Starbucks holiday cups insult mermaid cultists everywhere

I am sooo angry about these coffee cups! How dare Starbucks depict a mermaid… with TWO TAILS! Apparently I’m not the only one upset by this affront.

“This is outrageous,” says ruler of the seas, King Triton. “I cannot believe my daughter posed for these!”

The controversy started when national coffee chain Starbucks released a red holiday cup sporting the sea princess, Ariel, with two tails. As does most human garbage, many of these cups washed into the ocean, where King Triton’s Jamaican servant, Sebastian, stumbled upon them.

“I have always told Ariel that cappuccino is better when it is wetter,” says the succulent crab. “These pictures, they are obscene and promote a body image unattainable for many of our young mermaids.” Since Princess Ariel’s ascent to the human world and her transformation into a bipedal fish eater, many young, impressionable mermaids have been undergoing tail bifurcation surgery, or “tail splitting.”

“These cups are just more evidence of the human world co-opting and completely corrupting the traditional mermaid,” states Laura Lauper, 26 years old, who plays Ariel at the Disneyland theme park. Lauper has been a Little Mermaid fan since she saw the movie as a little girl twenty years ago. “People are like, ‘You’re so childish. I can’t believe your favorite movie is a cartoon.’ They think I should’ve outgrown my belief in mermaids a long time ago, that people shouldn’t take make-believe things so seriously. I just tell them, ‘Well, you can’t prove they don’t exist.’ I think it’s blasphemous.”

Not everyone agrees with the controversy. “It’s not even a split tail. It’s her fins,” says Starbucks customer-of-the-month Donny Pinkerton. “And who cares? The coffee’s hot. Ariel’s hot. People just need to cool off with all this political correctness. If you want to believe in mermaids, fine. Just don’t tell me how a mermaid should look on my coffee.”

In other camps, environmentalists see a different side to the issue. “Perhaps the more alarming problem here is the influx of human garbage in our earth’s oceans,” says Fujimoto, a once-human wizard/scientist who now lives underwater with his daughter, Ponyo. Fujimoto is responsible for maintaining the delicate balance between land and sea. “And do you hear anyone complaining about the devastating impact of coffee processing plants on our waterways and aquatic ecosystems? Humans are disgusting.”

Personally, I could care less about the environment when it comes to my coffee addiction and belief in traditional mermaids. Starbucks, or any company for that matter, has no right to put whatever branding they want on their products if it violates my mermaid religion.

And what does the fashionista, the social butterfly and irresponsible Princess Ariel have to say for herself? “I’m a freaking make-believe character, people. On a freaking coffee cup. Grow up!”

Starbucks refused to comment.


THE HANGOVER if Tarantino had written it

I love British shows, but they don't always translate well into American versions. Amazon's pilot of Mad Dogs might be the exception.

Starring Billy Zane, the funny Steve Zahn, and Tony Soprano's nephew Michael Imperioli, Mad Dogs reminds me of THE HANGOVER if Tarantino had written it. Like, if he'd co-written it with Vince Gilligan.

The show is funny, socially piercing, enigmatic, and it builds realistic but very large characters in a beautiful space, ripe with corruption and budding danger. My favorite parts are the truly dark and unsettling twists. The directors, writers, and actors create such real people in such a believable exotic place that when the unreal happens, you can only accept it.

It's one of the most intense and disturbing things I've ever seen, and I loved it. Amazon Prime members can watch the pilot free on Amazon.


Happy Valley review

Cop dramas don’t usually make my list of favorite TV shows, with True Detective, The Wire, and Top of the Lake being the most notable exceptions. Well, now I have one more to add: the BBC’s Happy Valley.

A six-episode miniseries, Happy Valley follows Sergeant Catherine Cawood on a mission to avenge her daughter Becky’s death. Nearly nine years ago, Becky was impregnated by her rapist, Tommy Lee Royce. After having the baby, Becky commits suicide, leaving her mother Catherine with no choice but to raise the baby. Catherine’s decision to keep the boy splits her grief-stricken family in two: her husband divorces her, and her son disowns her.

Eight years later and the Cawood family is trying to maintain very tenuous bonds. Catherine is struggling to raise her troubled grandson while also cleaning up rampant drug-dealing on the streets. When she hears that Ryan’s father, Tommy Lee Royce, has been released from prison, Catherine becomes hell-bent on bringing him to justice for her daughter’s rape. What she doesn’t know is that Tommy Lee Royce is embroiled in a new sinister kidnapping plot that is quickly becoming something much worse.

The British Meryl Streep

Aside from a solid, suspenseful plot that builds tension and raises the stakes throughout the six-episode arc, Happy Valley is filled with strong performances, especially from Sarah Lancashire in her role as Catherine. I’ve come to think of Lancashire as the British Meryl Streep, and not just because they’re both sophisticated blondes. Lancashire plays an incredibly strong, complex female character, who, despite her inner demons, is extremely likable. I like her for raising that poor boy, Ryan, even though initially she doesn’t want to, and I love her for protecting him and defending him the way she does. Catherine is the type of person who will help anyone without expecting anything in return, and she is so well-developed, and so well-acted, I quickly became invested in her story.

If you like gritty cop dramas with leads who are broken yet inexplicably strong, if you like suspense and tension so tight you feel like you’re being hanged, and violence so brutal you yourself feel bruised, watch Happy Valley. On Netflix and at Amazon.


Black Mirror review

I love British television series, especially the comedies—Alan Partridge, The Mighty Boosh, Snuff Box—but Black Mirror is my new favorite anthology show.

Similar to The Twilight Zone and The Phone Company, each episode of Black Mirror follows a different story centered around the dark, technological future of humankind. Overall, season 1 and season 2 are both stellar, but two episodes in particular stand out.

“The National Anthem” Season 1

In this political thriller, a kidnapper threatens a princess’s life unless the prime minister has sexual intercourse with a pig on live TV; when the story hits YouTube, social media begins to sway the political response to the kidnapping. This is, by far, my favorite episode. It’s dark, tense, and, at times, hilarious, and its statement about public opinion, politics, and voyeurism is subtle and sharp.

“Be Right Back” Season 2

In this more intimate drama, a bereaved woman loads her dead boyfriend’s personality, pictures, and video files into software that can call her on the phone using his voice. This episode plays with the idea of mindclones, but takes it to the next frightening level. The characters are likable and well-drawn, and the suspense is hair-raising. It begs the question, “What does it really mean to be human?” and it explores whether our online personalities are multi-dimensional enough to truly recreate us. Where do they surpass us, and where do they fall short?

Sometimes awe-inspiring, sometimes funny, but always brutally dark, Black Mirror shows us a reflection of who we are, and who we’ll become when technology takes over. I highly recommend it. On Netflix and Amazon.


Tether Suspected in Sony Hack

North Korean hackers may have used a new powerful smartphone to hack Sony.

In an attack against Sony’s comedy The Interview, which depicts the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, the hackers used a time-bomb virus to steal emails and other private data, threatening to leak the information to the press if The Interview hit theaters this Christmas. US authorities now suspect the hackers may have used an advanced cell phone called the Tether to accomplish their attack.

The Tether, developed by The Phone Company, is billed as the world’s smartest phone, and it contains some frightening technology.

“We believe the [Tether] may have the ability for quantum decryption,” says MIT mechanical engineer Floyd Rogan. Quantum decryption is one of the key functions of quantum computing. While still theoretical, this type of decryption is thought to be capable of bypassing most existing encryption methods that keep our sensitive data safe. “Sony emails and corporate data would be an easy target,” Rogan says. “I hate to think what other systems these hackers could crack.”

Fortunately scientists are still developing the first functional quantum computer—or so we thought. Investigating the attacks, the FBI have found some troubling indicators of quantum decryption, including the speed with which the hackers infiltrated the Sony network to plant the time-bomb virus. “The only device we think may be even close to capable of these speeds is the Tether,” Rogan admits. Indeed, the FBI have traced some of the IP addresses involved in the attack back to a specific telecomm provider: The Phone Company. The Tethers seem to employ an unknown type of impenetrable cryptography that many experts agree could only be achieved with a quantum computer. “The fact that this type of technology is available in a mobile device is terrifying,” Rogan says.

Experts are still puzzling together how this technology may have found its way into a smartphone. “No one has made [a workable quantum computer] yet,” states Franklin James, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Quantum Computing in Waterloo, Canada. “We’re getting closer, but there are still issues with entanglements, and then there’s the size of such a device. It beggars belief that a quantum computer the size of a giant beer keg could fit in a phone not much larger than the palm of your hand.”

However the hackers managed to crack into Sony’s data vaults, they have warned Sony of further attacks if The Interview is released in any format. Authorities are still investigating the Tether's role in the Sony hack and its capability for future cyberterrorism.


New Novel - The Phone Company

Today, we announced the release of my newest thriller, The Phone Company. The book will be 99 cents on Amazon today. We're also hosting a giveaway for a signed copy on Goodreads.

Thanks to everyone who made the release a great success!