FIERCE ANTICIPATION: May 28-31 [Ryan Dixon (Finally) Returns]


a blogumn by Ryan Dixon


Returning to Fierce Anticipation

“So, where were you?”

That’s what you’re asking right now. Wondering what the hell happened in my own life to cause me to go missing on this very web page for nearly six months. Well, as anyone who’s ever seen Spider-Man knows, with great power comes great responsibility.

After two nearly two years, the power of my position as a Cultural Kingmaker became an unbearable burden. Sure, it was fun to be the supernova star of whatever cocktail party or soiree I was attending. To have fawning fans (ones who I would surely bed afterward) asking my advice on what to do that weekend. To watch them await my response like I was the Oracle of Delphi.

But you will never know what it truly felt like to sit over my computer and compose Fierce Anticipation during my initial tenure. To predict that Love Never Dies would never make it to Broadway and then see, days after its disastrous West End opening, that the scheduled New York run was going to be delayed (perhaps forever). Yes, I might have prevented unwitting audience members from spending untold millions on a masturbatory musical, but how many teamsters, costumers and ushers will be jobless come this November because of me? How many lives did I ruin by a mere 2,000 word blogumn?

Again, with great power comes great responsibility.

So I’m here to set the record straight. The rumors of arrests, anal rapes and ascensions to Heaven are all wrong. The real reason I went on hiatus and put my power in the drawer was due to a letter I received on January 13 from a reader I will simply call M…

Dear Ryan,

It’s taken me several weeks to write this, but after much internal torment I decided that it was something I had to do. I’m sorry if the following offends you, but it’s a tale that needs to be heard.

I was born into a large family who, for the most part, has lived in and around Lincoln, Nebraska for the better part of the last century.  For the past decade or so, various issues had kept many of us apart and estranged. But three years ago, my  father was diagnosed with Esophageal cancer and given little chance to survive.

However, while my dad got sicker and sicker, his illness acted as a gauze for the rest of the family, healing all the old wounds and allowing us to rally around him and the hopes for his good health.

We considered it a pre-Christmas miracle when, this past November, my dad’s doctor told him the incredible news: he was totally cancer free.

With both the cancer and family strife gone, all of my siblings, cousins, uncles and aunts decided to get together at my dad’s place for the Christmas holiday.  A nephew of mine had read your recent post on Hickory Farms Beef Stick and was very much taken with your enthusiasm for the meat that most of us, surprisingly (especially since we live in meat-loving middle America), had never tried. Since, this was the first time we were together as a family for holidays in nearly a decade, we decided to start a new Christmas Eve tradition: a Christmas toast at the stroke of midnight with champagne, eggnog, cheese and your Hickory Farms beef stick.

After we got back from a Christmas Eve mass, we gathered around the dining room table and gave a short speech about what Christmas meant to us and then ate a slice of beef stick as the clocked chimed twelve. My father due to his courageous victory over certain death, was given the honor of eating the biggest slice, that rounded apple-like end piece.

Immediately following our toasts, Uncle Harry, the jokester in the family, began telling his famous story about how his dogs have a certain talent for projectile peeing on he and Aunt Jane’s garage door when it goes up and down. Suffice it to say, this story was a family favorite, especially for my dad.

However, as Uncle Harry got to the end of the story, I instantly knew something was wrong when my father’s laugh, usually a deep and hearty guffaw, was instead a barely audible wheezy, gasping for breath. By the time we all turned to him, his face had already turned a dark shade of purple. The cancer had weakened the muscles in his throat so much that the beef stick was refusing to go down.

I rushed toward him, ready to do the Heimlich, but before I could reach him, he collapsed onto the table, sending the remaining beef stick, eggnog and champagne flying into the air. We did all we could do to revive him, but that thick end piece of beef stick was lodged too far in his poor throat. The paramedics pronounced him dead at 12:27 am on Christmas morning.

While I don’t directly blame you for my father’s death. I do blame your overwhelming enthusiasm. You must understand that there are consequences to praising and damning the things you enjoy or hate. Your magnetic, seductive and altogether overpowering writing style is an invitation for others to try things that could be deadly and to avoid things that could be beneficial.

I urge you to rethink how you write about things. While my dad can never be brought back from his beef stick inflicted death, I can only hope that this letter saves someone else before its too late.

Yours Truly,


This email, to borrow an prose cliche, rocked me to the core. A few hours after reading it, I told FaN’s editor Ernessa T. Carter (in case you didn’t know, author of 32 CandlesPre-order your copy today!) that I needed to take a hiatus. And so I’ve spent countless hours, days, an weeks over the past several months pondering whether I wanted to return at all.

What finally made me decide to come back were all of you, dear readers. While I could live a healthy, happy life without composing another Fierce Anticipation, the thousands of emails and occasional phone call (I have no idea how they got my number) convinced me that like Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Hulk Hogan, I now stood for something beyond just my corporeal body. You, citizens of the world, looked to me to be a beacon of light, guiding you to the hidden jewels floating within in the dangerous cultural Nile whose heaving rapids we find ourselves trying not to drown within.

So once again, I take my first hesitant step back into the water. And away we go…


George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead

Confession: You’ll never find a bigger George A. Romero fan than me. Creepshow was the first horror film my parents allowed me to stay up late to see (a heavy bout of bad-pizza induced vomiting proved an effective catalyst). I decided to attend Carnegie Mellon partially because Romero went there and filmed portions of Creepshow in the basement of one of CMU’s buildings. And I’ve made approximately one million trips to the Monroeville Mall where I split my time between re-enacting each scene in Dawn of the Dead with pretending to be a silent and secret zombie, plotting to take bites out of the flesh of unsuspecting shoppers.

Most importantly, Romero proved a wonderful and inspirational mentor early in my career by taking the time to meet with me and provide copious amounts of notes for a project I was working on. And it was his filmmaking style — a near-perfect synthesis of gore, parable and political satire—that proved the biggest inspiration for Hell House, the graphic novel I co-wrote that is set to be published this summer from Viper Comics. (How was that for a smooth and seamless plug?)

So, imagine my dilemma when, in 2008, several friends and I, Pittsburghers one and all, went to see Romero’s Diary of the Dead, which was an experiment in Paranormal Activity-like docuhorror and found it somewhat lacking.

Oh, who am I kidding, Diary of the Dead was terrible. So terrible that after the film ended, my group silently hustled our way out of the darkened theater and onto Santa Monica Blvd, not wanting to look each other in the eyes, hoping against hope that what we had just watched was some sort of joke. When the glaring Los Angeles sun finally forced us to share our real opinions about the film, the awkward murmurings and stuttering words that fell out of our mouths could not hide our abject embarrassment over what we had just seen. It was if we had just caught all of our parents swingin’ their things during a sweaty orgy in a Mexican restaurant bathroom.

After seeing Diary, I worried if its mere existence had a chance of ruining the prestige and good feelings from the Romero’s previous four zombie films. Of course, you wouldn’t have known this by the reaction to the Fan Boy Online Film Cult that basically has a stranglehold on how any film of genre pedigree is received. While this geek cabal has championed many worthy projects, they can also be a vicious bunch. For example, one of their favorite targets is NY Press critic Armond White who has earned their most vitriolic fury for panning what they consider to be seminal masterworks like Star Trek and Up. While I very much enjoyed both of those films, I also appreciated White’s daring pose of diffidence to the online critical community.

They didn’t, didn’t however, and their message, which can be found on any of the Rotten Tomatoes comments sections to White’s reviews, was simple: Don’t fuck with us.

Yet, if you give them unlimited access to the set, laugh at their jokes, go on their podcasts and indulge them five minutes more during the interview, then you’re golden. This online star treatment was obviously afforded to Romero and Diary as there is no other way to describe the kindly mixed reviews it elicited from web writers. Sure, there were hints in the many online reviews that something was rotten (aside from the flesh) in Romeroland, but overall, the e-critics couldn’t see a dead film through the marauding, munching zombies.

By many accounts Survival of the Dead is a major improvement over Diary and a worthy extension of the previous zombie classics. Though I am very hesitant to go into the theater again, after nearly four decades of amazing movie memories I will give Romero another chance to come back from the dead.


Sex and the City 2 and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Has there ever been a movie-going weekend that had the primal, post-apocalyptic power to cause couples to lock horns in a to-the-death multiplex grudge match over which desert-set, wardrobe porn flick, featuring a host of  actors drowning in bad spray-on tan, they’d rather see?

While I could spend several thousand words mocking both SATC2 and POP: SOT (the anagram has a nice rhythm to it, doesn’t it? Sounds like a social network for cockney tweens), is there anyone out there who isn’t already in on the joke? The critical and commercial results of both pictures are more predictable than than an Evangelical minister spending the night in West Hollywood.

The good news? Everyone wins: Critics get to release their inner snark by writing caustic commentary with the same dusted-off one liners they employed to write the reviews to Leonard Part 6 and feel all-around superior to the mass movie-going heathens who are tragically missing out on the newest handheld Eastern European masterpiece that shows a real girl having her first period. Women (SATC2’s biggest demographic in case you were unaware) will marginalize themselves to squeeze into their snazziest Marshall’s attire, down a few Appletinis and watch Carrie & Co. with a group of their own “besties” who will all be taking delight in spewing behind-the-back venom about the others the next day. As for the gamer groupies?  Well, that group of gonzos will put on their best Star Wars shirt, slather on the Drakkar, trim their molestaches and drive their Clinton-era Nissans to the multiplex with the ill-fated hope of meeting a Gemma Arterton-look alike whose romantic tastes forgo beefcake in favor of Beast.

Another reason I’m avoiding joining the derision parade for these two films:  I’m afraid of causing  another round of reverse-curse karma similar to last year’s disastrous Steelers blogumns where I made fun of each opponent’s city. What good did that weekly act of picking off the low-hanging urban fruit of Cleveland, Detroit and Cincinnati serve? Well the Steelers didn’t make the playoffs and they’ve also had one or two tiny little off-field incidents you might have heard of.

One final thought: Is it just me or did the makers of SATC2 miss a golden opportunity to have the film join the pantheon of comedy sequels that forgo the numeral for the word? If we’ve had Look Who’s Talking Too, Another Stake Out, and Analyze That, why not Some More Sex and the City or, if the marketeers at HBO and Warner Bros. really wanted to beat the critics at their own game, Really Bad Sex and the City?