Friday, December 5, 2014

A 21st Century Christmas Blessing

Our Christmas Tree topper for this year
May the Lord grant you a drama-free Christmas, with no family conflicts, sudden bad news, or any other last-minute crises.

May His hand shield you as you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, otherwise known as the malls. May the escalators rise up to meet you, absent of unattended screaming children. May He defend your car against crappy drivers in the parking lots. May His anger burn swift and harsh against those who take up two spaces for the sake of preserving their precious car's paint job. May He send flocks of poop-loaded birds to cover such a car, and may a deep freeze set in seconds later.

May you not purchase an item at one store, only to find it available at half off somewhere else two weeks later.

When you do your online Christmas shopping, may the Lord defend your computer, financial information, and IP address from thieves and hackers

The Lord guard and keep your bank account and credit card balances, and may you be spared overlimit fees.

May He grant you infinite patience and mercy when you're subjected to the 14th consecutive showing of "A Christmas Story".

...and if you are the one inflicting this torture on others, may the Lord have mercy on your soul.

May the Lord keep away from your sight anyone who takes offense at whatever holiday greeting you choose to say to people.

May the Lord grant you a politics-free season, especially saving you from those who seize upon the whole "Christmas Under Attack" myth for their own ends.

On the other hand, may He also defend you from those who would eradicate any single reference to Christmas because it offends their tender sensibilities.

May God and His angels protect you from the Star Wars Christmas Special.

If you happen to run across an Elf on the Shelf, may there be a roaring fire in the fireplace, and no witnesses.

May the patience of God restrain your fist from going through the television screen after you witness the umpteeneth ruination of a Christmas song, hearing it changed into a commercial jingle.

May the Lord defend you from fruitcake.

May the Lord spare you from creepy people when you happen to pass under the mistletoe.

May the Lord watch over your thoughts and actions, especially during company Christmas parties. But if He doesn't, may He soften the hearts of the Human Resources department during the resulting hearing.

May the weather be in your favor and may it not disrupt your travel and party plans, because Lord, thus far it's pretty much sucked. And it's not even winter yet. I mean, seriously, what the Hell?

May the Lord spare you from the know-it-alls and killjoys who feel the need to say things like "Christmas is actually a Pagan holiday", or "If Jesus was real, he was born in the spring of 4 BC, not the Year Zero on December 25th!".

May the Lord keep you out of Wal-Mart, for it is Satan's domain.

May the angels keep your tree safe from your rambunctious pets. May your cats' desire to climb trees be quelled at least until after the presents have been opened.

May He give you infinite patience in the presence of the billions of horrible, creatively-bankrupt iterations of "It's A Wonderful Life". On a related note, may there be a handy box of Kleenex in time for the real movie's final scene.

And finally, may the blessings of the season fall upon you and yours this year, with peace, joy, prosperity, and good health to all, now and in the year to come!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Unearthing Old Memories Thanks To The Internet

The Internet, much like automobiles, firearms, organized religion, video cameras, and acid reflux, is one of those things that can be used for either the betterment or the detriment of society as we know it. Because of the Internet, with a little imagination and resourcefulness (and a lot of coffee) thrown in, you can track down just about anything or anyone, and that includes re-establishing links to good times in the past. This is one such success story.

Pictured here: A visual representation of my memory.
If you look close enough, you'll see
the Bitter Turnip Of My High School Memories
I picture my memory as a large pot of soup, boiling furiously on a stove. As the soup bubbles, various ingredients randomly rise to the top, bob along the surface for a few moments, then sink back down into the depths, only to be replaced by another ingredient.

Maybe it's a carrot. Or perhaps an underdone potato, or a glob of mustard. There's more gravy than grave to you...

...whoa, sorry about that. Had an Ebeneezer flashback there.

Now, where was I?

Oh yes. Vegetable soup. No! Wait! Memory!

I can be walking down a hall at work, perhaps mentally planning our household budget for the upcoming week, then suddenly a commercial jingle just comes out of nowhere.

"I can see the sunlight shining, over Narragansett Bay. So raise a glass my friend, and talk to me of home.."

Geez! Where the Hell did that come from. Narragansett Beer? Really?

Anyways, yes, memory. Funny thing, memory. Turns out that lots of my memories relate to music. Which brings me to the whole point of this blog entry. About time I got it, eh?

The debut album.
We all know of someone or something that never became as successful as they deserved. Maybe it was an athlete who got injured early in their career and never was able to fulfill their potential. Or maybe it was an actor who debuted in a real bomb, and was never able to shake that failure.

My poster child for "should have been" was (and still is, now that I think of it) an alternative rock group called Private Lightning. The mid 70's to mid 80's were an awesome time to be a music lover in New England. A lot of fantastic bands came out of the Boston area during that time, such as Aerosmith, the J, Geils Band, the eponymous Boston, the Cars, to name a few. They were heavily played and promoted by WBCN-FM, the Rock of Boston.

The alternative/new wave/indie/post-punk scene was particularly noteworthy, with bands like The Fools, Mission of Burma, the Atlantics, and the Neighborhoods.playing at places like the Rat, the Paradise, TT the Bears, and the Middle East. You could you also see some awesome out of state bands like this obscure little band called R.E.M. (my all-time favorite band ever in the history of Creation), when they toured the region.

But Private Lightning. Wow. They had six members, with the group's sole female playing, of all things, an electric violin. Hey maybe that's not such a big deal these days, but back in 1980? Holy crap! Innovative! Different! Awesome!
Private Lightning, dressed mostly in black,
the Official Color of 80's Alternative Bands (tm)

Anyways, they were extremely talented musicians who had their own distinctive sound and a rabid following (including yours truly). I saw them at the Paradise in 1980 and they truly rocked the place. They signed with A&M records, and released a debut album. Unfortunately, the technical quality of the album left a lot to be desired. A&M didn't support the band much after that, and all too soon, the band went the way of the dinosaur. A serious injustice. They should have enjoyed, at the very least, "The Cars" level of success.

Anyways, several years ago I managed to find many tracks of Private Lightning's album online, and put a bunch of them on my iPod. Their debut single, "Physical Speed", continues to not only be an awesome summer driving song, it's also very effective as part of a soundtrack for running to.

So one day a few months back, the thought suddenly popped into my head, from out of nowhere: "Hey, I wonder if I could find one or more of the band members online and write them a belated fan letter?" And so, I began my research.

There were two band members whose names I never forgot: the brother and sister pair, Paul and Patricia Van Ness. I remembered their names because back when I was at Park Street Church in Boston, the college fellowship had a pair of siblings also named Paul and Patty, and whose last name began with "Von". The coincidence of two Paul and Patty V's was, and continues to be, rather memorable. What can I say? I love patterns.

I started with Patricia, and found that she is still doing music, but most definitely not of the alternative rock kind (more like classical). There was an email link on her page, and I figured, "Why not?", Of course, I wanted to make sure I wasn't coming across as being some sort of creepy Internet stalker (as opposed to the Totally Okay Internet Stalker we hear so much about), so I simply wrote an uncharacteristically short letter, explaining that I was and still am a fan, still listened to the band's stuff, and hey, thanks for the memories.

A few days went by. Nothing.

A few weeks went by. Nothing.

As the one month mark got closer, I shrugged and figured that it was a lost cause. Ah well. Some folks prefer moving on from the past. Fair enough. Maybe I could try another band member or something. But then, Shazam! A few days before that month anniversary, Ms. Van Ness replied with a very gracious answer, and had forwarded my letter to Steve Keith, the band's bass player.

Then Steve emailed me, and sent me a link to his site, which has all of Private Lightning's stuff, and a whole slew of other tracks. And, in order to bring the social media experience full circle, he eventually sent me a connection request on LinkedIn. which naturally I accepted! Wow! I had actually made contact with two members of a band that I've enjoyed for over three decades!!

So, what have we learned here? First, that you can find (or rediscover) just about anything on the Internet. Second, if you're a singer, or a writer, or whatever other kind of artist, your work can and will endure even if you don't get that level of fame and recognition that others get. There will always be people out there whose day you will brighten even if it's just a little, courtesy of what you've created.

Check out Steve's site, particularly the Private Lightning section. Granted, some of the lyrics haven't aged well, but overall, you'll be impressed. "Physical Speed" is still an amazing song. This was a talented band that deserved way more success than they got.

Q: Are we not men?
A: We are The Cars!
As for what's next...hmmm...I wonder if Rick Ocasek is as easily found online?

Soup credits:  koufax73 / 123RF Stock Photo

Thursday, August 28, 2014

What Have We Learned From The Market Basket Drama?

First of all, I apologize for being lax in my personal blogging. All I can say is that life's been busy and eventful, though in good ways, but it resulted in less critical projects like this one being pushed to the side. I shall endeavor to do better, and I figured that the Market Basket incident is a great subject to tackle for my return.

What Happened With Market Basket?
For those not living in the New England area, Market Basket is a chain of 71 supermarkets located in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. Owned by the Demoulas family who emigrated to the US from Greece in 1916, the chain has grown steadily, built on a reputation for good prices, friendly professional staff, and paying their employees well.

Unfortunately, there has been a power struggle between two cousins (Arthur T and Arthur S) for control of the company. Artie T was the CEO up until June, when Artie S managed to swing a Board of Directors' vote that knocked his cousin out of the CEO seat. He and two other top-level executives were fired, and two outside candidates were brought in to fill the vacancies, and everyone now in power assumed it would be business as usual.

Boy, were they ever wrong...

This is New England. You don't mess with us nor with our traditions and institutions. You bomb our marathon, we shut down an entire town and come for you. You mess with our beloved local supermarket chain, and...well...see for yourself.

What needs to be made clear here is that this whole drama could also be called the Battle Of The Billionaire Relatives Who Can't Stand Each Other. But whereas Artie T has been characterized (and his actions have borne out that characterization) as being someone who believes in paying his employees a good living wage, treating them with respect, and providing customers with low prices, all while still turning a profit, Artie S is from the "squeeze every dollar out of a company, even if that means higher prices and lower benefits" school of business.

I couldn't find a picture of Artie S, so here's old man Potter.

Employees and customers alike responded to the change in leadership swiftly and dramatically. There were walkouts and a massive and very effective boycott that resulted in business absolutely plummeting. There's a Market Basket near where I work, and I can tell you, the parking lot was a ghost town, day in and day out. Second-hand accounts from other branches mirrored this. People would post their grocery receipts from competing supermarkets on the automatic doors of their local Market Baskets. Motorists honked their horns in support of the striking employees. Truck drivers refused to make deliveries.  There were huge rallies attended by sometimes up to 5,000 customers and employees, in a bid to bring Artie T back. And as the board showed that they weren't the bastions of reliability (not to mention bills not getting paid), grocery suppliers began to cease doing business with the chain. Even the governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire got into the fray, because politicians.

The strong, sustained reaction caught a lot of people off-guard. After all, who in their right minds engages in such a long, drawn-out campaign for the sake of a supermarket chain and an ousted billionaire CEO? Maybe, just maybe, it's the kind of people who enjoy being treated decently, like human beings should be treated. But this sort of thing isn't supposed to happen. Boards of directors and CEOs are supposed to be able to implement whatever measures they want, and the people are supposed to simply take it like good little consumer sheep.

Yeah, good luck with that. Because New England!

A little over two months after the initial firing, with sales bottoming out and an enormous PR nightmare on their hands, the board finally approved the sale of the 50.5% majority shares of Market Basket to Artie T, putting him back in charge again. This also meant that everyone who was fired either during the takeover or who lost their jobs as a result of the rallies and protests would get their jobs back. At this writing, Artie T and his team are scrambling to get Market Basket up and running again, bringing back fired employees as well as getting those bare shelves restocked.

Buying Local
Personally, I've always been a fan of Market Basket. Their prices are lower than other chains, while their selection and quality is just as good as the larger, pricier stores. The employees are extremely helpful, friendly, and are expected to behave and look professional. For instance, employees aren't allowed to wear jeans when at work; they're expected to dress just a little better. It's little touches like that which made it a nice place to shop. In fact, the only knock I've ever had with Market Basket was that most of the time their background music is dreadful 70's sludge. I mean, we're talking really sucky stuff here, people.

There is also something to be said about putting my money into a chain that's locally owned and run, a good old fashioned locally-based American company, as opposed to, say, Hannafords (owned by a Belgian corporation), or WalMart (owned by the Antichrist and Satan).

So here's what we've learned from this whole adventure, boys and girls:

NEVER Go Into Business With Family Members
Other than organized religion, no other entity can be either a strong, comforting support or a means of messing you up for life, like families can. Family feuds are the worst. For instance, there was even speculation among some pundits that Artie S and his side of the family would just as soon see the entire chain collapse and die rather than sell it to his cousin ("Some men just want to watch the world burn" - The Joker). Take it from someone who worked for his dad for seven miserable years: working for/with family is the worst. I'm willing to entertain the notion that exceptions exist, but they're rare. Almost as rare as a CEO who gives a damn about the so-called little people.

Brand Loyalty Still Exists
Customers stayed away in droves because the Market Basket they knew and loved was in danger of changing for the worse, becoming just another cash-draining chain of stores. Many refused to set foot in the stores until Artie T was brought back, others just dramatically curtailed their purchases. If you build a good brand, characterized by good prices, quality goods and services, and a friendly competent staff, you will get loyalty, and that means money. And speaking of loyalty...

Treat Your Employees Like Human Beings, And They'll Follow You To Hell And Back
Okay, that's hyperbole, but the spirit is true. It's a matter of public record that Artie T pays his employees an extremely good wage, one that you can actually live on without outside assistance (hear that, WalMart?). Managers have been known to bring in over $50,000 a year, and other benefits (such as retirement) are known to be just as generous. Artie T respects and values his employees, treating them like professionals, and consequently they act that way. Well-paid employees make for happy employees, which in turn means more customers. Step 4: profit!

People Still Have Power
While I don't buy some people's rosy assessment that this incident is the big turning point in the struggle for the little guy to get an even break, it's certainly a start. Precedent has been set. People can vote with their feet, and as long as those people remain true and devoted to their convictions, and there's enough of them doing it, they can change things. The cynical golden rule may say "He who has the gold makes the rules", but what happens when that gold supply is cut off, courtesy of the people who've declared "That's enough!"? You know, the ones who supplied the gold in the first place?

So yes, it is very possible that, when faced with an intolerable condition dictated by the people with all the cash, the average Joes have more options than just sitting there and docilely going along with it, all the while muttering that nice guys finish last and that life's unfair. Sometimes you can take a stand and change things. Sometimes, the good guys can win.

There IS No "Class Warfare"
Spoiler alert: This guy's a jerk
"Class warfare" is a phrase trotted out by big business/rich people (and the politicians in their pockets) as a code for "the average person loudly objects to being unreasonably drained of cash and/or has an issue about corporations not paying their fair share of taxes, so let's paint ourselves as victims."

Sure, the Market Basket incident may be just a small sample size, but it helps to show that "average" people don't necessarily hate all rich people. Artie T is a billionaire, but he's fostered an impressive level of devotion and support from employees and customers. No one begrudges anyone from making a fortune and striking it rich. This is America, after all, and people can still come here with an idea, a lot of hard work, and a plan, and make it big.

There are other rich folk like Artie T around, to be sure. It just seems that this particular breed of rich person is so difficult to find that, when you do find it, a big fuss has to be made.

But while non-rich people don't hate rich folks, what people do resent are those wealthy individuals who, in their quest to achieve an even greater level of cash-grabbing overkill, will bleed consumers and employees dry by any means necessary. No one is denying people the right to go out and get rich, but at what point, how many millions, how many billions, do you point out to these heartless money-grubbers that their single-minded obsession to imitate Scrooge McDuck is making it impossible for the average person to earn a living or acquire goods and services for a reasonable price?

The people have spoken, the good guys have won, and, in what has to be the best case scenario, all of the damage from the unfortunate incident can and will be undone. Score one for the people!

Welcome back, Market Basket! Now, restock those awesome store-brand everything bagel tops, m'kay?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Now, Wait Just A Damn Minute!

So I'm walking through the supermarket recently, when suddenly it hit me from out of the blue:

Why on Earth do the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wear masks!?

I mean, think of it. You wear a mask in order to conceal your identity, right? A mask conceals your facial features so that, when you remove it, you can simply blend in with everyone else, right? It prevents you from being otherwise recognized. No one knows who you are; you could be anyone behind that mask.

We're talking here about a quartet of human-sized, upright-walking, sentient TURTLES, for crying out loud! How many OTHER human-sized, upright-walking, sentient turtles are running around that these four can blend in with and be mistaken for?

It's like, "Hey, look, there's the ninja turtles, without their masks!" "No, man, we can't be sure! After all, we've never actually seen them without their masks on!" Yeah, clearly they could be four OTHER talking, man-sized turtles.

And considering that most masks hinder your field of vision to one extent or another, they end up being an unnecessary and dangerous accessory.

And don't tell me they wear the masks in order for us to tell them apart.  Each one wields a different, unique weapon. Rigoletto wields the twin salad forks, Dumbo uses a chunk of wood, Libido has a sharp pointy weapon, and Monsanto uses some kind of bondage chains and sticks thing.

Besides, ninjas didn't wear masks; they blended in with everyone else by means of disguise.

Stupid frickin' turtles....

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Captain Crunch Movie Greenlit

In Hollywood's ongoing quest to find original source material, it may surprise many to know that the latest source of inspiration may come from the breakfast table. Earlier this week, Paramount confirmed that a live-action movie featuring "Captain Crunch", the sailor character that's been on breakfast cereal boxes for almost 50 years, is "in development".

Given the mixed results in attempting to make movies out of board game properties, it's hardly surprising that other elements of childhood memories are being mined for ideas. "Captain Crunch is an instantly recognizable brand that resonates not only with today's children, but with their parents, who grew up eating the cereal," explained marketing specialist Irma Gedun in a recent telephone interview.

According to a studio executive who refused to go on record, the project already has a commitment from director Roland Emmerich to helm the picture, and discussions to have actor-comedian Jack Black as the titular character appear "promising".

While many details still need to be worked out, initial reports indicate that the movie would trace Crunch's career in a late 19th century naval setting, starting off with his humble beginnings as a seaman on board a ship of the line during the Age of Sail.

"We learn what makes Seaman Crunch so special," Gedun elaborated. "Think of it; doesn't the whole concept of Seaman Crunch fire up your curiosity? And then we get to see him ascend the ranks until, at last, he's promoted to Captain and given the command of the S.S. Guppy, and gets his crew." Gedun cited the mostly forgotten fact that when Captain Crunch was first introduced, he had a full cast of characters and an ongoing story. "He had a crew of kids, and a dog named Sea Dog," Gedun explained. "He even had a nemesis: Jean LaFoot, the Barefoot Pirate, and that's who the Captain's foil will be." Actor Jean Reno has been rumored to be a front-runner for the part.

The presence of LaFoot the pirate as Crunch's nemesis has fueled speculation that movie would have an overall pirate theme to it. Furthermore, it's a given that the good Captain would need updating to conform to 21st century sensibilities. "Back in the 60's, the Captain's crew was made up of a group of generic white cartoon children," Gedun pointed out. "Our new Captain's crew would be more racially diverse, and considering the pirate motif and the area of the Caribbean as the setting, we could have ethnically diverse children from England, Spain, France, and Jamaica."

Sea Dog, the crew's dog mascot, would be rendered with CGI. If the Crunchberry Beast were to appear as well, speculation says that actor Andy Serkis would be tapped for the role, though Gedun says that if the Beast were to appear, it would probably be in a sequel. Gedun calls the possibility of an appearance by Sidney the Elephant, the old mascot for Capn' Peanut Butter Crunch "highly unlikely".

The good Captain's ship, the SS Guppy, will also receive a modern makeover. "Although she'll incorporate the traditional 19th century sailing vessel design," Gedun explained, "She'll be an 80-gun ship of the line, ready to go toe to toe guns a-blazing with the biggest and baddest pirate ships at sea."

"Overall, the movie would be an action-comedy-origin story," Gedun concluded. "With plenty of family-friendly swashbuckling action on the high seas, and a light-hearted, uplifting story with a positive message."

Rival studios are carefully watching the progress of the project, as other possible cereal characters may end up on the big screen. There is speculation that Universal Pictures is researching the feasibility of a Count Chocula/Frankenberry/BooBerry/Fruit Brute horror comedy, as a kind of homage to the old Universal monsters. Other possibilities including a raunchy bro comedy starring Snap, Crackle, and Pop, and a whimsical kid's fantasy movie spotlighting Lucky the Leprechaun.

Gedun ruled out any movie treatments on any cereal mascot that wasn't somewhat human to begin with, which rules out the possibility of a movie featuring a character such as the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee. "That would just be silly," Gedun acknowledged.

Filming for Captain Crunch is slated to begin in June, on location in Jamaica, and scheduled for a Christmas 2015 release.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wow. An Actual Post About Red Sox Baseball...

It occurs to me that I should post something baseball-oriented, since that was kind of sort of the original intent of the blog. Sort of. Maybe. Sometimes.


On Wednesday, April 23rd, in the third of a four-game Red Sox versus Yankees series, Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was found to have a rather blatant pine tar blob on his neck. This resulted in his ejection in the second inning, and this was also the second time in his appearances against the Red Sox this year that he was seen with the substance on his person.

Pictured: An actual baseball
Naturally, the baseball news stories this morning have been screaming about it, which meant, sadly, that this stupid story overshadowed the absolutely stellar performance of Sox pitcher John Lackey.

Well, naturally, the baseball blogosphere has also been abuzz about the incident. In the midst of the caterwauling, breast-beating, head-shaking, and eye-rolling, there has been one opinion emerging about how Major League Baseball cracking down on Pineda is sending a mixed message about cheating.

Because, you see, pine tar, used to help a pitcher grip the ball better especially during conditions such as cold temperatures, is a foreign substance that is considered an unfair advantage. But a lot of pitchers tacitly use it (and other substances), and they're not penalized for it. There's a certain measure of looking the other way if it's not too blatant.

But to all of those bloggers and people (yes, there's sometimes a difference) who think that suspending Pineda sends a mixed message about cheating, all I have to say is...

Are you freaking kidding me!?

Do these people not know how the real world works? Life is seldom all black and white, all of the time. Life has a lot of those little moments of "Well, this is not really lawful, legal, or otherwise in keeping with policy, but as long as you don't abuse it, and keep it on the down-low, it's all good."

Note the key qualifying phrase: "...keep it on the down-low."

Say you live in a town where a lot of people know the police and, even though the speed limit down the main street is 30, the police don't hassle residents if they're doing, say, 35. But then one day, some local pinhead (pronounced "Pineda"), fully aware of this unwritten policy, bombs down the main drag at 40 mph, windows down, hooting and hollering, stereo blaring. Naturally, the police can't look the other way about this, and have to pull the guy over. The incident also runs the risk of ruining for the discreet people who don't abuse that little bending of the law.

Pineda couldn't have been more blatant about the pine tar if he was wearing a t-shirt that says "I Heart Pine Tar" while pitching. And this is the second time the Sox have spotted him using it. They didn't say anything the first time. Maybe Pineda thought that meant he could take it up another fifty notches.

The "crime" in this situation is not that Pineda used pine tar. The crime comes from being so moronically blatant about it. Oh, and taking away the attention from Lackey's awesome pitching performance.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

If I Could Redesign Facebook

Like most everyone else who uses it, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. But since the GooglePlus revolution never ended up happening, and MySpace is still the social media equivalent of the drooling idiot cousin chained up in the cellar (and rightly so), this is what we're stuck with for now. Might as well make the best of it.

Although it's easy to complain about Facebook, hey, it's free and you basically get what you pay for. But that doesn't stop me from imagining what I'd do if I ran Facebook and could unilaterally make policy decisions and changes. Here's what I'd do to make it better, or at least what in my opinion constitutes "better".

Three Levels Of Friends
Okay, so you're on Facebook and you're getting Friend requests. I think that when you friend someone, you should have three different yet simple options on how to categorize them, with no need to mess with privacy settings or what have you.

  • Buddies. These are the people you care about. Hey, they're your buddies! Doesn't matter if they're related to you or not; that distinction doesn't enter into it. You care about your buddies. You want to know what they're up to, so you get all of their updates and posts. Nothing is held back.
  • Just Friends. This is used in the same context as when you see a hot girl with some average dude, and you ask, "Are you two dating?", and she replies with this big smile and sing-song voice "Oh, no, we're just friends!", as the guy looks on with a painful forced smile that cries "Help, I've just been emasculated!" in a silent scream of abysmal horror. Just Friends are in your orbit, but you only care about them some of the time, so you only get urgent updates and the occasional random statuses, as determined by specially designed algorithms or ancient Druids.
  • Yeah, Whatever. There are people out there that you find yourself obligated to Friend. Maybe they're part of your social circle or chief area of interest/hobby, and you look conspicuous not friending them. Maybe they're friends with your significant other. Maybe you lost a bet. But for whatever reason, you must friend them. You must. Even if you "accidentally" drop them somewhere down the road, they hunt you down like some deranged Internet version of Inspector Javert and send out a new friend request. So, okay, fine. Whatever. You friend them. But since they are Yeah Whatever, you get no status updates, no shares, no news, nothing. It's like they don't exist. No tragically misinformed "news stories" showing that Obama caused the deficit. No lame pictures of toddlers with a caption reading 'Back off, Devil! I love Jesus!" Not. A. Thing. But since they're on your Friends list, they won't bother you with any further requests. Everybody wins!
Polydactyl cat gives a big thumbs up to sad Facebook statuses
Like And Acknowledgements
I don't know about you, but I find it hard to click "Like" when a friend posts a status like "Bad news. When I pulled into my driveway, my car's engine blew up and rocketed right into my house, pulverizing my visiting cousin. Funeral services will be held once we find all of his remains."

Sure, you want to acknowledge the post, but I don't know, hitting "Like" makes it sound that you're a fan of relatives being killed by fiery automobile parts. So, we need "Acknowledged", which would mean something like "Hey, just so you know, I read your status, and will comment later on when time allows. But for now, just want you to know I'm aware of what happened."

Picture Blocking
A picture is worth a 1,000 words, and a hideous picture screams 1,000 horrific words usually reserved from summoning Cthulhu (more on him later). My version of Facebook gives you the option of blocking images. So, don't feel like seeing that picture of that abused dog or starving kitten? Blocked. Some really hideous picture of an open wound or birth defect? Pre-emptive unseeing!

Because you just know that if you actually posted something online about how you didn't like any given picture, at least one person in your tragically misnamed Friend list would make sure to post multiple images on your timeline, thereby reinforcing the idea that the Internet turns most of us into jackasses at one time or another.

New Story Repetition Filter
Tea Party militia support angry citizen's right to sit on a
disconnected toilet on Federal Government property
The problem with having a news feed that draws from many disparate groups of friends, family, co-workers, and miscellaneous is that you end up getting multiple posts of the same news story. And in my opinion, nothing diminishes the emotional impact of a tragedy or other story than seeing it repeated countless times on your pages. Eventually, your reaction goes from "Oh, how horrible! My best prayers and thoughts to them!" to "Oh, enough already!". And that is bad.

But with the New Story Repetition Filter, certain keywords are searched for and if they repeat, the story is blocked if it's already been displayed to you once. So, when VladimirPutin strips naked, covers himself in Vaseline, and rides an ICBM screaming and hollering into the Crimea, you only have to read it once. And if the Picture Blocking function is in effect, you don't have to worry about unseeing that image!

Ads That Make Sense
Look, you don't get something for nothing. I don't want to shell out money for Facebook; God knows, I pay for enough things as it is. And yet I want Facebook. I want that effortless contact with people I've long forgotten! I want endless stories about cats. I want the ability to have a group conversation with someone from my high school class, a former co-worker, a distant cousin, Jim Gaffigan, two people from my gaming group, and my pastor; all of us discussing the merits of regular colonoscopies.
Mature singles are waiting to hook up with you NOW!

So yes, I accept that ads are a necessary evil. But in my version of Facebook, if you fill out your profile completely, the algorithms (or the Druids) will make sure that the ads you get are not only relevant to you, they're in your native language. I don't want ads in Spanish. I don't want ads for meeting singles who are 50+ years old. I don't want ads for online games. I don't want ads for candidates, causes, and groups that are in direct opposition to my political ideologies. And speaking of politics...

Ban Every Position On Religion And Politics That I Disagree With
Don't we have enough aggravation during the day without coming home, logging onto Facebook and seeing "Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Constitution that we can have armor-piercing bullets! Murica!", or "Ha ha, you believe in some dude in a robe who lives on a cloud, duhr duhr duhr!" Seriously, people do a good enough job of pissing us off in person (or in their cars), without us having to deal with it online. The Religion/Politics Position Filter makes sure that you aren't subjected to this kind of annoyance.

Now, you may think that such a function is a close-minded thing, but I ask you...Has anyone every really read a Facebook post, smacked their forehead with the heel of their palm and said "Son of a gun! I must now completely reassess all of my beliefs, political, religious, or otherwise, in light of this well-thought out, coherent post!"

I didn't think so...

The ban stays.

Meme Blockers
Picture if you will a drop-down menu with the following items on it:
  • Keep Calm Posters
  • The Most Interesting Man In The World Pictures
  • Stock Illustrations With Modern Text Inserted
  • That Annoyingly Smug Picture Of Willy Wonka
  • Grumpy Cat
  • Cthulhu
Now picture a little box next to each entry. Had enough of a particular meme? Click on the box and you won't get it anymore. And the list would be continually updated, bringing in new memes when they reach that level of annoying over-whelming saturation, as well as dropping the memes that finally died the horrible death by obscurity and indifference that they richly deserve.

The "Are You Sure?" Function
I touched upon something related to this in an earlier post. Let's say you have friended two people who are involved in a relationship. Then they have a very public, very acrimonious split. They go their separate ways. A few months later, they get back together, making an online promise of being together forever and never to part. Six months later, they undergo another nasty public split but this one's so vile and toxic, that you know that no one, not the biggest lunatics, not even Jack and Jackie McMad, winners of the Maddest Madfolk in Madville Competition, would ever reunite. A Beatles reunion of all four members would be more likely at this point. So of course, four months later, they reunite, pledging online that they will never give each other up, never let each other down, never going to run around, or hurt each other.
"I see what you did there"

While your brain is in the process of exploding, you post the following: "For the love of God! Stop! Would you please just stop?! What's wrong with you two? Are you insane? Are you masochists? You two are about as pleasant a combination as chronic flatulence and a crowded elevator! Why in the name of all that doesn't suck are you subjecting yourselves, and us, to this idiocy? Read what Santayana had to say! Have you two completely lost your minds?" And then, with a big smile and a burden that's finally been lifted off your shoulders, you hit "Enter".

Oh, didn't that feel good?

And here's where my new innovation, the delayed action "Are You Sure?" function, kicks in. Call it the equivalent of a 20-second delay on a live microphone. The message gets held up, not actually posted, and a dialogue box pops up, showing you the entire message in all its flaming glory, along with "Think about it. Are you really sure you want to send this?"

This way, you can have the visceral pleasure of writing a well-deserved dressing down, experience that satisfaction of pushing "Enter", but then, with your urges satisfied, you can step back from the ledge and cancel it.

And so, there you have it. Facebook, JT style.

Did I leave anything out?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools Day- Big Deal...

I am recognized for having a sense of humor that more often than not comes out at the least provocation (a mixed blessing, and certainly one that makes attending funerals problematic). So it's of little surprise when people say to me "Oh, you must be absolutely in your glory on April Fools Day!"

Well; you'd think so, but no, not really. Not anymore, anyway.

In fact, I think April Fools Day is dead. Seriously. No joke.


Because "Internet". Because thanks to social media, there's nothing that we don't know seconds after it happens. Plane goes down? We know it within minutes; there it is on CNN. Some kind of tragic accident happens locally? We not only know it less than hour afterwards, but there's already tributes posted. And if you have multiple groups.circles of friends, you'll see the same story repeated. Over. And. Over. Again.

See, playing an April Fools prank is tough nowadays because everyone knows it's April Fools Day and it's exactly the day they expect it! April Fools Day relies on the element of surprise, on catching people unaware that it's the first of the new month. Thanks to Facebook, GooglePlus, and whatever other thing you want to throw out there, we always know what day it is because of the sheer volume of posts, statuses, updates, tweets, twits, and gits out there. Even the most brain-dead, clueless, ignorant, reality-challenged, semi-aware individual can stagger over to their computer, somehow manage to log on, and see that it's April Fools Day. So yeah, in other words, you can't even prank Tea Party members.Video may have killed the radio star, but Internet killed April Fools.

Nah. The April Fools "holiday" (a.k.a. Jackass-enabling day) is pretty much dead. One "tacit permission to act like a complete douche" holiday down, two more to go (New Years Eve, St.Patrick's Day).

The true April Foolers are the ones who put up satirical news stories that are confused for real stories by gullible folks who then post them on Facebook with comments like "This is an outrage!" I had briefly considered creating a news story claiming that President Obama was going to introduce a bill to tax the ultra-rich in order to fund a new program that involves hiring gay illegal aliens and organizing them into special squads that seize everyone's guns and perform forcible abortions on people who work for corporations who want religious status. But  then I took a deep breath and realized it was too easy, and really, I have better things to do with my time.

So yeah, enjoy the fact that spring is (kind of) here, baseball is back, and it's a new month.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Recipe For The Perfect Cucumber Sandwich

A friend's post on Facebook reminded me of a recipe for the perfect cucumber sandwich. Follow these simple steps to sheer cucumber sandwich perfection.

You'll need
Two slices of wheat bread
A few leaves of lettuce, either iceberg or romaine; the latter preferable if possible
8 discs of sliced cucumber, 1/4" thick

  1. Place both slices of bread next to each other
  2. Place lettuce on one slice
  3. Place cucumber discs on other slice
  4. Place a few slices of tomato on lettuce side
  5. Place a slice of Swiss cheese on top of the tomatoes
  6. Place three slices of medium rare roast beef on the cheese
  7. Put either some mayo or horseradish-infused brown mustard on roast beef
  8. Remove cucumber discs and toss them out.
  9. Wait, don't waste food..give them to a hungry person, or a dog, or a vegan
  10. Place three slices of bacon on bread that used to have cucumbers on it.
  11. Bring sandwich together
  12. Place sandwich on plate
  13. Add a fist full of potato chips on the side
  14. Pour yourself 12 ounces of your favorite beer.
  15. Unless you've been really awesome, in which case make it a 16 ounce
  16. Aw, go on,m you've been good. Go on, make it a 16 ounce.
  17. Take sandwich and beer into living room and find something awesome on tv
  18. Now, where the bloody blue Hell is the remote?
  19. Whoops. There it is.
  20. Sorry
  21. Turn on tv, take a swig of beer, and enjoy your cucumber sandwich.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Obligatory St Patrick's Day Post

Here's an autographed picture of the Dropkick Murphys.
I was unable to secure a potato or a Guinness.
Well, I'm half-Irish, so I'll make it a shorter post. So here we are, another St.Patrick's Day, a day when we commemorate St. Patrick driving all of the snakes out of Ireland by threatening them with green beer and Shamrock Shakes. Or something like that, All I know is that there's talk about Guinness, potatoes, and catching leprosy..or...wait...maybe it's leprechauns. Then everything sort of goes black, and we wake up wondering what the Hell happened.

Anyways, it is my firm belief that St.Patrick's Day should be the template for how all holidays are observed. It's because the holiday is the ultimate example of inclusion. For instance, here's how some people react to other holidays:

Christmas Person: Hey, Merry Christmas!
Bitter Joyless Dumbass: I don't observe Christmas. Some ridiculous fairy tale about some made-up God born on December 25th, when everyone knows the story is ripped off from mythology, and furthermore...
Christmas Person: Wow, what a bitter, joyless dumbass!   :::: walks away::::

Halloween Person:
Hey, Happy Halloween!
Ultra-Religious Person: I do NOT observe Say-tun's Holy-day!
Halloween Person:'s not....
Ultra-Religious Person: I will hear no more of your lies, blasphemer! I cast thee out, Say-tun!
Halloween Person: OW! Hey! Stop whacking me with that Bible! Those King James Version Family Bibles are heavy, man! Where do you even keep that thing on your person!? Ow! Ow!

Fourth of July**
Hey, Happy Fourth of July!
Ultra-Liberal Pseudo-Intellectual D-Bag Customer at My Dad's Restaurant: Well! I don't celebrate any holiday that commemorates the slaughter of Indians!
Me: Wha?  :::walks away, confused:::

But now, let's look at St. Patrick's Day!
St. Patrick's Day Celebrant: Heeeeyyy!! Happy Saint Paddy's Day! Here! Have a Guinness! Take two, they're small!
Confused, Non-Irish Person: But, I'm not Irish nor am I Catholic...
St. Patrick's Day Celebrant: Ahhhhhh no worries! No one's perfect! Now, here's an Irish Carbomb, an' some Guinness, an' some Jamison's!
No Longer Confused, But Now Totally Inebriated Non-Irish Person: Besht holiday evah! Whoops! Just wet myself! HAHAHAHAHA! Erin's gold bra! :::vomits on bar floor::
Everyone In Bar:  Huzzah!

Happy Pat Sainty's Dayyyy!
On Saint Patrick's Day, people don't let a little thing like them not being Irish nor Catholic stop them from dressing up in green, eating corned beef and cabbage, snorting Lucky Charms, and drinking enough to float an aircraft carrier. Everyone comes together in a sloppy haze of drunken good fellowship, and everyone has a good time.

And that's how all holidays should be conducted. Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

**And yes, this scenario really honestly did happen. East Cambridge, back in the mid 70's (the Bicentennial to be exact), my dad's old restaurant. And thus the seeds were sown for my hatred of ultra-liberalism, a hatred which was fueled by further ridiculousness like that, as well as them being lousy tippers (so much for showing solidarity with the working class!).

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Tale Of Two Novels

Doc-tor! I have a novel lodged in my head!
My brain hurts!
I've heard it said that everyone has a novel inside them. Me, I have two. Well, actually, about six. No, wait, a dozen. But let's get back to those two. It wasn't always that way. First there was one, then partway through writing it, my brain said "Here's a different story,  pretty much complete from start to finish! Isn't that exciting? Start writing it now, while it's fresh in your head!". So I put the first one on ice, and starting frantically writing the second one.

Both are science fiction. One is set in the present day, and deals with time travel. The other is set in the not too distant future, and deals with an officer in the United States armed forces and the adventures she has. The word counts for them stand at 33,760 and 81,780 respectively.

I am not going to go into specifics about them. I don't want to give anything away.

I think they are both good science fiction stories, and though they both deal with subjects that have been done to death, the characters and their situations are what I feel set them apart and make for compelling stories.

I know exactly how each is to unfold, including the endings, which for me is usually the toughest bit. Two complete stories.

Each has a few minor things that need addressing in order to make sure that each story adheres to its respective internal logic, but this is small stuff.

Funny, both novels are one-word titles that begin with the letter "A". That just occurred to me.

And yet, I fear completing them. Because if I complete them, I will be obliged to try to get them published. There lies the problem. What if they're just not good enough? What if, in fact, they're trite and/or stupid?

See, while they're being written, they are potentially awesome stories that will see the light of day as published novels. They haven't been rejected yet, so that hope that they will be published is always there. But if they are submitted and found to be lacking, that hope, that potential, is gone.
How about spiders in high places?

And that scares me. More than spiders or heights.

I'm trying to talk my way out of this, using my powers of super-rationalization to get over it. Yet whenever I come up with a good rationale, I can immediately shoot it down in the next instant.

For instance, I keep reminding myself that people like my writing. Yeah, but that stuff is small things like blog posts, humorous articles, my gaming campaign, and the short short stories I sometimes do about our game. Novels are bigger in scope, bigger in audience.It's a whole different animal.

I remind myself that I've had two novels and a short story published. Yeah, but those were for the niche market of role-playing games, where the bar is set a littlle lower. Okay, much lower. These two novels in different states of completion are aimed at the mainstream. It's a whole different animal.

I remind myself that people have told me that I write realistic dialogue, come up with interesting personalities, and have an easy to read, conversational writing style. And it's at that point that I tell myself to shut the Hell up.

This little thing has two novels in it.
Not to worry; it's bigger on the inside!
Don't get me wrong; I'm not on a compliment fishing expedition here. Nor am I looking for a pep talk. Frankly, I'm not quite sure what it is I'm looking for here. Maybe  I just have the need to vent and throw this issue, this fear, call it what you will, out there. Who needs counseling, I have a blog!

I know what my problem is: I fear rejection, and you can't reject something that hasn't been submitted. And yet, I sit here saying "But these are good stories! There's adventure, and humor, and cool characters!" At least I believe that's the case. I don't know. I look at the words, after going over them time and again, editing, polishing, and the stories seem rather dull, the characters hokey. Even the nifty parts that, at the time I wrote them, I was rubbing my hands together and going "Mwahahah! Yesss!", I now go "Eh. Whatever."

But that's when logic  kicks in and says "It's because you're seeing the same words time and time again; you've grown jaded to them. Someone who reads them for the first time will enjoy them!" Stupid logic! Shut up and get me a beer!

And yet, every time I sit back and go "Fine. I just won't finish them. Forget it. It was a stupid idea anyway", my brain keeps coming up with newer and better scenes, cooler dialogue, to put into the stories. Part of me simply refuses to put the ideas down; Hell, I even have sequels already outlined for both novels!!

"You can do eet!"
So that's where I stand, at war with myself, two opposing forces of equal strength. On one side is my innate sense of competitiveness, my love of weaving a good yarn, my sense of optimism, and two stories that when you get right down to it, are pretty cool. On the other side, some leftover issues from my childhood that insist that everything I ever do is utter crap, my insecurities, and a fear of the death of hope.
" Hell you can!"

Of course, I wonder if my subconscious is engaged in some trickery by compelling me to post this. I've learned from past experience that it can be a tricky bastard.

In closing, although I don't usually get my wisdom from movies, there's a line from Shaun of the Dead that gives me pause. It just may be one of the things that helps motivate me. It's something that Shaun's girlfriend, Liz, says near the beginning of the movie, when she's railing about their relationship going nowhere.

"If I don't do something, I'm going to end up going into that pub every night for the rest of life like the rest of those sad old f*ckers, drinking myself to death and wondering what the Hell happened."

Strong words, and though not an exact fit (I don't go to bars all that often, and despite many jokes and references about beer, it would be stretch to even consider me a moderate drinker), it's the spirit of the quote that strikes me, the underlying message. Wise words from a zombie romantic comedy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Take It Offline...PLEASE!

Once upon a time, before the advent of social media, people were no doubt exposed to the dubious pleasure of witnessing couple-friends arguing at parties, dances, double-dates, what have you. Sometimes, alcohol factored in. Many times, it didn't. And you just sort of stand there, feeling awkward and out of place, fervently wishing that some friendly rock would allow you to crawl under it until the shelling stops.

Can't unsee this! Stop! Eye-bleach time!
But now, thanks to the Internet, we can witness couples' angry spats unfurl in all of their horrific, "I can't unsee this" glory on our Facebook pages, in the privacy of our homes. And if you're one of those lucky people that remembers things better when you read them as opposed to hearing them, then Shazam! That's the one big impression of those folks that's going to stick with you for quite some time.

How come so many people forget that when they're sitting at their computer, sniping at their significant other, yelling at their kid, screaming at a supposed friend, or vehemently and rudely disagreeing with someone's politics, that they are inevitably going to have to face these people in person at some point, since it's likely that many peoples' friend lists include people that they see or hang out with on a regular basis? Is it sheer obliviousness, just not caring one way or the other, or is it just the heat of the moment?
You know where this is going. I don't even have to say it.

We all say things we regret. That's a given. We're all human. Every couple argues, every parent-child relationship has its rocky patches. But when you post private matters on social media, holy Lord, the badness is taken to a whole new level of suckitude. The real killer ones are the breakup dramas that play over the Internet, only to have the couple reunite weeks or months later (and no, I don't mean teenagers; this happens with ostensibly mature adults).  Even though they're back together, you can't forget the bridge-burning vitriol they dropped on each other in the not too distant past. You get tempted to congratulate them by using the names they called each other during their online spats, as in "So glad to see you two have reconciled! Congratulations and best of luck, Pathetic Man-Child With Performance Problems, and Gold-Digging, Fifty-Cent Hooker With More Issues Than Readers Digest!"

And things can be just as cringeworthy at the other extreme. How about those people who share online just a tad bit too much about their intimate lives? Great calamity kittens, you can never unread stuff like that!! Congratulations; it's now been added to your memory banks forever; enjoy your time in Hell.

So please. PLEASE. Remember that when you post something on Facebook or wherehaveyou, it's tantamount to jumping onto the roof of your car and bellowing out your words through a nuclear-powered megaphone with boosters set up all over the world. If you already keep this in mind, then fantastic! You are a rock star! You're awesome! The rest of you, watch what you say.

Although the duck insists it was consensual
Don't yell at your kid (and kids, don't yell at your parents) online. Couples, keep those arguments behind closed doors. And as for the two you, and you know who are, we don't want to read any more stories about you, the champagne-filled waterbed,  the inflatable mongoose doll, the bottle of bleach, the Slinky, and the duck. Really.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

On Turning 55...

As of March 6th, I am 55 years old. I've been sitting here, trying to come up with something profound, but it's just not happening. And I think it's not happening because I just can't seem to muster enough bluster to make a fuss about it. And I think I can't muster enough bluster to make a fuss because in the final analysis, it's ultimately no big deal.

Happy Birthday To Me!
Yay, double nickels!
Oh, don't get me wrong. I want a big deal made of my birthday. To me, it is a big deal; just not in any negative way. But if I have to endure one of these every year, then dammit, I want every possible perk I can get! There are already plans afoot to make a fuss of sufficient level to satisfy my outrageous demands, so yes. A fuss is good; I guess I just can't bring myself to get too worried about getting old.

Which I guess is rather fortuitous, because it seems to me that the biggest contributor to getting old before your time is to worry about getting old. Yeah, I know, that kind of rots, but what can you do? You worry, you start doing the whole self-fulfilling prophecy thing. It's like when they say that the best way to walk a tightrope is to not look down.

The day before my birthday, I was walking down a corridor at work thinking, "Hmm...I'm turning why do I feel like I'm still 30?" Ah, who knows. I think obliviousness in this matter works to my advantage. The less I think about it, the less likely I'll wind up as one of those old dudes who stares off into space with his mouth half-open, getting ready to do a shift as a Wal-Mart greeter.

My Dad, The Bad Role-Model
I remember my dad when he was in his 40's. He had bags under his eyes, jowly cheeks, a lot of gray hair, and was overweight. He looked worn out, worn down, and, well, old. Being in my mid-teens, and noting a lot of traits I shared with my father, all I could think of was "Wow, that's what I'm gonna be like in my 40's!"

But that was the ignorance of teenager years. I didn't factor in the harsh realities of my dad's lifestyle. He worked hard, six days a week, from dawn till late at night, at his barely surviving restaurant. He rarely took vacations or rested up, and was always worried about money, since the place never really turned much of a profit. He was stressed at home in an unhappy marriage characterized by lots of loud arguments, and his diet was horrendous, lots of fats, oily foods, red meat; you know, the typical Portuguese fare. I shudder to think what it would've been like if he smoked or drank excessively.

But it seems the only negative thing I have in common with my dad in those matters is that I worry about money. As expected, I'm in a hell of a lot better shape in my mid-50's then my dad was in his mid-40's. He did manage to turn a few things around later on in life, but eventually died of a form of leukemia in 2000. So he died at 71. Barring any unexpected nastiness, that puts me on course of lasting well into my 80's, I reckon. The 90's would be good, just so long as, again, I don't end up as a slack-jawed Wal-Mart greeter.

Keep Your "Getting Old" Gallows Humor To Yourself, Thanks
This is frickin' hysterical, said no one, ever.
There's a whole industry out there dedicated to churning out party supplies of questionable taste, all of them dedicated to making light of the fact that some poor schlub's birthday number is really getting up there. For the record, I hate those kinds of jokes. Despise them. I am on board with the whole idea of laughing at grim situations, but in my case, I see nothing grim about aging. So no, call me crazy, I somehow have managed to fail to mine that pure comedy gold that is limp dicks and loose bowels. And anyone who brings that sort of stuff into my airspace runs the risk of not being able to celebrate any more birthdays themselves!

Speaking of public perceptions of getting older, I need to go off on a tangent and say that I really roll my eyes when someone describes themselves as "I'm fifty-one years young!" No. You're not young. You may feel young, act young, think young, maybe even pass a little for young, but you are most assuredly getting older. Suck up and deal. Denial is more than just a river in Egypt. Now, I do go on record as saying "I'm not old. I'm oldER, maybe, but I'm certainly not old!" That's about as hair-splitting about semantics as I want to get.

Battling Age
I see aging as fighting a holding action against a relentless army who will eventually win no matter what. I am outgunned, outnumbered, and outclassed. I can put up a spirited fight every day, but eventually, time will win. That's just the way it is. But to me, the trick is, not to give ground unless you absolutely have to. Make Father Time fight for every inch of territory gained.

"Allons-y, mes amis! We will turn back the Nazi invaders
and May of 1940 shall be France's most glorious month!"
I think the trick is, if you still enjoy doing the stuff now that you did ten, twenty, thirty years ago, then keep on doing it! As long as you're physically and mentally able to do so, and the interest is still there, and you don't feel stupid doing so, then hey. Why not?

Don't be so quick to ascribe things to getting old when there are still other possible, even likely, explanations. Over the last twelve months, I've been experiencing more soreness in my knees, heels, and back. Oh, gee, must be getting old, right? Well, as my lovely wife has pointed out to me, thanks to some situations that cut into my exercise and eating right regimen, I'm carrying a little more weight than I'm used to, something which causes joint pain in people even half my age. Oh, okay. That's fine then. Get back into shape, and it's all good. And that's happening and sure enough, the aches are fading!

Or forgetting stuff. I do that sometimes. I completely space out on some things, and sometimes even recollect them incorrectly ("Look, I distinctly remember parking the car on the left side of the lot! Absolutely! Oh..there it is on the right hand side! Derp!"). A senior moment? Nope. Not when I remember that I have always walked around with my head in the clouds. I have a 22-track mind, and it's always working, what with that imagination of mine running 24/7. I tend to be rather distracted a lot, and that inevitably results in forgetting things. I guess I just forgot that I can be forgetful. Mystery solved.

Sure, there are some concessions I have to make to age. We all do. For example, I wear reading glasses now because my desire to understand the words on a page has overridden my dislike of looking like an old person stereotype.  And while the aches and  pains in legs and feet had more to do with extra weight put on them, it is true that as you get older, your body is less forgiving about having to carry that extra poundage. And let's not get into what happens if you eat too much or too spicy food just before going to bed.

Still haven't gotten my AARP card yet, despite the awesome discounts. I don't know. It seems so, elderly. It also sounds like an onomatopoeia for a burp. "AAAARP! Oh, sorry, that one escaped me!"

And So...
Why so Sirius?
Be thankful that there's no official manual out there that gives the guidelines as to age-appropriate behavior, thus no one can legitimately tell you to "act your age".   The way I see it, you're never too old to learn something new, try something different, or even change your mind or opinion about something. Keeping a teachable spirit. Yeah, that's what it's all about. And definitely don't take yourself too seriously (leave that for the late teens and twentysomethings out there! Bwah!).

And now, as for me, it's time to enjoy my birthday. There will be a nice long run at the Y, and then pizza and beer later on. Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to you, and God bless!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Winter of Our Discontent

It's a well-known made-up fact that every New Englander has the right to complain about winter. It's actually written into the Constitution. And winter makes it easy to complain about, because each year, it seems to come up with new and original ways to piss us off. There's a certain baseline grumbling that New Englanders do every winter, and, oh who am I kidding? We New Englanders always find ways to complain about every season. For instance:

Summer: It's too hot! It's humid! I'm sweating too much! And what's with all these damn mosquitoes!?
Fall: What's with this frost? Man, it's getting too cold too soon! There's too many leaves to rake up!
Spring: It's the day after the first day of Spring! Why isn't it shirt-sleeve weather right now? One day, it's 65, the next it's 12! Spring is a tease! A damn, dirty tease!

Well, like Mark Twain said,  "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes". Which is also what the Ramones said about their songs. Really!

"I'm Mr. White Christmas, I'm Mr. Snow
I'm Mr. Icicle, and why winter really blows!"
Ah, but the winter of 2013-2014 has distinguished itself as being one of the nastiest, most disgusting winters we've had in a whilw, and not just in New England, but the entire northern tier of the United States. Some past winters have had more snow. Others have had bigger cold snaps. But this one. Oh, this one has somehow brought together the worst of both. And it's also even managed to give people below the Mason-Dixon line more than just a taste of frozen Hell on Earth as well!

So when I hear/read people complaining about the winter this year, I say to those who try to stop them, shaddap and let people complain! First off because, well, I'm doing it too, and second, yes, this one is a vile, nasty one. In fact, I'd put it in my Top Five Crappy Winters, and as a born and raised New Englander, yeah, that's saying something. Besides, every person that you let complain about winter is one less person you'll find climbing a water tower with a high-powered rifle.

The problem has been that we've been pummeled with at least one storm a week for a good stretch of the winter, and the temperature has barely broken the freezing mark, so all this damned white crap doesn't melt, but rather ir accumulates higher and higher. Really, we've just about run out of places to put it.

Speaking of the snow, I don't know what is worse: the actual snow, or the hype that precedes it. People at
The meteorological map that pretty much sums up what
every week has been like this winter.
work, cashiers at the supermarket, desktop apps that flash warnings whether you want them to or not, commercials for the 11 pm newscast, all of them, screaming at us about the approaching storm! There's no escaping it.

After the storm has its way with us, there's the question of where to put the stuff. At the end of our driveway, we have Mount Accident Waiting To Happen, a big snow mountain that blocks our view of the road when we're backing out, exposing the rear of our car to the idiots who have mistaken our nice side road for a NASCAR course.

At the other end of the driveway is the Great Wall of Frozen WTF, which is what you get when the plow guy keeps pushing the snow from repeated plowings into the same spot and it freezes over to a Rocky Mountain-like consistency, effectively cutting off easy access to the backyard. But that's okay, because there's nothing important back there that's immediately necessary...

...except, of course, for the fueling cap to the underground propane tank that powers our furnace.

The driveway itself is now known as the House of Terra Memorial Skating Rink, since it's pretty much now a thick sheet of ice that makes Antarctic ice shelves feel inadequate. There's never a Zamboni around when you need one. All we need now is skates and a hockey mask. Failing that, we'll take a chainsaw and a hockey mask.

We are the South; Our blood is chillin'
We are the ones who got an inch of snow
So let's start skiddin'
And the ice has gotten so thick, that no amount of swear-fueled attacks with metal snow shovels will break it. We'd use ice-melt stuff to help us get a jump on it, except that no one seems to stock it anymore. Apparently there's a shortage of the stuff, since much of it was diverted to the South to take care of their own version of snowy Hell. So, no ice melter for you; come back next year! Yeah, one or two inches of snow, and it's a bloody crisis down there. Let's just hold a benefit concert for them and be done with it. I know, I know, they aren't as accustomed to it as we are in the North, but it's tough to be sympathetic when you're doing your best imitation of the Sochi Olympics figure skating competition, if it was being performed by out of shape, drunken walruses with no depth perception and a case of Tourette's.

This winter can't end soon enough, and yet I get this sick feeling that this one is going to take its own sweet time in leaving us, like that final guest at the end of a New Years Eve party. Just a hunch. Oh, an inevitably you hear some people say "Hah! So much for global warming!" Um, the rest of the Northern Hemisphere is actually experiencing a warmer than average winter. It's just the northern US that is being "blessed" with this sneak preview of Mister Freeze's underwear. In fact, it's theorized that climate change has caused more moisture to fall because of warming temperatures, thus the endless hit (hate?) parade of storms.

Of course, I believe there's a special place in Hell for the person who feels that they have to inform you of the next snow storm while you're still dealing with the current one. As in:

You: Wow, after two hours of shoveling this 15 inches of snowfall, I finally got the car freed!
"Helpful" Neighbor: (gloomily) Yeah, well, there's another storm on its way, day after tomorrow.
You: You are cordially invited to shut the Hell up, you ray of frickin' sunshine!

Jack Frost.
But fear not! MLB Spring Training has started, and no matter how much of a tough, recalcitrant bastard winter is this year, it will eventually be overwhelmed by the warm weather. It's just a matter of time before we stop complaining of the soul-chilling cold and start complaining about the stifling humidity. It's inevitable. The only question is will the winter give out before our sanity does?


Thursday, February 27, 2014

What Makes A Good Horror Story? (According to me!)

"What is Horror?" joins that long list of subjective questions that include "What is art?", "What is pornography?" and the ever-elusive "What's that blue thing doing here?" Everyone has their idea of what constitutes horror, and by extension what makes for a good horror story. This is mine.

What you're about to read is a collection of things I wish every author/creator of every horror story or movie would keep in mind. Yes, it's very biased, very subjective, and very opinionated, but I come by it honestly. My credentials, submitted for your approval.

And the Groovie Ghoulies. You can NOT forget
the Groovie Ghoulies!
I love reading and watching horror stories. For literature, I usually rely on the Holy Trinity (Poe, Lovecraft, King), with occasional forays into stuff by Peter Straub, Joe Hill, and Dean Koontz. For television, I was raised on The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond, and eventually Night Gallery, Tales From The Darkside, and Monsters. Oh, and let's not forget The Night Stalker. Being a DC fanboy, my teen years' superhero and war comic reading was supplemented heavily by DC's humongous horror line, including House of Mystery, House of Secrets, The Witching Hour, Secrets of Sinister House, Tales of the Unexpected, Ghosts, Weird War Tales, Weird Western, Doorway to Nightmare, Black Magic. And as for movies, way too many to mention. Add to this my tendency to put on makeup and scare people at haunted attractions in October (for fun and profit), my enjoyment of exploring extremely old cemeteries, my forays into horror-based role playing games, and a few turns at writing some niche-market horror, and that gives a good picture of most of my so-called pedigree. In other words, I've shambled around the block a few times.

As far as my ideal horror elements, you'll notice that some of the concepts overlap. Bear with me on that one. Also, although I use "horror story" to include just about anything, it's aimed primarily at movies, and less so with novels, short stories, tv programs, or video shorts. Episodic tv and video shorts have less time to address all of the things I blather about. It's hard to criticize a five minute horror flick for lack of character development, you know?

OK, ready? Here we go..

There's A Difference Between Screaming And Puking
To me, the first and foremost thing about a horror story is that it has to be frightening. This doesn't necessarily mean getting grossed out or repulsed. There are lot of gore fans out there, and sure there are times when it's called for in the story, but really, I'd rather prefer getting the living daylights scared out of me than face the prospect of blowing digested popcorn onto the back of the neck of the person sitting in front of me (unless, of course, the victim is using a cell phone, in which case all bets are off).

Booga booga!
Frighten me. Shake me up. Make me jump. Show me something terrifying. Make me go home and wonder what lurks in the shadows of my room, or what is causing the motion-sensing light in our backyard to suddenly kick on in the dead of night for no apparent reason. When I go running and the shadows lengthen, what's that thing rustling in the woods surrounding the bike path I run on?

And what do I find terrifying? Good question...

Horror Versus Horrible
Let's face it; the whole concept of horror is contradictory to the idea of "nice". Horror by its very nature is meant to create feelings of fear and uncertainty, for entertainment's sake. It involves stories where ultimately, someone meets a bad end, sometimes justly, many times unfairly. I get that. It's not a genre for the hard-core Pollyanna types. It's an adrenaline rush or thrill ride that you should eventually be able put down and/or walk away from, though echoes of it may linger long afterward, making you suspicious of shadows, as mentioned earlier.

But that being said, I feel there's a difference between a story about some cursed item or things erupting out of a crypt, and a story about some pervert that kidnaps and rapes women, then kills and eats them. The first example is horror; the second is just plain horrible; it's nasty disgusting sadism.

The idea of some hulking killer wearing a mask and wielding a chainsaw and/or big knife has stronger ties to reality, because if you read the news with any degree of consistency, you'll inevitably trip over a story about some brutal killer, or cruel SOB that stalks his victims and does very cruel, very real things to them. No thanks.

Some will argue that cruelty is simply another form of horror. "Torture is horrible!" they say. "Rape is horrible! These are horrible, scary things! Stalkers are creepy and horrifying! Brutal murders, chainsaws, or sawing off your leg to escape a trap is horrible! It's scary! And those things could possibly happen!"

Yes, that's true. But to me, horror needs to reside at least partly in the realm of the unreal. There needs to be that "line", that barrier, between reality and fantasy. If I want real-life horror and brutality, I'll check out the news. I don't want reminders that there are real-life monsters running around, committing all sort of atrocities on innocent people.

Although the term "torture porn" gets sometimes overused, in my opinion, it nevertheless sums up for me movies like "Hostel", or "Last House on the Left". Maybe you can call them suspense movies, or thrillers, but I don't know. Does torture and sadism possess the capacity of thrilling some people? I guess it does, but in my opinion there just seems to be something inherently wrong on some level about that idea.

From "Escape Route", the third story in the Night Gallery
pilot movie. This picture STILL! FREAKS! ME! OUT!
I remember, as a kid, one movie that scared the absolute Hell out of me was the pilot to Night Gallery. Well, two out of three vignettes did, anyway...the blind Joan Crawford segment was weak (sorry, Mr. Spielberg). But in any event, there was one bit about this lazy, no-good nephew type (played with scenery-chewing aplomb by Roddy McDowall), who managed to engineer the death of his rich uncle. But he gets his comeuppance in the end, and it's heralded by a large painting of the cemetery outside of the manor house, a painting that keeps changing to show a grave in the cemetery opening up and a body (his uncle) climbing out and coming up to the door. Every time the nephew looks away and then looks at the picture again, it changes, showing a sequence that implies that the dead uncle is in fact heading towards the house. Then there's a knock at the door. We never get to see good old Roddy get his reward; it's left up to the imagination. But the point is pictures don't spontaneously change in real life! Holy crap, that was just freaky and unsettling. Things that are not supposed to happen in real life but happen anyway, whether it's a changing portrait, a kid's doll whose recorded voice threatens a cruel step-father, or a Zuni fetish figure that comes to life and relentlessly hunts down a woman in her apartment, it's all the same; it's damned scary!

I want to be scared, not repulsed.

I Like My Horror Up Close And Personal
To me, the more intimate the setting, the more effective the horror. A horror story that focuses on an individual, a couple, a family, or a circle of friends, has more of a chance to make an emotional impact than something that involves, say, the whole damn planet. Horror to me is best when the locale is limited; a house, a building, a neighborhood, maybe. But when you start getting bigger and bigger, the impact of the horror is diluted. It's sort of in line with the quote from sadistic genocidal dictator Josef Stalin, who said "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic".

This comes through particularly strong in movies that feature some kind of global apocalypse or end of the world scenario. I mean, has anyone who's ever written a horror story that involves something nasty that affects the entire Earth ever stepped back and taken a good look at how bloody huge this planet is, and how many billions of people live here? The bigger the threat, the more diluted the impact. Call it the law of diminishing returns, or the law of decreased marginal utility.

It's the whole question of scope that, for me anyway, turned horror fan-boy darling "Cabin in the Woods" from something that I started out loving, to a movie that, when the credits rolled, I wanted to stand up, flash the one-fingered salute with both hands at the screen and say "F**k you, movie! F**k you gently with a chainsaw!"

And that's also why World War Z, in my mind, is not a horror movie. It's a science fiction movie about a world-wide epidemic, and has diddly and squat to do with the original source material. Oh, wait. The title. The title is the same. Sorry about that.

The video on the left by Drew Deywalt is a classic example of up close and personal horror. And wow, is it ever effective! In my opinion, it accomplishes in less than three minutes what many so-called horror movies try to do with 90-plus minutes of time! Since it's a short, it doesn't need character development or explanations. It's just a terrifying little story.

End The Damned Thing!
Many horror movies suffer from the exact same problem: the ending! Okay, you start out with an otherwise normal situation, then something horrific happens, things go straight to Hell, then...what? To me, it's one of the biggest weaknesses of the entire horror genre: most horror writers don't know how to end the story. It also speaks to me of the writers' lack of confidence in the material's impact that they have to make absolutely sure to tack on some stupid "the heroes are they're not! Dun dun dunnnn! What a twist!" ending in the last 10 seconds.

Which means that yes, I also can't stand the "abrupt ending" tactic. The movie's chugging along, the climax hits, then suddenly...boom. Movie over. And usually the movie ends at a point that leaves too many unanswered questions. It's not that I want every mystery solved, every question answered, it's just that I want to leave a movie (or close a book for the last time), and go "Brrr. Wow!", not "Huh??".

And on a related note...

The Unknown Is Cool, But There Are Limits
Here's Cthulhu, otherwise known as the "Latest concept
being overused on social media today".  I place him here
because I want to be part of the popular crowd.
The unknown breeds ignorance. Ignorance breeds fear. Fear breeds some awesome screams and scares. There's a fine line here that needs to be tread. On one hand, a generous helping of mystery brings out feelings of dread...what the heck is out there? What does it want? But on the other hand, when writers just start pulling things out of their asses and throwing them at us (okay, that's a bad mental picture, sorry), you're left there, hands apart in a pleading gesture, asking "What the Hell is this? Why's that happening? What did I just see? Where's my mom?" And it's not enough for the writer to say "It's the unknown! Wooooooooo! Scary!", as they wiggle their fingers in a dramatic gesture and open their eyes extra wide.

Don't Show So Damned Much
I'm am convinced that the average imagination can do a much better of crafting an effective mental picture than any outside agency, even a gifted author, can ever do. Sex seems more erotic, humorous gags more hilarious, and terror far more horrifying, when you don't see everything, but instead you're given just enough clues on what's going on to let your imagination fill in the rest. This way, the reader or viewer goes from a passive role to actually assuming a sort of subordinate partnership with the author, and that's a nice feeling.

The More Realistic The World Is, The More Impact The Horror Has
In my opinion, one of the reasons Stephen King's stories are so effective as a whole is that the people he writes about talk and act like real people, and the horrors are lurking in what is otherwise the mundane world that follows the usual rules and laws of physics that we live with in real life.

When you present a setting that conveys "normal and mundane", you establish a setting that people can relate to, and it makes it easy for them to immerse themselves into the story. Then you bring in the element of horror, and it stands out in sharper contrast, creating more of a shock. I can't tell you how many times I've complained to someone about things that would happen in a horror movie that are unrealistic, only to be told "Dude, it's a horror movie. Reality has nothing to do with it! It's all unrealistic!"

Sorry, but I call "BS!!" to that. It's like the Game Master in a table-top role-playing game session who, when the players corner him or her on a bungled rules interpretation or a nonsensical situation, shrugs and says "Well, it's magic!" (extra demerits if they waggle their fingers or raise their eyebrows dramatically). Nope. That's a cop-out. Construct a setting grounded in reality, and the fantastic element will seem all the more disconcerting and amazing when it manifests itself.

And while we're on the subject of rules and laws...

Follow Your Own Bloody Rules!
And whatever you do, do NOT blink!
Man, talk about something that's genuinely terrifying...
Let's say for example that in the course of a movie's story it's been established that in order for the heroes to absolutely, definitely banish the evil demon BeeEffDee, they need to stick a Popsicle stick in their left ear, put a disposable diaper on their head, eat a five-dollar foot-long sub from Subway that was purchased in the last 24 hours, and recite the Lord's Prayer in Pig Latin. So they follow the rules exactly and the demon is banished, but the last few minutes of the movie...dun dun DUNNNN!!!!!!...the demon's in fact not gone at all! Oooooo, scary! What a twist!

No, I'm sorry. If you create an internal logic, a set of laws, then you follow them. Now, if you want to say that the sub was in fact bought 25 hours ago, not 24, then that's okay, especially if you give the audience even the slightest chance to spot the error although the hero doesn't. For instance, perhaps it's been established that the story is occurring during Daylight Savings Time, and the protagonist forgot to take that into account! Ooooo! What a twist! Daylight Savings Time claims another victim! Aw, tough luck, sparky!

You can't establish the rules, then toss in something at random and call it a day. It's sort of like the mystery writer who establishes a cast of murder suspects then, at the denouement, the murder is revealed as...Cousin Clyde, whose existence up until now wasn't even remotely hinted at! No, sorry, mystery writer; you didn't outsmart the audience. You're not clever; you're a cheating tool who can't write a mystery if your life depended on it. Go write some pony fanfic or something.

Give Me Someone To Root For
While I can derive a certain guilty, visceral satisfaction in seeing arrogant, self-absorbed sluts and bullying, douche-bag jocks get their comeuppance, it tends to get old after a while. I want someone I can root for; someone a little likable. They don't have to be goody-goody perfect, but at least make them someone sympathetic, not just pathetic. In order for horror to have an impact, you have to care about the people who are going through the ordeal, even if it's just one solitary person. Don't just set up bowling pins clad in one-dimensional caricature costumes and knock them down; give me a person or persons that I can identify with; it puts me even more into the story, and thus the terror strikes closer to home.

A story where the protagonist wins, whether the victory comes at a cost or not, is cool. Stories with a happy ending and horrifying elements are not mutually exclusive. A story where the protagonist loses, well, that can be good too, especially if there's an element of suspense and uncertainty as to the outcome.

Lay Off The Kids And Animals
Leave us out of your gross horror movie, human!
OK, this one's a blatant personal bias, I admit. But ever since I became a dad yea those many years ago, and also became a Cat Person about a decade ago, I have a strong aversion to seeing bad things happen to kids, babies, and animals, pets in particular. In my brain, I see children and pets/small animals as being among the most helpless targets out there, and even worse, they all lack the proper awareness to comprehend just why they're suffering and dying. No. I don't like it. It tap-dances into the territory of "unnecessary cruelty". In fact, if you've read this far, you can tell for yourself how the whole "kids and animals" thing stems from several of the previous points.

And again, the real news is filled with heart-wrenching stories of child abuse and animal cruelty. No. I don't need to see this sort of thing portrayed on screen or in the pages of a book. Give me escapism, and scare the Hell out of me for good measure. The destruction of innocence is not spooky; it's sad and depressing.

Humor And Sex
Laughing and boinking are two really awesome pastimes (though probably not simultaneously), obviously. Though far be it for me to decry their inclusion in a horror story, any opinions I've formulated on the topic comes from seeing both elements just so horribly, horribly overused.

No one begrudges the use of a little comic relief, especially to serve as a tension-breaking link between really scary scenes. Hell, even Macbeth has humor, thinking here of the scene involving the drunken door-keeper.

"AAAAH! I said "Macbeth"! Hot potato, orchestra stalls, Puck will make amends!"

Here's a hint..
(The Really Cool People will know where that came from)

Humor can be a vital part of a horror story, provided its used at the right time. Look at stuff like Tales From The Crypt, with its gallows humor, for instance. It's particularly cool when the humor is woven into some twist, some irony, or some fitting punishment. Laughs and scares have a long tradition of working hand in hand, and when comedy is used sparingly, it can be a nice little breather from the unending parade of horror that we so willingly subject ourselves to.

As for sex, well, that's a hard one (that's what SHE said!). Like humor, sexuality is one of those things that has strong ties with horror. You can't just pretend it doesn't exist (remember the whole thing about creating a realistic setting?). But the question becomes, does the sexual situation in question really belong? Does it really have anything to do with the story, or is it just thrown in for the sake of grabbing attention? I mean, how many times do we have to see that two people (particularly teens) having sex mean that the conductor is about to punch two more one-way tickets on the Grim Reaper Special?

Sometimes, sex can actually be a central part of the movie, say, for instance, David Cronenberg's "They Came From Within", also known as "Shivers". Of course, that one ventures into "pretty damned disturbing" territory at times.

Speaking of sex, have you ever noticed the disproportionate number of women who are ravished by assorted creepies (invisible entities, heads in baskets, trees, giant worms, humanoids from the deep, household appliances, sentient dummies, et al) as compared to men exposed (so to speak) to the same treatment? And usually, on those rare occasions when an evil entity does get busy with a guy, it's usually some hot succubus or Countess Boobula the Vampire?* Just saying.

And now, some final quick points:

No More Found Footage Movies

Same Goes For Remakes
Stop. I'm begging you here. This means YOU, Rob Zombie!

Fast Zombies Suck
Seriously. They do.

Vampires Don't Sparkle

Moveies That Work/Don't Work For Me
What works for me:
The Changeling (w/George C Scott)
Dead Silence (AAAAAH! DUMMIES!)
Event Horizon (vastly underrated)
Night Gallery (the pilot movie)
The Conjuring
The Exorcist/The Exorcist III
The Woman In Black (the original, not the remake)
The Fog (the original, not the crapfest remake)

::SNORT!::  ::GIGGLE!::
And here's some that do NOT work for me:
House of 1,000 Corpses
Blair Witch Project
The Saw franchise as a whole (though the first one was ok)
Exorcist II
Hostel (and all of its ilk)
Just about every remake

Speaking of Endings....
Does this rambling make me a horror snob? Yes, probably it does. I will sit here and tell people that it's just my opinion and that it's neither better or worse than anyone else's, while quietly convinced that my way is in fact superior. You know, just like most everyone else does when it comes to opinions.

So there you have it: to me, horror means something frightening, something outside the realm of reality, sending me on a nice little dark-filled voyage away from the mundane, then bringing me back again into the light when the time is right. Is that really so difficult a thing?

I'm interested in what others consider scary. What do you define as horror, and what movies are on your good/bad list? By all means, let me know!

* Countess Boobula will soon be a major motion picture, once either my Kickstarter gets approved, or HBO catches wind of the idea.