New Mexico’s Top Unsolved Murders & Missing persons (Part Two)

The West Mesa Murders

Crime Scene investigators unearthing the remains.

In 2008, the housing bubble popped and ruined everyone’s hopes and dreams of owning a home. For developers building houses on the West Side of Albuquerque, it meant all building of new homes had stopped also. That included a stretch of a desolate mesa that had just broke ground. But with no money, that meant no housing being built so the land sat vacant and empty. Residents complained of flooding from this stretch of mesa due to the unfinished section being a natural arroyo. A developer agreed to build a retainer wall to channel water into a pond area away from nearby homes.

This uncovered the first bones of a long mystery.

On a February morning in 2009, a woman by the name of Christine Ross was walking around the west side mesa with her dog. The section of mesa she was wandering around in was under construction for a housing project development. The dog found what appeared to be a bone sticking out of the ground. Finding this unusual, Ross took a cell phone picture of it and sent it to her sister who happened to be a registered nurse. Her sister replied that the bone resembled a human femur. Ross then notified law enforcement and thus began the unraveling of one of Albuquerque’s greater mysteries.

Detectives and an army of forensics experts arrived on the scene and eventually recovered eleven remains and an unborn child from makeshift graves. The longest part of the process was trying to identify all eleven remains by the Office of Medical Investigators. Using sketches and dental records, the OMI spent months IDing all eleven remains. OMI investigators concluded they were all murdered by the same suspect. Investigators dubbed this serial killer the 118th Street Serial Killer or The West Mesa Bone Collector.

The Victims

1. Jamie Barela

Synopsis: Using DNA evidence, forensic experts were able to identify 15-year-old Jamie Barela as one of the victims of the 118th Street serial killer. She was last seen at a family gathering in April of 2004. Jamie and her cousin; Evelyn Salazar, who is also a victim, had left the gathering and went to a park near San Mateo and Gibson SE. They were never seen again. Barela was killed by an unknown person who then buried her in a mesa located adjacent to 118th Street SW in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

2. Monica Candelaria

Synopsis: Sometime between 2003 and 2005 an unknown person killed 22-year-old Monica Candelaria and buried her in a mesa located adjacent to 118th Street SW in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

3. Victoria Chavez

Synopsis: In 2005 an unknown person killed 26-year-old Victoria Chavez and buried her in a mesa located adjacent to 118th Street SW in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

4. Virginia Cloven

Synopsis: Using DNA evidence, forensic investigators were able to identify 24-year-old Virginia Cloven as one of the victims of the 118th Street serial killer. She was reported missing in 2004. Investigators believe that she was killed sometime between 2004 and 2005 by an unknown person who then buried her in a mesa located adjacent to 118th Street SW in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

5. Syllannia Edwards

Synopsis: Using a sketch and dental records, the Office of the Medical Investigator has identified one of the unknown victims of the 118th Street Serial Killer as Syllannia Edwards. Law enforcement authorities in Lawton, Oklahoma had classified her as an endangered runaway and reported her missing in 2003. In May of 2004, Edwards had been seen associating with prostitutes on East Colfax Avenue in Aurora Colorado. She may have been staying at the Ranger Motel. Edwards was seen in the company of three other women: Lucretia, Ty, and Diamond. She might have been using the nicknames “Mimi” or “Chocolate.” Edwards was 15 years old when last seen. Sylvania Edwards was killed sometime between 2004 and 2005 and then buried in a mesa located adjacent to 118th Street SW in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

6. Cinnamon Elks

Synopsis: Sometime between 2004 and 2005 an unknown person killed 32-year-old Cinnamon Elks and buried her in a mesa located adjacent to 118th Street SW in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

7. Doreen Marquez

Synopsis: Sometime between 2003 and 2005 an unknown person killed 24-year-old Doreen Marquez and buried her in a mesa located adjacent to 118th Street SW in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

8. Julie Nieto

Synopsis: Sometime between 2004 and 2005 an unknown person killed 24-year-old Julie Nieto and buried her in a mesa located adjacent to 118th Street SW in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

9. Veronica Romero

Synopsis: Sometime between 2004 and 2005 an unknown person killed 28-year-old Veronica Romero and buried her in a mesa located adjacent to 118th Street SW in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

10. Evelyn Salazar

Synopsis: Using DNA evidence, forensic investigators were able to identify 27-year-old Evelyn Salazar as one of the victims of the 118th Street serial killer. She was last seen at a family gathering in April of 2004. Evelyn and her cousin; Jamie Barela, who is also a victim, had left the gathering and went to a park near San Mateo and Gibson SE. They were never seen again. Salazar was killed by an unknown person who then buried her in a mesa located adjacent to 118th Street SW in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

11. Michelle Valdez

Synopsis: Sometime between 2004 and 2005 an unknown person killed 22-year-old Michelle Valdez and buried her in a mesa located adjacent to 118th Street SW in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Michelle was pregnant at the time of her death. The skeletal remains of her unborn child were found buried with her.

Possible victims of the West Mesa serial killer

It is also interesting to note, that besides the eleven victims recovered from the West Mesa, there are still another eight women missing from the time frames of 2001 through 2005.

To date, none of the women listed in the APD photo on the left have been seen or heard from since the time of their disappearance. It is assumed they may be additional victims of the West Mesa killer.

This would also possibly mean there is another burial site somewhere around the outskirts of Albuquerque.

Currently, the case is still open as a cold case and there is a reward of $100,000 grand to anyone with info that leads to an arrest.


This case has an ever-growing list of possible suspects. Many have been crossed off this list by law enforcement for one thing or another, but there are a few that remain on detectives’ radar. Below I’ll talk about several possible main suspects as there are too many lesser knowns and most of those have died or are already incarcerated in another state for unrelated crimes. The ones we’ll look into are the most viable persons of interest and I often find myself asking if the suspects knew each other in some form or another as they lived within close proximity of each other and the burial site.

Joseph Blea

Joseph Blea, West Mesa murder suspect
Joseph Blea was known to the Police for years.

One viable suspect that remains a constant in the West Mesa murders is a man well-known to Albuquerque Police since the nineteen eighties. Joseph Blea was a regular patron of East Central, known to cruise the Central Avenue corridor stalking and harassing not only prostitutes but middle-school-aged girls around McKinley Middle School.

Between August 1984 and March 1988, a string of unsolved murders of prostitutes made headlines for a short time but there was one victim connected to Blea from this timeframe. Jennifer Lynn Shirm’s body was found under a bush on the side of a road just off of Central on May 29, 1985. Even though a suspect in her murder was found, charges against the suspect were later dropped because DNA from Blea was recovered from the scene. Blea denies having a hand in her murder or any of the seven homicides from this timeframe.

Jennifer Lynn Shirm, possible victim of Joseph Blea

Between the years 1990 through 2009, Blea had been on APDs radar more than a hundred times for various infractions ranging from exposing himself to women to aggravated battery, and sexual penetration of a minor. In one case, he broke into a home of a young girl and waited for her to return home from school, where he violently raped her. In another case, he was accused of raping a 14-year-old with a screwdriver.

What connects Blea to the West Side murders is a couple of known facts. One is a plastic SKU tag for a tree that was found with one of the victims. It is also a known fact that Blea illegally dumped garbage from his landscaping business near the West Mesa burial sites, which is strange and incriminating. It is known he had owned and operated his landscaping business since the nineteen-eighties. APD investigators believed “It is highly unlikely (the tag) blew into the pile of dirt after grave #2 had been dug up.” Blea’s own business records indicate he bought this particular variety of trees from a nursery in California.

The second connection is his own admission to cellmates about his interest in the West Mesa Murders and that he knew and had sex with or slapped some of the victims. He quickly recanted this statement when detectives questioned him about his statements.

Blea’s ex-wives had told detectives about his collection of panties and jewelry obtained from prostitutes. He had them stashed in his house and sheds. They also stated how much he hated prostitutes, which is strange considering his long-running history of association with them.

Today, Blea is currently rotting in prison serving a 90-year sentence. He was convicted in 2015 of multiple rape cases dating as far back as 1988. It is unlikely he will ever taste the air of freedom again, but is it possible he is a serial killer with his killing spree beginning in the eighties? Only Blea holds on to these dark truths and it appears he is not ready to tell his secrets as yet.


Lorenzo Montoya, possible West Mesa murder suspect

Lorenzo Montoyo was no stranger to prostitutes along Central or the violence he committed towards them. He was caught by APD on multiple occasions in the act of solicitation, or in one case, attempting to strangle a prostitute when all he had was a couple of bucks in his wallet instead of the forty bucks that were agreed upon for services rendered.

His long-running history of violence was also aimed at girlfriends. In one case, he threatened one girlfriend that he would ‘kill her and bury her in lime.’

In December of 2006, a couple of years before the discovery of the mass grave on the West Mesa, 39-year-old Montoyo was shot and killed in a shootout with a prostitute’s boyfriend. He had strangled a 19-year-old prostitute he met in an online chat room. The prostitute’s bodyguard/boyfriend was wondering what was going on and approached Montoya’s home. What he saw was Montoya carrying the body of the prostitute. He promptly shot and killed Montoya. The boyfriend was cleared of any wrongdoing.

But with Montoya’s death, came many questions that would forever be left unanswered.

Once the bodies of the women were discovered a couple of years later, Montoyo was immediately considered a suspect considering his past and the timeframes of the missing. Also, like Joseph Blea, Montoyo lived in close proximity to the mass grave. Although hardcore pornography, sex tapes, and other questionable items were found at Montoyos home at the time of his death, there was no evidence to link his involvement with the West Mesa murders.

The only item that keeps him connected to the murders is the timeline. All of the bodies discovered on the West Mesa occurred during the years 2001 through 2005. It was strange that after Montoyo’s death in 2006, any further disappearances and deaths stopped.

Lorenzo Montoyo and Joseph Blea both lived in close proximity to the West Mesa mass graves
Lorenzo Montoyo and Joseph Blea both lived in close proximity to the West Mesa mass grave.

The item that also links Montoyo to possibly other disappearances and murders are some of the videos recovered from his home. Not only would Montoyo record some of his sexual encounters, but he also recorded the one video below which appears to be Montoyo taping up a body, or so it is alleged. No one truly knows what he was doing in the video but it does raise questions since he strangled his last victim with duct tape.

Suspect 3

Suspect Three, murder suspect West Mesa serial killer

Attempting to solve the mystery of the West Side murders has taken many twists and turns. There are some viable suspects, but what if neither Blea nor Montoya are responsible for the West Side murders? It would undoubtedly mean that Suspect Three is still out there roaming the dark streets of Central at night.

If this theory is plausible, there is a strong possibility that Albuquerque may have had a quiet serial killer operating within its midst dating back to at least the nineteen-eighties, possibly earlier.

Death on the Cruise, news article Albuquerque Journal January 28, 1990.
Albuquerque Journal, Sunday Edition with the main article discussing a series of unsolved homicides of prostitutes in East Central in the nineteen-eighties.

It is a known fact that Joseph Blea was roaming East Central during this timeframe. It has been established that his DNA was found with Jennifer Lynn Shirm, one of seven deaths reported during the years 1984 to 1988. He denies any involvement in Shirm’s death.

Could it then be assumed that Suspect Three was practicing his lethal trade before the West Mesa murders? It is a long shot and there is no evidence to support this theory but it is an interesting mention. It is even terrifying to think it is possible that Suspect Three would still be out there but how old would he be if he is even still alive?

Death on the Cruise, news article Albuquerque Journal January 28, 1990.
Albuquerque Journal, Sunday Edition, January 28, 1990

It is almost entirely possible that Suspect Three was learning his ‘trade’ at this time frame. He would roam the East Central corridor, locate a suitable victim and murder her. But perhaps he learned it was not a good idea to leave his victims lying around to be found. He then learned to dispose of his crimes by transporting his victims to the West Side, (or any deserted lands that were close by) which was entirely desolate at that time, and burying them in mass graves.

If not Montoyo or Blea, then who is Suspect 3? The ever-lingering question is where is he now? Did he move away out of state to continue his rampage against prostitutes somewhere fresh? Or is it possible he is now deceased? Questions we may never know the answers to.

Although it is a theory, Suspect 3 is not to be entirely ruled out.

Keep in mind, there is a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the West Mesa killer. If you have any information, no matter how small it would seem, hit the contact links below.

FBI Contact Tip Line
Additional Info and Current APD Contact

Hero’s Journey

The hero’s journey is a narrative pattern that appears in many stories, films, and myths. It is a classic structure that follows a hero on their journey from an ordinary world to a special world filled with adventure and danger, and ultimately back to their ordinary world as a transformed hero.

Listed below are the steps and stages for writing your story. Not every book follows this template, but it does provide a roadmap to successful writing in my opinion. Currently, I am drafting several novels, although some will see the light of the publishing world, others will not for one reason or another. I am still learning this Hero’s Journey blueprint. I have also been reading some notable books that are self-published and note some do not seem to follow any sort of pattern of the Hero’s Journey. Does this make the stories bad or awful?

In a short answer: no.

Below is a list of the Hero’s journey- the short and sweet of it. I didn’t want to post something too long-winded in explaining this critical blueprint and felt it could help many authors out there.

The hero’s journey typically involves several stages:

  1. The Ordinary World: The hero begins in their ordinary world, where they are often unhappy or unfulfilled. They may receive a call to adventure, or be forced out of their ordinary world by a change in circumstances.
  2. The Call to Adventure: The hero is summoned to leave their ordinary world and enter the special world of adventure. They may be reluctant to answer the call, but eventually, they accept it.
  3. Refusal of the Call: The hero may initially refuse the call to adventure, either because of fear or a lack of confidence. However, they are eventually convinced to accept the challenge.
  4. Meeting the Mentor: The hero meets a mentor or guide who provides them with wisdom, tools, or assistance that will aid them on their journey.
  5. Crossing the Threshold: The hero crosses the threshold into the special world of adventure, leaving their old life behind and entering a new and dangerous world.
  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies: The hero faces a series of tests, challenges, and obstacles. They may make allies who will aid them in their quest, and they may encounter enemies who seek to stop them.
  7. Approach to the Inmost Cave: The hero approaches the heart of the special world, the inmost cave where they will face their greatest challenge.
  8. The Ordeal: The hero faces their greatest challenge or battle. They may experience a physical, emotional, or spiritual death before emerging victorious.
  9. The Reward: The hero receives a reward, either in the form of treasure, knowledge, or a new perspective. This reward will aid them in their journey back to the ordinary world.
  10. The Road Back: The hero begins their journey back to the ordinary world, but they may face additional challenges and obstacles.
  11. The Resurrection: The hero faces one final challenge, often a showdown with their enemy. They must use all of the skills and knowledge they have gained on their journey to emerge victorious.
  12. Return with the Elixir: The hero returns to the ordinary world, transformed by their journey. They bring back a treasure or gift, whether physical or emotional, that will aid them and their community.

End of the World, Baby

In this post, I went on a reminiscing journey watching some notable nuclear war/nuclear holocaust films of yesteryear. Perhaps this was due to all the recent steaming diarrhea-smeared headlines about nuclear war that led me to this. Whenever a bone-headed world leader opens his or her vomit-filled pie-hole on the topic of utilizing nuclear weapons, I’m reminded of the insanity of nuclear war and the stupidity behind it. I’m reminded of those films of long ago and how relevant they were in giving a very compelling message. But it seems people have forgotten just how deadly a game these knuckle-headed world leaders are playing with all their corporate-sponsored, pro-war chest-thumping rhetoric.

I note that I have not heard a single politician speaking out against this horrendous threat that looms over humanity. This wasn’t the case years ago. No one with any sense of rational brain wanted a nuclear war or any war for that matter. No one could possibly win any nuke war. Anti-nuclear war rallies and demonstrations did go to the streets from time to time with positive effects. Even the-then world leaders were second-guessing the idea of using nukes to peddle some weird ideology. Hollywood jumped on the anti-nuke film train from time to time, making some notable films that hold relevance today. Let us take a stroll down memory lane and look at some of the films that spoke out against the nuclear threat. I present my own list of top nuclear war films of yesteryear in no particular order.

Quick Links:

  • By Dawn’s Early Light

By Dawn’s Early Light

By Dawn's Early Light, 1990

Let’s kick off this list of must-watch nuke favorites with something a bit tame before a dip in acid rain. In this film, we see what happens when nukes fall into the wrong hands. A group of nut-job terrorist politicians have taken over a Soviet nuke site and detonated a bomb over a major city within the Soviet Union. The Soviets, believing the Americans have launched a first strike, launch a ‘measured’ retaliatory strike.

A B-52 crew, piloted by Major Cassidy (Powers Booth) and Captain Moreau (Rebecca D. Morrany) takes off from an airbase moments before it is nuked. Their mission is to fly into Eastern Russia with a payload of happy little nukes seeds to sprinkle across the Soviet Union. But problems arise and they and the crew begin to question the mission as well as the events that have just taken place.

Back in Washington DC, we see a sleeping President (Martin Landau) being awakened to the horrors that are unfolding when he is told by General Renning (Nicolas Coster) to launch an all-out response. The first ‘measured’ wave of nukes from the Soviet Union are inbound. But the President withholds that option…for the moment.

The President is quickly ushered away by helicopter to safety from Washington DC just as a nuke blast goes off. The helicopter crashes and it is assumed the President and his advisors are dead. Enter another nut job politician known as Condor (Darren McGavin) who is told that he is in charge and is the new President.

Condor and an entourage of advisors take to the skies on Air Force One where drama and in-house fighting among staff members culminate into a proverbial hostile work environment led by war-mongering Colonel Fargo(Rip Torn) who presents Condor with compelling evidence to launch everything.

The scene shifts to a kid wandering through the woods where he comes across a helicopter wreck. The President and his staff officer have survived but not without injuries.

The President comes awakens in a makeshift field hospital where he realizes, to his horror that Condor is in charge and that the Russians are trying to communicate that it was all an accident and pleads to stop the looming holocaust that could doom all of humanity.

In a race against time, the President must wrestle with his conscience to overcome this looming threat and have Condor (who should have been called ‘Mad-Hatter’) roaming the skies with the launch codes preparing to launch everything. Overcoming military protocol, the President convinces Alice (James Earl Jones) onboard the military radar plane known as ‘Looking Glass’, to try and stop Condor.

Filled with a tight, tense plot line and an excellent theme, this film is an interesting watch. If only our politicians today were so reserved and thoughtful in trying to prevent a full-scale nuclear war. It is also to note that this was one of the last films made about the horrors of nuclear war before the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

Oh…did I mention it also stars James Earl Jones?

The Road Warrior

No list of nuclear apocalyptic films would be complete without mentioning the 1981 film The Road Warrior.

If you have never seen the film, you would be in for a visual feast of incredible muscle car carnage, murder, and mayhem on the deserted roads of the Australian outback.

Of course, if you have seen it a thousand times, it is still a worthwhile watch.

In the years following a nuclear holocaust, we follow along with the continuing storyline of Max (Mel Gibson), a psychologically damaged ex-police officer who retains some semblance of humanity and mental stability cruising the Australian Outback in a modified Ford Falcon dubbed ‘the last of the V8s’.

The Road Warrior, 1981.  The End of the World, baby

Max is skipping along through life minding his own business surviving the Outback searching for gasoline (usually acquired by occasional bouts of road rage) when he trips across a trap set by a strange character known as the Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence). But Max hasn’t survived this long in the apocalypse to be made a fool and quickly turns the tables with a dog and a knife. The Gyro Captain, in exchange for his life, convinces Max about a distant gas refinery that could provide an endless supply of fuel for his gasoline-starved V8 Interceptor.

The Gyro Captain leads Max to the refinery station whose inhabitants are dealing with problems of their own. A large band of road pirates has descended upon the station to try and take all the gasoline for themselves. Max manages to get into the compound through an alleged act of kindness and makes a deal to go out into the wasteland and bring back a Mack truck big enough to haul away all the gasoline to an imaginary land of paradise.

But is Max a good guy or bad? The compound inhabitants will have to place their trust in this stranger if they want to live.

A follow-up to the 1979 low-budget film Mad Max, the Road Warrior is a film that stirred a few controversy pots in its time. I doubt such a film could be made in today’s politically correct bullshit-bizarro world. A notable work of visual art that proves that nuclear war is a waste of time…and humanity.

Dr. Stranglove

Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, The end of the world, baby.

1964…what a time to be alive. The JFK assassination was still fresh, the Vietnam War was beginning to ramp up, and the McCarthyism era “Red Scare” was still in play. With all this political turmoil in the US, this Peter Sellers gem of a film debuts and throws a comical look into the political consequences of nuclear war.

A dark, satirical look at the events leading up to a nuclear war that starts when an incompetent, lunatic General Ripper(Sterling Hayden) believes the Soviets have kicked off WW3. He believes that somehow the Soviets have poisoned the water and polluted Americans ‘precious body fluids’.

He orders all B52 bombers under his command to take to the skies and bomb the Soviets.

In a war room at the Pentagon, everyone is freaking out, rightfully so. The B-52s can only be recalled if a three-letter code is given and only the lunatic General Ripper knows what it is. The Soviets also inform the US military and political leaders about an unknown weapon. This weapon, if a nuclear war was to ever occur, would detonate and contaminate the world with radiation for approximately ninety-three years, thus, essentially, every living thing would perish.

At a frantic pace, Pentagon officials order General Ripper’s base to be taken by force. It is hoped that they can arrest General Ripper and recover this three-digit code before the bombs start flying and the detonation of this mysterious weapon that will threaten everyone for the next hundred years. Unfortunately, General Ripper commits suicide but the code is found on a paper blotter and the B-52s are recalled…except one, which had its radio communications systems damaged. With the inevitable end in sight, this lone B-52 journeys on into the Soviet Union and eternity.

A well-made film that is a constant classic that will forever endure the tests of time. The moral of this story is to never trust the madmen with the keys to the nuke kingdom. An interesting side note to add to this classic is James Earl Jones made his film debut here. As I’ve said before, you can never go wrong with James Earl Jones.

The Day After

Who can forget this gem of a story? I remember this one vividly for the simple reason I had to get a permission slip signed by my parents to watch it in middle school. This was after it had already aired on television the previous year and of course, I had already seen it.

Despite this, I watched it a few times over the years and still find it interesting to watch despite some of the outdated technology and weird-looking animated bomb blasts.

Interestingly, this film comes to everyone’s mind when asked about nuke war films.

The Day After, 1983, the end of the world, baby.

The film begins innocently enough. Camera shots over Lawrence and Kansas City, Kansas where we see a view of vast green farmlands, sports stadiums, cowboys riding through stockyards, a milk manufacturing facility, doctors planning heart surgeries, young couples getting married, and of course, military personnel switching duties at a nearby nuke missile silo. It is just another beautiful day in the 1980s American life. What could possibly go wrong?

Within the background, we see televisions playing, or radios giving out silent warnings about trouble between the US and Soviet countries. As one can guess, some mutton-head politician pushes the nuke option and the world goes up in flames. What follows is a detailed trail of carnage that follows several families who have survived the falling of the nukes. Some of these characters are rich and well-off, others are struggling middle-class families, but all are trying to survive the days after.

It is an interesting film and it gives a glimpse into 1980s America, at least for the first part of the film. After that, it gives a look into the horrors of nuclear war and the vast effects on people’s health and mental state. No one in the film is untouched and everyone is changed forever.

Damnation Alley

Damnation Alley, 1977,  The End of the World, baby

Alright, spare me the groans of disappointment and indulge with me in one of my favorite childhood films.

I’ll admit the weird animation of ‘giant’ scorpions, flesh-eating cockroaches, cheap special effects, and multi-colored dancing skylines are a bit of a stretch but do add a bit of flavor to the story.

Slated to be a top blockbuster film in 1977, it flopped…horribly and for obvious reasons. This film had much potential but bad script writing and cheap budgets killed it. Even big-name actors such as George Peppard, Micheal-Jan Vincent, and Paul Winfield couldn’t pull this B-grade from the toilet of doom.

But it is an interesting and fascinating film to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

The film starts with Lieutenant Jake Tanner(Jan-Micheal Vincent) and  Major Eugene “Sam” Denton(George Peppard) assuming their duties within a missile silo. Denton tells Tanner that he is requesting a change of position as he feels Tanner is too reckless and immature to be in his world of strict order and discipline. This changes when while going through preliminary missile systems checks, the Soviets launch a nuclear attack on the US. The end result of this nuclear strike not only destroys the US and the world, but the resulting explosions have also knocked the earth off its axis creating all kinds of unnatural events that make climate change tame.

Two years later, we find Tanner and Denton still at odds with each other but they have respect. After a massive fire in the main missile command housing wipes out the entire remnants of base inhabitants, Tanner, Denton, and Sergeant Tom Keegan(Paul Winfield) head off into the vast unknown of a post-apocalyptic world in an all-terrain armored vehicle known as a Land Master. The goal is to get to Albany, New York where supposedly survivors have amassed to rebuild America.

It bears mentioning that along the way in this adventure in misadventures, a young Jack Earl Haley (Walter Kovacs/Rorcschach of the 2009 film Watchmen) plays the role of a kid named Billy, a lone survivor found in a deserted house on the open plains. He also can chuck a rock with fine-tuned accuracy faster than the Man With No Name can blast a dozen guys off a fence with his famed revolver.

The only thing worth mentioning about the film in total is its message on the kinds of effects nuclear war might have on this planet called Earth. As I research the modern effects via the internet(bad source) the only thing mentioned is how bad it would be for climate change. Yeah…no shit, you think? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that aspect. At the end of my research, no one knows what would happen to the earth if an all-out nuke fight broke out. But damn, it would be horrible for climate change.

All in all, the film is worth watching. It is far better than anything the news puts out for entertainment value. Just ignore the hoaky special effects and I don’t want to hear about it either. It will forever remain one of my favorite childhood memories and films. And you, gentle reader, can’t take that from me.


I’ll be honest. It had been decades since I had seen this visual feast of nuclear depression. I’m not sure why I never rewatched this gem over the years, but it was worth the time rewatching this depressive orgy of nuclear destruction, something akin to visiting an old friend serving multiple life sentences at the state pen.

Considered to be the BBC version and answer to The Day After, this film was over the top when it was first released. Its portrayal and the effects of a nuclear war event scarred a generation of people forever.

The message given in the story is there are no winners in nuclear war and the aftermath will be horrendously long-term and visually horrible with no hope.

Threads, 1984.   The End of the World, baby

The story begins innocently enough that the viewer believes this might turn out to be some weird family drama. Ruth Beckett(Karen Meagher) and Jimmy Kemp(Reece Dinsdale) are a couple of young kids hanging out in a car overlooking Sheffield, England. But as in all things, this ‘hanging out’ creates a problem when Ruth discovers sometime later she is pregnant.

Life goes on and Ruth and Jimmy are building their lives together, but world events are beginning to overshadow this young couple. Ruth is in fear for the future of their child. The world superpowers are engaging in acts of war and chest-thumping that inevitably lead to a nuclear exchange. Sheffield, because it is a hub of manufacturing and also home to a nearby RAF military base, is hit by a nuclear bomb. Poor Jimmy is one of the lucky ones as he is turned into a burnt marshmallow while Ruth and her parents hide in a cellar and are spared from the initial blasts.

This is where the film shines. The special effects in the film spare the viewer no mercy. For its time, the nuclear bomb blast is as real as it got. Windows exploding, buildings being blown apart, people running around on fire, cats and dogs burnt, dead, or howling in deafening unison. People are stunned and they literally urinate themselves in fear while smoldering corpses lie all over the ruins of a once beautiful city.

But the horrors don’t stop there.

Ruth slips out of the bunker some weeks later and begins a search for Jimmy and witnesses the aftermath and social breakdown of humanity. Some years pass, and Ruth has given birth to a daughter. Civilization has fallen back to medieval times and people’s speech has reverted to nothing more than grunts, and weird twists of the English language.

I don’t want to ruin this gem of a film any further. Suffice it to say, if there ever was a nuclear war, this film convinced me that I would much rather have the bomb land on top of my head instead of witnessing humanity getting toasted. A worthwhile film that still holds up in today’s world.

Black Rain

Black Rain, 1989,  The End of the World, baby

Who better to give a poignant story about the true cost of nuclear war than from the Japanese viewpoint? Not to be confused with the weird eighties mullet hairstyle wearing rebel cop-without-a-clue Micheal Douglas film of the same name, Black Rain, is a masterpiece of film cinema.

The controversy surrounding the necessity of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima is still argued today within ‘ed-u-me-catted‘ debate circles, but either way, the end results are the same. Two cities were bombed into oblivion and the aftermath is a testament necessary to avoiding nuclear war.

The film jumps right to the day of the bombing of Hiroshima. We find a beautiful young woman by the name of Yasuko(Yoshiko Tanaka) helping move family belongings into a friend’s house when the bomb is dropped. Concerned for her uncle and aunt living in Hiroshima, she embarks across treacherous waters when the ‘black rain’ begins falling. Yasuko’s uncle Shigematsu(Kazuo Kitamura) has just gotten on a train when the bombs drop. He escapes but sees the carnage that the bomb has wrought. He goes back to his house to get his wife Shigeko(Etsuko Ichihara) and also, much to his dismay, his niece has arrived on the scene. Together, they navigate through the ruins of Hiroshima to get to a factory where they hope to find safety.

The horrors of the bombing become ever clear when the viewer witnesses the horrific aftermath. We see people wandering around with roasted skin, clothes burned off, and skin hanging. The worst effect is the mental shock of howling and screaming people.

Fast forward five years and we see this happy little family living in a small village full of A-bomb victims suffering from all kinds of physical and mental ailments. We also see an ex-soldier who is riddled with mental PTSD who, every time a vehicle with a running engine rolls around, thinks they are under attack by American tanks. He grabs a roll of cloth and dives under the oncoming vehicle and tosses this cloth roll under it. He is trying to prevent another attack in his mind, but he has an understanding mother, who has to physically calm him by saying ‘He got it’.

The Uncle and Aunt are trying to give away their niece in marriage but are having a hard go at it. Most people treat the victims of the bombing of Hiroshima like lepers and the niece is not going to be married anytime soon due to the fact she was exposed to the mysterious black rain. This is even when she is given a clean bill of health by the doctors.

As time goes on, people are dying in the village from the effects of the A-bomb. We hope that Yasuko is spared from these effects, but this isn’t meant to be a fairy tale with a happy ending. Life is never meant to be fair, but we are left with the question as to why a man would come up with such a horrible weapon to destroy himself with.

Children of Hiroshima

Another classic from Japan that should be at the top of everyone’s watchlist. I believe this was one of the first films to address the harrowing events and effects following the nuking of Hiroshima.

Filmed against the backdrop of actual Hiroshima seven years after the events, the viewer is presented with a rare view of the remaining destruction that is lost in today’s modern city. We are viewing the events in the film through the main character Takako. I found this film to be viewed like a documentary with a little story splashed in to add some flavor, which it certainly did.

Children of Hiroshima, 1952, End of the World, Baby

Takako is living a good life some four years after World War Two as a teacher. She is a survivor of Hiroshima even though her family was not so fortunate. It is summer break and for some weird reason, she gets a hankering to go off and visit surviving friends in Hiroshima. Each friend tells a compelling and heart-wrenching story of their version of the events of Hiroshima and the physical ailments each faces.

We visit first a grandfather who worked for Takao’s father for a number of years as a servant. He is blind and can’t work anymore. He has a grandson whom he had to place in an orphanage due to his inability to support him. The orphanage is swollen with children whose parents were blown away in the destruction of the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima. This element in the story becomes the main focus when Takako wishes to take the former servant’s grandson back home with her. Then we meet one of Takako’s school friends who is sterile. The list grows throughout the film and anyone with a brain larger than a walnut should be asking why is any country allowed to have and use a nuclear bomb at all.

A.I. Story and Voice Generators

The Real Me…

I’ve been exploring this new phenomenon of A.I.-generated stories and the platforms associated with story writing. We are at the threshold of a new era and sometimes, it looks bleak and strange. Too many authors and people in general, it is something to fear. I assure you it is not. There are plenty of novice authors, along with seasoned veterans, considering using this tool. A.I. is one thing, but the idea of having A.I. draft a story for an author? I find the idea ludicrous but the idea is catching on in use for some authors, and the ‘hustlers’ looking to make a quick buck and it is creating issues.

In February of this year, 2023, Clarksworld, a Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine, had to halt submissions due to a tidal wave of A.I.-generated stories editors were receiving. A percentage of these A.I. stories were plagiarised from well-known authors. Since Clarksworld is a paying market, plenty of non-author ‘hustlers’ tried to scam the system to make a quick buck, and fortunately, they failed. But what’s to stop people from using A.I. stories for profit far into the future? that is the grand question many paying market book and magazine editors are asking.

Clarksworld has found itself dealing with the question of how to deal with AI generated stories.

For an experiment, I toyed around with Chat GPT for this blog post. I used a simple prompt on writing about the positives and negatives of using A.I. story generators. The A.I. generated answer is next.

Positives and Negatives of Using Story generated A.I.-Response by Chat GPT

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been changing the way we live and work for several years now, and it’s not just limited to industries such as healthcare, finance, and manufacturing. With advancements in natural language processing and machine learning, AI is now being used in the creative industry as well. Specifically, authors and writers are turning to AI-generated stories to help them with their craft. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the positive and negative aspects of using AI story generators for writing.

Positive Aspects:

  1. Saves Time and Effort: Writing a compelling story requires a significant amount of time and effort. AI story generators can help authors save time by providing them with a starting point, helping them to avoid writer’s block, and enabling them to focus on other aspects of the writing process.
  2. Boosts Creativity: Sometimes, all it takes is a little inspiration to get the creative juices flowing. AI-generated stories can provide authors with unique ideas and perspectives that they may not have thought of otherwise.
  3. Customizable: AI-generated stories can be customized to meet the specific needs of an author. For example, an author can input certain parameters such as genre, character traits, and plot points to create a story that fits their specific requirements.
  4. Helps Writers to Learn: AI-generated stories can also serve as a learning tool for authors. By analyzing the language and structure of the generated story, writers can learn how to structure their own writing and create more engaging prose.

Negative Aspects:

  1. Lack of Originality: While AI story generators can be helpful, they are not capable of creating truly original stories. They rely on pre-existing data sets and algorithms, which means that the generated story may be similar to other stories that have already been written.
  2. Limited Scope: AI-generated stories are limited to the data sets and algorithms that they are trained on. This means that they may not be able to generate stories outside of their programming, which can be limiting for writers who are looking to create something truly unique.
  3. Lack of Emotional Depth: One of the primary criticisms of AI-generated stories is their lack of emotional depth. While they can generate a plot and characters, they may not be able to create the emotional connections that readers crave.
  4. Overreliance: Finally, authors who rely too heavily on AI story generators may become overly dependent on the technology, which can stifle their own creativity and voice.


AI-generated stories have both positive and negative aspects when it comes to their use in the writing industry. While they can save time and boost creativity, they may also lack originality and emotional depth. Ultimately, authors should approach AI-generated stories as a tool, rather than a replacement for their own creativity and voice. By using AI story generators in combination with their own writing skills, authors can create compelling stories that are truly unique.

The Real Me…

As interesting as it sounds, there are errors and I noted my SEO and readability scores were in the toilet. I’m guessing that A.I. has yet to figure out how to link up to the web and sort out these aspects.

On the negative side of using A.I., one could add a fifth negative to the mix. There are people who will use the A.I. system in an attempt to scam the publishing world out of money that should go to authors who genuinely write a story from their hearts and head.

Scammers are jumping on board the ‘money-scam’ train and trying to run ram-shod of the publishing system in an attempt to get rich quickly. Will this change in the future? I can see this happening to prevent people from taking advantage of the system of publishing. Although, I believe it is a matter of time before someone legitimately publishes a best-seller using an A.I. story generator. I

A.I. Voice…a troubling trend or Godsend?

The topic of this section is the use of A.I. voice. In some ways, it is connected to the use of A.I. story generators. It seems everything lately connected to A.I. has grown since the middle of last year- or when I discovered it as a possible tool to help me with my own stories.

I can’t seem to get into the idea of using the A.I. story generators though. The art aspect and voice? I can find legitimate uses for it. For some years, I had a stack of stories that I wanted to get back out into the mainstream publishing circuit. Unfortunately, readers’ tastes and attention spans have changed over the course of several decades.

The stories I had pretty much faded into obscurity. I wanted to offer something a little different though. I utilized using an A.I. generated voice to actually ‘read’ my story. The results I posted on my page ‘From the Vaults‘. My reasons were two-fold. One was bringing back some of my old material from the dark shadows of time and also presenting the stories to visually impaired persons who had trouble reading anymore due to illness or blindness.

I started with one story, ‘My Love‘ which people seem to mention from time to time. Even though it is a Fan-Fiction piece, it still gets a mention in some circles…or so it seems anyway. Although the voice I chose was fairly decent, I add that A.I. seemed to have trouble with some of the words and their meaning, or emphasis. Of course, I’m still learning to utilize this tool and will probably go back and redo the voice once A.I. becomes a little more proficient.

Personally, I can see a use for this tool and as time goes on, I’ll explore it a little more in-depth. I believe it can be a useful tool and this aspect of A.I. can only improve over time.

Sources and Further Reading

A.I. Art

A short opinion.

Recently, I took up another side hustle. I began exploring the strange new realms of A.I.-generated art. There appears to be a large controversy utilizing this fascinating art tool and perhaps with good reason. But I still find it fascinating to explore and utilize.

Jason Allen, a graphic designer/artist won first prize and $300 with his A.I. art piece titled: “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial” (French for “Space Opera Theater”). One would believe this was a great achievement but it all went up in flames when it was discovered the art piece was made with Midjourney — an artificial intelligence system that can produce astounding visual art pieces with written worded prompts. 

Jason Allen artwork titled: “Théâtre D’opéra Spatial”

Although winning should have been an exciting aspect of digital artwork, it ended up in a controversy that will continue to ring alarm bells far off into the years to follow. A tidal wave of anger and questions continues to surround the use of A.I. generated artwork. Some of the arguments can be valid, while others are not so much.

In the years that follow, as in all things in this new era of digital A.I. art and storytelling (automated story writing A.I.), there comes the issue of legal use. Currently, the U.S. Copyright Office will not copyright any A.I.-generated artwork.

Then there is the issue of plagiarism. One of the allegations is that most A.I.-generated material is ripped off from well-known artwork pieces. The vast army of current traditional pen/paper and brush/paint-canvas artist communities around the world also lay claim to this. Traditional artists are sharpening their pens to file a deluge of lawsuits that could tie up the courts for some time. I can imagine the courtroom dramas that are about to unfold.

And perhaps rightfully so. Where does A.I. gather the information to create these artworks? It is alleged the systems gather bits and pieces from internet images or images that are uploaded into the system. Some of the images used are alleged to be copyrighted material. At this moment I have yet to see any A.I. artwork that even looks suspiciously stolen from other known artists or photographers, but this doesn’t mean A.I. does not.

It will be ultimately up to the courts and laws of the land to decide in some cases but it is interesting to discuss the use of A.I. in the digital medium. There will be plenty of angry people stamping their feet and resisting this use of A.I., but I feel its use in the future will be commonplace.

Here’s to the future – adapt or die.

Exploring MidJourney

Exploring this new realm of art is fascinating. As a digital designer for e-zines and book covers, I can see a practical use for such a tool. On the book cover side, I will refrain from using A.I. until some of the legal dust settles. I need a valid legal explanation before using A.I.-generated artwork for profit. As far as A.I. art and its current use, I don’t see any issue with using the artwork for personal use or on one’s website. But this is my opinion and I could be wrong, but I’m not risking it either.

It is not difficult to use Midjourney. I do plan on looking into other A.I. art generators to see how they perform. Currently, I recommend using this platform.

With my Discord account and after setting one up with Midjourney, I was good to go in creating some basic digital art. I’ll give a few examples below.

Future World 2A, digital art by John L. Thompson

Future World 2A

Future World, digital art by John L. Thompson

Future World

As Real As It Gets, digital art by John L. Thompson

As Real As It Gets

Last Kiss before Eternity, digital art by John L. Thompson

Last Kiss before Eternity

The Devil is the Boss, digital art by John L. Thompson

The Devil’s the Boss in This World

Puzzle of the Universe, digital art by John l. Thompson

Puzzle of a Universe

Apocalypse Girl, digital art by John L. Thompson

Apocalyptic Girl

Temper Tantrum, digital art by John L. Thompson

Temper Tantrum

Although not spectacular in any sense, it is interesting to toy around with. Some of the images created by so many other people are just simply stunning. I will continue to explore this avenue in the following months and perhaps write a future article on my findings.

The drawbacks…

It appears A.I. is still in learning mode when it comes to creating certain parts of the human anatomy. I’m not sure why this is but it is one of the drawbacks of using this art medium.

AI and the human anatomy

A.I. seems to have an issue with manipulating the human finger.

A.I. art and some issues

And sometimes size ratio and character placement are way off.

Despite some issues in generating images to correct ratios or certain aspects of human anatomy problems, A.I. art can still generate some decent images if one learns to use the correct input prompts. That is the learning curve- learning input prompts to get what you need. I’m sure in the years that will follow, A.I. will ‘learn’ about our world as much as we are learning about A.I. world.

But for now, here is to the future.

Recommended Reading and Sources

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