свадьба в доминикане 2017

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The Film Journal Strikes Back!

Way back in the day, I used to keep a movie journal.  Ever since I went back to school, then got my freelance writing career going, then had kids, my life got too busy to watch a lot of movies, so it was pretty pointless to keep a journal when I was only seeing a handful a year.

But now that things have slowed down a little, I’m seeing quite a few more movies.  So with October being a time of year where I intentionally watch a lot of movies in the lead up to Halloween, I think I’m going to revive my film journal.  At least it will give me something to write about so this blog doesn’t sit stagnant for a year anymore.  Enjoy!



dark_night_of_the_scarecrow

Dark Night of the Scarecrow

Way back in 2011, I was a guest on my friend Tommy’s podcast, Bubble Pipe Theater, for a special Halloween edition of the show.  On that episode, we talked about some of our favorite scary movies, and another guest, Tim Briscoe, brought up this film, Dark Night of the Scarecrow.  He said that for a TV movie, it was pretty scary, and since then I’ve wanted to check it out.  It came up in an article online somewhere recently, so I decided to finally add it to my Netflix queue for October.

The film is set in a small farming community where everyone knows everyone else, no one locks their doors at night, and everybody is scared of anything that’s not white, Christian, Conservative, and otherwise perfect in every way.  So when Bubba, a grown man with the mind of a child, is accused of hurting a young girl, a small group of local vigilantes arm up and chase after him.  They find Bubba hiding inside a scarecrow costume and decide that it’s time someone did something about this potential menace.  It’s only after they’ve pumped twenty-one rounds into him that someone calls on the CB radio to let them know it was all a big mistake – that Bubba had actually saved the girl from a dog attack.  The hillbillies cover it up by putting a pitchfork in Bubba’s deceased hand, so they can claim the killing was in self-defense.

But as the vigilantes start dying off in suspicious accidents, the remaining members of the party start to question their sanity and their safety.

Right off the bat, the title and the marketing of the film on DVD is a bit misleading – this isn’t a slasher flick with a Jason Voorhees-like madman running around with a pitchfork as his weapon of choice.  In fact, we really don’t see who is killing the men at all until the very end, and even that death would still be interpreted by any sane person as an accident.  While it is a fun movie, it’s pretty obvious there are scenes that are simply there to pad out the runtime, so it does feel a little sluggish.  The performances are all pretty great, but that’s to be expected from the handful of “that guy” character actors that make up the lynch mob, every one of whom has done their fair share of films and dozens of TV appearances.  Best known of these actors is Charles Durning as a portly postman and leader of the mob, Otis Hazelrigg, who gives a fine, scenery-chewing performance.

My only complaint, other than the padded scenes, is that I almost wish we’d seen the killer more.  Typically real horror comes from the unseen, but I think it would have been much more effective to see the scarecrow/Bubba at the scene of the murder.  I’m not saying I wanted all the bad guys to be run-through with the pitchfork as the DVD cover implies – they could have died in the same manner as they did in the final film – but the scarecrow costume was so well done and creepy as hell, it would have been nice to have seen him featured more.  A few shots of him standing just outside in the shadows, a truly menacing figure, would have upped the tension quite a bit.  Let the men panic and put themselves into dangerous situations to get away from the scarecrow.  But as it is the monster isn’t really much of a presence, and I think it would have been more fun to have him be more of a known catalyst for the deaths.  I understand the writer was trying to make us wonder who the “real” killer was, but none of us ever really suspected Bubba’s mom or the little girl.

Overall, Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a fun little movie that’s perfect for Halloween.  It won’t frighten die-hard horror fans, but the story of revenge is timeless, and there’s adequate tension to keep you interested in what’s going to happen next.  This is actually one film I’d love to see a remake of, because with a few tweaks it could be something really great.

Score: 3/5 bananas

Not Your Average Monster

NYAM

 

 

Yes, folks, the anthology, Not Your Average Monster!, that features my first published short story, is now available on Amazon!

You’ll find my short, Good Ol’ Buddy, on page 191, but so far everything I’ve read from the other authors is definitely worth reading, too.

Thanks again to Pete Kahle and Bloodshot Books for giving me a chance.  It was truly an honor to be selected.

Now, go buy the book!  It’s only $3.99 for your Kindle.  You’ll spend that much on a latte today.

Summer 2015

Hey, folks! Sorry it’s been so long since my last update. I’ve been fairly busy over the last couple of months, working on Mental Floss, spending time on a beach, drawing, and writing, writing, writing. I’ve also spent an inordinate amount of time doing dishes, which is really the only blemish on an otherwise pretty decent summer.

First off, let’s get the Mental Floss stuff out of the way. The Strange States series continues. I had a surprise hit with South Dakota’s Wall Drug entry. I also updated an old article, 10 Very Rare (And Very Expensive) Video Games, which turned into a virtual rewrite thanks to a bunch of movement in the video game collecting hobby over the last few years. I also had a new, rather extensive article on the History of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, published on July 4th (fitting). Finally, I scored a minor viral hit with “7 Overlooked 80s Toys Worth More Than You Think”.

As for that beach time I mentioned, my family (and most of my extended family) traveled to Tybee Island, Georgia to spend about a week in a condo right near the ocean. It was an amazing experience to see my kids playing in the surf for the first time and to explore Savannah and the island itself. We had a great time despite the 13-hour, one-way drive with a seven and a not-quite-two-year-old in the car (thank god for tablets!).

It was our first family vacation and, oh man, did we need it. I’ve never really been one to take two weeks off from work, ever. A day or two here and there was always my preferred method of relaxation, but I have to say, it made a huge difference to just spend time away from work, from our normal routine, and from the world we usually know. It’s amazing what a little shift in perspective will do for your psyche. I know that ever since we got back, I’ve been more relaxed, I’ve been more patient with my kids, and I’ve felt like, yes, there is time to get everything done, instead of scrambling and racing around with my head down. Now I’m really jealous of all those Germans getting six weeks vacation every year. No wonder we have such a stressed out society.

I have been spending quite a bit of time writing fiction this summer, too. My main project at the moment is a Goosebumps-esque novel for kids. It’s based on a story my daughter and I came up with, which makes it all the more fun. So far I’m about 80 single-spaced pages in and I’m having a blast. I’ve also completed a couple of short stories and have a couple more that are in progress whenever I need to take a break from the novel. Everything is in the first draft phase at the moment, but I’m hoping to take a little time soon to edit and send them off to a few small publishers. However, self-publishing with Kindle is always a viable option today, too.

It’s funny how completely different my outlook is on writing fiction this time out. 10 years ago when I thought I was going to be the next Stephen King, I was sending manuscripts out to the biggest publishers in the business, not wanting to “waste my time” with the small press. Now, thanks to working in the nonfiction field for so long, I understand that having an extensive portfolio of published work is so much more important in the long run. I’m also not so egotistical to think I’ll be writing novels for a living like I thought I once might. It’s ok if I do my day job and then write fiction on nights and weekends. That’s what most writers do, even accomplished ones. I don’t know if it’s just maturity or experience, but I understand now what my writing goals should be, and it makes the writing that much more fun and exciting. Still, I hope I can get a few more things published, because that would be pretty sweet.

Unfortunately, all this time sitting on beaches, writing about video games and action figures and zombies (and all those dishes I have to wash), have prevented me from working on my podcasts this year. I have a new episode of When You Hear This Sound written and ready to record, but, ugh, it takes so long to do, and I don’t really have a good studio setup, and the air conditioning that’s been on all summer because it’s so bloody hot will screw up the recording, and excuse after excuse after excuse. I’m hoping that I’ll soon be able to get back to it, because I really do enjoy it, but with so much else going on this summer, it just hasn’t been a priority (especially when compared to sitting on beaches and getting paid to write about video games and action figures). But here’s hoping I’ll be able to make time for it again this fall and winter. I have some great ideas ready to go, it’s just a matter of finding the time and a few assistants to help me make them a reality. If only I hadn’t used up all my vacation time and I could take a little “staycation” to get some things done.

As we head into fall, I hope the next time I give you an update I’ll have finished the first draft of the novel, maybe cranked out a few more Mental Floss articles, and perhaps gotten around to a podcast episode or two (once the air conditioning is turned off for the season in November because Missouri weather sucks). I also have a few more things going on that I didn’t mention here, but they’re still up in the air at the moment, so I’ll wait to report on them when things have solidified a little bit. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks for supporting me throughout my many creative endeavors.

So, Apparently I Write Fiction Now…Again

Back in the olden days of 2002, I thought I was going to be the next great American author. Admittedly, it was a very creative time in my life, and I was getting some decent feedback from writerly friends, a creative writing professor, and even a professional author. With my head sufficiently swollen, I submitted a few short stories to giants of the industry, like Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Weird Tales Magazine, and a handful of respected short story contests.

I was rotely rejected by every one.

I never even got any personalized feedback; just generic form letters that might as well have been stamped with a big, red “Nope!” at the top.

Confused, angry, and conceited, I did the smart thing when my short stories were rejected – I started writing novels. I would plan these epic, sweeping tomes of Lovecraftian horror, Reservoir Dog-like heists filled with clever characters rambling on about retro pop culture, pulp-inspired space operas staring cloned aliens on the planet Mars, and heart wrenching tales of star-crossed lovers. Notice I said I would plan these stories. Writing them was an entirely different matter. But even the act of outlining made me feel like I was doing something, that I was…(pause for dramatic effect) a writer!

Needless to say, none of those novels were ever finished. I may have gotten 10, 20, as many as 50 pages in to a story before getting bored, or stuck, or making the idiotic mistake of going back and editing what I’d already written (two steps forward, three steps back).

As I grew more and more frustrated by my lack of instant success, I found that I wasn’t writing anymore at all. I was still outlining, making character notes, and writing down ideas that I might someday get to, but actually writing had gone the way of the dodo. Sometime after, one of my favorite magazines/websites, Mental Floss, was hiring. I switched gears away from fiction into non-fiction, essentially kickstarting a second career that has served me well over the last seven years.

But while I was busy writing about Hello Kitty, miniature crime scenes, and racist candy, I still longed for the days of gumshoe detectives, monsters under the bed, and sword-wielding knights on great adventures.

Recently, a friend of mine on Facebook with similar authorial pursuits posted an open call for submissions for the debut anthology of a new micro-publisher, Bloodshot Books. The concept for the anthology – Not Your Average Monster – would feature horror stories that did not star such well-worn creatures as zombies, vampires, werewolves, or even kaiju (like Godzilla). As I read the requirements, I immediately thought about a story I’d written a while back that would easily fit the mold. It was a story I rather liked, but never bothered submitting it to any publishers. My confidence had been shot at that point, so I figured there was no use; it would just get rejected anyway. The story stayed on my hard drive for years, lingering, but never quite going away.

On a whim, I pulled the story out of my virtual desk drawer, dusted it off, and made a few changes. And, well, if you’ve read this far and haven’t figure it out, Good Ol’ Buddy, about a boy and his murdering mutant dog, will be included in the anthology when it’s released this September.

Look for more information when the time comes. And maybe, just maybe, there will be a few more fiction-related announcements in the future.

The One Where I’m Accused of Murder

I came into work on Tuesday to see a message in my email inbox. It was from the City Clerk, and the subject line read: Employee Blog.

The message read:

Rob

I sent this to [Our PR Manager], but thought I would share with you. Your answers are rather clever and pretty funny.

Happy Tuesday 🙂

Attached to this email was another email that read:

My name is [Name Redacted] and I work for the Town of Hillsborough, NC. I couldn’t locate the HR Director’s email address online so am sending this to you.

I help put together our employee newsletters. I was browsing online for examples of what other cities ask in their “Employee Spotlight” section and came across a blog by Rob Lammle, who states that he works with the City of O’Fallon (although I saw there are multiple City of O’Fallons).

I just wanted to make you aware of this post and in particular, the response to the question, “People would be surprised to know:”. The post is dated 2007 so it might be outdated but thought I would send it your way: http://www.spacemonkeyx.com/2007/06/29/employee-spotlight/

Now, if you follow that link, you’ll find one of my most popular SMX entries ever from way back in 2007. At that time the City sent out a monthly newsletter that included an Employee Spotlight section where employees would answer a set of canned questions so that people could get to know them a little better. I didn’t think I’d ever be asked to fill out one of these questionnaires, so I went ahead and answered the questions on my blog, with a mix of serious answers, as well as a few with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek.

I answered the question the woman from Hillsborough mentions with the following:

People would be surprised to know:
1) That I work here.
2) That I have a couple of tattoos and will be getting more before it’s all said and done.
3) That I killed a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

I can’t be certain, but I have a feeling her need to contact the City was due to that last answer. Yes, she was, essentially, accusing me of murder by my own admission. Admittedly, that is something any employer should look into. However, her concern might be a little misplaced in this case.

The quote is a slight paraphrase of the lyrics from one of Johnny Cash’s best-known songs, Folsom Prison Blues, found on his incredible album, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. Here’s a YouTube video of the song, with the line in question occurring pretty early on:

I’m not here to make fun of the person who dropped a dime on me to the coppers, but I have to admit the City Clerk and I had a pretty good laugh about this whole thing when I saw her in the hall today. Thankfully she knew where the line came from, so there was no cause for concern, nor was HR contacted about the potential murderer in their midst.

So, just to be clear, Concerned Employee of Hillsborough, I did not kill a man in Reno, just to watch him die. Actually, I’ve never even been to Nevada. Sorry for the confusion, and good luck with your employee spotlight questionnaire.

Also, you should check out some Johnny Cash music; he was pretty great.