Friday, August 24, 2012

Adult Movie Review : Captive


CAPTIVE is most certainly a motion picture that SHOULD NOT be viewed by anyone under the age of 18. It involves the torture and humiliation of a young woman by a man who's attempting to discover some very important information. As such, the story sails upon a treacherous ocean filled with raw emotions and unnerving behavior.

At the beginning of the story, Sara Lawson is dressed to the nines, looking very much like someone who should be working in an uptown high rise office building. After traveling to the address provided by a referral service, the woman has found herself at a run down warehouse in a less than desirable part of the city. This clearly isn't the side of town where a pretty girl would normally show up wearing her combination of skirt, blouse, high heels and high fashion off black stockings.

Sara has evidently been recommended for a high profile position at a brand new company. That might explain the low rent nature of this address. The business investors might be saving money on rent and using it elsewhere. Or has the agency simply made a mistake and sent her to the wrong location?

"Hello?" she says, as she steps through the side door of the building and finds herself in a dimly lit room. "I'm here for the job interview."

A few seconds later, the room goes completely dark. This is quickly followed by sounds which make it clear that a struggle is taking place. As the view screen brightens and comes back into focus, the young woman is just beginning to regain consciousness. Attempting to stretch and move about, she finds herself chained to a set of hooks that are anchored in the dingy concrete floor.

She's very disoriented.

Her head ache is ringing like a church bell.

She's being calmly observed by a large man who lurks in the shadows and doesn't allow her to see his face. The fellow might be a gangster. Maybe he's a terrorist. Whatever her captor is, he's been keeping himself safely hidden in a section of the city most people make sure to stay away from.

From his point of view, this young woman brought trouble into his life when she walked in the side door of his building. Her arrival is completely unexpected. None of the man's associates have given him any type of signal that someone might be coming by today.

During the next several hours, he asks her the same two questions over and over again.

Who are you?

Why are you here?

Time after time, she provides the same two answers.

My Name is Sara Lawson.

I came here for the job interview.

Given the nature of his life, the man is very reluctant to believe this young woman. If she's lying, his activities have been compromised. If she's telling the truth and he lets her go, he'll need to quickly move his operation somewhere else.

If he simply kills her, that might create an entirely new set of problems. If this Sara Lawson was sent here on purpose, her people might know way more than just the location of this building. The truth of the matter is that his only option is to completely break this young woman emotionally. Whatever this Sara Lawson might know, he'll need to drag it out of her by any means necessary.

In certain ways, I find myself both happy and disappointed that this forty minute movie was produced and distributed by Gwen Media. Happy because the story has actually been completed and its out there for an adult audience to find and view. Somewhat sad because an association with this particular production and distribution company causes it to immediately be labeled as a "Fetish Video".

Please don't get me wrong, when it comes to high quality fetish entertainment, Gwen Media is always functioning near the top of the list. While many other companies are content to simply make and distribute anything they think will sell, Gwen Media's work is always in the A and B+ range. Even when they've done something I haven't liked, it isn't because the production values were bad. Merely that a particular story wasn't exactly my cup of tea.

The conundrum about this particular movie is that while CAPTIVE is most certainly a well made fetish treat, it travels beyond that genre by leaps and bounds. To put it simply, CAPTIVE is a piece of storytelling which rivals a good deal of what is being produced by the mainstream television and motion picture industry.

Writer and Director John Fitzgerald has deftly combined 21st Century Bondage Erotica with a 1950s Film Noir style. The lighting and the camera angles cause everything about the story to feel very claustrophobic. And Fitzgerald has put a great deal of effort and ingenuity into giving the modern day viewer a stunning color motion picture while handing a nod to the purists who insist that true Film Noir has only ever existed in black and white. The man has found a marvelous compromise that merges the best elements of the two distinct formats.

In the universe of CAPTIVE, the captor's warehouse is a very dark and dreary location. Everything that should belong there is a rather muted shade of pewter, tan and other very similar tones. The only things breaking the darkness are the one or two locations where a spot light is shining. This is where we always find Sara Lawson. In a sea composed of black and shadows, this woman is always at the center of the brightness.

Sara's hair, nails, lipstick and blouse are a beautifully rich candy apple red. Her skirt and high heels are a reflective black and her underclothing is much the same. In a nothing sort of place where almost everything can be easily overlooked, the nature of Sara Lawson draws all attention to her and never allows the viewer to even think of looking elsewhere.

She is the beauty. He is the barely seen beast. The conflict between the two of them is a paradox rooted in an overwhelming sense of fear. Fear that runs equally in both directions. The one who's chained to the floor ... Who's currently being tortured and tormented ... She holds just as much power over her captor as he has over her. As much as Sara fears what the man might do to her, he fears what she might know about him.

Most Hollywood production companies could spend twenty million dollars producing a ninety minute feature film and it wouldn't be half this good. I strongly recommend CAPTIVE to those adults who are looking for something a bit different and decidedly edgy.

To purchase a copy of CAPTIVE, see the production and company details that are listed below.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sci Fi Interview: Michael Z Williamson

The following interview was originally published in Chicago Buzznews in October of 2009.


Michael Z. Williamson is one of the authors who will be appearing at WindyCon in Lombard Illinois in November. A well known author of Military Science Fiction, Military Speculative Fiction and Adventure Fantasy; Michael has published eight novels and several short stories in the past decade. On the evening of September 29 - 2009, I had the opportunity to spend an hour tossing questions at Mike and enjoying his answers.

Travis: You're generally listed as an author of "Military Science Fiction" or "Military Speculative Fiction". What is a good "Reader's Digest" type of explanation for that genre?

MZW: Fiction set in future conflicts, addressing the background and people therein. The setting and tools are secondary, except as they affect the people and environment.

Travis: Does it have to be future?

MZW: It doesn't have to be a future, it can be an alternate present or past. It comes down to "What if?" What if we do or have something different, but ultimately, it's about people.

Travis: In my opinion (and I know I'm switching to movies) ... Hunt for Red October and Crimson Tide are two very good examples of Military Speculative Fiction. Would you agree or disagree?

MZW: I've only seen the former, but yes. The Russian sub had a high tech drive, and Clancy speculated how it might be used and how a Soviet officer might act.

Travis: Then you really need to see Crimson Tide. A good look at what might happen if a U.S. Submarine Captain issues what might be an illegal order (a launch of a nuclear missile) and the Executive Officer refuses to second the command.

MZW: Right

Travis: Now that we've presented the readers with a good basic description what the ins and outs of the Genre are ... Let's talk about your first book. Freehold came off the presses in 2004. What is the general nature of the story?

MZW: I was speculating on how a libertarian society would function. There are things that a government does do well--roads and border control, for example. So I created a society that had the good and the bad (including bloodthirsty scam artists who made Enron look like bit players). Then I had to put in an immigrant in as an observer/actor. Kendra is in part based on me, because when I moved from the UK to Canada, and then to the US, I found they were very different cultures, and that's within the English speaking world to former colonies of my birthplace. When you cross language barriers it's even worse.

Then, we have a cultural sub sect who hates wealth and success, and that's common in quite a few cultures. What happens if they wind up in charge of the major nation at the time (a UN managed Earth)? They step in to provide "equality," of course, whether the natives want it or not.

And there's a long history of the UN doing exactly that--Indonesia, Africa, parts of Asia, Israel/Palestine...all places with conflict, of course.

Travis: Gotcha. How did Freehold wind up being published by Baen? And did you have to do much rewriting for them?

MZW: I was actually ranting in Baen's forum about the form rejections I got on short stories, which were dressed up with "alas" and similar (un)heartfelt comments. Why couldn't they just say "no thanks, try again"? I'd also been having ongoing debates on various strategies and weapons.

Jim Baen made a comment about alliterative alases, alacks, allays, etc, and said, "Send me a chapter of something you're working on."

Travis: (snickering)

MZW: He liked the intro a lot, but stopped reading when he said it got too wordy, so I chopped out 5 chapters, moved 5 later chapters up to keep the action going, and filled in with more stuff later. He only sent about 4 paragraphs of suggestions, and I did all the editing, which, IMO, is how it should be done. It's all my voice.

Travis: Sounds like someone fun to work with. But at least he wasn't afraid to point and go that this bit and that bit needed some work.

MZW: His suggestions tended to be brief, surgical and easy to fix.

Travis: Good! I hate overly obtrusive editors as much as stories where there is virtually no editing.

In my opinion ... A proper editor is a lot like the right bra for a voluptuous woman. It's very obvious when there isn't one.

MZW: hehe

Travis: About a year after Freehold, Baen published The Weapon ... Which is sort of both a preguel and a sequel to Freehold. What issues does it pick up on?

MZW: I think it was a couple of years, actually. I finished The Weapon, which I'd started in 2000, wrote The Hero with John Ringo, my sniper trilogy, and only after they were out did The Weapon get published.

It's an overlapping time frame from the POV of the officer who led the clandestine attack on Earth. In the first part, there's a little bit about factional warfare--you might like the individuals, but the subcultures are sick and violent. There's no real solution except to let them fight it out themselves.

The second part is an outsider looking at a fascist police state--the government controls all business, dictates their operations, takes heavy taxes, and there's just no way for entrepreneurs to compete without friends in high places and a lot of bribes, which means effectively not at all. So there's a massive oligarchy of corporations and government interests keeping themselves comfortable at the expense of everyone else. He's studying it to destroy it.

Then, after Earth attacks the Freehold, Captain Chinran has to lead clandestine attacks against primarily infrastructure, to make it impossible for this 100X bigger nation and economy to continue destroying his own. This of course means a LOT of collateral damage--when power goes out and things blow up, people panic and die.

Travis: How did you windup co authoring The Hero with John Ringo?

MZW: Someone else had set him up with a purely contemporary writer to do it, but there was no way this guy could scifi it up enough--the genres are too different. So John had an outline and needed it fleshed out. Jim suggested me so I'd get more name recognition. I turned 20K words of outline into 101K words of novel, and consulted to make sure it was correct for the universe. John did a final edit and off it went.

Travis: Sounds good. Had you previously read much of Ringo's stuff?

MZW: I'd read the 4 book trilogy that existed for that universe, yes.

(Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors love to mess with the word "Trilogy")

Travis: Okay. Other than Ringo, what author really peaks your interest?

MZW: Heinlein, Niven, Pournelle, Drake, Capstick, Kipling, Caidin.

Travis: You've done 1 or 2 other stories that occur in the same reality as Freehold but don't continue that particular storyline. What should we know about them?

MZW: Better to Beg Forgiveness... is halfway between then and now. It adds some color but isn't key material, so it stands alone. Future mercenaries guarding a head of state is the theme. I was tired of the constraints that military personnel have to operate under, and decided to have some fun.

Contact with Chaos is post-Freehold by about 30 years and deals with first contact with aliens. I call it "Stonepunk." The Ishkul are stone age in that they don't have ready access to metals, but they have distillation, hydraulics, selective breeding, ceramics, gas light and limited steam power...which also means they have rocket artillery, rocket and hang-glider mounted airborne troops, and high explosives and poison gas.

Travis: So they're roughly somewhere around 18th or 19th century for Europe or the US. Is that about right?

MZW: Between 1850 and 1920 depending on the technology, yes.

Travis: What else have you put out?

MZW: Several short stories for Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar in some anthologies, a Freehold short in Joe Haldeman's "Future Weapons of War," lots of political and satirical bits in magazines and online, product reviews of firearms and outdoor gear of various kinds. I was a guest on 5 episodes of "The Best Defense: Survival" on the Outdoor Channel, this year.

Travis: Nice. If you could drop a short story or novel into someone else's already established reality ... Which author's world would you most want to do it with?

MZW: I'm actually hoping to have one ready in time for the next Man Kzin Wars. I also have some discussions ongoing for anthologies. I'm hoping to confirm something regarding at least one of those soon. Writing is such a fickle business.

Travis: I know the feeling on that one.

Authors occasionally have a character that begins to turn and go against the author's original intentions. Have you had a character that really seems to defy you and just wants to go off in his or her own direction?

MZW: Sort of. Though I realize it's my job to whip them down. Those aspects can always be used for a lead character later.

Travis: You seem like someone who uses his writing to sort through his own political and social thoughts and feelings. How much do you think this occurs with you?

MZW: I express some, but I have to keep in mind that it must be accessible to enough readers to sell. Stories that don't sell have failed to deliver the message. I don't have any limits per se, but my own positions can be extreme, and would just not endear me to readers. So I let the stories be about what they are.

Travis: How do you notice that you're starting to get "extreme"?

MZW: I have first readers for some things, but I have a pretty good general sense. Personally, I want just enough government to avoid sheer anarchy. I realize it's an impossible ideal, but that's what ideals are--goals to strive for, which a rational person knows will never be reached.

Travis: Understood and agreed.
What got you into serving in the Military?

MZW: I wasn't mature enough for college but needed away from home.

Travis: Not mature enough for college but wanting to handle a gun. What does this say about the younger you?

MZW: I already handled guns then, and I still do now.

Travis: And honestly ... You're someone that I'd trust to be around when he was holding one. Because you respect what you're holding. In my opinion ... That's a serious part of the whole "Gang Violence" problem. Almost anyone can pick up a gun. It takes the right training and education to begin to realize that simply holding a gun in your hand doesn't automatically make you "Important".

MZW: Next year you should make our shoot. We spent the whole weekend with about 50 guns.

Travis: I'd like to attend and maybe do just a bit of shooting. But I'd much rather be the guy holding the video camera.

What is on the burner that your readers should hope to be seeing soon?

MZW: A sequel to Better to Beg Forgiveness..., a sequel to that, and possibly a sequel to The Weapon, plus some anthologies.

Travis: Sounds good. Any final comments?

MZW: Thanks for the interview. I always enjoy questions that help me explore my own work.

Travis: You're very welcome

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Movie Review: Ruby Sparks

What makes "Ruby Sparks" a truly marvelous film is the two things it doesn't do. It doesn't go for cheap laughs and it doesn't ever fill the screen with eye catching special effects.This is a movie that requires the viewer to bring an active imagination into the theatre. Leave that at home and you'll be totally lost.

"Ruby Sparks" is a perfect example of plain and simple storytelling done right. The plot, the dialogue, the acting and the directing are what's important here. They get the timing right. They get the lighting and sound right. They get the camera angles right. Then they just allow everything else to follow the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid).

At the age of only twenty-nine, Calvin has just succeeded in doing his second impossible thing.

The first impossible thing occurred a little more than a decade ago. That was when a scrawny teen age high school dropout wrote an incredibly inspired gut wrenching novel and managed to get it picked up by one of the major publishing companies. The critics raved, sales went through the roof and everyone agreed that Calvin Weir-Fields was essentially set for life. He would never have to worry about money, the boy could just enjoy his success and do what he wanted to when he wanted to.

The second impossible thing wound up happening just the other day. Calvin somehow created a girlfriend out of thin air.

Very much like his first major success, Calvin hadn't actually expected this little miracle to happen. Trying to find his way past a very frustrating bout of writer's block, the young man had taken a bit of advice from his psychologist. He'd sat down at his desk and simply started typing about whatever popped into his brain. He began by describing the sort of girl he could see himself falling in love with. He decided to name her Ruby Sparks.

A few weeks later, the Doctor's bit of advice appeared to be working. A story was finally evolving and Calvin was on the verge of having something new he could show to his very anxious publisher. One morning, as Calvin was running late for an appointment with his editor, he suddenly cursed at himself because of a mistake he'd made. He'd forgotten to walk the dog earlier in the day and stopping to do so now would cause him to be even later for his very important meeting.

Then the completely unexpected happened. Being a very loving and attentive girlfriend, Ruby simply stepped out of the kitchen and offered to walk the dog for Calvin. And the young woman couldn't understand why the love of her life was suddenly panicking and backing away from her instead of hugging her and thanking her for the favor.

A movie like "The Time Traveler's Wife" would Special Effect a story like this to death. We'd see this mysterious vortex appear on the kitchen wall and Ruby would step out, Then the thing would suddenly close and this aura around Ruby would gradually fade away. And all of this would only be the first of many little tricks that would gunk up the film and make it a lot harder to understand or enjoy.

On the flip side of the coin ... A movie like "The Hangover" would take this basic setup and milk it for every cheap laugh it could find. Some clueless nerd now has both the girl of his dreams and a magic typewriter that can control her every thought and move. He'll make the mistake of telling this to his best friend, a selfish clod who'll decide this is the perfect opportunity for the two of them to have the party of their lives. Put the puppet doll girlfriend in a black leather mini-dress, neon red fishnets and stripper heels and haul her off to Vegas for a wild weekend.

"Ruby Sparks" becomes a wonderful movie by ignoring all these gimmicks and deftly playing on what science fiction and fantasy do best. It uses an unreal situation to take a long hard look at a very real truth about being human. The fact of the matter is that creating the girl of his dreams and bringing her into the real world was actually the easy part of the miracle. If Calvin wants to hold onto to this flesh and blood Ruby Sparks, he'll need to do the impossible one more time.

He'll need to wake up and realize that he's the one still living in a make believe world.

Travis Clemmons

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Bubble Wizard

I got lucky and caught good photographs of this fellow when he was putting on a show for the youngsters at a city festival in Warrenville Illinois.  The final two pictures almost make it look like he's conjuring some sort of magic spell.

The camera is a General Electric x500.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Political Football Orphans

Please lend me your imagination for a moment. I'd like to draw a picture of the United States Political Arena in terms of it being a football field.

The extreme Liberals are defending the goal line on the left. The extreme Conservatives are defending the goal line on the right. Anyone who anchors at a point between the two 30 yard lines is essentially a Moderate. He or she may not be exactly sit at the political center but they can clearly see where it is.

Occasionally we have to deal with the loons. Those individuals who have gone past the end zone, changed clothing in the locker room and walked over to the convenience mart to get a blackberry lemonade.

Then there's Ralph Nader and Ron Paul. Each man standing on the opposite side of an empty hockey arena, wondering where everyone else is this evening. Each man is incredibly intelligent and talented. Neither communicates well with anyone more than one degree away from his ideology.

Now that we've established what the game looks like, let me take a moment to paint the picture of my beliefs and ideals. I refer to myself as a slightly Conservative Republican. I tend to anchor on the Conservative 40 yard line. On certain issues, I might drift as far left as the Liberal 40. On others I might go as far right as the Conservative 20.

My conundrum is that during the past couple of years I have increasingly been feeling like a political orphan. A Republican Party which once welcomed my ideas and ideals, now seems to be increasingly pandering to neo conservative hucksters who have no real concept of how to contribute towards an effective and properly functioning political party.

I've grown tired of the terms "Tea Party" and "Reagan Test" being bandied about all over the place. Mainly because the individuals who are most often in front of a news camera while referencing these terms have virtually no concept of what they actually mean.

If the ghost of Ronald took one look at the "Reagan Test" being talked about by 2012 politicians, the old boy would laugh himself silly. Reagan himself could not pass this Reagan Test and he wouldn't waste his time trying. The man would simply crumple it into a little ball, toss it into the recycle bin and then roll his eyes at the individuals who had dared to place it in front of him.

As for the misuse of the term "Tea Party" ... In spite of what Knee Jerk Liberals fear and Extreme Social Conservatives have wet dreams about, this movement is not a resurgence of the old Moral Majority. The rank and file individuals who truly subscribe to the Tea Party philosophy aren't really impressed by the fact that this woman has never been divorced or that man has a nine point system which could reduce the Federal Government to no more than a dozen agencies that employ only ten thousand people. The vast majority of people who identify with Tea Party principals constantly focus on common sense ideas and sound fiscal management. In their mind, the cheap parlor tricks on the extreme right are just as repulsive as cheap parlor tricks on the extreme left.

Whether the critter is a donkey or an elephant, there have been way too many instances where the tail has been wagging the animal. This has to change on both sides of the aisle. If it doesn't, a lot of problems are just going to sit there and fester. And a lot more people are going to start feeling like political orphans.

If they fester too long, the orphans in the center might just decide to form their own political party. There have been a handful of attempts in the past couple of decades. A few of them did quite well for an election cycle or two. What happens if they get it right this time and start something that takes root? With these people amounting to more than twenty percent of the nation's voting population, we could be looking at a serious game changer.

Travis Clemmons

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

If They Knew What They Wanted

On the 27th of July, I was dismissed from a part time Job I'd been working at for all of three weeks. Bob didn't actually say I was being dismissed. His words were "you've helped us get caught up so we're going to move you to an inactive status and call you in as we need you". This rather awkward pat on the back seemed to be the thanks I was receiving for trying to impress him and his partner Bill by cramming 5 hours of effort into each 4 hour day.

The entire situation with this company had been a bit wonky from the very beginning. I'd interviewed for the position of production and fulfillment associate on Thursday the 14th of June. During that 90 minute period, the two owners had seemed to be pulling the conversation in somewhat different directions. Although the position had been advertised as 20 hours per week, Bill was very interested in learning if I'd be available to bump up to at least 30 in the not too distant future. Bob was giving the impression of seeming to think that they'd only need someone for about 10 to 12.

After being interviewed by Bill and Bob, I'd spent several minutes touring the warehouse with the production manager. That's usually the type of thing that happens when they plan on giving a candidate serious consideration. Once Kim had brought me back to the office, Bill and Bob said they planned on announcing a decision by the end of the day on Friday.

Friday came and went without me hearing anything. On Monday morning, I again started searching through the job sites and sending our resumes. Six days later, I walked into the house on Sunday June 24th and our answering machine had a message from Bob. I returned his call and was informed that they'd like for me to start on the 9th of July, if I was still available.

While I was perplexed that it was going to be almost a month from the interview to the actual start date, the time lag did give me the opportunity to work out a good arrangement with the company I'd been doing marketing work for. As we talked the situation over, the people at E&W made it clear they'd be happy to have me work an event booth for them any weekend or evening I might be available. All in all, it seemed like I was now in a win / win situation. I could work both jobs for 3 or 4 months, get a handful of bills paid down and eventually pull back and just work the production and fulfillment job.

Three weeks into the new job, reality suddenly got turned on its head and I was headed out the door. Only two hours earlier, Kim had been telling me about all the ways she planned on using my talents to help her get ahead on a variety of issues. She now had time to think ... to look for little problems that needed solving ... to work on improving procedures and updating the product catalog.

But I was suddenly out the door and Kim was just as stunned as I was. I'd been rudely kicked out of the job I'd been promised. She'd just lost the talented assistant she'd been promised. And from what I heard when I stopped by to pick up my final paycheck, at least one of the owners can't seem to move past the concept that they can somehow grow the business by another 30 percent without having to make any serious increase in the work force.

I wish them the best of luck. I think they're going to need it.

As for me ... I'm currently putting in as many hours as I can in the oddly scheduled marketing job while again searching for something with more consistent hours.

Travis Clemmons