History Meets Horror in Nightmares in Red, White & Blue

This week I came across Nightmares in Red, White & Blue, a documentary that discusses horror movies and the history that inspires them. Nightmares takes a Marxist approach to the horror genre and how these movies are influenced by history, and how society receives these events and horror movies.

Nightmares Red White Blue Review
Photo: dvdtalk.com

The Government Inspires Horror

This is not a political view point. This is an observation from the movie. Since the 1920s, filmmakers have used horror to speak out against the government. According to Nightmares, people in power have been a symbol of horrific things: poverty, war, starvation, violence. Horror films speak out against those trying to harm us.

For example, in the 1920s, a “monster” may have been a disabled veteran. Government + war = disabled vet who appears as a “monster” to society. Horror filmmakers have also used government entities and events, such as Hitler’s reign and the Holocaust, as inspiration. Or Sci-Fi horror to speak out against government/alien conspiracy theories.

I learned a lot by watching some of the greats discuss their own experiences during these eras, and explain how they used horror to release their fears and tastefully speak out against them.

Evil Lies Within

In the documentary, John Carpenter says there are two types of evil: The evil out there (Universal monsters) and the evil within (eg: human ego and pride). Carpenter says, “it’s in our own human hearts. And that’s a harder story to tell.”

I found this interesting because if you think about your favorite horror movie, there is an inner evil within someone. Whether its a Mayor who’s unwilling to lose tourism money (Jaws) or a killer seeking revenge (Freddy, Jason, Michael), the evil lives within someone. The overall message is people are evil; anyone can snap; and that is scary.

Nightmares Red White Blue Review
Photo: Huffington Post

Today’s Horror Punishes This Evil

This isn’t directly stated, but when Saw was mentioned, I realized today’s horror movies only set out to punish people. The horror genre stays true to its roots and speaks out against social wrongdoings, but instead of the attacking the government, now it feels like horror movies attack the people.

It Follows was one of the big movies in 2015, and the “monster” was an STD. It Follows punished those who are irresponsibly sexually active. The modern teen horror movie has turned into a digital stalker (Unfriended). Teens are punished for spending too much time connected and enjoying others’ humiliation via social media. Sinister and Insidious punishes the working parent. Instead of staying home to care for their kids, parents are busy with their own agendas or aren’t home. And the list goes on.

Other Highlights

I don’t want to give too much away, but you’ll probably see all your favorite horror movies mentioned. Nightmares in Red, White & Blue covers everything from the early 1920s to the mid 2000s. Many experts are featured, and they reveal why they made a movie or what message they wanted to share. Nightmares is fast-paced, and you’ll learn a lot about how American history influenced the genre and what people were feeling at the time.

PS: Nightmares in Red, White & Blue is free on Amazon Prime streaming right now. If you check it out, let us know what you think in the comments below!

 

Freelance Writing: Fact or Fiction?

Revenant Publications

For many, freelance writing seems like a dream career. A lot of people consider it or jump into it thinking it’s a life full of flexibility and freedom. Many romanticize the idea of freelance writing and also have misconceptions about it.

I have freelanced for more than 10 years and know 100+ freelance writers, so I wanted to clear up some common misconceptions. Here are some freelance writing truths to help you decide if it’s right for you:

You have all the free time you want.

Fiction. To be a successful freelance writer, you actually have little to no free time. Your salary depends on how much you do, so it’s easy to work 60 hours a week. Because you are not a traditional salary employee, there’s a constant pressure to produce as much work as possible. Our free time depends on our workload. Some weeks we have it, other weeks we don’t.

You make a lot of money.

Depends. At first, you won’t make much because you have to build a client base. Once you have a client base, you have to adjust how much work you take and who you work for. Some companies pay $1K for a feature; some pay $200. If you’re new to the industry, you’ll probably land the $200 clients. So, if you want to make $30K a year, you have to take 150 features at $200. That’s roughly 13 features a month.

You set your own schedule.

Fact. Freelance writers can usually set their own schedule, but keep this in mind: we work a lot. Sure, we can take two hours to go to lunch or run errands, but we pay for it later. Many of us don’t work 8-5. Some of us have full-time jobs during those hours. Our days range from 8 hours to 12 hours a day, seven days a week, depending on workload and deadlines.

You meet new people.

Fact. Whether it’s through email, phone or in person, you make a lot of good connections. I’ve worked with people all over the country and most have been wonderful. I’ve been invited to events, lunch, offered free accommodations, and more. You also learn about new industries, people, and cultures. Fun tip: If you’re writing for a Southern client, it helps to have a Southern accent so you understand each other.

It’s easy.

Fiction. Some people think because we work from home and “set our schedule” we have it easy. I challenge those people to take an assignment. When you work from home, you never get a break. You have to balance work and home life 24/7. Also, try writing fours hours a day, every day, for one week (28 hours worth). Speaking from experience, there’s only so much writing a person can do before they get stuck. That amount depends on the writer.

You write about different topics.

Fact. Once you have a client base, you will probably write about different topics. In one week, you could write about news, arts and culture, health care, and politics. The variation keeps things interesting, and it helps you master the art of changing gears. You also learn to tailor your writing skills based on client guidelines and needs.

You have to pay your own taxes.

Fact. Most employers who hire freelancers do not take out taxes. That means you receive all of your income, so you have to take it out yourself. You must be financially responsible and save all year. A good base to save is 25-30 percent of your income. For example, if you make $30K a year, you need to pull out $7K to $9K. Depending on your situation, you can deduct some expenses, but it’s best to pull out a higher amount and budget wisely.

Is it worth it?

Depends. I love taking freelance projects. Most of my freelance friends love their jobs. We’re not confined to a cubical all day. We don’t have a traditional office environment with the politics and bs. Freelancers can work from anywhere. We don’t deal with traffic much and control our workload. To be a successful freelance writer takes discipline and hard work. It’s a career like all others. If you love what you do, then it’s worth it.

Adult Coloring: A Worthwhile Trend

When adult coloring books showed up in stores, I snubbed them. I liked the idea but immediately thought this was someone’s way to help adults relive their childhood. It was just another commercial tactic to make adults feel younger. I felt if adults wanted to color, they could just buy a kid’s coloring book.

This past Christmas I was shopping and found an adult coloring book with “happy” designs for $12. The holiday season is not my favorite time of the year, so I decided to buy it. If I was going to hop on the coloring trend train, happy was the way to go.

I’m glad I did. After Christmas, I colored my first page. I was hooked. It was a heart made of butterflies. Those who know me will laugh because I’m not a heart-with-butterflies-kind-of-girl, but I really enjoyed it. Coloring the picture pulled me out of my head, where my to-do list runs on overdrive. The activity relaxed me and made me feel better overall.

Adult Coloring Butterflies

I did a little research and learned that art has been used in adult therapy for years. A couple of studies say therapists use art to do the following:

  • Build self-esteem
  • Relieve stress; reduce anxiety
  • Improve motor skills; work both sides of the brain
  • Help the mind focus/problem solve
  • Deal with/work through emotions

Whether adult coloring does all this is debated, but in my experience, it’s true. After a long day, I pop in a movie, sit on the couch, and color. I control every aspect of the piece, which is sometimes needed after a day of feeling out of control. I listen to the movie and create something I’m proud of while benefiting from the science behind it.

I knit for the same reasons, and coloring gives me another healthy stress outlet. I can’t always work – and don’t try to – but I am a busy-body. My body will not let me just lay there on the couch most nights. I have trouble sitting still and always feel a need to do something. I have lots of nervous energy, and art in any format has been a good outlet.

It also occurred to me that as a writer/proofreader, the last thing I want to do is read or write. Coloring is much easier on my eyes after a 10-hour day on the computer. Hard copies and good lighting are gentle, and there’s no glare. Coloring is somewhat mindless, while reading requires comprehension.

Trying this new trend also taught me that trends aren’t necessarily bad. I don’t pay much attention to them, but this one does have its benefits and I hope it stays for a while. People would feel better if they found healthy ways to deal with stress and slow down.

Here are a few of my pages just for fun. If you color, feel free to share those with us!

Adult Coloring Designs

Adult Coloring Happy

Adult Coloring Cool

Painted Ornaments: A Soultion and Gift

Happy New Year! We’re excited to kick off our fourth year with this site and want to thank all of you for reading! Before we dig into to 2016, I wanted to share a project from this season.

In November, my RevPub partner was having trouble finding ornaments for his tree. You see, traditional ornaments weren’t going to cut it. He wanted a set of something cool. Think unique, a little geeky, and not ridiculously priced.

So, being the problem solver I am, I decided to paint a set of ornaments for him. I made a list of about 20 of his favorite things and decided what my ability would let me do! I narrowed them down to 10 and ended up with 8. The ornaments are a variety of ceramic, wood, and plastic. I used acrylic paints and mixed a lot of colors. Here are the results:

The Psych Pineapple

Psych Pineapple ornament
One of our favorite shows. Psych’s pineapple is an iconic image to all fans, and I added some quick snowflakes that look like its holiday marketing. This was the one I wanted to keep lol.

Cthulhu

Cthulhu ornament
H.P. Lovecraft’s monster Cthulhu from The Call of Cthulhu. James is a big Lovecraft fan, and I was terrified to do this one. There are about 1,000 images of this creature, so I went simple.

Warhammer Ork

Warhammer Ork ornament
Warhammer 40K Ork glyph. James loves his orks dirty, so that’s what I tried for the ork ornament.

James’ Cat Raz

Raz cat ornament
I do not claim to know how to draw portraits, so I used a little shading. This was one of the more difficult ones. Again, I can’t draw, but I was happy with it. You can tell it’s a cat lol.

The X-men Boss

X-men ornament
From the X-men arcade game. X-men, welcome to die! James and I actually played this game, and it’s one of my favorite Angry Video Game Nerd play-throughs. Seeing this always makes him laugh!

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters ornament
Who you gonna call? One of his favorite movies and the iconic image. I had a lot of people love this one! This was one of the last ones I did because it was going so well, I was afraid to finish it.

Hadouken!

Hadouken ornament
Is this a hadouken?! were the best words I’ve ever heard. From Street Fighter and one of his favorite things to say while playing the game. This was such a pain. The design changed five times, and I almost scrapped it. Overall, I was happy with the final, and he knew what it was. That is all that matters.

Line from Scrooged

Scrooged ornament
Bill Murray says this to his board members after watching the terrible promo. This movie is usually our Christmas movie tradition, and this one line says it all.

This project was a ton of fun and challenged my painting skills to the max. It also led to a few other ideas and possibly future gifts. I had never painted in this detail and want to thank Google images for helping me through it. Here’s to trying new things in 2016: Don’t be afraid; it usually works out!

Christmas Family Traditions

I seldom steal ideas from my partner, but I found my RevPub partner’s X-mas Family Traditions post quite inspiring. Traditions – old and new – are a part of any holiday, but I’m also a fan of changing them. I think this is where people struggle the most because when “we’ve always done it” causes issues, it may be hard to let go. I also have to write a shout-out to my family: Thank you for the flexibility and drama-free holidays. I know this isn’t always the case, and I appreciate you for it.

Christmas Family Traditions
My grandma’s tree 2015. This changes nearly every year, and it’s always gorgeous.

Here are a few of my family traditions, many of which have changed over time:

Story time: I owe my grandmother a great deal, and she is solely responsible for the love I have for Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Every year, and multiple times throughout the year, she would read us this book. She used inflections and brought the story alive. Even as an adult when I read it, I feel like I’m in Whoville. Or, depending on my mood I’m the Grinch!

When I grew up, my son loved Santa more than anything. So, every Christmas Eve I read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. I make sure to bring the same excitement and passion to the story as my grandma did for me.

Christmas Movies: This is a personal tradition. Just as I watch only horror in October, I try to watch only Christmas in December. What makes a Christmas movie? Well, I count anything with snow and if they mention Christmas. This may seem unconventional, but it keeps things entertaining and avoids lame ones with bad acting. As my partner states, we watch Scrooged, and we have seen a number others together. As a kid, Home Alone, The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Grinch were some of our favorites. Looking back, this may have been the best way to shut us up for two hours.

The Food: I come from a family of cooks. Nearly everyone in my family tries to cook, and some are better than others (wink). While we have traditional foods, such as ham and grandma’s sherbet punch, I also remember my grandpa’s fudge and candy-coated Ritzs and the spread of more food than you can imagine. My family tries new recipes all the time, so our traditional menu constantly changes. It’s tradition for us to try new dishes!

This also leads to staples. My uncle has to bring sausage dip. I have to bring deviled eggs. That is a funny story in itself because I was asked to bring them one year and have been designated to bring them to every event since. This year, I used hot and sweet jalapenos because I was out of relish, and they went over a little too well.

Christmas Family Traditions
Opening presents at my grandparents’ house. I was 9 to 11 in this. I believe the pen marks are from my brother.

The Celebrations: I come from a “nontraditional” family, as my parents divorced when I was a kid. I had a lot of Christmases, but my favorites were Santa in the morning, then going to my grandparents. When I was younger, we’d always gather on Christmas Day after seeing what Santa brought. As our families grew, we celebrate on the Sunday before Christmas. I appreciate this more than my family knows. This allows for new traditions on Christmas Day and gives parents more time with their kids. I’m pretty anti-travel on Christmas Day and try to stay home when possible. This doesn’t always go over well, but people get over things pretty quickly, so don’t be afraid to say no. As long as you visit around Christmas, that’s all that should matter.

Presents: I remember the first time I went to someone else’s Christmas, and they opened presents one at a time. I thought I was going to die from boredom – no offense intended. I also thought how terrible it would be if you got something you didn’t want. You’re sitting there in front of 10-plus people and have to fake happiness. I immediately felt pressure.

You see, my family opens presents at the same time. A couple of people pass out all the gifts, and my grandma essentially says, ready, set, go! It takes 10 minutes tops. We shout thank yous from across the room, hold up gifts to show someone who also likes it, and it’s chaotic. That tradition has never changed, and it’s awesome. Afterwards when all the wrappings are picked up, people walk around and see what everyone received and have conversations about them. In a way, it’s more personal and allows time to talk one-on-one. I realize most families open one at a time, but consider trying this sometime. It’s 10 minutes of chaos, then an hour of real conversation.

We hope you had a nice holiday, and we look forward to 2016! Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year from RevPub!

The Jem Movie: Universal Got What They Deserved

Jem and the Holograms 2015 had the third-worst opening in box-office history. That’s a pretty hefty price tag and epic fail for Universal, and my response is: They deserved it.

As a woman in my 30s, I was delighted to hear they were going to make a movie of my beloved childhood idol. You see, I was obsessed with Jem and the Holograms when I was a girl. I had the dolls, car, outfits, cassette tapes and books. My mom and I dressed up as them for Halloween.
As an adult, I have even watched a few episodes online. They are not as appealing now, but my taste in music has improved and I expect more. However, I still enjoy them.

jem-and-the-holograms
quirkbooks.com

That is why I refused to see this movie after the trailer was released. Jem’s story was not a heart-felt, coming-of-digital-age story. The original Jem series was about glam, fashion, music, and relationships. There was drama, adult themes, mild cartoon violence, and flawed heroes. It was an 80s cartoon! These cartoons brought real-world issues to kids in a fun way. They were not politically correct. They did not try to make you feel warm and fuzzy. Many 80s cartoons simply taught kids how to deal with conflict.

Instead of rebooting the cartoon into an animated feature or sticking to some of the original story, Universal decided to modernize – aka bastardize – it. I will never see the movie, so I’m going to have to bash the trailers. Here are my biggest problems with the movie and why it failed:

  • A YouTube star. Because the world needed or wanted that? No.
  • It was a teen story. Jem and the Holograms and The Misfits were not teens. They were adults. They partied, had adult relations, and experienced adult conflicts. The cartoon showed kids how to deal with mature problems and relationships.
  • Universal chose the wrong audience. Who was the audience for this movie? It was women between the ages of 30-40 and possibly their moms. This age group is nichey, but there are roughly 157 million women born between 1980 and 1990 (US Census Bureau). That was the audience. As someone in that audience, I can say that a movie made about Hole vs. Babes in Toyland would have been more accurate to Jem and catered to the audience.
  • The music was awful. Again, audience. My generation still listens to Joan Jett and Guns N Roses. We still love hairbands and bad-A chicks. Not pop stars.
  • Identity crisis. Jem did not have an identity problem. She knew who she was. She was a rockstar superhero with a secret identity. She was not a troubled teen trying to find herself or hide and from the world. You would think with the superhero trend right now, Universal would have been smart enough to make that angle work. Here’s an idea: A female Scott Pilgrim-type movie. That would have been gold.
  • The costumes. If you’re going to “modernize” an 80s cartoon/movie, how does it make sense to have them play a keytar? The makeup and costumes looked like a Hunger Games rip off. In fact, I get a very Capitol feel from Juliette Lewis’ character and Hollywood from the trailer.
  • Synergy was Eve from Walle. And a projector that played home movies at that. The original Synergy was an 80s supercomputer built to alternate reality. She created holograms – hence the name – and could change their appearance. Synergy transformed reality, allowing them to have a different identity.

And there you have it. I accepted a live-action movie, and for a moment, was excited to see what Hollywood could do with my childhood idol. When I realized I could not relate to the story and characters, and they butchered it, I vowed to never see it. I would not watch this movie if it was my only form of entertainment. I will never support it. And Universal should pay close attention because 157 million women apparently felt the same way.