Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Girl Next Door

This book by Jack Ketchum is supposed to be pretty intense. I believe that Stephen King listed it in his horror books appendix at the end of Danse Macabre. I've read one book by Mr. Ketchum, the name of which escapes me right now. It was good, but I found it to be more suspense than horror, which dampened by enthusiasm for it. I'm a huge fan of Mr. Ketchum's writing style, though. Its terseness was an influence on me when my writing had more than its share of purple prose. His style fits perfectly within the suspense/horror genre. Anyway, The Girl Next Door might be worth checking out.

System of a Down -- Madness...Or Genius?

I say genius.

My evidence?

Exhibit 1: The song "Question!" from the cd "Mezmerize."

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Cannibal Gang

Here's a frightening little news story from the Philippines. About a gang that eats parts of its victims. The thing that the story, which really is not very illuminating, doesn't explain is why the gang members believe that eating parts of their victims will help protect them. Does this belief come from some local superstition or religious tradition? I see shades of Renfield in Dracula, eating creatures to gain their strength (I have a character similar to this in my latest novel). Who knows what was going on in their heads, but I think it's interesting anyway.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Brothers Grimm

Here's a review of it from the Detroit Free Press. With Labor Day and the associated camping coming up, I don't know if I'll get to see it. It sounds good, though. And you can't go wrong with a guy who directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail and 12 Monkeys, can you?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Emily Rose Update

Well, I'm sure getting a lot of hits by people searching for the upcoming Exorcism of Emily Rose. I wish I knew more about it or what happened to Emily, but I am starting to get excited to see it. Here's the link to the official site, which is pretty cool. One interesting tidbit I gleaned from imdb was the director's comment that this may be the first court room horror movie. I don't know how I feel about that (I am a lawyer, but that doesn't mean I think the law can improve everything). Still, I'm open to the idea.

Also, if you've come here looking for more info. about the movie and are a horror buff, poke around a little. I've discussed quite a few horror (and non-horror) movies and books by now, so you might find something in a musty corner of this home that suits you. Just be careful.

Conclusion to the Summer of the Vampire

I have started Dark Dance by Tannith Lee. Thirty or so pages in, it's off to a fairly promising start. Ms. Lee's writing is pretty thick with imagery, and while some of it is a little heavy-handed, it has added a little to the experience so far. Oddly, the last scene I read reminded me of a Thomas Hardy novel or of Wuthering Heights. I hope the book is good, though, because my other three blood-sucker books have been a bit of a let down. None of them grabbed me (by the throat, maybe?) that much. We'll see.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Monsters of the Deep

National Geographic Channel has some excellent programming coming out right now. Last night, we watched a show called "Monsters of the Deep," which was a scientific evaluation of the data supporting lake and sea monsters. The show definitely had a skeptical bent, but I thought it was pretty fair in allowing the monster-advocating crowd to present its side before systematically showing why their "evidence" shows absolutely nothing.

While I enjoyed the show (one nice thing about lake monster legends is that the lakes the monsters allegedly inhabit are all very beautiful, so that they scenery in these shows is always top notch), I did find it a little depressing. The reason I like the myths about lake monsters and Bigfoot is because it's fun to think there's still a little bit of mysterious, and maybe dangerous, unknown out there. Of course I don't want to delude myself into believing in these things, but having their existence not disproven is nice. This show was definitely damaging to the case for watery monsters of all types, making the pleasure of watching it bittersweet. At least we still have Bigfoot. Until the National Geographic Channel gets its digital hands on him, that is.


Saturday night, we watched Keanu Reeves star as a black-clad hero with possibly even more problems than Neo. I liked it a fair amount, the wife not as much. It started strong, with a horror feel that owed a lot to The Exorcist. The first hour was pretty engrossing, but the movie started to drag during the second hour, as it turned more into an action flick. Where we differed was on the ending sequences. I thought they were good enough to redeem the slowdown in the middle, whereas my wife felt it never recaptured the promise of the beginning. There were some good performances, though. I thought the guy who played the devil was really good, as he was playing the foreign hit man in Fargo and one of the nihilists in The Big Lebowski. Speaking of Lebowski, Steve Buscemi would have fit right into this movie. They may have missed the boat not including him. Constantine's sidekick was entertaining as well. One other surprise in the movie was Gavin Rossdale of Bush. I didn't realize he acted. Probably a good thing too, since Bush is pretty much toast. Overall, I would recommend this movie more as a dark action picture more than a horror movie. There are some pretty good scary scenes in the beginning, but the rest of the movie relies on only a couple of things popping out randomly to get its scares. So I would say, as my wife's best friend commented, Constantine is pretty entertaining as long as you come into it with realistically low expectations.

20 Most Overrated Movies of All Time

Premiere magazine has this list, but it appears that they only have a forum to discuss the list online, but not the list itself. So here are the movies:

2001, A Beautiful Mind, An American in Paris, American Beauty, Chariots of Fire, Chicago, Clerks, Easy Rider, Fantasia, Field of Dreams, Forrest Gump, Gone with the Wind, Good Will Hunting, Jules and Jim, Monster's Ball, Moonstruck, Mystic River, Nashville, The Red Shoes, and The Wizard of Oz.

I disagree strongly with the inclusion of Forrest Gump, which I think was a great movie. I'm totally on board with American Beauty. I enjoyed the movie, a lot actually, but I've found baffling the amount of praise the movie got, like it was some sort of magnificent insight into the human mind. Come on. This was a movie about a self-indulgent guy having a mid-life crisis but refusing to admit that his life has changed and he can't just go around having fun all the time anymore. I think most guys have known someone like that, even if the person they knew didn't quite go to the same extreme as Mr. Spacey's character. In other words, the movie is funny and mostly enjoyable, but new or deep it ain't.

One movie that seems to be on its way to overrated status Anchorman. I'm a Will ("Get off the shed!") Farrell fan, but that movie was unmitigated crap.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Golf Terms

Reading a chat on, I found someone referring to "fairway metals" instead of "fairway woods." I think this was a (snobbish) reference to the fact that metals such as steel or titanium have replaced the older wooden heads. I imagine the person using the term "fairway metals" would respond to any criticism of that usage by pointing out that "fairway woods" is no longer accurate. The question is then whether that person still uses the term "irons" for clubs that have been made of steel for some time now. I'm guessing they do, since I've never heard the terms "steels" in reference to golf clubs. So let's just stick with the much more euphonious "fairway woods," shall we?


These scientists (some would call them mad scientists) want to introduce African animals, including cheetahs, lions, and elephants, to the Great Plains of the US. Is this insanity or genius? I'm not sure, but you have to wonder about a guy who says "Lions eat people. There has to be a pretty serious attitude shift on how you view predators." What kind of shift are we talking about here? I mean, I could see arguing that the lions wouldn't actually eat anybody, but that's not what he's saying. Instead, what I think he's saying is that we should write off a few people getting devoured by the beasts as a minor nuisance compared to how cool it would be to have lions running around in Kansas.

Still, the whole lions thing is pretty cool. I was just imagining the other day when golfing what it would be like if there was a chance that a lion could rush out of the bushes next to the cart. It would certainly spice up the round.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Bear Attacks

I've noticed that a couple of people have arrived at this site after a search for "bear attacks." That being the case, I thought I'd point out the book Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance by Stephen Herrero. I believe that reading this book is essential for anyone who is planning backcountry travel bear country. It would also be interesting to anyone with a general interest in nature or just scary, true stories about bears attacking people. Good stuff.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Most Disappointing Book I've Ever Read

That is how I would describe Children of the Night, the third of my four vampire novels for the summer. Maybe I set myself for this one, given the hyperbolic title of my previous post about Mr. Simmons. Still, his other books are very much deserving of that praise. Children was not.

In fact, "not" is a good theme to use to describe the book. As in, not scary, not suspenseful, not interesting, not having good characters, and not worth buying. There's no way I would have even finished the book, except for The Summer of the Vampire. The book is slow: it was about 150 pages in before anything even remotely scary occurred, and that lasted for about five pages. The characters are so bad they're almost painful. Example: one of the main characters, a young Romanian medical student, talked intermittently like a California surfer-dude. And it worked about as well as the idea sounds. The book was so bad that I was 20 pages away from learning the closing revelations it was promising and left it to sit for a day and a half from sheer apathy.

Needless to say, I don't think you should run out and buy Children of the Night.

Fantasy (and Real) Football

Reading takes a back seat for the next couple of weeks as I intensify preparations for my fantasy football drafts. I'm pretty excited about this season, and I'm looking to erase some of the bad memories from last year. Here are some early predictions and observations from the pre-season.
  • Cedric Benson will be a huge bust (which almost is too easy a prediction now that Rex Grossman has gone down for the year)
  • Kurt Warner looked good in his first pre-season action. I find Warner very interesting as a back-up/spot starter. He was amazing in St. Louis, and the receivers in Arizona really are top notch. I could see Warner putting up 3,500 yards and 25 touchdowns. Denny Green has done more with less.
  • Joey Harrington was 9-9 in first first game of the pre-season. Can Harrington turn the corner this year? I hope so, because I think the people calling for Jeff Garcia to start are in for a cold-water shock if Garcia ever does get extended action for the Honolulu Blue and Silver. As important as Joey's looking sharp, as one local columnist noted, is that the receivers were 0 for 0 in the dropping passes department. I am convinced that the drops were more of a factor for Joey's struggles last year than people give him credit for.
  • Finally, it was nice to see Chris Perry get in some action after being hurt all of his rookie season. I think if he can stay on the field he can really help the Bengals.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Thrillers (NOT the Michael Jackson Variety)

Here's Reader's Digest's list of the top thrillers of all time. I don't agree with all of it (for instance, although I like Crichton generally I found The Andromeda Strain to be a little boring), but it is interestingly divided into different categories, such as Spy Thriller and Classic Thriller. One thriller I think lives up to its reputation: In Cold Blood. Disturbing little story. Anyway, the list is definitely worth a look. I'd be interested to hear any suggestions as to what the editors missed.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Saw the above with my sister this weekend at the Henry Ford Imax. I felt better driving down there in my sister's Explorer than when we took my Honda to Batman Begins. Just seemed a tad less insulting to old Uncle Henry. I don't have a great deal to say about the movie, other than that it was greatly superior to the original. Of course, I hated the original, so it wouldn't have taken much. Still, this movie definitely is an exception to my general dislike of re-makes (One question that pops into my head is whether the presumption against re-makes is weaker in the case of movies made from books. A more legitimate case can be made for this type of re-makes, because there is the additional dimension of re-imagining the novel).

Johnny Depp was excellent in this one and a definite upgrade over the disturbing Gene Wilder from the first. The Oompa Loompas were, of course, the strength of the original, but Deep Roy's masterful performance in this version was able to live up to the high standard ("The bar is high," says Coach Marty, somewhere). One nitpick: even though I was amused at the identity of the narrator, couldn't they have found a less gurgly voice? I would have sworn the narration was going to be cut off by the narrator's completely swallowing his face. Good stuff overall, though.


So this guy grafts the head of a fetus onto a bird's body and calls it "art." What the heck? Does he think he's Otis T. Firefly from House of a Thousand Corpses? No, because at least in the movie it was clearly recognized that Otis was deranged. Here in real life, apparently someone is taking this bozo seriously. For the record, though, "shocking" is not art. Doing something that takes skill, determination, and vision is, or at least gets you closer.

Friday, August 05, 2005

"I Am in Awe of Dan Simmons"

The title to this post is praise from Stephen King, apparently in reference to Mr. Simmons' book Summer of Night. I have that book and haven't read it yet, but I very much agree with Mr. King's sentiment. There are two kinds of writers who influence me, which I would call "encouraging" and "discouraging." Stephen King in his later years is an encouraging writer for me. His books mostly very enjoyable, but I get the feeling when reading one that my writing is at least close to the same level, or could be given more time and practice. In fact, Bag of Bones is the book that inspired me to start writing novels in the first place. Earlier King books, such as 'Salem's Lot and especially The Shining are a little more intimidating and probably fall in the second of my two categories. Dean Koontz is another writer who I find encouraging and is the author whose writing I think mine most closely resembles.

Discouraging writers, on the other hand, are those that are exhilirating to read, but yet almost depressing, because they give me the feeling that no matter how hard I work at my craft, I will never approach their levels. Dan Simmons fall in this category. His books are phenomal: a combination of sharp writing and incredible imagination. The Hyperion cycle, especially the first two books, is phenominal, and the more recent Ilium is worth its weight in gold. I am looking forward to getting Olympos to finish the story.

I bring all of this up, because I am about to continue The Summer of the Vampire, and begin Mr. Simmons' Children of the Night. I suspect that this will be the best of the four books I have planned, and I am really looking forward to it. The report will follow.

What Happened to Minding the Store?

Back in this post, I discussed the premiere of "Minding the Store," Pauly Shore's new show. I gave it a lukewarm review, which is probably better than I might have expected to give it, since it is a show featuring Pauly Shore. I also said that we had the second episode on the DVR and would watch it later. What happened?

Well, we never watched the second episode, for a couple of reasons. First, I have a hard time sticking with tv shows nowadays anyway. I hate being tied to the networks' schedule, and even with the availability of easy recording I lose interest pretty easily. That's strike one. Strikes two and three were the preview of the second episode we saw later in the week, which basically focused on Mr. Shore's being a "sex addict," or something like one. I guess that could have been funny, but it struck as so different from the multi-character, off-the-wall show in the initial previews that we lost interest. And while Mr. Shore was somewhat entertaining in the first episode, he certainly wasn't amusing enough to make us care about his personal life.

So the world-famous Comedy Store (I still like the name of the show and the club) is closed.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

10 Feet Tall, 1100 Pounds

The Terror Bird. Imagine an ostrich-like bird that can swallow a medium-sized dog whole. Wild, huh? Actually, change the "dog" in that sentence to

Now Here's a Steroid Policy

The contrarian in me has been watching all the criticism about baseball's steroid testing policy and wondering: are the other leagues really all that better? Baseball has been getting bashed for not having a strong testing policy, but is MLB's weak policy really so unusual (this is setting aside the Olympics, which do seem to test pretty aggressively)? Well here's an interesting story that just came out about Deion Sanders. Apparently, he failed a steroid test at the beginning of last season as he was making his comeback to the NFL. What does the NFL do? It tests him every week of the season, and presumably the punishment would have been severe if he had failed any of the tests. That is the kind of policy you have if you're serious about keeping your players clean.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Endless Sequels...

Down in dreaded Buckeye land this weekend, my cousin and I watched the abysmal Friday the 13th Part VII - The New Blood. It was interesting to watch in a sort of clinical way, as in here's what not to do when making a horror movie. The one redeeming factor that made the movie worthwhile (almost) to watch was that the main character had telekinetic abilities, so her final showdown with Jason was actually kind of cool. It was definitely a twist on the teenage girl running from the slasher storyline. Instead, she was able to electrocute him, hang him with a lampchord, crush his head so that his brains popped out, set him on fire, and a variety of other pleasantries. Other than that part, the rest of the movie really wasn't worth watching.