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April 7, 2014

April 7, 2014

It’s been just over 4 months since the last blog entry. I figured it was more like 6 – 8. I decided to create all these “focused” blogs so that, if someone had a particular interest, they can just read the blog that made the most sense. What has happened? I have updated none of them. Maybe we’ll get this going again. So – what’s been happening the previous four months? We’ll start on the lighter side of life…

Musicians Anonymous Cleveland

The “band” is nothing more than a hobby of mine, and I haven’t been dedicating much time to it, even though there are lots of ideas at the forefront of my brain. I am a frequent visitor to Clive Barker‘s website, and, as a fan, it would be frustrating to hear all these ideas the man has but never seemed to get around to doing anything about, whether it was his ultimate Hellraiser sequel, The Scarlet Gospels or his follow-up to Cabal or the third and final book of The Art. Seems like he would always tease these ideas, and then they disappear. I understand it now. Creatively, you have to go with what wants to come out. I feel that way with the “band” because my creativity trends towards the written word. If I do not have time to write, I most likely will not have time for music.

So, what’s going on? I’ve had quite a few songs in different stages of development and even recorded a couple home-made EPs. I’ve scrapped everything and am starting over. I have a song recorded (guitar/vocals) with bass hopefully shortly to follow. Finally, I will get some percussion added. Then, there may be some film clips added in as well. My hope and dream is to put these demos up on the web for free download. I will need to see if that works out or not. After a while and after some money is saved (probably a few years away), I am hoping to go into a recording studio and record the songs. My plan is to release the album digitally and hopefully on vinyl (or maybe I’ll put the best couple songs on vinyl – haven’t decided). If I could re-coup my costs (not likely), I’d be more than satisfied.

Anyway, I’m hoping the first demo will be online somewhere in the coming months.

Books

I’ve really been into Joe R. Lansdale for quite some time and have been blowing through some of the Hap and Leonard books (also read a lot of his non-Hap and Leonard books). They are fun reads. While traveling for work, it really gives me a chance to read. Haven’t had to travel anywhere for awhile. I took a new job, and travel will be part of the job (international travel, actually), so, once the travel starts, I know I will be reading aplenty. Also, we just packed up all the books because we are re-painting our living room, which has a built-in bookcase, so I only have two books not packed away at this time: David Wong’s This Book is Full of Spiders (sequel to John Dies at the End) and Douglas Clegg’s Neverland (heard nothing about it or its author – just felt like picking up something fresh). I am trying to decide which one to read. May be a good thing that I haven’t “had time” to read since I haven’t made up my mind. After spending a book or two away from Mr Lansdale, I plan to return to Hap & Leonard with Captains Outrageous.

For my own personal writing, I thought I’d be done with the second draft of my book at this point, going through it, and deciding how I’m going to tighten it up. The second draft has me writing everything and anything. Seems to be a little slow in sections (the writing, at least, so I assume the reading of it would be slow as well). The book isn’t progressing as quickly as I thought, but it’s going all right – been writing a lot more lately. I thought of making it a two or three part story so that the first book would only be 150 pages or so. With the way I’m writing, I think it would be too little payoff at that point, so I think I’m going to write the full story or, at least, more of it in this first book than I had originally intended. It also gave me the idea for a trilogy of sorts. The trilogy will not be one in story but in style. I think the first three books I write will all be kind of slow builds, building up characterization, and will then get into the creepiness. They may all have similar set-ups, even though the stories will be different. I think I have the basic story lines for all three ready to go. I’m still going to try my best to have the final draft of this first book completed by the end of the year. We’ll see…

Fitness

Not doing much in this area this year – or not as much as I’d like. I’m running the Cleveland Half Marathon in May. It’s my only big race planned for this year, although I plan to run Bay Days on July 4th and the Cleveland Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. Those are both 5 mile races. The Half Marathon is under 5 weeks away now, and I haven’t had a good run yet. I haven’t been doing any cross-training (elliptical, bike, etc.). I’m gaining weight, as I’ve let my diet slip. I need to buckle down, get in all my exercise, and start eating more healthy. I think I could have a good race, and there’s still time to get back on track.

Demolition

Part of the reason why the writing is suffering is because we are trying to purge ourselves of unneeded items in our home. We really want to clean up and reduce the clutter. Most of the clutter is out of sight, but we know it’s there. There’s a room in the basement that I’ve taken over, which will house my music, horror films, and some collectibles. I think it was a work room, as there are built-in cabinets and a long counter that made a long L shape in the room. These cabinets made what I wanted to do tough. I just recently destroyed part of the cabinets – now it’s an l instead of an L – and it felt really good to do so. There is just something calming about demolition.

Diabetes

My oldest son (Ethan, 7) was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes around Valentine’s Day. It was a shock and probably the worst 2+ days I can remember ever experiencing. Sitting in a hospital with your beautiful 7-year-old child and having him tell you to let him die because he doesn’t want to have to go through the finger pricks and insulin injections is as heart-breaking as it can be. Kids have a way of saying things where you know they don’t really know what they are saying. He was saying this with conviction and honesty. At that point in time, I know he truly wanted to be left for dead, and it still breaks my heart and brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it.

Just under two months later, and Ethan is doing really well. He is a champ when it comes to taking his blood sugar and insulin. He is injecting himself now (with assistance) and will take his blood sugar from time-to-time. From what we are hearing, he is adapting and progressing very quickly, especially for someone his age. He is awesome and continues to impress everyone around him with his control over the disease.

The Diabetes is making itself a part of our routine, and I think we are all doing a great job with accounting for it but not preventing him from being a kid. He is allowed to have treats and pretty much act like a kid. We are making sure he is not held back because of the disease. It will be a little different for him. For instance, he is going to play baseball for the first time this year. I cannot drop him off and go. I will need to make sure he is monitored so that he does not get too high or low with his sugar. Still, the important thing is – he can play baseball.

For those who have interest – the easy version – Type 1 Diabetes pretty much just means Ethan’s pancreas doesn’t work. We need to inject insulin that his pancreas cannot produce. We are manually performing the job that most people’s pancreas performs for them. Although it is suggested he does not regular soda or syrup or anything too concentrated in sugar, he does not have any restrictions. We just need to account for everything he is going to eat and counter-act that with insulin. Type 1 Diabetes also has no cure at this time. Whereas Type 2 Diabetes can be regulated through diet and exercise (insulin is not always needed) and could even go away over time, Type 1 Diabetes does not go away. Ethan will always need to take a shot of insulin before his meals and another shot of insulin that acts as his base (lasts 24 hours). At this time, Type 1 is also very much like the Big Bang. Doctors and Researchers can only go so far but do not know exactly what causes the disease.

The positive note – there has been lots of progress on finding a cure or, at least, making the disease easier to live with.

  • They are testing out an insulin that is injected once every couple years and will act just like the pancreas is producing it. Instead of 4 shots per day, Ethan could be down to 1 shot every couple of years.
  • They are testing out an artificial pancreas. If the artificial pancreas works and he eventually gets a transplant, it may be like he never had the disease.
  • I think they are also working towards trying to heal the pancreas itself.
  • Today, he is going to get a trial “pen” which should make getting his insulin much easier (we will be testing it out). Instead of dosing the insulin into a syringe, he can “dial” it digitally to the correct amount (his biggest complaint is that it takes too long to get his insulin before lunch, so he misses out on some “down time” with his friends).

Overall, like I said, he is mentally doing all right, and I think Christine and I are in a pretty good routine with it. It is “cute” to be overhearing Ethan talk with his younger brother (Drew, 4), and Drew says “Ethan, I wish you didn’t have to have Diabetes.” Ethan replies, “That’s sweet of you to say, Drew. And, one day, I won’t have Diabetes anymore.”

See you in another 4 months?

December 4, 2013

December 4, 2013

So long since I’ve posted….  Seems like I’ve been avoiding WordPress like the plague…

Writing

Maybe my lack of blogging is due to my increase in fiction writing. November was Novel Writing Month. For fun, I decided that I was going to attempt to write something in my novel each day of the month, whether it was one sentence or one page. I ended up writing something all 30 days of the month, which ended up being over 50 pages of prose. Probably my greatest output in such a small window of time. I always thought that forcing myself to write something would lead to crap. Not that everything I wrote was brilliant, but writing the book consistently seemed to help lead one thing into another and has really helped me shape where the story is headed, when I was completely in the dark before (my writing time was usually one day on the weekend…maybe). Also, I’m currently focused on one project, instead of trying to juggle multiple projects (the thought process there was that I will hopefully be inspired to work on at least one of them at any given time). Anyway, I’ve finally gotten some momentum going and would love to take a month or two off work to write. If I’m making the progress I’m making on lunch hours and the occasional hour in the evening, I think I could make a lot of progress if this was my full-time job. Well…that’s the dream. You can “follow” this project here (although, like this blog, I have been neglecting that one as well).

Running

Another reason this blog may have suffered was my training for the Chicago Marathon, which I participated in on Sunday, October 13th. I hurt my foot around Mile 9 or so (maybe it was a little later), so I walked much of the 26.2 miles. But, I finished. That’s all I was hoping for. Since the marathon, I started running on the track inside the rec center. Feeling good but haven’t run for a few weeks now. I keep telling myself I’m going to get back on schedule, but it just doesn’t happen. Like this morning, it was supposed to be mid-40s before work, so I wanted to get a run in. I woke up about 30 minutes AFTER I should’ve left for work. Oops. Well, I’m sure I’ll get it started again sometime.

Fitness

Also – the plan has been to put myself on a nice, healthy diet. As I sit here on my lunch (sesame chicken, veggie fried rice, and mixed veggies from a Chinese takeout shop downstairs), that’s obviously not happening yet. Also, it should be a money-saving thing as well, as I will just buy what I plan to eat that week and avoid takeout/restaurants. So many reasons to do this, yet I don’t.

Music

Been dormant. Talk of a former band of mine getting together next year. Once my availability opened, I haven’t really heard anything from the others. That’s par for the course, I guess. I haven’t done anything with my current project lately, either. I’m thinking of just recording a song or two here and there and putting it on the bandcamp page for a free download (if bandcamp allows that). Or, maybe I’ll take the bandcamp page down for now and see if I can allow free downloads through the Facebook page. If I ever get into a studio or do a more professional recording, that’s when I’ll start charging for the music. Thought it may also be fun to do some solo acoustic shows, combining songs from Musicians Anonymous Cleveland (that’s the new project) and Pudding & Fruit (that’s the old project). But, we’ll see.

The Dead Milkmen

The greatest band in the land. So, they had a show booked in Cleveland on November 2nd (a free show sponsored by local college station WCSB). It was a costume party – lots of really cool costumes there. Three bands (who were not very good) played and then the Milkmen came on stage, tuned, and were standing there. It had been 20 years to the day since their last Cleveland performance. Crazy. They were supposed to start playing at midnight. At 11:59, the lights go out. We go nuts. Just waiting for the opening of one of their songs. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Turns out the lights didn’t go out for dramatic effect. The electricity on the whole block actually went out. The rest of the show was canceled (The Dead Milkmen being the only band not to play). They ended up going over to the radio station and, at 2 or 2:30 in the morning, they played their entire set over the airwaves. Really cool of them to do. They felt so bad that they couldn’t play. They do have new material out. Check out their website. They are great guys and a great band (in fact, Rodney was at the door saying bye to people as they left, apologizing).

Miscellaneous

  • Don’t know if I posted this on here or not, but I started a movie review site. I did this while I was traveling frequently to Indiana. My movie watching has curtailed since then so there are not as many reviews posted now as had been before.
  • My oldest son sometimes has boundary issues. He can get into people’s faces and be a bit handsy. There is a child in his class that could almost be his twin, and that’s the person he is all over. Haven’t heard that he really has issues with any of the other kids. Anyway, I was at a school function last night, and I was with my youngest, while my oldest went with his age-appropriate class (1st graders) – all the kids were separated out by grade. Afterwards, there were cookies in the cafeteria. I’m in the cafeteria with my youngest, and we were going to get up to see if my oldest was ready, when I see him walk into the cafeteria. His twin is sitting there and calls him over to sit by him (so, they get along – my son just annoys this kid when he can’t keep his hands to himself). I’m sitting next to the kid’s father, who tells me that his son is always telling him that my son is always pushing him. How do you respond? The father seemed to think that my son was just trying to play. I explained he has “personal space” issues sometimes and get a little overzealous. It ended with his father suggesting play dates if our sons were actually friends. It must not be a big deal. But, you never know what goes on when your child gets into a new environment. It can be a little nervewracking, especially when your kids are as crazy/weird as you.
  • My kids have become Star Wars nuts pretty fast. This is because of Angry Birds tying into the film franchise. Now, they are into it without any birds attached. My wife and I said that we would keep them firmly in line with the original trilogy and raise them as if the prequels never existed. Well, thanks to Angry Birds and books, they kept asking questions about all these other characters they were seeing. I finally broke down and bought the prequels for them. Although they are just as bad as I remember them, I did get some extra enjoyment watching their excitement. Every time a big lightsaber duel would happen, they would jump up from wherever they were, rush the tv, and start jumping around or acting it out. Really cute to watch. In that respect, I guess it isn’t all bad. Besides, while they are watching, I can just write or keep myself occupied some other way.

August 15, 2013

August 15, 2013

So Many Projects, So Little Completions

So, I think I missed my calling. I should have somehow gotten myself a job where I kick off projects, get everything settled and ready, and then hand them off to other people to complete. I think I would’ve been perfect at something like that. Does a job like that even exist? Sounds like the US Military, right? We’ll go in, overthrow your leader, start to rebuild, and then leave it in your hands to finish it off and maintain it.

I have quite a few projects going on, and it never seems like I finish anything before I have a new idea that starts to take up a decent amount of my time. Not to mention – I have a full-time job that has nothing to do with these projects and also try to be a good father, husband, and supporter of the Cleveland Indians. I don’t have the necessary free time to be juggling a bunch of different projects, so it should not be a surprise that my projects also sit in different states.

Being a writer, it makes the multi-project thing even worse. If I hit a stumbling block or some sort of writer’s block, then that project gets put on hold. In that time, I may think of a new project, which will start taking the majority of my time. To be honest (and I’m sure this is different for different writers), starting a book is the easiest thing in the world because, at least for me, it involves building up some characters, and you don’t even need to know what the plot is yet. You just need to know the type of character you want to write about, and you can be vague and mysterious about the rest of the details. Or, I get a new idea for something completely different, don’t want to lose it, so I start working on that, just to get the general idea down, which turns into me abandoning a previous project and working on this new idea, until the wheel completes its latest rotation and starts up again.

It’s not just with writing. I try to clean and organize the house. Clean one area. By the time I’m halfway through with area #2, Area #1 is already in need of another cleanse. Like with writing, it seems like I keep working and working and working but never get to a finished product. Maybe that’s just part of life. I don’t know.

The New Project

I also have an interest in Music. Music is one of two things that I can think of that I do where there is “instant” gratification and completion. I am doing a musical project called Musicians Anonymous Cleveland. I have recorded and released a couple of EPs. I barely play shows. I have no intention of making money at this but do it purely for fun. When I release an EP, it has the feeling of completing something. Now, if I take a step back, I could tell myself that I’d like to flesh out the songs with other musicians and create a more professional recording. Still, the “Demo” EP is out there, and songs have been written. I rarely play a live show, and it’s truly something that’s done for fun. I think that keeps me going.

As a musician, to be honest, I’m not very good. I play three-chord songs that all pretty much sound alike. The lyrics usually go towards the “humorous” side – at least, that’s my intent. Since my musical skill is on par with an adolescent, I have decided to try to record a children’s album. I had one song that I had written for Musicians Anonymous Cleveland that was written with my kids in mind (in fact, they have, in the past, asked that I play the song when I’ve had my guitar out). I figured I could migrate that song over to this new project and record others with kid-themed lyrics. The music between the two musical projects will probably be pretty much identical since I just write the same song over and over and over. The difference: the new project (currently going to be called Mr Keith or Mr Keith’s Music – haven’t decided yet) will deal with things I think kids would like, as well as creating some learning songs. Musicians Anonymous Cleveland, however, will continue to explore more adult themes: relationships, adult humor, and telling certain people to fuck off.

I just thought it was funny that I was starting yet another project. Who knows? Maybe one of these things will hit some day, and I will be able to be creative as a full-time job. Not expecting it, though.

Oh – the other thing with “instant” gratification is running. I put instant in quotation marks because it is a long process to prepare for a half-marathon or a marathon (which is what I’m currently doing). But, eventually, the day will come where the starting gun will be fired, and I will eventually cross the finish line. So, it’s nice to know that something I’m working towards will come to fruition. If I ran like I wrote, I’d get halfway through the training and then decide to run a different race instead and then start the training all over again.

Odds n’ Ends

  • I skimmed through the latest Full Moon Entertainment movie, Unlucky Charms. When I was growing up, Full Moon was a big part of my entertainment. When I knew a new movie was supposed to be released, I would make a trip to First Run Video to see if they got it in (and if it wasn’t rented yet). They had the Puppetmaster series (still running today), Dollman, the Trancer films. Some films were hits; some films were misses. For direct-to-video, they were high quality. Subspecies is still my favorite vampire film. I thought The Pit and the Pendulum could have been released theatrically and held its ground against any film made for the big screen. I also thought Puppetmaster III: Toulon’s Revenge was big screen quality. Yes, the films were definitely low budget. The acting and effects usually were a little off. But, they were fun and brought high quality items straight to the video store shelves. Throughout the years, a cheaper way to make films was discovered, and Full Moon has exploited that. Now, there is CGI or other digital effects, instead of using make-up or practical effects. Many low budget films will input blood digitally instead of using squibs, etc. Full Moon is no different. The quality of their films have gone downhill over the years, looking like they were filmed using a standard at home handycam. The story and everything association with the film has just been awful. I can’t remember the last movie I had seen, but I think I said it would be my last because they were complete garbage now. However, probably because of the great memories of youth, I still follow Full Moon and keep abreast as to what they are producing. I started reading how Unlucky Charms looked like it was a step in the right direction for Full Moon. I was intrigued enough by the reviews to go make my first Red Box rental. I didn’t have time to watch the entire film, so I skimmed through it. Make no mistake, it is a low-budget b-movie, but it works here. It’s a fun little film, and it looks like something they could build a series off of. It’s not of the caliber of Subspecies, Pit, or Puppetmaster III, but it’s a lot better than the crap I have seen over the recent years. The digital effects are still obvious but are blending in a little better. The acting is not great but passable for the type of film it is. It is basically an America’s Top Model show where the host (a Tyra Banks-ish personality) is killing off the contestants in order to use their souls to keep looking young. Some ancient “monsters” or whatever they would be considered are being called for whatever reason. Lots of comments on how the people of Earth are no better now than they were back when they last visited. These things do the bidding of whoever possesses the magic (four little stones). It is not up to them to decide if the bidding is for good or evil. However, they start to get a conscious and no longer want to help out a person who wants to use the magic for selfish, personal gain. Overall, not bad. Lots of times, Full Moon will go off the deep end with their ideas. If it works, then you have something great that you’d never expect to see. Usually, they don’t work, and the film comes off as crap. This idea, in my opinion, was a lot more “normal” and something you’d think would’ve been done many times. However, it works. Restores my faith in Full Moon a little….until the next crapfest comes out.
  • Decided to do a week of vegetarian meals in hopes of righting my poor food choices. I am getting in decent shape but am still 15 pounds heavier than my height would dictate and have not been losing any weight for quite a few months. I have still been snacking and making poor vegetarian food choices. I need to stick to the plan I create for myself instead of veering off with unhealthy foods.
  • I was at a recording of a talk show hosted by Ramon Rivas in Cleveland, where I heard about this website, which is all about making promises and keeping them. It sounded like a positive idea. You send your promises into the site and they get published as a public record that you are vowing to do whatever it is you said you would do. I assume it could be a promise to help someone, maybe a promise to yourself, whatever. I haven’t fully looked through the website yet, but it sounds like an excellent idea.

July 31, 2013

July 31, 2013

Writer Mentality?

rubble

One of the things I love about being a writer is the process of deconstructing something and re-building it fresh, especially when the new ideas are fantastic and really get me re-engaged with the project I am working on. One of the things I hate most about being a writer is the process of deconstructing something and re-building it fresh, especially when I feel like I’m never going to have a finished product because I keep re-tooling it.

Too many times, this process carries over into my everyday life as well. I want to get rid of everything and start fresh. I am currently in the state of mind where I would like to get rid of the majority of my clothes, except for the ones I have most recently purchased, and fill the closet with new stuff. The idea of the closet being next to bare is exciting to me. Of course, the problem with doing such a thing is that it costs money, which I don’t have, but I can still mentally wish to do so. I would like to go through my books and just keep certain meaningful or unread books. I’d keep everything written by Joe Lansdale and Clive Barker and would have to decide on the rest. I know they are just “things” and so readily available in this digital age, but books are something I don’t think I would part with. Still, bare bookshelves asking to be filled again is enticing. I’d like to go through my collection of toys and other collectibles and limit myself to what I’m allowed to keep. I want to take down the limited recordings I have online and create some brand new recordings for Musicians Anonymous Cleveland (sometimes, I want to start with a fresh name, but I had too many stickers made and need to get through those). I want to clean out a refrigerator that is in our basement, throw out all the food, and start buying in a way that makes sense – and keep to the goal of using everything that I buy instead of going to work without a homemade lunch again, forcing me to spend more money I don’t have in order to eat. I want to tear down so much and then re-build it. This latest rebuild, I just know, will have the right combination, and everything will be perfect…until it gets out of whack in a couple weeks and my frame of mind returns.

Some of this will happen, but I need to make the time in order to make sure I am able to get my mind in a “right” place. I have found in the past that, if my surroundings are chaotic, then I cannot write. It just won’t happen. I should be able to push everything aside and just focus on the computer screen or notebook, but it doesn’t happen. I need everything somewhat ordered.

Today, I made a “To Do” list. Some of the items on the list are listed above – leaning out the stuff I have, those space wasters “just in case” I get interested in it again. Other items include the general cleaning of the house, especially our basement, which is where the kids spend some time playing, and you can barely walk down there anymore without stepping on something. I want to clean it and organize it and make sure they learn that everything has a place and to somehow get them interested in keeping it clean – but, hey, they’re kids.

I started to make a priority list of what I need to spend time doing. The only thing assigned a priority is being a father and a husband. That’s Number One. Always will be, always should be. Sure, I could sacrifice time away from the kids and my wife and get some of these other items checked off, but it’s not worth it. Now, of course, it doesn’t mean that I may take some time away to get some of these things accomplished, but it shouldn’t be at the total neglect of them.

The other areas I need to prioritize is making time to write, making time to exercise, and making time to clean/organize. If I do everything when it’s just me and the rest of the family is asleep, then I have to cram everything into my Friday nights. After the work week and with it being late by the time everyone is asleep, it usually takes me a little while to get moving, meaning I start to pick up steam as I’m falling asleep. Do I recognize that I need to make a schedule that says Friday nights will start with one hour of cleaning and then an hour or two of writing and then it’s off to bed? If I’m not inspired to write, I can just keep cleaning? Or, do I force myself to do some sort of writing? My exercise time is blocked off early in the morning before I go to work. What happens (like this week) when I sleep during the time I should be running? I feel bad having to take an hour (or a little longer) out of the evening to go run when I should be with my family.

I kind of wish I could turn myself into a robot. I will always wake up at 4:30am. I will exercise (run, bike ride, kettlebell, etc.) between 5 – 6. Get ready for work. Go to work. There are two days per week that I hit the gym after work, which usually works out well, although I typically just want to get home at that point.

Now, I want to re-write this. Not sure what my point is any more. At first, I thought I was going to write how it excites me to try to strip myself down to the bare essentials. Instead, it seems like I’m focusing on how much time it will take to get myself down to the bare essentials. Kind of a strange thought, really. Maybe multi-tasking is over-rated or too much a part of our (or at least my) culture. Maybe I just need to take a deep breath and work on one thing at a time instead of working on six things at once and, although making progress, never quite finishing anything.

Miscellaneous

  • Was in the middle of reading Joe Lansdale’s Bad Chili. Got about halfway through but haven’t made any time to read lately (most of my reading was sitting in airports or on airplanes, and I haven’t had to travel by plane for awhile). Would also like to make “relaxation” time at home to read.
  • Playing a solo acoustic show as Musicians Anonymous Cleveland at Mahall’s 20 Lanes in Lakewood, Ohio on Sunday, August 4th. Doors should open around 8:00pm. I should start at 8:30pm and be finished by 9:00pm. Admission is usually around $5. There are a couple “touring” acts (one from Austin and another from Pittsburgh). Not sure if they raise the prices to try to get them a little money for their travel.
  • Going to an elementary school reunion this coming weekend as well. That should be interesting. Looking forward to seeing some people I haven’t seen in decades.

May 30, 2013

May 30, 2013

Not much to post about. Created a “central hub” in order to find all the blogs I’m currently doing. This way, you can keep updated as much or as little as you’d like easily.

Baltimore, Maryland

The whirlwind tour of some sites to do the re-training hits Baltimore, MD next week. After being home another week, we finish up in Chicago. So far, the re-training that we’re doing is going well.  I would have to say that Portland was my favorite spot to visit so far (with Seattle thrown in there). Dallas (well, Garland, actually), TX was probably the best group that we had to train so far – lots of interaction. Looking forward to ending this portion of the travel, although the writing and reading during the trips has been wonderful, while it has all but stopped while being home (especially with me being on vacation t his week). I do hope to stay up one or two of these nights I have left to try to bust through some of the writing, as I just had an idea for a third project. I was reading some thoughts by Clive Barker, who was responding to the general criticism or anger from fans when he was not finishing the work that they wanted him to finish. He said something along the lines of needing to go with whatever is at the forefront of his mind, which is the truth. I mean, you will not get your best writing if you just write to finish something or because that’s what is expected of you. Sometimes, as a fan, it’s difficult to think that way – especially when you’ve been waiting for The Scarlet Gospels (the long-awaited “Hellraiser” follow-up and possible conclusion – at least, to Pinhead) for what appears to be decades.

Fitness and Health

Finished a half-marathon (13.1 miles) on May 19th. Hooray. Beat my goal by just under 3 minutes. Next big race is another Half-marathon on October 6th in Cleveland, followed  by a Full Marathon on October 13 in Chicago. The training for the Full Marathon begins near the end of June. Time to get back into “exercise” shape, as I’ve been gaining weight like crazy. Need to get over myself and just start keeping to a healthy diet and stop shoving food in my mouth whenever a free moment arises. Hope to hit the fitness room in Baltimore a few times instead of just looking at mindless things online and really break this soda addiction that I say I’m getting over – keeping myself hydrated with nothing but water. This week, I was going to try to “detox” my  body, but I didn’t make it through dinner on the first day. The lunch “smoothie” just could not be repeated, and I knew this, so I decided to just continue with eating healthy, but my vacation mind seems to be winning out instead. At least, I have showered a few times this week, although I have not yet shaved.

And in Conclusion

That’s it for now. Enjoy the upcoming summer, everyone!

Movie Review: The Lords of Salem

April 29, 2013

Rob Zombie seems to be a polarizing fellow, if I am to believe what I read. People seem to either love his films or hate them, maybe more so than most. Maybe everyone is like that. So far, Mr Zombie’s films have been all over the board with me. House of 1000 Corpses had some cool ideas and some good characters and scenes. Overall, the film left me unsatisfied, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I didn’t hate it or dislike it, but I didn’t particularly love or like it either. Then, here comes The Devil Rejects, which I think is one of the greatest films made (it ranks as #4 on my personal top 5). At some point I saw The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, which is an animated film. I wasn’t able to sit through much of it. Dreadful, in my opinion. I enjoyed HalloweenHalloween 2 was ok. The idea of The Lords of Salem had me really excited. He was going to do something a little different. I think one of the issues for me with the Halloween films is that it was in the same vein as The Devil’s Rejects, which was as near perfect as I thought a film could be.

The movie begins with a coven of witches trying to bring Satan’s child into the world but failing. Eventually, they are disposed of during the famous Salem Witch Trials.

Switch to modern day – Heidi Hawthorne (played by Sherri Moon Zombie) is part of the #1 radio show in Salem, which deals with all things macabre. I guess it works for the movie, but it’s difficult to believe that a radio show with this subject matter would actually be #1 anywhere, as it would be an acquired taste. If anything, they seem to poke fun at the macabre more than anything (the radio show itself sounded like it would be a little annoying to listen to – I’m just not into all those side effects and stuff playing while people are talking). The other two hosts are both named Herman – one played by Ken Foree and the other nicknamed “Whitey” and played by Rob Zombie look-a-like Jeffrey Daniel Phillips. I guess Rob didn’t want to act in the film but still wanted to be in it. Probably unsurprising, “Whitey” is also Heidi’s love interest. Jeffrey Daniel Phillips does a great job, though, I must say. I liked his character, who genuinely cared about Heidi and tried to help her through her issues and continued to show up for her even she treated him poorly. Fun Fact: Jeffrey Daniel Phillips played one of the “cavemen” in the Geico commercials.

Eventually, Heidi personally receives an anonymous record from The Lords, which Ken Foree then christens The Lords…of Salem. Heidi previews it once and gets all funky, with a headache. They eventually play it over the radio, and all the women in Salem go into a trance. Heidi’s life quickly spirals out of control, as she starts seeing things and lots of weird stuff starts to happen around her, like the vacant apartment 5′s door continuing to open.

The landlord of her apartment building is a kindly old lady (Judy Geeson), who is looking after her a bit. I don’t think it’s spoiling anything to say that she is a witch, which, if not before, is more obvious after her two sisters (Patricia Quinn and Dee Wallace) arrive. Also, the radio show interviews an occult expert (played by Bruce Davison), who ends up figuring out what’s going on, or is at least on the right track. Bruce eventually runs afoul of the sisters before he can warn Heidi that something bad is happening, and the thrilling conclusion is set up.

There are some positives in the film. Some of the directing and camera shots were cool to see, especially some of the lingering hallway shots. It looked like Rob Zombie was trying to establish a creepy mood and was doing well with that. As I said, Jeffrey Daniel Phillips did a great job and played a character I truly liked. Bruce Davison, as the occult expert, was wonderful to see in the film. Again, he did a great job acting, and his character was written well. He seemed to have a great relationship with his wife, and, with limited screen time, you could get a feel for the both of them. For me, at least, I wanted to spend more time with them. The three sisters could over-act a little here and there, but they were also a lot of fun to watch – maybe more in a campy way. If the film centered more on the sisters and the occult expert, I think I would’ve enjoyed it more.

There are also plenty of negatives. The editing. Transitions from scene to scene just seemed choppy (reminded me of 1000 Corpses in that way – where it looked like a scene could be going somewhere and then comes to an abrupt end, making you wonder what the point of it was). Towards the end, Heidi is going in a theatre, and, in slow motion, we see “Whitey” going for the closing door, but it closes before he can get there. That’s the last we see of him. Did he just go home? Was he killed? Was he looking for a way in (are you telling me that there was no other way into the theatre)? I’m not going to say Sherri Moon Zombie did a bad job in the acting department, but I think her character was horribly written. At least, I didn’t really care if anything happened to her. When a character like that has 70% of the screen time, well, you get disengaged. There were a lot of visuals/scenes in there just to make the audience jump but had no real purpose. I’m not a fan of those scenes. The majority would end with Heidi waking from a dream. To me, even though he did a great job acting, I found Jeffrey Daniel Phillips’ resemblance to Rob Zombie a bit distracting. Finally, the creatures were a bit hokey and would’ve been better left in the shadows.

There was plenty in here to think that Rob Zombie could make another masterpiece. There is talent. Either, he needs some help on the screenplays or just needs to start directing some better scripts written by other people. Very middle of the road. I give it a 5/10.

Unfair Review: Evil Dead vs. Evil Dead

April 6, 2013

First off, there may be spoilers-aplenty. If you plan to see the film and do not want to know that much about it ahead of time, then please come back after you have viewed it. If you don’t care if you know or if you’ve already seen the film, then please read on.

I do not typically do a full scale movie review on this blog. Usually, any sort of review is just part of a normal update. I think I had a bit more to say about this film, so I decided to dedicate an entire blog to the review. Besides, I have been reading other comments regarding the film, and I thought I’d put my two cents in because some of the comments, to me at least, appear to be way off base. I don’t know. Maybe this will be less of a review of the film and more of a reason why I think it’s unfair to compare the two incarnations. We’ll see how it goes…

Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead is a remake of the 1981 Sam Raimi classic, which starred Bruce Campbell and spawned two sequels. The story concerns five friends going to a cabin in the woods. Why are they going? Mia has proclaimed (once again) that she is going to free herself from her drug addiction by going cold turkey. The difference this time, they are going to her family’s remote cabin, and her friends are not going to let her quit, as they have always done in the past. Another difference – her brother and his girlfriend are along for the ride, after her brother has seemingly ditched his sister and their friends a few years back because he couldn’t deal with some drama. They end up finding the Necronomicon (which summons demons) and friend Eric (the comic relief of the film) reads the incantation that brings the demons to life. Mia is the first to get possessed. Due to her drug-adled past, the assumption is that she is making up stories to try to get back to her regular, drugged life or just hallucinating as part of the detox. After a sedative cannot subdue her and she turns violent, her brother attempts to get her the hell out of there, but the river has run over and there is no way out. This leads to lots of blood, demons, and the attempt to figure out how to get out of this thing alive.

I thought the script worked well. I mean, it’s absurd, but it was still entertaining and easily forgiven. The acting could be over-the-top at times, but it was also pretty subdued and strangely realistic at times. There was lots of gore and explicit scenes of sharp objects going into and out of flesh. The special effects were supposed to be all practical with no CGI used. I’m not sure I buy that 100%. Some of the effects looked like they may have been computer generated. Maybe it was just the way the practical effects were spliced into a scene that made them a little unreal looking. The audience seemed squeamish and filled with tension, so I think the film worked on that front as well, although I wouldn’t necessarily call the film scary as much as a gross-out. There were some apparitions that popped up for what seemed to be cheap scares. Before Mia is possessed, there is a ghostly demonic presence (was it supposed to be Mia in a foreshadowed demonic state?). Maybe, it works because it could just be her detox causing her to hallucinate, but I just didn’t care for it for some reason. They could have moved the story along without it. Aside from those apparitions early on (including the soon-to-be second demon with a quick scare in the reflection of the bathroom mirror), I think the rest of the film worked really well.

The comparison between old and new. In this new version, they open the film with a possessed demon being dispatched some time in the past instead of starting with the car ride of the 5 friends to the cabin. It was a nice setup. The 5 are there to help one person kick a drug habit, which gives good reason for the kids to stay at the cabin when things get strange. There is actually an explanation that 5 souls are needed in order to bring back some sort of demon, as opposed to the events seeming to be random. Also, there is a nice addition of a pet dog in this film…making you not realize that there are really 6 souls at the cabin, not 5. I thought that was pretty ingenious. The main character of Mia ends up being an Ash/Cheryl-hybrid character. She is the first possessed and ends up in the cellar – like Cheryl, although the film makes you believe her brother (David) is being set up as the Ash character. In a nod to Evil Dead 2, Mia ends up turning human again after being possessed in order to become the hero. In another nod to part 2, one character cuts off her possessed arm (as opposed to just her hand), and the hero ends up losing her hand during the final fight as well. Finally, in the original, Ash theoretically survives until morning, although the film ends with the demon rushing him (which is then re-created about 20 minutes into Evil Dead 2). Here, the  five souls are consumed, and the next level of evil sets up the final battle, leaving us with a shot of the sun rising and Mia presumably safe if she can get to a hospital before she dies of blood loss (no shock ending).

Some of the criticism of this film that I’ve been reading is that there is no real story, that it is covered by gross-out scene after gross-out scene. The acting is not that great. The film is not scary (just gory). They didn’t really build any characterization (you never really knew who Mia was). This is where I think it is unfair to compare the original with the remake. For starters, the original film (the 1981 Evil Dead) was not a masterpiece in acting, did not have a great story, did not give you insights into the characters themselves, and wasn’t really scary, just a gorefest. The criticism being leveled at this film seems like it would perfectly apply to the original as well. HOWEVER, the original has Dead By Dawn and Army of Darkness. It isn’t until Dead By Dawn that Bruce Campbell’s Ash starts to get a personality and becomes a cult hero, and it is cemented with his bravado in Army of Darkness. If the sequels did not exist, I don’t think anyone would be up-in-arms that there was a lack of Ash in this film. True, he made Dead By Dawn  and Army of Darkness the successes that they were with his quirky sense of humor, but he was just one of the guys in the original. In fact, Scott seems to be the lead/hero for the majority of the film until Ash is the last man standing and has no choice to fight. The criticism seems unfounded. Do these critics expect them to put the entire personality of the original trilogy into this one film? Or, is it just a re-telling of the first film, with a couple nods to the second (even a fight scene in the basement of the cellar kind of reminded me of the Army of Darkness fight in The Pit). Assuming that Mia’s story continues in a second film, maybe they build up her character a little more. Honestly, I think a sequel in the vein of Dead By Dawn might be a little tough. In the original trilogy, Ash and friends were at a “rented” cabin, so it makes sense that another group of people show up to continue the action. In this film, the cabin is owned by Mia’s family. To continue the action, it will need to be away from the current location. Besides, there will be no cabin left at the end of the day with this film, even though the book will survive.

I’m all over the place, I think. What’s my overall take? I’m nearly 40. I grew up on Sam Raimi’s films. I will always prefer his films. I will continue to hope that Raimi’s talk of Evil Dead 4 (or Army of Darkness 2) being written this summer will end up coming to fruition. But – do you really think Bruce would want to go through the torture of playing Ash again? The original trilogy has a greatness about it, and Bruce makes the two sequels larger than life. I would not disparage the younger generation for latching on to this new version of Evil Dead and preferring it to the original. I could see that happening and wouldn’t blame them in the least. I would definitely add this new version to my DVD collection. True, the original will end up receiving more viewings, but the remake’s disc will get its fair share of wear and tear.

For the many comments I read that the remake is NOT an Evil Dead film and is nothing like its predecessor, my question is: Have you watched the original? The overall tone of the original is the same – demons and blood. You have the tree scene, the cellar, the necklace (although it is not used to the dramatic effect as it was in the original), much of the same dialog and sounds, dark humor, splatter, the inability to leave the area, and the Necronomicon. I loved the inclusion of Cheryl’s voice lifted from the original in one scene of this film.

Finally, my last comment is about the post-end credits scene. I don’t really think it added anything to the film, but it didn’t take anything away. It’s a film, and the fans love that shit, so why not give it to them? Of course, I’m speaking of Bruce Campbell, whose appearance is long after the action has concluded, so he does not take anything away from the preceding film. That being said, I think it would have been a little cooler if his appearance somehow made sense in the context of the film (instead it seemed more like a production company logo). Maybe the credits end and we focus on a pair of shoes walking towards the aftermath of the cabin. We pan up to the chainsaw for a hand Ash surveying the damage. “Fuck. Definitely said the wrong words.”

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