Friday, December 30, 2005
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
I’ve spent the last two days catching up on my comics reading and watching season two of The West Wing, a Christmas gift from friends ( along with seasons 1 and 3,thanks Bridget and Nick!). The experience just reconfirms my opinion that the first four seasons of this show were some of the best tv writing around. I can’t want for Sorkin’s new showbiz series this fall.
I’ve been rereading Grant Morrison’s run on X-Men.
Morrison is a crazymad talent, able to take old, washed up ideas and boil them down to their essence. The result is something that looks familiar but veers off in directions that no one else would ever dream up. That’s what he’s done here or in JLA over at DC. His non-superhero work in mostly strange, experimental efforts that recreate an acid trip on paper (or so I’m told). I love The Invisibles, but I still don’t know what the hell was going on there. His current Seven Soldiers line at DC is a melding of the two. It’s well worth reading.
Tonight Norma souped up some egg nog and we watched a couple of movies. The Brothers Grimm was entertaining in that typical Terry Gilliam ignore-the-gaping-plot-hole-while I distract-you-with-this-pretty-piece-of-wackiness way he has. More enjoyable was Must Love Dogs, a chick flick (yes, I’ve watched so many chick flicks that my man parts have dwindled to the approximate shape and appearance of those on a Ken doll). This movie proves my point that anything with Diane Lane in it is watchable.
On the writing front, I have to polish my column for the local magazine and send it off this week. I also have two stories I want to finish. I’m still pecking away on the PI novel, too.
We’re getting a new furnace installed this week. It should be a simple process. Little do the installers know: this is Justice Land, a strange, alternate dimension where nothing is simple and everything goes awry!
Is my secret girlfriend Rachael Ray a debt skipper? This article seems to think so. Say it ain’t so, Rach!
Monday, December 26, 2005
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Read the rest of Frank Rich's column here.
Hey, I had some fun, met some chicks. Made out with Wonder Woman after a Duran Duran concert. I had to get her a little drunk first, and it wasn't cheap; those Amazons can put it away (and riding in an invisible plane piloted by a 'faced superheoine? Monumentally baaaaad idea).
The one disappointment in my crimefighting career: no invitation to join the Justice League. You'd think it would be, like, automatic for a guy with my name, but nooooo.
The costume still fits, though. Hey, I wouldn't lie to you.
No. Wait. I would. I had it let out. About four times. But I'm still sexy in those white pants. Yowzah!
Saturday, December 24, 2005
The Weekend Warriors presented me with a Bengals jersey , #85, ‘cause I look so much like Chad Johnson. I love it. I’ll have it on at one o’clock today.
A very special moment was seeing my friend John Burdette walk through the door. I didn’t think he would make it this year. Before last Christmas and the onset of his illness, John had not missed a Christmas show since we started doing them in 1992.
Thanks, too, to Opie, who flew in from LA to cohost the show. He made his debut on my Christmas show in 1994. Now look at him. All growed up and working for a record company.
We had a great musical lineup, including Rob McNurlin and the Beatnik Cowboys, Steve Free, Jeff Elswick and his daughter Whitney, Larry Pancake, Jeff Walbrun of EK Station, Eddie and Tony of ETA, John Thornsbury and especially the official house band of the Breakfast Club Six Hour Christmas Spectacular, Phattsidedown.
I appreciated the gifts, especially the Mexican Velveeta. My brother and I will enjoy that during the Bengals game this afternoon.
And a special acknowledgment to whomever brought me the plate of Chick-Fil-A nuggets. Ah, sweet, sweet nuggets. I dreamt of them last night. Nuggggggeeetttts.....
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Wednesday, December 21, 2005
I wished someone Happy Holidays yesterday. This woman replied with a self-righteous sniff, "That's 'Merry Christmas' "
"I've always said 'Happy Holidays'," I said. "Notice the plural? Holidays. That's more than one holiday. In this case, two holidays -- Christmas and the New Year, one week apart. Holidays. You see?"
She once again sniffed the sniff of the morally superior and began whispering to her companion, probably pointing out that I was one of them, the defilers of Merry Christmas.
It isn't true. I'm married to the biggest Christmas nut in the free world. Our tree goes up before Thanksgiving. It stays up past January First. Christmas music starts playing on the first day of November, and not the light stuff either. We're old school. Sinatra. Der Bingle. Rosemary Clooney. Even a little -- gasp -- Perry Como. So don't go insulting my Christmas credentials, ma'am.
You know what I think part of this reactionary "War on Christmas" stuff really is? It's a chance for a few self-centered idiots with empty, meaningless lives to feel as if they're joining a mighty cause, to let themselves get puffed up with outrage, to feel for one brief, shining moment that they are going to Change the World. It's an entertaining diversion from Dr. Phil and Bingo.
Because it's easy. It doesn't cost anything. And they can score some solid street cred with the other busybodies in the Sewing Circle. When someone wishes you a happy holiday, you just stamp your sensible shoe and say, "That's Merry Christmas! Hmmph."
Way to throw down, homegirl.
Hey, you want to impress me? Then go work a shift down at the community kitchen feeding the homeless. Spend an hour a week as a Big Brother or Big Sister. Let me see you picking up trash along the highway or volunteering at the local hospice. Call your local school's Family Resource Center and ask them how many kids don't have coats for winter. Not just nice coats, but any coats, then go out and collect them.
You know, sniffing in a high-handed manner and admonishing me to only recognize one holiday at a time will not make you a better person. No, that requires actual effort in service to a real cause. I won’t hold my breath.
So keep sniffing and stamping your foot. Meanwhile I'll be out there putting the X back in Xmas.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
My December has been flying by like it always does -- at warp speed, with barely a nanosecond passing between Monday and Friday. The whole year has been like that, partly because I’m so busy with stuff outside of work, partly because I’m just getting older.
So imagine my surprise when time seemed to slow down for me several times in the last week, as if the universe was offering me a chance to appreciate just how good I have it.
* I went out to lunch twice last week with a old friends I hadn’t seen for a while. It was fun to catch up and simply enjoy the conversation.
* Sunday night we attended a Christmas concert at a local church. The music was superb and my wife was invited to read a several Bible verses, which she did wonderfully. I don’t get to church very often, but this was a very relaxed and moving evening.
* My wife is also on the park board of the town where we live, so we were invited to the city’s Christmas luncheon today. It was nice hanging out for an hour of so with some people I have known most of my life and others I’ve only recently met. There was a lot of laughter (remind me to tell you how Kentucky’s Department of Homeland Security is protecting Bingo parlors against terrorists) and good food. Believe me, I’m all about the food. This was a reminder of why I’m glad I live in a small town.
* I had a nice talk with a good friend who has gone through some traumatic things this year. She’s found a way to express her feelings and direct her emotions in a positive way, and I’m very happy for her.
You know, I bitch and moan and wallow in self-pity as much as anybody, but occasionally things suddenly swim into focus like someone’s adjusting the lens on a microscope, and the good parts of my life – which outweigh the bad by a factor of, oh, say a thousand to one – are so clear it’s like they’re radioactive. I know this is not a permanent change, and next week I may be the same cranky guy again, yet for this one moment, I can cherish what I have. It’s a pretty good life. Maybe it’s not a Frank Capra-style life, but I’ll take it.
Chip, can I tell 'em your great quote about Fall City beer?
One day a fourth-grade teacher asked the children what their fathers did for a living. All the typical answers came up fireman, mechanic, businessman, salesman, doctor, lawyer, and so forth.
But little Justin was being uncharacteristically quiet, so when the teacher prodded him about his father, he replied, "My father's an exotic dancer in a gay cabaret and takes off all his clothes in front of other men and they put money in his underwear. Sometimes, if the offer is really good, he will go home with some guy and make love with him for money."
The teacher, obviously shaken by this statement, hurriedly set the other children to work on some exercises and then took little Justin aside to ask him, "Is that really true about your father?"
"No," the boy said, "He works for the Republican National Committee and helped re-elect George Bush, but I was too embarrassed to say that in front of the other kids."
Sunday, December 18, 2005
In this country, we don't allow our Chief Exec to decide which laws he'll obey and which ones he won't. I think every Republican who wants to defend Bush on this one should be forced to utter the sentence, "I would not hesitate to see President Hillary Clinton have the same authority."
Friday, December 16, 2005
John Spencer, the enormously talented actor best known for his portrayal of Leo McGarry on The West Wing, died this morning from a heart attack. He was 58.
You can read more here.
His work had saved the last couple of seasons of the show from being a total waste. He was always better than the material, and that was never more obvious than when Aaron Sorkin left The West Wing. Even speaking inferior words, Spencer still managed to convey the tragic dignity of Leo.
He'll be missed.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Hey, you know that big ol' pile of sand in the shape of a giant dead guy lying on his stomach? Yeah, that one.
Don't stand on it.
Oh, and while you're at it, don't defy The Floating Head. And refrain from messing with the Levitating Liver, the Flying Fallopian Tubes, The Gliding Gall Bladder, The Meandering Medulla Oblongata and The Hovering Hernia.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
"Read Department of Justice every day or I'll come over to your house and, well, just sit. I'm huge; I take up a lot of room. And quite frankly, I don't exactly smell like a rose. Imagine the odor of three thousand year old dirty ass and you kind of get the picture. So there."
I kid thee not. Some inbred, mouth-breathing oxygen waster tied up the entire row of heavy traffic so she could park two spaces closer to the door (and for those of you poised to leap to her defense, no, she didn’t have a handicapped parking sticker or license plate).
If by some strange alignment of the planets she is reading this (and that assumes she can read), I’d just like to say: Lady, I’m a fat guy and I take the first available space at the mall. Every time. Walking an extra twelve feet won’t kill you, and in fact, it may burn off one more calorie of that bag of Doritios you inhaled while watching Cops last night.
You’re the reason people hate the holidays. Get a credit card and learn to order online.
And while I’m good and irritated, let me just say I know why America’s children are overweight.
It’s because of my street.
The street I live on is exactly on half mile long. That’s 2,640 feet. I live near the top of the street
The school bus stops at the top of my street to pick up and drop off kids.
And every school day, there are mommies who drive their cars to the top of my quiet residential street to pick up their kids. Most of these caring parents live halfway down the street.
That’s about 1,320 feet.
Obviously too long for relatively healthy 9-12 year old children to walk.
What happens to these kids when Mommy takes them to the mall? Does she sling them across her back like a fire fighter rescue? Does she commandeer one of those motorized shopping carts the old fat women use in Wal-Mart?
As I’ve said before, I’m no Lance Armstrong, but I do walk a few miles several times a week. And as a kid we walked to school. If we’d asked Mom to pick us up because we couldn’t walk 1,320 feet, we’d have been laughed out of the house.
Okay. That’s it. I’m going to quit before I tell you had we had to walk through the snow with no shoes and we loved it.
I’m also sending my novella Dead Town to a publisher this week. I just want to read it over again and make a couple of changes. This one turned out very close to what I had first imagined, so I’m anxious to get reactions to it.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Pod of Horror #7 is jingle-belling it’s way out of your computer speakers or mp3 players with another festive lineup:
* Award winning writer Gary A. Braunbeck is interviewed on writing and the HWA.
* Nanci Kalanta lets POH break the big Horror World news.
* Sing along with the Pod of Horror Vibrating Elves.
* Learn proper holiday etiquette from Satan’s favorite helper, Grim Rictus.
* Stay on top of horror news with Dave’s Poop.
* Win a $50 Shocklines gift certificate and FREE BOOKS from Cemetery Dance and Bloodletting Press.
All this and more Ho-Ho-Horrific Holiday Happiness from Mark Justice and David T. Wilbanks on Pod of Horror #7. Get it at I-Tunes or listen to it now at Horror Reader.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
This 1996 film teamed a then-unknown Renée Zellweger with a pre-Law and Order: Criminal Intent Vincent D'Onofrio in the story of pulp writer Robert E. Howard (the creator of Conan the barbarian) and the only girl he ever dated, in the tumultuous years before he took his own life. Both actors deliver heartbreaking performances. It's the best work D'Onofrio has ever done.
The Whole Wide World is an rare movie experience that will stay with you for a very long time.
Friday, December 09, 2005
It's what I did last night, and what I always do when Norma proofs my writing. I know she's going to find several typos, and this time was no different. I could read over a manuscript 978 times and still miss things.
But she liked the story. I fixed the screwups, and the story is off to the editor.
(Click on the link for a virtual tour of the ship I'd call The Big Ass Boat. Oddly, they don't let me name the ships.)
We're taking an Eastern Caribbean cruise, with stops in Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Marteen.
Hopefully I'll get to parasail again. And maybe this time I'll remember to put sun screen on my feet. I should probably think about spending a little less time in the karaoke bar, too.
You can book this through your local travel agent or direct from Carnival. If you want to be part of our group (which includes an unquantifiable amount of fun), call 606-836-9696. If you book before December 31, you get an automatic cabin upgrade.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Moved back a year, from early 2006 to early 2007, the series will fill in the gaps in the life of Roland the Gunslinger.
I'm starting to fear -- from articles like this -- that King's total involvement will be to give it his stamp of approval. That doesn't mean it will be a waste of time. It just means that the hype has been a bit misleading.
(Yeah, yeah, I know they haven't said he'd be writing it, but when Marvel trumpets a deal for King to do a Dark Tower comic, what's a fanboy to think?)
And I'm sure it will be a hit. I just wish Marvel would be up-front about his status. If King is NOT writing the series, why not just come out and say it?
Speaking of traffic, why is it so difficult for drivers to fathom the proper way to use the center turn lane? A few years ago many of the streets in town were widened to include a turn lane. Every day – every friggin’ elf-whipping, reindeer spanking day – some moron in front of me COMES TO A COMPLETE STOP BEFORE MERGING INTO THE TURN LANE.
A. Complete. Stop.
If I weren’t a such gentle, tolerant man I would wish for smokeless tobacco to hawk upon these disadvantaged drivers.
I picked up Dean Koontz’s Forever Odd today. For a few years I stopped reading Koontz. There was something about the way his style had changed – ponderous sentences full of obscure words that read as if they had been forced past the sphincter of a constipated mind – that prevented me from getting caught up in the story. A couple of years back I read The Taking and found that either Koontz had changed or I had, because I could enjoy his stuff again. Odd Thomas was a great book. I hope this sequel works as well.
I also bought the Fantastic Four DVD. I may have been in the minority, but I loved this movie. I thought it was well cast. The effects were impressive. And it captured the family bond from the early days of the series. FF was one of the earliest comic books I ever owned.
(In fact my first comic was FF #39, guest-starring Daredevil.
I know. I’m a geek.)
And let’s face it. Jessica Alba in a skin tight costume doesn’t suck.
If you’re looking for a dark, gritty spin on superheroes ala Batman Begins, look elsewhere. This is a fun romp for people who grew up with brightly colored comics. This is for me.
Did I mention Jessica Alba wears a skin tight costume?
Monday, December 05, 2005
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Fans of Douglas Clegg’s novels of contemporary horror should take note: THE PRIEST OF BLOOD is neither contemporary nor is it strictly horror. I would classify it as fantasy/alternative history with a large dollop of terror thrown in.
THE PRIEST OF BLOOD follows Aleric, a peasant boy in medieval France, who lives at the edge of a great forest filled with practitioners of an ancient religion, among other mysteries.
Aleric’s existence is a harsh one—he lives in the most abject poverty with his siblings, his father has disappeared and his mother is the village whore. The only positive influence in Aleric’s life is the presence of his grandfather, an old soldier who teaches the boy how to train birds and who shares with him tales of the Old Ways.
Aleric’s talent with birds—particularly falcons—leads him to a position within the castle of the local Baron. There, Aleric becomes known as Falconer and falls in love with the Baron’s daughter. That relationship—forbidden on many levels—leads to Falconer’s conscription into military service as a soldier in a Crusade to the Holy Land, where his life will end and his afterlife will begin.
THE PRIEST OF BLOOD is the first volume in a series called THE VAMPYRICON, so it’s no surprise what sort of creature Aleric becomes. What is noteworthy is how Clegg melds historical detail with the very human story of Aleric. In fact, the first half of THE PRIEST OF BLOOD is nearly devoid of supernatural elements, yet may be the most gripping writing Clegg has ever produced.
Cleggs opens the door to a number of interesting concepts here, including the nature of Vampyrism, which is different enough from the variations that have come before to keep it interesting. The inexorable march of Christianity across Europe is another theme Clegg explores, as we watch the old religions and their followers trampled under the onslaught of the one God.
THE PRIEST OF BLOOD ends on something of a cliffhanger, one which will make most readers anxious for the sequel. Grab it if you can, and join Clegg on the ground floor of what looks to be his most remarkable work yet.
I’ve had it.
I’m drawing a line. This far. No farther.
And I know you feel the same way.
I will no longer read them.
You know what I’m talking about.
200 page horror novels that have been padded to 400 pages.
Where did we go wrong? How did we make publishers think we would only read swollen books?
Do we really need another horror novel with a 2000 word description of someone eating breakfast?
And this is not directed at everyone. There are many great writers who produce lengthy page-turners full of everything we love in a novel. But the market is being flooded with shit, just like back in the 80s. Only now, someone has decided it has to be lo-o-o-ong shit.
In many of these obese paper weights you can see the kernel of a great book. A great 220 page book.
Hey, you can still get 200 page westerns, mysteries and romances. Why not horror?
Please join me in my quest. Ban the Bloated Book.
Maybe we can get a telethon.
Please help before I throw another snoozer of a novel at the wall and accidentally hit a cat.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Retribution, Inc is a band on the verge of success. But they’ve lost their guitarist and the replacement has a unique problem. When he plays, his fingers bleed.
The musical details are accurate. The band acts like every group of musicians I’ve ever known. Huge egos, jealousies and insecurities get in the way.
The horror is doled out in small bits, but when it does show, it’s convincing and chilling.
More importantly, the writing is so good, you’ll want to read Retribution, Inc. in one sitting.
Then you’ll want to read it again.
Friday, December 02, 2005
It’s almost the end of the year. Time for my purely subjective list of the best books I’ve read over the past 12 months. These are works that stood out from the other titles that passed through my hands (and are probably still piled up in my den or bedroom). All are books that moved me on some level, whether through the plot, characters, emotional punch or fine prose. Or a combination of any of those elements.
The older I get it becomes harder to find books that make me want to stay with them until the end. These days I’m dropping a lot of books after page 50 (my 50 page rule went into effect about seven years ago; if a writer can’t interest me in the story after 50 pages, it’s time to move on. I ain’t getting any younger). So what I’m highlighting here over the next five days are the cream of crop for 2005. This is the good stuff. If you pick up one of these titles, you can’t go wrong.
So let’s get started with #5:
Brian Keene’s Terminal is a part crime novel, part horror and part gritty, street-level examination of the desperation that the lower middle class lives with everyday. Tommy O’Brien is a working stiff with a wife and a kid. When he is diagnosed with terminal cancer he makes the monumentally dumb decision to rob a bank. It’s the only way he can think of to fend for his family. Things, as you might expect don’t go well.
Keene’s take on the blue collar life is so dead on you get the impression you’re watching a documentary.
Until the kid with the healing power shows up.
This isn’t a happy book. It’s a stark and brutal portrait of the toll fear and regret can take on a soul. This is one that will haunt you in the middle of the night.
It’s been an odd week.
A major technical problem at work has put me behind in virtually every area, including Pod of Horror. POH #7 was due on 12/5. Now it looks like it will be 12/12, and because of my hectic schedule it may be the only episode for December.
I worked hard to finish a short story for an anthology with a deadline of 12/1/05. The listing came from a usually reliable market report, so imagine my surprise when I got an email from the editor informing me the anthology isn’t open yet and probably won’t be for a while. Apparently the market report jumped the gun.
At least I ended up with a good story. I’m glad the guidelines were fairly non-specific, so the story will work well elsewhere. I already have another market in mind for it
A locally published glossy magazine has asked me to contribute a humorous column. The pay is very nice, so now I just have to find something funny to say.
Hey, maybe I can use the pirate crotch joke.
Or maybe not.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Every time this kind of story pops up, I'm left wondering how horny do you have to be to think "Man, that horse looks hot!"
Or maybe the guy was under the delusion he was Prince Charles and simply mistook the animal for Camilla.