2019: The Blog Strikes Back

Over the last few years, this website has pretty much sat vacant. I post every once in a while, but, quite honestly, not often enough to justify the $4 per month I spend to host the site. In fact, at the beginning of December, I decided that SpaceMonkeyX.com would end it’s nearly 20 year run at the end of 2018.

Obviously, I had a change of heart.

In fact, I’ve decided that 2019 is going to be the year that I write more. I’ve set a daily goal for myself to write something of substance – whether it be a blog post that I share here, work on one of the dozens of stories I have squirreled away in the cloud, write a little more of an overly-long podcast episode, or maybe just take some notes for a board game idea I’m working on. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but it’s going to be something.

Ya see, I miss writing. I miss the feeling of the words flowing out of me as fast as my fingers can glide across the keyboard. Actually, the words flow much faster than my stubby little nubbins could ever glide anywhere, but you get the idea.

Thankfully, I have plenty of projects to work on.

I’m actively working on another read-along record book in the same vein as The Thing. It’s been sitting idle for nearly two years and I’ve just recently made some great headway on it, so that process is already started.

I also have a long-gestating series of stories that I’ve been sitting on for far too long. This is a sprawling, pulp fiction-inspired series that I’ve been compiling images and story ideas about for years. I actually have an old Word document that starts like this:

January 10, 2007
I’ve been kicking this story idea around again…

So clearly this has been a long time coming. I just need to write the first novella to get the ball rolling and then I think I’ll be in business.

On top of that, I have a podcast series that I’ve been slowly, but surely working on since about August that I’d love to introduce in 2019. I have the first two episodes written and I’m about 1/3 of the way through the third, but unlike in the past, I want to have a bunch of these written before I record and release. I’m hoping that will be the best way to keep my momentum going so there won’t be long gaps between episodes. Hoping.

I haven’t even mentioned the story idea my daughter and I have been kicking around for a few years about a horror novella for kids. We also have our fanfic Hellboy 3 sequel that I’d love for us to actually sit down and write instead of just jotting down ideas and discussing it during early morning car trips to school.

So as you can see, I have enough to write this year that I shouldn’t have any problem fulfilling my daily goal. I just have to carve out time to make it happen.

And so, this is my first official “Write Something Every Day” entry. I know it’s technically January 2nd, but this is a goal I just decided for myself today. Close enough for jazz, as the old saying goes.

In fact, I think I’m going to keep writing on my website every day, even if it’s just to say, “Hey, I worked on [insert writing project here] today!” Maybe I can kill two or more birds with one stone by getting my allotted writing done, as well as justifying the $4 per month I pay to host this antiquated relic of the early-2000s internet.

So follow along and see how I do! Words of encouragement (and showering of gifts) are always welcome.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I recently watched the excellent documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, about Fred Rogers, the influential host of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood

The movie was a great overview of the man’s life, mostly centered around his television career, but occasionally dipping into his personal life, too.  Seeing Rogers single-handedly rescue PBS before a panel of senators intent on stripping away the budget of the fledgling network was incredible.  Watching him be present and listening to people of all stripes and abilities was heartwarming.  As so many have said online, his message of love is exactly what we need right now.

But that was also the part of the film that got to me the most.  You could see, as he got older, that his heart just wasn’t in it anymore.  That he was still trying, struggling against the darkness, trying to be a guiding light, but finding it harder and harder to shine.  Perhaps his frustration was best revealed when he recorded PSAs for children after September 11, 2001’s terrorist attacks.  He literally said that he didn’t know how much good the PSAs would do.  That is a man who has lost hope.  

I felt for Rogers at the end of his life.  As he watched the world around him decay into more violence, anger, and hatred, it must have been discouraging to realize that, on a large scale, he didn’t make a difference after all.  His message of love and understanding and trying to be a better person clearly didn’t get through.  I can’t even imagine how he’d feel about America’s current political landscape.  And it makes it really hard to stay positive when you think about the fact that, if Mr. Rogers couldn’t make the world a better place, what chance do I have? 

But Mr. Rogers did make a difference.  He made small differences everywhere he went.  That really is the ultimate lesson to be learned from his life.  We can raise our own children to be kind, understanding, and compassionate, but we can’t change the world.  We can’t make people be nice.  Sometimes you just have to accept that you can’t save everyone, but you can save your own children.  And hopefully they’ll take the lessons you learned from Mr. Rogers and pass them down to their children someday, instead of succumbing to the anger and cynicism of the world around them.  That was the best that Fred Rogers could do.  That’s the best that any of us can do.

(Not-so) Funny Games

Recently, one of my favorite podcasts, The Faculty of Horror, put out an episode about Michael Haneke’s 1997 film, Funny Games.  

This is a movie I’ve been putting off for years.  I don’t do well with horror films in the “home invasion” sub-genre, especially since I got married and had kids.  It doesn’t help that all the descriptions and synopsis have used the words “torture”, “sadistic”, and “depraved”.  But because I enjoy the podcast so much, I really didn’t want to miss an episode, so I finally broke down and watched Funny Games.

Much to my surprise, it really didn’t bother me all that much.  I think it helped knowing that the film is a commentary on film itself – more specifically the horror genre.  With the main antagonists breaking the fourth wall to literally wink at the audience and sometimes even directly address us, as well as a moment where time winds backwards before our eyes, the whole thing felt very staged and intentional.  It didn’t feel like I was witnessing a home invasion as much as I was a scripted performance.  This helped me stay detached enough to not feel the same dread and “too close to home” vibe I’d normally get from this type of film.

Even more interesting – ultimately, I didn’t really enjoy it.  I know it’s not a “fun ride” type of film to begin with, but even as commentary, I found it sort of trite.  Granted, it probably wasn’t 20 years ago, but so many meta films have come out since then, that this one feels a little stale now.

I also didn’t appreciate the way the film talked down to the audience; it really felt like Haneke was judging us the whole time.  My problem with that type of preaching is that most viewers of horror films understand the difference between entertainment and reality.  We know that horror movies are fake and we’re often the first ones to decry real violence in the real world.  So why rub our noses in our shared interest of facing the fears of real violence through the make-believe medium of film?  It’s quite smug coming from someone who has made plenty of violent films himself, even going so far as remaking this one shot-for-shot in 2007.  It’s an instance where I feel the film says more about the director than it does the audience he is so willing to judge.

There are still a few films out there whose reputation prevents me from watching them (most notably A Serbian Film).  But I’m glad I finally got around to seeing Funny Games, if for no other reason than it proves to myself that sometimes the bark really is worse than the bite.  

  

Everything is Alive

Everything is Alive is my new favorite podcast.

They interview inanimate objects, like a store-brand can of cola and a streetlight. Except they look at every possible angle of what that conversation could be like. For example, in the cola episode, the cola brings up the point that no one really knows if he “is” the can or the cola inside. He mentions how his body could be recycled, but would “he” become something new or will he “go somewhere else” once his essence has been consumed (literally). The streetlight loves to watch movies through the windows of the apartment buildings nearby, especially Singing in the Rain since the street light is the real star of the show. It feels a little like an exercise from Creative Writing 101, but with this level of detail and humor, it works. There are only two episode so far, but so far it’s really great.

 

The Space Monkey X Audio Workshop – Episode 11

After nearly a year without any new content (but I did repost some old content in between), I decided to put out another episode of my podcast.

This time we look at the history of the greatest collaboration of the 1980s – E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and The King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson.

E.T. and M.J.