The Ersatz Influencer
Issue 5

A Little Bit of Everything All of the Time

This one is a little later than planned, but sometimes life gets in the way and you just have to go with the flow. Part of the delay was just trying to find a way to pull all the threads together, to tie up my thoughts in a way that connected the things that were (are) bouncing around in my head. It didn’t happen. There’s too much. I’m still thinking about Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, after more than a week, and that doesn’t always happen with movies. It’s a film that’s challenging for me to talk about, beyond “You need to see it.” More on that later.


I’m a complete amateur. I’ve never made a dime off my writing, and if I’m being honest about it, I don’t know if I even have the “work ethic” to get to the point where I could make a living at it. My friend James, though? He’s a machine. I’m constantly inspired by his consistent output. His latest offering is the Black Guard Press Pathfinder Bestiary 2nd Edition.

Everything from assault ants - tiny and harmless as individuals but capable of devouring entire villages when they swarm - to wereorca storm giants - massive and powerful in all their forms - lurk within these pages to challenge heroes and adventurers of all stripes.

He’s also got a ton of other stuff in his catalog, so if you’re into D&D, Pathfinder, or just RPGs in general, check it out.

Reading

Mostly short stories this week, with a new classic from the master of horror that I missed the first time around.

  • Watchtower by Warren Ellis

    This popped up over the weekend. A short story about space exploration, corporate colonization, and what it means to try and find true solitude in a world where someone else has already been everywhere you try to go. A little loose for Ellis, but as he says it’s a quick riff on the “sad astronaut” trend, an Andy Weir-style pop science thing. Something that resonated with me is that in my life—in most of our lives—we will rarely do, visit, see, or hear anything that another person has not experienced before us. The question for me, then, is does that diminish the value of that experience? I don’t think so, because even if someone else has already experienced something, it’s the first time I have experienced it. And often that’s due to the influence of someone else pointing that thing out to me. So…yeah. Influencing. That’s kind of where that leads me, and one of the reasons I’m trying these weekly dispatches. Even if I’m not the first person on Earth to “discover” these things, I’m experiencing them for the first time myself. And if I pass on my experience, then maybe someone else will see it for the first time, and we keep the chain going. Connected to humanity from the beginning to the end.

  • The Backbone of the World by Stephen Graham Jones

    Prairie dogs, loss of companionship, and comfort through Lovecraftian horror. A weird little story that’s part of the Trespass collection, which apparently you get to read for free as an Amazon Prime member.

Watching

There are movies and shows that make you think. There are ones that you just enjoy. There are others that you go on a ride, without really knowing what you’re doing along the way. Kind of touched it all this week.

  • Everything Everywhere All At Once

    The short version: Everyone should watch this movie as soon as possible.

    Imagine a guitar string, pulled as tight as you can imagine. This represents my expectations for this film, both from my own natural interest, but also from the hype train barreling down the tracks for the last few weeks. Stretched tight, full of energy. If the movie plucks that string in the wrong way, it’ll break. It will snap back and maybe poke me in the eye, scarred forever. An empty twang that gets forgotten in sour memories. Fortunately Daniels and their amazing cast and crew plucked the string just right and delivered the most beautiful note. Just perfect. Perfect for the time, perfect for what’s in my head, and in my heart.

    As I mentioned above, I find it hard to discuss this film, specifically with people that haven’t yet seen it. Just…watch it as soon as you possibly can, OK? It’s worth your time. It bundles up a lot of what is going on in our lives right now, the chaos and the uncertainty, and helps chart a path through it all. And at the start of that path, the center line, is kindness. Just…be kind. Life sucks, life is going to suck, and the answer to all that sucking isn’t doing things to make it suck more. It’s just being kind, and holding out a helping hand instead of a fist or an angry voice.

    Even just on the surface this movie has a lot to offer. Martial arts. Expert cinematography. Honest acting full of life. A “multiverse” story that is trendy yet also transcendant. James Hong. Googly eyes. Best use of a raccoon in a motion picture since The Great Outdoors. I’ll say it again, at the risk of over-hyping it: watch this one. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

  • Ambulance

    Obviously I went into this movie expecting a Michael Bay movie. I didn’t anticipate grand cinema, especially right after Everything Everywhere just a couple days earlier. Some music-video establishing shots, some vaguely patriotic music swelling above a sun-drenched Los Angeles, etc. And lots of explosions, a bunch of yelling, and all the shaking.1That’s what I got, and, if I’m being honest, it was all executed at a level slightly higher than I expected. I enjoyed it more than Morbius, anyway.

    It’s funny. After years and years of making films, I think Mr. Bay’s final form, so to speak, is high-res drone cameras. I don’t think there’s been a movie with so many drone shots. Car chases with drone shots. Walking and talking shots with a drone. Foot chases with drones. It was all drones, from racing down the street to flying straight down the sides of buildings and into the faces of actors on the street. If you thought the shaky cam from Bad Boys was prone to causing motion sickness, strap in for Ambulance.

    I didn’t know anything about this one going in, really, except that there was an ambulance, Garrett Dillahunt, and shaky cam. Oh, and Mysterio is in it. The plot, such as it is, doesn’t break any new ground, but there’s no ramp-up and you’re in it from the beginning, along for the ride as two brothers do crime and try to find a way out when everything goes awry. They try to make you think the crooks running the heist are professionals, but they pale in comparison to the cool cucumbers of Heat. But then this isn’t that kind of movie. This is a “guns are firing all the time everywhere” movie, with some character development sort of squeezed in between.

    Not everything makes sense. There are some shots with things on screen flipping around between edits in unbelievable ways (which way was that gurney facing in the ambulance?), and there’s a successful abdominal-surgery-by-FaceTime.2A literal Chekov’s gun. A radio-controlled low-rider armed with a chain gun, for some reason. Even so, I found myself having a good time. Which is really all I ask for when I go to a Michael Bay movie. He let me down with all the Transformers movies, but he got me back a little with 6 Underground (mostly on the merits of Mr. Ryan Reynolds), and this one was a little bit more back in my lane.

    It also reminded me strongly of Grand Theft Auto V. I think they may have even robbed the same bank that gets robbed in that game, and there were certain streets they raced down that reminded me of the fictional San Andreas (which is, of course, based on Los Angeles).

    One thing that really kind of bummed me out: they played the credits fast, like on TV when they want to crunch the runtime and move onto the next show after a movie. Too fast to read, even, once the stars’ names had passed. I was really wanting to spend the time to see who did the drone work and VFX, but…I can’t read that fast. Whoever made that decision did the crew dirty.

    Extra bonus highlights:

    • There are two self-references I caught. One reference to Sean Connery’s line about the winners going home to the prom queen from The Rock, and another one about Bad Boys.

    • A beautiful interlude with Christopher Cross’s Sailing

    • The Alamo Drafthouse pre-show featured a segment of Bay TV, playing segments of Michael Bay music videos. Some real classics in there.

    • I managed to get on the right side of a keg float this time. I scored the last pint of Tropical Pickle Beer on tap.

  • The Seven-Ups

    An 70s movie starring Roy Scheider, directed by one of the producers of Bullitt and The French Connection. There’s a pretty extensive car chase in it, which I guess is what it’s known for, but the movie as a whole is kind of a riff on the “secret police squad that does what it has to” trope. Nobody really trusts them, because they don’t know what they’re doing, and when a cop gets killed who’s fault is it? Pretty slow-paced, and it has that one guy in it that always plays the bad guy in 70s and 80s movies or TV shows.

  • Picard Season 2

    Just started this one, not sure if I’ll finish before the end of the week. So far not sure I’m 100% on board with yet another “mirror universe” thing, but mixed with time travel and Q, maybe it will work out fine.


Protect Trans Kids

Keeping kids safe and healthy shouldn’t be a debate or a matter of preference. Here’s a few places that are trying to help. If you have others to suggest, let me know, and I’ll include them in a future dispatch.

  • Equality Texas

    Rated 97/100 by Charity Navigator, this organization is doing the work to help LGBTQ kids and their families live the life they’re entitled to live, with “full equality in the hearts and minds of our fellow Texans and in all areas of the law.”

  • Don’t Mess with Trans Kids

    If you’d like to show your support with a clever t-shirt (or hoodie or sticker) that demonstrates your pride in our great state and our kids, this is the link for you. Purchases here are going to Equality Texas.

  • TransTexas

    An organization focusing on “furthering gender diverse equality in Texas. We work to accomplish this through education and networking in both public and private forums”.

  • Trans Lifeline

    A grassroots nonprofit dedicated to providing direct emotional and financial assistance and resources to people in crisis.


Sharing is caring

If you come across something you think I should check out, send it my way. Also, if you think other people might like to read my dispatches, please pass them along or share them via whatever network you have.

  1. If Michael Bay could keep his camera still for more than 30 seconds, I think he might have a future. 

  2. Pretty sure a plastic hair clip isn’t strong enough to close off an artery, but then again I’m not a trauma surgeon so what the hell do I know? 

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