Batman Revisited

June 1989: My friends and I are just a few of the hundreds of people crowding the halls at Orland Square theater, shuffling nervously with our popcorn and cokes, waiting to be admitted to a special Thursday night advance screening of Batman. The manager appears and hollers above the din: have your ticket stubs out; you need to show them again before being admitted to the theater. We grumble, but secretly we’re thrilled. This added inconvenience only confirms our belief that we’re about to witness something special: not merely a movie, but an event that really is as important as we had thought.

Most of you reading this probably don’t need to be reminded how wildly anticipated Batman was, how it seemed to promise the restoration to greatness of a character who had languished for decades in camp-TV hell (more on that later). Superman had been the movie of our childhoods: vast, sweeping, touched with reverence and just enough self-deflating humor, it sought to fill you with wonder, an ambition worthy of the greatest superhero ever. Batman, though, would be the movie of our adolescence. It wasn’t going to delight us — it was going to kick ass.

And for the most part it did. Beginning with the massive stone bat symbol that ended the opening credits, Batman was a movie of Gothic excess. From the shadowy Expressionist spires of Gotham City to Jack Nicholson’s calorie-burning turn as the Joker, everything in Batman is both exaggerated and obscured, vibrant and colorful yet hidden in shadows. Watching it joyfully that summer night, it was hard to think how it could’ve been improved: Michael Keaton was a surprisingly capable Batman (or at least a capable Bruce Wayne; as those OnStar commercials have shown, anyone with a decent chin can play Batman), the script was funny (“This town needs an enema!”), and best of all, the movie was dark-just as we knew Batman ought to be.

Except it really wasn’t.

There’s a curious disconnect between the way enthusiastic Batfans (including me) embraced the movie and what’s actually visible on screen, lo these many years later. Certainly, Batman is hardly the sunny, optimistic adventure that Superman was. Roger Ebert disliked the films partly because he always assumed that it would be fun to be Batman, as if anyone other than a borderline psychopath would look forward to donning a silly costume and placing himself in mortal danger every night. Burton, at least, wasn’t that naive, and the few moments of Batman that really qualify as “dark” are the ones where Keaton is allowed to show the toll that being Batman takes on Bruce Wayne’s psyche. We see him in his Batcave, dressed in sombre black and watching a party in his own house (Wayne Manor is more wired than the Nixon White House) from a bank of security monitors, fearfully eavesdropping on his guests; we see him rocking himself to sleep in a pair of gravity boots after a romp in the sack with Vicky Vale. Bits of disturbing ambiguity flash up here and there: when he tells Vicky that parts of rambling Wayne Manor are “very much me,” is he simply referring to the Batcave and its trove of gadgetry? Or is there still a corner of the mansion where Bruce Wayne remembers the happy childhood that was stolen from him?

Such moments are rare, and the rest of the movie is about as “dark” as a vintage Warner Brothers gangster picture, the ones that relished their anti-heroes’ nefarious exploits for 80 minutes only to gun them down mercilessly at the end (remember kids, crime doesn’t pay). From the boozy Det. Eckhart in his Columbo raincoat to Robert Wuhl’s intrepid newshound to Jack Palance as the aging-but-ineffectual crime boss, Batman calls again and again on the stylistic language of B-movie film noir, but without the deep moral ambiguity that suffused that genre at its best. In short, while it might be closer to pastiche than straight-out camp, Batman is far less dark and serious than its gloomy compositions make it appear. Even Danny Elfman’s score, still often held up as the ideal “serious” superhero movie score, is a tongue-in-cheek genre exercise; I can’t hear it without picturing vintage black and white footage of Packards and Cadillacs swinging around corners, tommy guns blazing from their windows.

There’s nothing wrong with this, of course. But I do think it’s time we all lightened up a bit and realized that if Batman took its title character out of the camp ghetto, it didn’t take him very far. Moreover, I realize as I get older that the original “Batman” TV series is nothing to be ashamed of: it’s superbly designed, funny, intelligent, and far more sophisticated than just about any other comedy on the box today. (It had the worst test scores of any ABC show up to that time, and wouldn’t stand a chance in hell of getting on the air now.) It also saved a comic series that was teetering near cancellation; the Batman films, for all their self-conscious distancing from the TV series, probably wouldn’t exist without it.

And finally, in one of those funny accidents of history, the whole process is primed to start up again. With Joel Schumacher having sunk the series into a new morass of cheesy puns, hyperkinetic editing, leather fetishism and banal homilies, Batman needs rescuing today far more than he did in 1989. Supposedly a film adaptation of Frank Miller’s terrific Year One series is now underway that promises to take Batman once again back to his dark, turbulent essence. When that summer comes I have a feeling I’ll be there again, my popcorn and coke (and ticket stub) in hand, once more eager to witness the rebirth of a legend.

Originally written for Entertainment Geekly in June 2003.

The Adventures of Bill Kurtis: Terror at 5,000 Fathoms (Part 5 of 7)

“Dive, Frenchy! Dive, damn you!” hollered Bill, hauling himself back to his feet as the crew slowly recovered from the blast. Alarms blared angrily throughout the sub and Bill’s sound technician’s head was bleeding.

“But monsieur,” Frenchy cried, his dishevelled hair falling in his face, “zees boat, she is not rated for depths —”

“Don’t argue with me!” Bill grabbed Frenchy by the collar and held the stolen disk in front of his face. “We’ve got six renegade Russian submarines who will do anything to get their hands on this. We’ve got depth charges falling all around us. And there’s an underground cave system directly beneath us on the ocean floor, which I’ve explored in another documentary here on A&E, The Unexplained: Mysteries of the Depths.”

“Bill, that klaxon’s really cutting into everything,” said Phil, the sound technician. “We might have to loop this when we get back.”

“If we get back,” muttered Frenchy.

Bill tore Frenchy’s beret from his head and slapped him across the face with it. “Frenchy, are you going to give that order … or am I?”

Frenchy sighed. “Mon dieu.” He turned to face his crew. “Take her down. Stern planesman, fifteen degrees down bubble.”

Mon capitan,” said a crew member, “she will fly apart!”

Oui,” said Frenchy dully. “Oui.”

As Frenchy gave further orders the deck began to tilt beneath their feet. Charts and papers slid from the table and poured onto the deck. Bill’s cameraman, Carl, grabbed an overhead rail for support while continuing to shoot with his free hand. Bill turned to the lens, pausing as the makeup girl gave him a quick powder.

“On a submarine,” Bill intoned, his resonant voice cutting through the chaos around him, “there’s no such thing as a ‘routine dive.’ As the boat submerges, the pressure on the hull from the surrounding water increases, and so does the tension in the air. There is an added urgency and care in the way these men go about their jobs. They know that, a quarter-mile below the ocean’s surface, there are no second chances. They know that –”

Suddenly a noise like a pistol shot ripped through the cabin.

“What the hell?” said Bill.

Sacre bleu!” said Frenchy, shouting to be heard over the eruption of conversation among his crew. “The hull rivets, they are flying loose!”

Two more steel bolts burst from their sockets and ricocheted through the cabin. One hit a monitor and shattered it; the other struck Phil in the forehead, killing him instantly.

“Phil!” Bill hollered, holding Phil’s lifeless corpse in his arms. “Noooooo!!”

Carl retreated under the table and continued filming. Men rushed from station to station, ducking their heads and protecting themselves with their arms while all around them the ship groaned and cracked with the ever-mounting pressure. Frenchy surveyed the ruined monitor.

“Main sonar control,” he said, looking down at Bill cradling the dead crew member. “Until we fix her, we are flying blind.”

“We keep going,” Bill said grimly.

“Monsieur Bill, you do not understand. We cannot keep going without-”

“Damn it, Frenchy!” Bill leapt to his feet and threw a solid left into Frenchy’s jaw. Frenchy dropped to the deck. The crew stopped to watch, aghast; an eerie silence fell over the room, punctuated by the increasing groaning of the hull.

“Diving officer,” Bill said, breathing heavily, his face shining with sweat, “what’s our depth?”

The diving officer spoke no English. Another officer read the guage: “Nine hundred and eighty meters.”

“Get us down to one thousand and fifty. Then level your descent and bring us about on a course of 35 degrees, speed five knots. Follow that for two minutes.”

The officer relayed these instructions to the diving officer, who burst into a tirade in impassioned French.

“He says even if the boat does not crush like paper, there is no help for us down there,” the officer translated. “He will not follow this course.”

Bill glanced down at the body of his dead technician, blood from his head still oozing onto the floor. Damn it. It’s all going to be for nothing.

“Take the boat down,” said Frenchy suddenly, pulling himself to his feet. A red welt was growing on his chin. “We have come zees far. We will trust zees American a little longer, heh?” He smiled at Bill, who nodded. He repeated the orders in French, then added, “Sound collision alert. We must be ready for anything.”

Bill and his team crouched down along the wall as the crew drove the sub ever further down. The grinding of the hull plates grew louder, ever louder, until ordinary conversation was impossible. Warning sirens rang incessantly. The lights began to flicker.

“Carl, let’s roll,” Bill said.

“Bill, it’s bedlam in here!” Carl said. “And our sound guy’s dead!”

“Never mind that. There’s work to do. Meg, powder me and then pick up that mike.”

Meg patted the shine from Bill’s face and gingerly picked up Phil’s boom mike. Bill faced the camera once again.

“The sea is an unforgiving, merciless mistress. Even now she tears at the hull of our ship, searching it for weaknesses. We are now engaged in a race against time-a race we never wanted to run. Can we make it to the bottom before our vessel tears apart? Will we find the protection and assistance we need? These questions-”

A terrific crash sounded deep within the ship. Officers shouted in French.

“Hull breach!” Frenchy said. “How bad?”

“Capitan!” an officer yelled. “We have reached the destination, and …”

“And what?” Frenchy replied. “Zees boat, she will be filled with water in five minutes!”

“I cannot be sure,” the officer stammered. “But I could swear … there is another ship alongside us!”

Frenchy looked at Bill, a look of dumbstruck surprise on his face.

Bill smiled at him. “Shall we see who’s at the door?” Then, turning once more to the camera:

“That’s next … here on A&E.”

Godfather’s Daughter Mafia Blues

I admit it: when it comes to this kung-fu stuff, I’m pretty much a novice. I know Jackie Chan and Jet Li and Sammo Hung and Donnie Yen, and innumerable viewings of Iron Monkey have even enabled me to sort-of recognize Yu-Rong Guang. That, my friends, is about the extent of it for me. Like any acolyte, I’m acutely aware of my lack of knowledge, and so I embrace both the masterpieces and the dreck as one who can learn equally well from either.

Godfather’s Daughter—or The Godfather’s Daughter Mafia Blues to give its original Hong Kong title—lands pretty neatly in the middle of those extremes. It begins about 15 minutes before it ought to and stubbornly tries to turn its perfunctory gang-war plot into a mini-Leone-style epic. The skinny: the good crime family, headed by Li Hwa-yu (Alex Man, playing the titular Godfather), is soon set upon by the bad crime family, headed by the young and ambitious Kuyama (Ken Lo). Anna (Japanese star Yukari Oshima), the Godfather’s daughter, tries to fight back on her proud and rather dithering father’s behalf, and is aided by new gang recruit Wai (Mark Cheng), ostensibly there to keep her out of trouble. Li is eventually killed, and it’s up to Anna and Wai to Even the Score.

There’s quite a bit more, including subplots about betrayal and embezzlement that chiefly serve to illustrate how ill-suited the elder Li is to lead an aggressive criminal enterprise, though the film plainly wants us to see him as a man of honor suddenly forced to contend with savages who don’t respect the rules. Sound familiar? Of course it does. Not to worry; we’re here for the fighting, and it’s worth the wait.

The star of the film, though she doesn’t appear until the 15-minute mark, is Oshima. Oshima is cute in a pert, unglamorous way; her Dorothy Hamil cut and fuzzy pink track suit seem chosen for their plain functionality rather than their stylishness. All the more satisfying, then, to see her turn into a writhing, ass-kicking dynamo about halfway through the film. A sexier performer wouldn’t have been as effective; unlike, say, Jennifer Garner in Daredevil, who’s so physically perfect her fighting skills seem just part of the package, Oshima looks like a gal who worked to be able to do what she does, and sure enough, she works her tail off in this movie. Her first show-stopping fight scene takes place in a health club, where she leaps and twirls around the equipment while fending off half a dozen attackers, getting thrown through the occasional wall or glass table in the process. Her fighting is balletic and yet laced with savagery; it’s Oshima’s anger in the action scenes that gives Godfather’s Daughter its most intense moments.

Fighting alongside Oshima is Mark Cheng, whose laconic presence keeps the movie watchable in its dull first act. Cheng’s fighting is cleaner and less wild than Oshima’s, but he’s still terrific to look at, a worthy action hero in his own right. His main role in Godfather’s Daughter is to show up and rescue Anna in the nick of time, a routine that got a bit tiresome after a while. Still, no complaints—this is definitely a duo that keeps your attention.

Ken Lo rounds things out as bad guy Kuyama, spending the movie in an array of rich gangster clothes with one conspicuous exception, the aforementioned health club fight wherein he appears shirtless and in tight sweatpants. Lo is strikingly good looking, and I assume the decision to show him fighting nearly naked wasn’t made on a whim. Fans of Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master II remember Lo, of course, as the kickboxing colonial stooge who kicks Jackie onto the bed of hot coals and then proceeds to nearly kick him to death; there was something downright scary in Lo’s fighting in that film, as even Jackie couldn’t quite anticipate where the next lightning-fast kick was going to come from. Sadly, nothing Lo does here compares to his work in that film. His chief role, as I say, is to look handsome and dangerous, and he certainly does that well enough. Even his climactic scene is a small let-down: he fights Cheng with a katana, or short-bladed Japanese sword, and the scene would’ve been more effective had we not just seen Oshima fight off another character wielding a chef’s knife in a claustrophobic Hong Kong apartment; the feral menace of that scene makes much of what follows an anti-climax.

Minor reservations aside, Godfather’s Daughter is a fine example of a pretty good HK action movie: nothing stellar, a little slow or silly here and there, but with enough great action and martial arts to make it worth your while. And the DVD, I must add, offers some great Chinglish. “Beat her as she brings us trouble!”

I Still Kinda Like It When a Plan Comes Together

There’s nothing like revisiting a TV show from your youth to discover exactly how much you’ve grown up in the intervening years. (Or how grown up you already were, if you’re one of the fortunate ones.) I have no idea who that child was who took such pleasure in the Dukes of Hazzard, whose heart used to leap like a deer at the sound of “Dixie” played on a car horn; the good-ol’-boy-hating adult of today wants nothing to do with him. And I strongly suspect the kid who willingly sat through those episodes of Silver Spoons was, in fact, an alien doppleganger sent to infiltrate Earth society by posing as a witless twelve year-old whose role models were dorks. Maybe he was just a kid too lazy to get off his ass and change the channel.

Whoever those strange alternate selves turn out to be, I do feel a strong kinship to the kid who watched The A-Team. I was thrown back into his presence on the occasion of TV Land’s A-Team Fandemonium Marathon: 48 hours of dummy bullets, exploding cars, and men soaring balletically through the air. Not to mention lousy acting, weak puns, preposterous celebrity cameos, and enough specimens of Geniune Eighties Hair to start a museum. It’s probably not a good idea to watch anything constantly for two straight days, and sitting in front of The A-Team for more than a few hours inflames the human demand for plausibility into a rage-fueled geyser. “How can Hannibal Smith possibly have an acting career when he’s a wanted fugitive?” you might find yourself demanding of your roommate, or girlfriend, or cat, or the wall. “Who actually thinks Face is that good-looking? How could any doctor with brains think that Murdock is really crazy? How many stupid machines are they going to build out of discarded freezer parts or old wheelbarrows? And why the fuck doesn’t anyone ever get killed?”

But why stop at rampant implausibility when you can add repitition? All tv shows rely on formula to a certain extent, but The A-Team is in a league—a sport—all its own. It established a formula in its first few episodes and stuck to it so rigidly one could easily imagine a software program capable of generating A-Team stories. (Oh look—someone already has.) And although every A-Team fan knows the routine, and since you probably wouldn’t be reading this if reams of gunplay and cheesy jokes aren’t your cup of tea, we nevertheless must revisit, briefly, the well-oiled engine that was an A-Team story.

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Interview with Christina Marrs

To start with, rather than the cliché “Why a Christmas album?”, I’ll go with the cliché “Why a live Christmas album?”

For a number of reasons; obviously it’s a lot less expensive to record that way than having to go into the studio. Aside from that even, most of the Spankers’ recordings that we’ve released have been live recordings. There’s only been [recording] in the studio on two occasions, for Spanker Madness and for Hot Lunch. Even our first CD release, Spanks for the Memories, although it wasn’t recorded in front of a live audience, it was recorded essentially live around one microphone. We’re just real comfortable recording like that. So much of what the Spankers do is the live experience, and hopefully that comes across a little better in a live recording than it does in a studio recording.
You’re more comfortable in that setting than going into a studio and dealing with amplifiers and mikes and all that stuff?

It’s not that the studio intimidates us. It is wonderful to be able to go into that studio, especially we did do so many live recordings, to be able to take that time and overdub some vocals and get everything the way we want it, it’s a luxury that you don’t have when you’re recording live. I guess it’s just that we are comfortable recording live, and I don’t know how many bands are comfortable doing that, but for us it’s kind of old hat.

Why only the one original Wammo tune? Why not some more typical Spankers’ out-there sort of humor for the Christmas songs?

I don’t know. Maybe because it’s a slightly more reverent subject? I don’t know. It’s not something I would automatically think about—if someone told me I had to I could probably write a Christmas song, or a holiday song, but I just don’t think that the subject matter is something that inspired us to write a slew of Christmas songs. I don’t know if the world needs more Christmas songs! (laughs)

So when the idea to do the album, there was never really a question of, “Let’s write something original for it,” it was more “Let’s just pick our favorite tunes and do those”?

I don’t even know that it was ever really conscious. From my side, I was personally just concentrating on finding tunes in that genre that I liked to do. I like singing other people’s songs, you know? (laughs) I don’t have to write all my own songs and only perform those. Wammo’s been going through a lot of that in the last couple of years, where he doesn’t really like singing other people’s songs anymore, he wants to do all his own stuff. But I still say there’s a lot of fun to be had in taking a song that you know and breathing your own life into it. I really enjoy doing that.

Were there any songs that didn’t make it into the album or into the shows that you would like to do for the Christmas project?

There was a couple things that didn’t make it onto the record. We did a version of the Pogues’ “Christmas in New York.” There’s something about it, I think was just … it didn’t make it on the record. (laughs) I don’t know; I think part of it was we didn’t feel we were doing the song justice, and there was another glitch in that every live recording we had of it had something wrong with it, to the point, you know, that it just didn’t make it on.

I think we did a lot of cool songs, we found some other cool songs in the process that we didn’t end up recording for one reason or another. I think there was a song that we discovered and thought, “God, what a great song, this is so great, I can’t believe I haven’t heard anybody do it,” and then found out shortly afterward that the Squirrel Nut Zippers had, in fact, covered that song for their Christmas record. So we were like, “Well, you know, we don’t really need to follow that up.” So, you know, it’s a pretty natural process for finding tunes we like.

It’s pretty much the album you intended to do from the start?

Yeah, I think so. It’s just another theme record for us, and we’re pretty familiar with that.

To get back to songwriting: where I first came to notice you guys was with Hot Lunch, which I believe was all originals.

I think it’s got a couple covers on it, but it’s mostly originals, yeah. And Spanker Madness was the next record and that’s all original with the exception of one song, but that had been in the Spankers’ repertoire for many years so we kind of felt obligated to get it down. (laughs)

So, given that this band is so big, and so fluid in its membership, how do you “assign” the songwriting duties? Do you write when you know you have an album due, or do songs just accumulate?

It’s a little bit of everything, really. Wammo and I are the principle songwriters, and Stanley Smith and other people in the band in previous years also wrote, so we’ve always had a lot of songwriters in this band. The songwriting process I guess is unique to each individual and it’s also unique in each situation, how it comes into the band. When we recorded Spanker Madness we set out a goal of each person to write a couple of reefer tunes. When we had enough work to do an EP – originally we were going to do an EP – I think the subject was so inspirational to some of us (laughs) that we ended up with more songs. We said, “Well let’s make this a full-length record,” and I had to go back and write two more reefer tunes. So I ended up writing four and Wammo ended up writing three, and then Stanley wrote one and Korey [Simeone] wrote one and Guy [Forsyth] wrote a couple, so we did have a lot of input there.

We do write sometimes when we know we’re going into the studio and we have a purpose in mind. But a lot of times songs accumulate. We all live so spread-out that when we get together it’s usually at the start of a tour, and that’s the time when the new material gets worked up. “OK, I wrote a couple songs between this tour and the last one, we need to get ‘em going.” So it’s a little bit of everything really.

Does stuff ever come out of improvisation or stuff you just toss out at rehearsal?

Yeah, it certainly does. We’ve had songs that were entirely improv’ed. We have songs that we did on a lark and ended up being our most popular songs.

Was “Hot Lunch” one of those?

No, I think that was a piece that Leroy [Biller] and Eamonn [McLaughlin] – Leroy being our guitar player, and Eamonn being the violin player – they got together and specifically wrote that. And that’s just another example of someone in the band who’s not a singer, another collaboration. So there’s a lot of creativity in this band, there always has been, even as the members come and go.

We get our material from a lot of different inspirations, and it comes together in a lot of different ways. Wammo and I just wrote a song recently that—we joked about writing a country song, a ballad with the catchline “If you love me you’d sleep on the wet spot.” It was a running joke for a couple years, and I finally wrote it down to a melody and wrote the bridge, and then we got together and wrote a verse, and then I think six months later we got together and wrote another verse and a bridge (laughs), and it was just this evolving process where the song is finally ready.

Is it difficult to be in a band with, as you said, so many people that come and go? Are you and Wammo kind of “in charge” when all is said and done?

I guess what it comes down to is it’s not exactly a democracy, but as far as decisions about people coming into and leaving the band, we try to involve as much as input from other people in the band as we possibly can. At any given time in the Spankers, there’s Wammo and I, who’ve been here all along, we’re in our eighth year, and Stanley, who’s been with us almost since the very beginning. And then there might be someone in the band who’s only been with us for three months, or six months or a year. So you can’t really have a true democracy where you put everything to the vote when you have the varying levels of seniority. Certainly [with] major decisions I at least like to get input from the other people; these are the people that you have to work with, and we like to have kind of a feeling of family and for everybody to feel like they have some kind of say and involvement in what goes on.

I noticed that Pops Bayless isn’t on the Christmas record. Is he away for good?

Pops Bayless hasn’t been in the band for a couple years now. He was on Spanker Madness; he quit the band before we’d even mixed the few songs that we had. It was after he left that we decided to turn the EP into a full-length, so we had two different sessions for that record, and if you look at that record there’s two different bass players on it. (laughs) One did the first session and one did the second session, and I think each session produced five or six songs. We actually ended up cutting one of Pops Bayless’s songs because he quit in the middle of it all. It was the first time that the split from the band wasn’t the most amicable one (laughs), so we did cut one of the songs he’d written and sung on the album, and I think he does a banjo track here and there. Nothing real major, but his name is still credited on that record although he’s just playing a rhythm instrument or two on a couple tracks. Him and Mysterious John quit at the same time, and they have another band in Austin now called Shorty Long, and that’s what they’ve been doing for the last couple years.

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Hi, My Name Is Jack, and I’ll be Your Murderer Tonight

Greetings. My name is Jack Labeckie, though you may know me by my more popular name, “Labeckie the Butcher.” I know you will be excited to learn that you have been selected to join my elite, yet ever-growing, roster of victims.

At some point later this evening, I will capture you and render you unconscious, transport you to my hidden lair, and, over the course of many productive hours, gradually take your life.

The actual process of killing you will be long and, regrettably, extremely painful. Unfortunately, at this time it is not possible to reduce the suffering of my victims without lessening the pleasure derived from the act itself. While your suffering will be horribly protracted, you may be pleasantly surprised at how quickly the time seems to pass. Realize also that, while I have successfully kept victims alive for more than 37 hours, most of my captives perish well before that point. Who knows … you may be one of the lucky ones!

Frequently Asked Questions of Jack Labeckie, Serial Predator

1. Oh my God. Why are you doing this? Why?
Hey, if I knew that, I probably wouldn’t be doing it! 😉 Seriously, the roots of my psychosis run so deep it would take a team of prison psychiatrists a lifetime to trace them all. And even if I could explain it, let’s face it: would it really make this any easier for you?

2. Please, I have money. There’s money in the shoebox in the closet. We have valuable jewelry. Take it. Take everything you want. Just let me live.
While I appreciate the gesture, I don’t kill for money; my job as an itinerant computer salesman gives me all I need to keep body and soul together.

3. This can’t be happening! This can’t be happening!
While not strictly a question, I hear this often enough that I ought to have a response. While some philosophical disciplines maintain that reality and being are psychological constructs, often imposed upon us by an oppressive external power, I personally don’t have any trouble believing in my own reality and the reality of what I do. It’s only fair to mention that my victims have rarely found this attitude to be a comfort to them once in my clutches.

4. Why me? My god, why are you doing this to me?
Now this is a question worthy of a serious reply. If you wonder whether you’ve done something to deserve a brutal and violent death, let me assure you that is not the case. There is simply no predicting what will turn an individual from an anymous passerby into the object of my cold, dispassionate malice. It might’ve been the way you said hello to the doorman at work; it might have been a particularly jaunty flip of your hair, the way you tossed away a coffee cup and sank it into the wastecan in one clean shot. As you endure the hours we spend together—and we will spend many, many hours together—please don’t waste time wondering which of the thousand insignificant decisions you’ve recently made could have been made differently to keep you out of my clutches.

5. No!! You’re not going to use that, are you? Please—anything but that!!
Yes, I’m afraid I am going to use it. (Don’t worry, you’ll find out soon enough.)

I hope this has answered your questions and put some of your worst doubts to rest. I look forward to working with you.

Yours sincerely,

Jack Labeckie