• 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.…

  • Miscellaneous

    Self-Centeredness

    Today, I’ve been thinking about self-centeredness, specifically my own. If you don’t know me, I need to point out that when I talk about personality deficits, they’re usually my own. It’s not that I don’t see shortcoming in others, but since those are outside my control—and usually none of my business—I don’t bring them up in conversation. Anyway, here’s what I was thinking. Most of the things I’d like to change about myself—impatience, pessimism, anxiety, procrastination, anger, dealing with disappointment—trace themselves back to me placing my own needs in front of others’. I’m not saying I’m a narcissist, at least no more so than the average person. Bear with me…

  • Miscellaneous

    Dealing with Disappointment

    Today, I went to the gym. It was a good visit, fifteen minutes on the bike and fifteen on the treadmill. At any rate, I walked out of the gym coughing, which I always count as a success, never mind what I’m coughing up in the first place. Now I’m thinking about my mental health in 2019. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not trying to sound ominous. Really, I just mean my overall sense of well-being, which, if I’m honest, varies from day to day. Some days I feel positive and optimistic, while others I get a little down and pessimistic. Part of this, I think, comes from my childhood and…

  • Music

    The Astounding Genius of Jeff Lynne, the Real Mr. Blue Sky

    It may not have seemed so at the time, but 1977 was a good year for me. I was twelve years old, and even though I didn’t realize it, I was a pre-teen sponge. I absorbed everything around me. Unbeknownst to my parents, I’d read Stephen King’s then two-year-old novel Salem’s Lot (sorry, Mom), which has simultaneously scared the bejeezus out of me and started an itch to create my own stories as a writer. That was also the year of Star Wars, which made me want to be a space cowboy. 1977 was a year of killer music, too. Though it would be a while before I could truly…

  • Miscellaneous

    The Fear of Doing One Thing

    Earlier today, I decided to sit down and dig back into a cool science fiction book I’ve been trying to finish. Then I remembered I hadn’t written anything in a couple of days. A few minutes later, I realized I could stand to spend some time going through emails that had come in over the holiday break. A snack would be nice, too, I thought, seeing as breakfast was by then only a distant memory. Which of those things did I end up doing? Not even one of them. Instead of devoting some of my free time to recreation, I spent it deliberating which activities I didn’t want to do,…

  • Miscellaneous

    The Power of Complaining

    This has been a terrible year. Don’t get me wrong. Every year is terrible in its own way—and each one always seems like it’s upping the ante from the previous one—but this year is one for the books. Not only is idiocy running rampant, it’s being lauded as wisdom and truth. Scumbaggery and smug self-righteousness are the orders of the day, while decency and thoughtfulness are on the fast track out of town. Social media helps us forget to take time to live actual lives. People can’t have conversations without bursting blood vessels in their brains, and that’s when they’re talking to people who agree with them. If you have…