess, the greater your score.

As the screeching punk rock soundtrack played (quietly), Brian maneuvered Goregantua through a filthy alley. The object in this stage was to kill as many homeless people as possible.

The first derelict emerged from a garbage can and Brian swung his axe, lopping off both of the derelict’s arms with one swipe, earning himself bonus points. He was an expert at this level.

The toothless and now armless derelict tried to run away, but Brian quickly caught up to him. He pressed the attack button as rapidly as he could, axe a blur of motion, until the derelict had been reduced to a pile of bum chunks.

On the screen, Goregantua leapt into the air, came down feet-first upon the pile, and then began to twist back and forth.

“Yes!” exclaimed Brian as the words “SMEAR BONUS” flashed on the screen. Smearing your enemy’s remains was one of the more difficult special moves to pull off.

There were two quick knocks on Brian’s door.

He hurriedly pressed the panic button and set the game controller on his bed.

“Why are you watching TV?” his mother demanded, walking into the room.

“It’s a documentary,” said Brian, gesturing to the image of Abraham Lincoln on the TV screen. A monotone narrator recited the words to the Gettysburg Address.

“Is your essay done?”

“Yes.” Brian didn’t like to lie, but he could retain inner peace when he did.

“Then it’s time for bed.”

“You said ten-thirty!”

His mother suspiciously eyed the television, and then nodded. “Okay, you can watch for ten more minutes. But then it’s bedtime, all right?”

“All right.”

After his mother left again, Brian resumed his game. He quickly dispatched a bag lady by repeatedly running over her with her own cart, then lost several units of life-force when he was struck by wino breath.

He decapitated the wino and in another difficult move, kicked his head into the air and caught it in his mouth, swallowing it whole.

“CANNIBALISM BONUS” flashed on the screen.

“I rule,” said Brian, wishing that spectators were around to see just how much he truly ruled.

Three vagrants were huddled around a fire in a trash barrel. Brian/Goregantua quickly snatched up the barrel and incinerated the vagrants with its contents. Then he beat the shit out of their charred corpses with the barrel itself.

His stomach was really starting to hurt bad, almost like something was squirming around in there. Not enough to distract him from the game, though. In fact, he couldn’t remember ever having this much fun with Carnage-a-Plenty.

He was vaguely aware of an incredible headache as well. There was no way he could go to school like this. He’d have to stay home, and then he could play the game all day! It would be the best day ever, even better than the one where he made out with Denise MacKenzie and she let him keep his right hand on her left boob for four whole seconds before she slapped him away.

Maybe I should pause my game and go get some aspirin and Pepto Bismol, he thought. Nah. Not worth the loss of playing time.

He played for a few more minutes, impressing the hell out of himself with his awesome special moves.

Then Brian set down the game controller, walked out of his bedroom, and headed for the kitchen to find something useful to kill his mom with.

I Am The Weakest Link

Yep, sometimes all that can be said is a lame, dated pop culture reference…

Challenging a Force of Evil

New Jersey congressman Bill Pascrell has contacted the Federal Trade Commission and the House Judiciary Committee calling for a probe to look into Ticketmaster’s business practices.

Mr. Pascrell, if you bring those bastards down, I will move to New Jersey just to vote for you.

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