• Television

    The End is Always Near, and Hell is the History Channel

    As the end of January approaches, and New Year’s Day shrinks in the rearview, a question lingers in my mind. What is it about holidays that inspires “educational” cable channel producers to air every apocalyptic documentary in their catalog? Even if you think you don’t know what I’m talking about, you probably do. Flip through the channel line-up around the holidays, and I guarantee you won’t go far before you find something related to the hypothetical end of the world. It started a few years back, in the days of yore when A&E’s programming changed from arts and entertainment to ex-rock stars, bayou-dwelling people with enormous beards, and folks who…

  • Miscellaneous,  Writing

    George Orwell and Truth for Truth’s Sake

    Sometimes, I ask myself this question: What would George Orwell say if he were alive today? I mean, what would he say other than “Man, I’m really old, which is surprising, not in the least because of that whole tuberculosis thing.” At any rate, I’m sure he’d have some other interesting insights. As John Lennon once said, these are strange days, indeed. I’m not the only one thinking about Orwell. As you might have noticed, folks are throwing around the word “Orwellian” like they’re earning double royalties on its usage. Saying “Orwellian,” in fact, has become shorthand for most of the ideas Orwell cared about. This means, by the way, that using…

  • Television

    Adapting Justin Cronin’s The Passage

    I absolutely loved Justin Cronin’s novel The Passage. A couple of years later, I really enjoyed the sequel, The Twelve. I liked the third book, The City of Mirrors, though I thought Cronin spent way more time on, let’s just say (for the sake of not spoiling anything) the backstory of a significant viral (Cronin’s word for a vampire) character than I thought he should’ve. The backstory was interesting, true, but it didn’t seem to contribute a lot to the overall story arc. That said, I was still happy with where the trilogy ended. The overview of the story: Scientists are trying to develop a cure for all the infirmities…

  • Miscellaneous

    Teachers and Doers, or: Those Who Can Do May Also Do Teaching

    Maybe you’ve heard the old saying about teachers not being competent enough to actually do the thing they’re teaching. After all, the logic goes, if someone is proficient at their craft, why would they forgo fame, acclaim, and the ability to purchase frighteningly expensive houses just to slum it as a teacher? The horror. I don’t buy it. It makes no sense to assume that being a teacher disqualifies someone from being good at their discipline. Sure, in some instances the old adage may be true—as is the case with many clichés—but I often wonder about the folks who feel compelled to offer up this nugget of wisdom. Do they…

  • Miscellaneous

    The Road to the Whiteboard and the Power of Pretending

    This week has been a flurry of activity for me. Lesson plans and rosters need attention, and I’m working hard to memorize my new class schedule. Another semester has blossomed, and another round of students now sits before me, each with a new name and face to be learned. For the next sixteen weeks, I’ll have the constant suspicion that I’m running behind, and I’ll be right. But all that’s fine by me. In fact, I’m looking forward to it. Unlike some teachers I know, I didn’t grow up wanting to become one. In fact, from what I can remember of my life as a teenager, I didn’t have a…

  • Miscellaneous

    Finding, Loving, and Losing Pets

    Recently, we found out our dog Ringo has mouth cancer. This wasn’t a huge surprise, since he’s had small tumors for the past few years on his legs, and we know from experience that any dog with a Labrador bloodline is probably going to succumb to some type of cancer during their later years. Still, this kind of news is always tough to take. At this point, we could put Ringo through surgery, chemo, and maybe even radiation treatments, but at about fourteen years old, he probably wouldn’t do well with it. For now, then, all we can do is keep him comfortable, satisfy his still impressive appetite for food,…

  • Television

    Four Things I Learned from Watching SyFy Original Movies

    It’s Saturday morning, and I’m just out of bed. I pour a cup of coffee, stagger into my living room, and grab my television remote. Back in my younger days, I’d have searched the channel guide for Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, Looney Tunes cartoons, or even Super Friends, but times have changed. Saturday in the AM isn’t what it used to be, entertainment wise, but there’s still programming worth watching, if you know where to look. Here’s a typical Saturday morning lineup these days: Piranhaconda, Piranha DD, Lake Placid 3, and Lake Placid: The Final Chapter. In case you aren’t among the initiated, these are all SyFy originals, science fiction movies made specifically for the SyFy…

  • Books

    The Shining and Doctor Sleep

    Last night, I finished Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining. There were a lot of things to like about it, chief among them being it’s the sequel to The By God Shining, one of the scariest novels I’ve ever read. Most of the books I read when I was a kid were probably too old for me, and Stephen King’s The Shining was at the top of that list. I read it at the age of thirteen, and as you might imagine, it scared the stuffing out of me, but in a good way. It didn’t traumatize me, at least not permanently and no more so than a good…

  • Writing

    The Secret Plan

    Recently, I’ve noticed a trend in fiction, including among authors I admire. It works like this: The protagonist and company have a plan that’s going to lead to the novel’s climactic scene, and they discuss the plan, but we don’t get to hear it. The reason for this device, presumably, is to surprise us when the plan is executed, but here’s what makes it especially problematic: The discussion of the plan doesn’t happen “off screen.” Instead, it’s perched right there in the middle of an otherwise packed scene, its place held by a little line that read something like “They discussed it, and everyone agreed.” And then the action of…

  • Movies,  Television

    A Few Notes on The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

    Tonight, just under the wire between 2018 and 2019, my wife and I got to watch The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the Cohen Brothers’ latest flick. Once I’ve had some time to think about it, I’m sure I’ll write a more detailed review, but for now the short of it is I enjoyed it. Here are a few stray, spoiler-free observations: -This film has many messages for us, not the least being the importance of antibiotics, hot running water, and laundry detergent. -I’ll watch anything featuring Stephen Root and/or Tim Blake Nelson. -I now realize Tom Waits and Nick Nolte could easily play grizzled old twins. This needs to happen.…