Archive for March, 2016
We have had some holidays lately and, as I sit here, memories are sparked of years gone by.
I have very few memories of kindergarten at Boys Latin. When you think about it, that actually makes sense. I was appropriately too young to form many lasting memories. I do remember it being stuffy and formal especially for a kindergarten. We had to wear these awful maroon sweaters that I remember as being too tight. Anyway, I remember nearing St. Patrick’s day and our teacher was telling us all about leprechauns. I do not remember her but I remember being taught about leprechauns and their affinity for shamrocks and green and all that.
We built an elaborate Lego town and the leprechauns were supposed to come out at night and play in our classroom. Now that I think about it, I can’t imagine we built the Lego town ourselves and she probably built the whole thing. I remember fully believing that little leprechauns were going to visit our classroom when we weren’t there. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered that leprechauns were really all Warwick Davis.
I also remember Easter at Maw Maw’s house. Her house was small but very nice and we tended to go down there every Easter. We would wake up at her house and there would be three little Easter baskets right outside the back door. We had always just missed the Easter Bunny. It was just our luck. Since it was morning, we could only look at our candy and size it up for later.
Then we would troop off to Maw Maw’s country church and we would behave because were expected to. At that point, we would meet up with my uncle and my cousin. Church was for Maw Maw. She was a huge devotee to that church and we were there because she was proud of us and proud of her daughter. After church, we would end up back at her house and there would be all sorts of plastic eggs hidden in her postage stamp-sized backyard. We would find our eggs and then sit down for lunch. It was a tradition for a long time.
It had been important that Roland make the train to Three Forks. Maybe the word important was understating things a little. It as actually imperative that he make the train to Three Forks and specifically the one he was on right at the moment. That was what the old stranger had told him. Be on the ten thirty to Three Forks and the meeting would take place at the appointed time. The seat Roland found faced another set of seats. Roland sat next to the window so he could see the scrubland drift by outside.
Roland remembered being excited by the train when he was a kid. The sounds and sights of a steam train were way more impressive back then. Watching those behemoths pulling into the station with an ear-splitting whistle and a belly-rumbling chug-a-chug was pretty much life changing. That had been back in the Carolinas where the scenery had been greener and arguably more beautiful. Roland knew, however, that many found the endless plains of Texas plenty beautiful. Roland just missed the green.
The tall thin woman was sitting opposite Roland before he could register that there had been any movement in the train car. Needless to say, he was startled. He was not used to these sorts of dealings and it showed on his face with half a dozen nervous tics. He fought to make his face neutral but he also knew it was too late for that. His shaky, bumbling fingers grabbed the strange coin from his pocket. He slapped the coin down on the seat next to him a little too hard.
“I invoke a truce for a uh,” Roland began, “So we can parley.” The word parley returning to his memory just in time for him to say it.
The woman or the thing masquerading as a woman smiled. Her thin lips moved in a parody of human emotion. “I accept your truce. For parley.” She said, putting a mocking emphasis on the word parley.
“Good. That’s good,” Roland said. It sounded like he had convinced himself that this was true.
“What was it that you wanted to discuss? I don’t particularly want to talk to you. We don’t particularly need to talk to you. So talk and maybe it will amuse us to listen.” The things said.
“I have been sent here to see if anything can be done for Three Forks,” Roland said.
“Our people are fairly confident we can get the job done. No interference will stop us,” The thing said. It sipped from a teacup that had definitely not been there before.
“So you’ll burn it to the ground and you won’t even care,” Roland said.
“If that were a question, the answer would be yes,” It said with another parody smile.
“And what if you don’t make it to Three Forks?” Roland asked. He pulled the pistol from its holster behind his back and placed it on the seat beside him where the coin had been earlier. The gun was made of strange looking metal and oak wood. The barrel and handle had both been carved with strangely beautiful symbols that somebody had poured silver into. The thing across from Roland hissed and for a moment, it looked less like a human woman.
“Where did you get that?” The thing demanded urgently.
“Oh this? Some guy sold it to me through the window two stations back. He took my last five dollars.” Roland said. He studied the thing, interested in its suddenly unsettled reaction.
“How did somebody get hold of one of the Six? This cannot be. This will do.” The thing said, more to itself than Roland. Since Roland did not understand the question, he did not know the answer and, therefore he remained silent.
“You have not seen the last of me. I will see you in Three Forks. We will see what happens there.” It said.
Roland grabbed the gun and fired. The thing’s belly exploded and black ichor splashed all over the seat and window. The thing looked shocked, its eyes impossibly wide and its mouth soundlessly moving like a fish. Roland grinned and leaned in closer and fired again, point blank in the thing’s face and even more black fluid splashed everywhere. Roland jerked back to avoid getting any on him.
Three Forks was approaching on the horizon. Roland had been sure that its fate had hinged on this meeting. The thing was dead and Roland hoped that would tip the scales in their favor. However, maybe that was not the mission he was actually sent on. Maybe that strange old man had meant for Roland to fight for Three Forks himself. He checked the half full box of bullets in his coat pocket. As long as there was a single bullet left and breath in his lungs, those things would not get Three Forks.
I was told that this movie wasn’t very good. It was not the kind of thing I would see in theaters but I always thought I would watch it. One of the many drums I repeatedly beat on in this blog is that I am a Baltimore boy born and raised. Baltimore is deep in my heart and I will always look to Charm City for the rest of my life. I almost watched this movie around last Halloween but I do like to ration a little spookiness throughout the year. Poe is especially a legend in Baltimore so I was interested to see a period murder mystery in the vein of his stories. The movie does an excellent job touching on a lot of his best works, especially the stories that involved murder (which is most of them). John Cusack is excellent as Poe himself, an alcoholic writer who constantly scraped for a living. The movie is a fun set of murder mysteries with a lot of dark and brooding charm. It also involves the last day of Edgar Allen Poe which is still one of my favorite mysteries. Don’t be afraid to check this one out.
Rise of the Guardians
Since we’re just a few days away from Easter, I thought I would finally check out Rise of the Guardians. To my surprise, I find that the movie is set in the days before Easter and Easter itself which I promise you I did not plan. I am not the biggest Dreamworks fan but I am a fan of alternate, bad ass interpretations of holiday figures. It’s an obscure fandom but I can dig it. The movie is surprisingly sweet and touching. I really need to stop saying this about Dreamworks/Disney movies because I say it almost every time. The movie is pretty exciting as it has a lot of almost anime-style magical combat scenes with very fluid animation. The movie also has a lot to say about belief, the eyes of a child and how knowledge of self is essential to how you live your life. The movie surprised me in places but also hit just the notes I was expecting at other points but that’s fine. It’s not the best-animated movie by far but it’s a great watch especially during the holiday season. That includes a lot of seasons.
A Fist Full of Dollars
I love a solid Western with the right tone and the right amount of action and character development. The imagery of the Old American West just lends it to really good movies. Though, when it comes down to the competition between Clint Eastwood and John Wayne, I will always pick Clint Eastwood. Clint Eastwood is a great actor and every movement and sound he made back in the day was important. He had the famous squint and a great, grizzled voice. His characters often minded their own business and were sucked into conflict like a wandering samurai. He almost never started the fight but he sure as hell was going to finish it. Add on the brilliant music of Ennio Morricone and some great direction and character work from the rest of the cast. This one was a movie I probably should have seen a long time ago. I don’t know what I was thinking but don’t make the same mistake I did and check this one out if you’re one of the few who hasn’t seen it.
Links of the Week:
Iron Maiden – Speed of Light
Celia Cruz – Guantanamera
Second Sound Barrier Trailer
Manic Street Preachers – Walk Me to the Bridge
Magic Sword – In The Face Of Evil
– I’ve been glued to watching Lucifer this week
– The Peoplve vs. OJ was used as an incentive for homework
– I watch Last Week Tonight every week even when its on hiatus
– I’ve gotten back into the Daily Show
– I need to get away to see a movie in theaters
– I can’t wait until Batman v. Superman is out so I can ignore it easier
Last year you might remember that I took part in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. You might have also noticed that I put a widget on my blog declaring that I will be taking part in the challenge again this year. (The widget is on your right as if it could not be seen from space.) Frankly, I got a lot of eyes on my blog last year because of the challenge. But primarily I love a challenge, I love to set a goal and complete it especially when it comes to my writing. This blog has become more and more important over the last two years and I feel delighted that people are actually looking at it and liking it.
Most people, when they approach this challenge, like to use a theme to govern what posts they write all month. I have not yet gotten to that point. This blog is so multi-purpose. I love to write short fiction, I love to share a little bit of myself and I love to rave about pop culture. Picking any one of those feels like picking my favorite child. For now, I’m just happy to complete the challenge without restrictions and share the fun with all of you and any newcomers. So I vow to finish all of the A to Z posts. That means that Monday through Saturday during April I will post something. That will be a full twenty-six alphabetical posts. On top of those 26 posts, I will also be finishing a Media Update every Thursday. That is 30 posts for the month of April but I have the eye of the tiger and I will reach my goal. No sweat.
So in lieu of a theme, I’ll give you a little hint of what to expect next month. I’ll give you the names of a few posts and a short description. Won’t that be fun?
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – A review of the movie that I could have held off on until October. This will include some quick references to the book which I have read.
Shield of the Ishim (Part 7) – Another installment of my tale about a trio of monster-hunting magic users.
Jazz – A short look at some of my favorite jazz tunes and my personal connection to them.
And Many More! There will be short fiction, personal posts, movie reviews, a Top 11 list, a What I Love About Pro-Wrestling and more stabs at fanfiction. Come back soon!
Fearal had grown up living in Omata. It was a rough and tumble life in the small town that was only seen as a crossroads on the way to Cammarata. While the port town of Cammarata was seen as sunny and beautiful, Omata often looked dusty and dried out and far too hot. People who visited Omata rarely wanted to stay longer than a night and even then they rarely wanted to do that. The inn was rarely half full and most of those guests were caravans transporting goods to the markets of Cammarata or the ports. Fearal had even helped feed horses and move boxes for coins when he was a little boy.
Now he had just reached thirty years of age and he had never really done much. He had never left Omata during his entire life. The jewel of Altiria, the port city of Cammarata was not too far down the road but he had never been there. He had no reason to go to the big city where merchants tried to steal your money before the thieves could get at it. He had grown into a strong and honorable man. Sure, he was the first to admit that he was not the smartest man but honor went a long way. It had gotten him chosen by the town to be local constable and he was dedicated to keeping the law in Omata.
Fearal started his day on the outskirts of town, every morning. There he always got breakfast and strong coffee at the home of Pella. She was a beautiful woman who farmed up a meager existence near town. Mornings with Pella were easy and a comfort since Fearal was not a morning person. After Pella, he made his rounds to all the farms that surrounded the town. The only thing Omata had going for it besides shipping was livestock. There were three cattle farms and two horse farms and they all worked together in an alliance. Still, it was good to check on them because there were sometimes disagreements.
There had been no disagreements that morning. All of the horsemen and all of the cattlemen and women were playing nice which was always a blessing. Fearal made his way back into town and walked down the main street. Of course, that was also the only street in town but that was barely worth mentioning. He checked in on the general store and it was empty except for a single sleeping shopgirl. Fearal then headed over to the inn. The inn was generally where all the trouble was if there was going to be trouble. He always visited the inn second to last as it could very well be the hardest part of his day. He walked into the place with a sense of dread in his chest.
“I don’t have much time today, Murio. Please tell me there aren’t any drunks to toss or arguments to settle. I don’t think I even have time to make sure one of your bills are paid.” Fearal said as he walked across the floor. The inn’s main room was empty and sound echoed back from behind the front desk.
“Isn’t that your job, Constable?” Murio asked. He had inherited the inn from his mother and, like her, he accepted no nonsense.
“My job isn’t so strictly defined. You know I do what needs to be done,” Fearal said.
“Funny you should mention jobs that need to be done,” Murio said with a smile.
“Oh please tell me it’s not a drunk.”
“One of my guests has boxes at the warehouse. He said that there was a commotion over there last night. Did you hear of anything?” Murio asked.
“You know I sleep like a stone, Murio. I didn’t hear any commotion but that doesn’t mean anything.”
“So can you check it out?” Murio asked.
“Of course. It’s probably nothing but a rat,” Fearal answered.
“Do you need me to get the blacksmith’s boy so you can have some backup?” Murio asked with a smirk.
Fearal gave the innkeeper a rude gesture and headed off toward the warehouse. He had a rusty sword handed down to him from the previous constable. He had never had to use it this whole time and he was sure today would be no different. He grabbed the sliding door on the warehouse and shoved it aside. The unrelenting sun shined into the warehouse, illuminating the shelves and boxes. And yet, there was something in the corner that Fearal could not make out. Fearal advanced and something made him pull his sword this time. He found himself trembling and not knowing why.
“Did you really think a sword would help you deal with us, mortal?” A woman spoke from the darkness.
“Who’s there!?” Fearal called out. He pointed the sword at the woman as she came out of the shadows. There was still something huge behind her that Fearal just couldn’t see.
“It is not important for you to learn my name. It will do you no good,” She said.
“You need to leave,” Fearal said but his voice was far too shaky to be authoritative.
“Oh, we’re not going anywhere. We used to rule this place and we will gain the power to do so again,” The woman said again. “You are not important enough to know my name but I will introduce you to my husband. His name is Balor and the world will feel his gaze.”
The thing in the corner stepped into the light. It was nine feet tall and it had three eyes. The two that were open were cold and emotionless as they looked down at Fearal who was paralyzed by fear. Balor walked forward, step by plodding step until it came to a stop. Slowly the third eye started to open and Fearal could feel the sun’s heat become more unbearable. The heat was rising fast and Fearal heard the sword clatter to the floor without remembering he had dropped it. Too late, he realized that the heat was not coming from the sun but from the eye of Balor and Fearal screamed as he burst into flames. Balor marched toward Omata.
An Honest Liar
I have had my eye on this documentary for a long, long time and my anticipation really paid off in a big way. If you look back through my blog, you will realize that I am a huge advocate for skepticism. There are a lot of flim flammers and woo woo practitioners out there that will just as soon steal your money as look at you. This documentary was about The Amazing Randi, a young magician who decided to devote his life to debunking the supernatural. He especially targets those who would prey on those desperate enough to believe anything. The documentary follows his career in magic up to his retirement. It then follows two of his most notable feuds (Peter Poppoff and Uri Gellar) and how he has debunked them both over the years. It then gets personal as it explores a very personal untruth that permeated his life that shows even more how dedicated he is to helping people. Check it out and see what I’m raving about.
Parks and Recreation
This is a show that I keep saying ‘Oh I’ll get around to watching that’ or ‘Yeah it’s on my list’. I had heard it was really good and it is the project that brought Chris Pratt to the level where he could be cast in a brilliant Marvel movie. The show was always there and I would eventually get to it. Eventually came this week as I finally decided to just sit down and watch this show. I had gotten into Amy Poehler through Tina Fey so I was curious whether I would like this one. The show is made in a documentary style like The Office before it. However, the characters feel like they are a lot more down to Earth. Amy Poehler is great as Leslie, a government employee who tries too hard but often fails at her job. Chris Pratt plays that guy who you know is a total loser but you can’t help but really like him. My favorite is Nick Offerman who plays grumpy Ron Swanson, a government supervisor who hates the government. I have only watched four episodes but I’m itching for more.
Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau
Another documentary this week, a genre I have neglected for a little while but I love watching them. I especially love watching documentaries about the art of film. This one is about a truly disastrous movie and the even more horrible events behind the scenes. The Island of Dr. Moreau was a book by HG Wells that attracted the attention of Richard Stanley, a young but rising writer/director. He had a vision for a movie version and pushed hard for the studio system to fund it. They got funding by adding big Hollywood names who were uninterested in doing a good job on the movie. After four days on location, Richard Stanley was fired from his own movie. I don’t want to spoil anything but that is where the behind the scenes events got even darker. The end result was a mess and the documentary really gets deep into what happened and how it all went wrong. It is definitely worth a watch.
Links of the Week:
Harry Nilsson – Everything’s Got ‘Em
She – Headshot
Miles Davis – So What
He Had One Job
– American Crime Story is still an engaging show
– I’ve loved Legends of Tomorrow lately
– I really want to see 10 Cloverfield Lane
– I still have not seen Zootopia
– I am listening to so many podcasts lately
– I may have to talk about Serial on here soon
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
I have had a some time to process things. I updated my entry from Saturday and I mentioned that I had been out of town for a funeral. I have decided that I want to post more about it because this isn’t just a blog, it’s a series of imprints of my mind at certain times in my life. I never cared much for photographs but I love memories and I love stories. What happened over this last week was sad but it was also beautiful and great too. I would like to tell you a little bit about it.
On Sunday, March 6, 2016, I got word that my grandmother had passed away after a final heart attack in the nursing home where she lived. As the funeral was planned, I tried to focus on my homework and I began to clear my academic schedule. It was actually kind of hard going to class on Tuesday night knowing where I would be going the next day. I drove down to South Carolina with my brother and my mother’s husband and it was perfectly pleasant. It hardly felt like we were going down for a funeral until we arrived. Everybody did a good job keeping things light. My mother’s side of the family is always great at keeping things happy and friendly.
It was at this point that I learned that I would be a pallbearer along with the five other grandchildren which included my two brothers and my three female cousins. I pushed that nervousness aside and, after a nice evening with my uncle, I went back to the hotel to make sure that the latest Media Update would be posted. The next morning we met with our cousins and it is always amazing to see how they have grown up. We used to see each other all the time but now there are years in between each meeting and they have grown into very intelligent and interesting people.
We went off to the funeral and it was beautiful, sad and even funny at times. It was a celebration of her life and I was suddenly hit with it all. Pallbearing was not as tough or scary as I thought it would be. I felt deeply honored and I felt a duty to my family and the woman I had known so well. We did not drop her. After a fond yet teary farewell, we went back to my uncle’s house for a huge mess of barbecue. That is when all the family stories came out, including a lot of stories I had never heard before. We talked late into the night about the family and that moved onto the present and the future. We parted ways and we returned to good old Maryland.
I did not tell any of this for sympathy. I spoke of this because I wanted to honor the woman I called Maw Maw. In that vein, let me tell you a little about her.
I love to write. When I first started to write a long time ago for fun, I was reminded that my grandmother had been a writer. She wrote prose and articles as part of her duties as church historian for decades. It inspired me to keep at it and eventually I started my first blog and then this one. I also really love crossword puzzles. One of my favorite memories about Maw Maw was sitting and doing crosswords with her. She used to do National Enquirer crosswords because you could send them in for a cash prize. She would send them in under her grandkids’ names to see if she could get them a check for a little cash. I would sit and help her since she had started to lose touch with modern pop culture. Most importantly she was the nicest person I may ever meet. She was always there with a smile and a helping hand and it would be a challenge to find somebody to say an unkind word about her.
She will be missed but she lives on inside the people she touched.