• Books,  Music,  Writing

    What Started as a Review of an Autobiography but Became a Piece About My Life with the Music of Bruce Springsteen

    Though I love their music, I was too young to experience The Beatles firsthand. For that, I depended on older relatives to school me. I was five when Let it Be came out, so although I remember singing along to the title track and “The Long and Winding Road” with my Aunt Lois and her friends, I wasn’t old enough to appreciate either of those songs or The Fab Four’s musical genius until a few years later. Fortunately, I was a bit more lined up time-wise with Bruce Springsteen. I was ten when Born to Run released, though I remember loving the title track but not noticing much else about…

  • Movies

    Movies: Ghost Light

    Pulling off horror and comedy without resorting to camp can be challenging, but John Stimpson’s Shakespeare performance piece Ghost Light pulls it off well. When an irritated actor ignores the legendary Macbeth curse—never, ever say the name of the Scottish king unless it’s in the performance of the play—all manner of spiritual hell breaks loose. The horror here is mostly just jump-scary, but the comedy is laugh out loud funny. Plus, it has Cary Elwes, Carol Kane, and a great cast of other actors.

  • Miscellaneous,  Writing

    Flash Fiction Challenge

    I’m participating in this competition, the 11th Annual NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. It sounds like fun, and it’s also a good way to get me to write, write, write. Entries close at midnight Eastern Time. Check it out at http://www.nycmidnight.com/Competitions/FFC/Challenge.htm

  • Movies,  Television,  Writing

    Stranger Things and the Value of a Well-Flawed Character

    Recently, I’ve read a few of the “We Need to Talk About Hopper” articles dealing with Stranger Things‘ Jim Hopper’s “problematic” qualities. Some of those pieces, I think, are designed to be clickbait–along the lines of the “Why Are Characters Smoking in Stranger Things?” and “Those Kids Need to Wear Helmets When They Ride Their Bikes” articles–but this sort of discussion always fascinates me because a large portion of my job is talking meaningfully about stories and the characters who populate them. Here’s the simplified version of that argument: Police Chief Jim Hopper is problematic because he’s angry and unruly and he drinks and smokes too much. He has Schlitz…

  • Miscellaneous,  Music,  Writing

    Another Navy Story: Old Milwaukee, Tighty Whities, and the Music of Bruce Springsteen

    When I was in U.S. Navy A School, I knew a guy named Walter. In many ways, Walter was an average late-teen-to-early-twenties navy recruit: homesick, restless, impulsive, and far too immature to be taking on any significant responsibility. That was all of us in those days. Unfortunately, Walter was also prone to getting drunk and inexplicably winding up in his underwear. I’m sure there were a lot of steps between Walter’s descents into drunkenness and the shedding of his outerwear, but none of us knew what they were because we never went out with him. We were young and stupid, and we were known to enjoy a beer or five,…

  • Miscellaneous,  Writing

    Finding Happiness in What You Carry: A Bit About Mother’s Day

    If you ask me, most holidays are much ado about little of any real substance. Take Valentine’s Day. If you aren’t some kind of jerk, you’ve probably been halfway nice to the person you claim to love above all others. If that’s not the case, dinner and chocolate isn’t going to suddenly set it right. Despite soft-focus commercials about exotic weekend getaways and advice about the portion of one’s salary suitable for purchasing jewelry items, Valentine’s Day could just as well be called, I don’t know, Tuesday. How about Christmas? Whether we’re talking about its Christian or pagan origins, it’s hard to see how any of what happens today relates…

  • Poetry,  Writing

    Snow Day

    The whicker of wind outside my window tells me leaving the haven of my bed would be a mistake. No breakfast eaten or new day begun, no matter how delicious or auspicious, can contend with the loving press of a flannel sheet or the promised rush of anesthetic joy. Dreams pull me down, promising one more and one more and one more minute of bliss. So I stay.

  • Miscellaneous

    Don’t Be Part of the Problem: Just Let that Rumor Pass on By

    Brace yourself for some bad news, folks. This week, famous bad guy Charles Manson endorsed Donald Trump for president. Also, it’s been revealed that Ted Cruz was once best friends with Fidel Castro. On top of that, Bernie Sanders has announced a plan to ban all trucks in the U.S. Yes, trucks. He might as well outlaw lunch buffets. All of these bits of information would indeed be surprising if they were true, but they aren’t. I didn’t make them up, either. They’re just a few examples of fake news stories floating around cyberspace this week, and they’d be funny if people hadn’t actually believed them enough to pass them around.…

  • Miscellaneous

    The Non-Resolution Resolution

    Two days ago, after three or four hours of driving around town looking at houses, drinking Mexican lattes, and chasing cell phone signals, my wife and I decided to go to the gym. We were worn out, but if we didn’t get our workout time in, we’d have trouble justifying all the Friday night snacking we’d planned for later. That’s basic science.   Our gym is a good place to exercise, but it isn’t perfect. They have nice, well-maintained equipment, but they also have televisions hanging from just about every available square inch of ceiling, all of them tuned to FOX News, CNN, ESPN, and A&E. Lucky for me, when…

  • Books,  Movies

    In Search of Premium Illumination: Film vs. Book in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated

    There’s a feeling I get when I’m reading a novel and I know I’m in the hands of a master. No matter the destination, I know the journey there will be what stays with me long after I’ve shelved the book, or, since it’s a good one, probably loaned it to a friend. While I’m reading the masterpiece, the thought of putting it down makes me reevaluate my life’s priorities, and while I’m not reading it, I’m thinking about what deals I’ll need to negotiate to be able to be reading it. This kind of experience doesn’t happen that often for me, coming across a book that makes me feel…