Trying new things

Yesterday, my wife took me out to have Thai food for my birthday. She had been trying to get me to go for years, but I always turned it down out of fear that I would not enjoy it.

Back in the 1980’s, the building used to be a photography studio/video rental store. Entering the restaurant, it was clear they had done some remodeling since then. So imagine my surprise when we were seated at our booth and the wall was still the slot wall from back in the day when I used rent movies off it as a child. It was such a laugh and delight. As amusing as that was, I could not be prepared for what was to happen next.

As previously stated, I had never tried Thai food, so I was quite nervous. I ended up ordering the crispy pad Thai. It appeared to be one of the safer options. But when I took a bite of it, something happened that had never happened to me before with food. I cried a little. It was so good. I couldn’t believe it. All these years I had not only been denying myself this delicious food, but also denying myself a wonderful experience with my wife. How many other wonderful experiences had I denied?

Many, I presume.

I am so grateful that I moved past my own stubbornness and had my amazing wife choose where to eat. I just wish I’d been smart enough to do this before.

Books of January

I was never one for New Year’s Resolutions, mostly because I know full well that I won’t keep them. But this year, I decided to do one I thought I could keep. See, when I was a kid, I used to read all the time. Around six or seven years old, I was reading thick epic stories like Mossflower which were well over four-hundred pages. Considering it’s been thirty years since I’ve last read it, perhaps I should read it again. I still have my book from nineteen-eighty-whenever. Anyhow, somewhere along the line, I stopped reading so much; I think it must have been somewhere in high school. With the exception of a story here or there, I almost never read anything.

So the resolution that I made was to read one book a month for the year of 2019. This resolution was actually inspired by a PewDiePie video. I don’t even watch his videos, but for some reason, that was one caught my eye. After watching, I was inspired to get back into my own reading ways and with the month of January now over, I can say I have completed four books.

Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota by Chuck Klosterman

A friend from church gave me a copy of this book. Having read it himself and know that I love ’80s metal, gave me a copy. The book was hilarious, insightful, and constantly entertaining.

Naked by David Sedaris

This hilarious memoir from David Sedaris is laid out like a collection of essays, each detailing what I can only describe as a messed up chapter of his life. I’m not saying he’s messed up, just that messed up stuff seems to happen to him. He covers strange topics such as that time he was hiding in his parents closet and watching his mom come in, put on a wig, and go to sleep. Or the time he lived in a nudist camp. Or his misadventures in hitchhiking.

In Broad Daylight by Henry N. MacLean

So, this one I listened to the audiobook instead of reading the actual book, but it’s still a book nonetheless. In Broad Daylight tells the true story of Ken McElroy, the town bully of Skidmore, Missouri and his murder right in the middle of the day with nearly fifty witnesses. And none was prosecuted. To this day, the case remains unsolved. The narrator did a fantastic job and I would listen to this book on my way to and from work, many times not wanting to exit my car upon arrival so I could hear what happened next. Not a wasted word anywhere, this book was fantastic front to back.

Apparent Danger: The Pastor of America’s First Megachurch and the Texas Murder Trial of the Decade in the 1920s by David Stokes

Goodness, I haven’t seen a title that was such a mouthful since The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. That said, this was quite a fascinating book. I could give you run down, but the title really says it all. Literally. One of the incredible things about this book is that all the dialogue was taken from actual court transcripts, newspapers, magazines, etc., so you know everything that was said in this book was actually said. I read the Kindle version which doesn’t appear to be available anymore, so it appears you may be stuck with hardcover. That said, it’s definitely a great read and a very interesting piece of Church/Court history.

That’s all I have for January, but I’ve already started another audiobook and plan to start reading another tonight or tomorrow. I’ve left links to the four books I read this month in my brief descriptions of them if you are interested in any of them.

Loss and Sorrow

October 31st, 2018: Wednesday

It was Halloween and we took our kids trick-or-treating as we always do. Before hitting the streets, we made the usual rounds at my aunt and uncles, my grandparents, and my parents. We kept the visits very brief this year as the previous year, we stayed too long talking and catching up. As a result, most of the houses had stopped giving out candy for the night. Wanting to make sure our kids had a good experience, we limited each visit to only a few minutes.

November 20th, 2018: Tuesday

My grandfather had called to let me know my grandmother was in the intensive care unit at the hospital I work in. I went to see her that morning, but she was tired, only being able to talk briefly. She fell asleep three times in the five minutes I was there. Though my grandmother slept a lot normally, this seemed unusual to me. I presumed it was whatever drugs they must have had her on. I left and came back later that afternoon.

When I did, my parents were there and my grandmother seemed to be in good spirits, very lively and awake. We talked for probably a good fifteen to twenty minutes, and everything seemed well. I figured she’d be going home within a few days. That night she was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland. She wasn’t expected to make it through the night. I found all this out the next day.

My parents went down to visit her on Thursday. On Friday, I called them up because I heard they were going to see her on Sunday.

November 25th, 2018: Sunday

My parents picked me up early that morning. They had my cousin’s daughter with them and we drove down to Maine Med. My grandfather was there sitting in her room. He’d been there all day and night since that she was brought down that Tuesday night. We all talked and laughed. There was worry, but we were getting through it. And then the doctor came. And he explained to us the situation. I’m not going to go into the details, but the basic gist of it was if they didn’t operate, she would die. If they did operate, she might die. If they operated and she didn’t die, then the odds were she’d never have the same quality of life she had before and the odds of her ever being able to go home were slim.

In my thirty-seven years alive, I had never seen my grandfather cry until that day.

Everything was explained to my grandmother. My grandfather continued to ask questions. There was one more test they could run that they hadn’t done yet. I guess, if they found fluid in a certain part, they could drain it easily and it would greatly increase chances of recovery. If it was found in another part, well, it would be extremely difficult. They took my grandmother to get the test. And when she came back, she called us each one by one into her room and gave us the death talk.

That afternoon we went home. When I got home, I drove an hour away to my friend’s house for the WWE Survivor Series PPV. We had been planning on this for like two months. It may seem strange that I didn’t stay home with family, but I had had a long rough day with far too many tears. I knew harder days were coming and what I needed was to have a normal night with friends. We had beers, an unnecessarily large pizza, wrestling on tv, and lots of laughs as we had done most months for nearly 20 years. It was just what I needed.

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Seriously, look at the size of this thing in relation to the table and everything around it. My friends say they had to tilt it sideways just to get it through the door. I think they said it was 32 inches or something absurd like that.

November 26th, 2018: Monday

They found fluid in the place they didn’t want to find it. My grandmother opted for hospice. She came to the hospice in our area as she knew people who had used it an knew it would be comforting for her. After work, I went up with my wife and kids. Most of the family was there. It was a good time. My daughter had drawn a picture of her and my grandfather in their chairs at home for her. My grandmother was more alert than I had seen her in a long time. Somehow, it was a very happy event. So many smiles, despite knowing what was to come.

November 27th, 2018: Tuesday

I swung by after work to see my grandmother. It was snowing. Because of the weather, I was a little later than I intended. When I arrived, family from out-of-state was there. They almost didn’t recognize me. I don’t think I had long hair and a beard when they saw me last. My grandmother was awake, but I could tell she was getting ready to go to sleep, so I didn’t stay long. Near her bed was a large glass door. A light was on outside and you could see the snow gently falling in the calm winter night. I said to my grandmother that I was glad she could see the snow falling. She was too. I told her I loved her and wished her a happy birthday. She said, “See you tomorrow.”

Interlude:

Up until this point, there had only been two deaths in my life that I can say had any major impact on my life. The first was my father. He was murdered shortly after I turned four. I’ve heard all sorts of stories. I’ve heard it was a crooked cop. I’ve heard that it was a drug deal gone bad. I don’t know what happened exactly other than he was shot in his home and he dragged himself to the front porch where he died. The murder has never been solved.

The next was a friend from high school. She got into a bad car accident in my early twenties. The power flickered and then went out as the car crashed. The fog was heavy that night. As I drove a friend home, I was going less than 10 miles an hour and could only see a couple of feet in front of the car, even with the lights on. We took what side roads we could to avoid getting into accidents with regular traffic or pedestrians.

November 28th, 2018: Wednesday

I stopped by the hospice at seven am to see my grandmother. The door was closed. I reasoned she was still sleeping. Not wanting to wake her, I went to work with the intent to return that night. As I pulled away in my car, I saw my grandfather driving past. I called him on his cell but he didn’t answer, so I left him a message telling him I just saw him on the road.

A couple of hours later I was at work trying to fix an account in the Sports Therapy department when my phone rang. My mother was calling to let me know that my grandmother died this morning at about seven am. While I was right outside her door. I left work and headed to my grandfather’s house. On the way there, I picked up a six-pack of Boston Lager and a cigar. The cigar to keep my steady as I drove and the lager loosen my up when I got home.

I tried to keep my composure, but the first thing I did when I got to see my grandfather was basically burst out into tears apologizing for not being there. I should’ve gone in the room to be with her she took her last breaths. I should’ve waited for my grandfather so he wasn’t there a lone when it happened. I felt absolutely horrible.

He hugged me and cried with me. He didn’t blame me. He wasn’t mad with me. Nobody was. They all understood. But I still felt horrible about it. The fact that I didn’t go in, the fact that I didn’t knock, the fact that I didn’t wait around five damn minutes so my grandfather didn’t have to find out alone, that ate me up inside.

And it still does.

Tickmageddon!

I spent much of my youth running around like a little idiot. You could often find me running through a field of tall grass, climbing trees, or recklessly wandering through the woods. Being one who could not stand the feel of lotions and sprays, my only protection from the sun and various bugs looking to use me as a buffet were my hands and clothes. Despite all my years playing in the exact areas ticks love to call home, I never once saw or even got a tick on me. All of that changed for me this year.

In this year alone, my wife and I have pulled so many ticks off of me and our children that we can scarcely believe it. Despite living away from the center of town, I do my part to keep my yard tidy to keep the little bastards at bay, and yet they still come. Just today my daughter was outside for not terribly long while I was doing yard maintenance and somehow managed to get a tick on her leg under her tights. After doing a thorough tick check on her, I had my wife do one on me. Thankfully, I was in the clear. Earlier in the year there was one embedded behind my ear, so we’ve been cautious to do regular tick checks. Considering that I haven’t had a haircut in over two years, tick checks aren’t the easiest for my wife to perform on me. After taking my shower, I decided to check over my jeans before putting them back on. I’m glad I did as I found a tick on the inside of one of the pant legs. Suffice to say, the tick met a watery demise as it was whisked away to my septic tank. The jeans went straight into the washing machine.

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Believe it or not, when we moved in, you couldn’t even see this stone wall. To someone who didn’t know better, you’d never know it was there.

If you take a look at the photograph above, you’ll see my recently uncovered stone property line. That wall is a veritable tick breeding ground. I’ve gotten more ticks on that wall than I have anywhere else on the property. That’s why I’ve been doing my damnedest to clean it up. That picture was taken today and if you think it looks like a mess, you should’ve seen it before. In the next picture down below, you’ll see a huge pile of brush. Most of that brush was what I had cut away and cleared from the wall. It was so thick there, you couldn’t even see the wall when we moved in almost two years ago. Since then, the vegetation around that wall has been met with branch cutters, a chainsaw, a machete, and good old-fashioned pulling. I have tried to mow and weed whack as best I can along that wall every week. I’ve been making progress, but the basic stuff comes back quickly. I would love to just coat that entire area with industrial plant killers, but my wife is against the idea.

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The area that you see before you looks absolutely nothing like it did when we moved in.

In this next picture in left corner between the wall and the trees, you can see branches and plant growth. Though it’s difficult to tell, that pile of branches and brush goes up above my head in places and much further back, just to give you an idea of how much I have cleared from the wall. If you go back to that first picture, you’ll see I’ve got a lot to go. Well, that’s not really that much compared to how much I’ve already removed. However, before I can get the wall fully cleaned up, I need to take some time to talk to my new neighbors about cleaning up their half of the wall. Cleaning up my side will only do so much if the other side is still a breeding ground.

Anyhow, back to the second picture. If you look between the left tree and the brush pile, you’ll see an empty space. Until very recently, that space was occupied by ancient and rusty farm equipment. It was also full of waist high plants, large dead sticks, and rocks which made it very difficult to clean up. Once the farm equipment was gone, it was much easier to go in there and clear the area out.

The space between the trees had a very large shed in it and was extremely wet. Throw in there very large rocks, boards with nails, and very high plants, and it wasn’t even worth the effort to clean it up until the shed was gone. Thankfully, that went the same day as the farm equipment. Within hours of that shed moving, the wetness began drying up very quickly. This allowed me to go through and cut down the high plants as well as remove the large rocks and boards with nails.

The are around the right tree was full of tall plants. Once I actually got in there, I discovered that most of those plants were not actually grass and the such, but lots of little trees that had sprung up over the years. So many skinny trees, most of them half an inch to an inch thick. We used (and I don’t know what you would call it) what I can only describe as a weed whacker with a saw blade. It took quite a while, but it got the job done, though I lost much of the feeling in my arms that day from the sheer vibrations of it. Then I used the branch cutters to remove the stumps. It wasn’t fun work, but I’m proud of what I did. The yard looks so much nicer now and I’m not nearly as worried about ticks in the part of the yard as I once was.

In the back, you can see what appears to be more bushes. These are more of those thin trees that have cropped up over the years that need to be cut down and removed, just as were around the right most tree in the picture. In time, I will remove these too, however, they are not priority right now and will have to wait for a future date. I am considering having a go at these during the winter when there aren’t any leaves to obscure what I am doing. Winter will also allow me to cut the wood into better piles. Without all the summer growth, I should be able to take care of a lot. Hey, maybe I should consider doing some heavy work on that wall during the winter as well.

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Please excuse the unfinished mowing job. I’m waiting on a new mower blade.

In this third picture, you can see a portion of the back yard. It’s difficult to tell, but right after that patchy part of the yard ends is where my yard used to end. From there back, it used to be all field. This year, however, I decided to mow all the way to the property line which you can see in the right corner by that tuft of grass and the line where it goes from short to tall. Now, that taller area is usually much, much taller. Once a year, however, that field is cut down and this picture was taken about a week or two after that had happened. So I decided to mow all the way to the property line for two reasons. The first was that I wanted my children to have a larger area to play in. The second was to keep the ticks further at bay. Ticks enjoy taller grass as it puts them at a better level to grab on to their prey. This is also why I keep my lawn mower on one of the lowest settings. Unfortunately, this is also why you see in this picture that there’s still a chunk of lawn that needs to be mowed.

My mower has hit enough stumps, rocks, and what-have-you hidden by the tall grass and bush that it’s not worth the effort of continuously bending the blade back into place. I found a replacement blade specifically for my lawnmower on Amazon.com for only $12.97 that many of the reviews say is better than the one that came with it. At this point, I think I have removed every obstacle that will damage my blade so if I can get a better one for under thirteen dollars, then I’ll wait the two days for it to come in the mail.

In this picture, you can also see my recently dug firepit. So for those of you about to say that the pile in the second picture is a breeding ground for mice which are a breeding ground for ticks, I’ve already planned for that. As time permits, I go out and cut the branches up, making neat stacks based on thickness. These piles are in turn expended in the firepit in which beer is drank in front of in the darkness of night. Yes, there is still quite a ways to go in cutting down the branch piles into neat stacks, but Rome wasn’t built in a day as they say.

Over the next few years, I hope to eventually line the perimeter of my property with a couple of feet (wide, not thick) of mulch or gravel. It is my understanding that these things are not things ticks like to cross, mostly because it’s difficult to grab on to passing prey. I suppose if there was an area that I would be more likely to be stepped on as opposed to being in a place where I could freely hitch a ride and get free drive through, then I too would try to avoid that area.

So now you’ve read some of what I’ve been doing to keep the ticks at bay. It’s not foolproof, but every little bit helps. Still, the ticks find ways to get in. A few weeks ago my son dropped his hat on the ground. It was only there for a moment before he put it back on his head. When we went in the house later, I found a tick crawling through his hair. Also, turkeys are crawling with ticks and those damn birds just love roosting on my lawn for some reason. It’s not uncommon for me too look out the window in the morning and seeing twenty or thirty of them in my back yard. In addition to ticks, they like to leave other surprises, namely digging holes in my yard. I’ve seen them do it.

I would love to hear your comments on what has worked for you at keeping the ticks at bay. Before you say chickens, at the moment, chickens are not feasible to me, though they are delicious. We have too much wildlife and they would most likely be eaten by a fox in no time. On the plus side, we have lots of robins. As soon as I found out that robins are natural predators of ticks, I installed a bird feeder. I want to encourage the robins to stick around for as long as possible.

What Homeownership Does to a Man

It’s amazing what purchasing a home can do you for you. The things that you previously had no interest in suddenly sound exciting. My wife and I recently purchased the house we’d been living in for nearly two years. It’s a great location. Off the main roads, but not far from anything we need. In fact, the only things of extended distance are work and church. Work is roughly forty-five minutes a way and church is a little over and hour. I certainly don’t mind the drive to work as it gives me a chance to wake up in the morning. And the ride to church is but a small sacrifice to make for ideal living location.

So what makes this location so great? Well for starters, everything we need is just a short drive away. Groceries, family, parks, beach, dining, etc. But at the same time, we’re off of the main roads, so it’s very quiet and peaceful. Plus, my neighbors are my cousin and his wife and then my aunt and uncle further down. Then when you factor in that my aunt and uncle own all the land behind all three of our properties including a large field and an extended distance into the woods, my kids effectively have a back yard anyone would be envious of.

Of course, now that the property is mine, things that previously held no interest seem suddenly exciting. About two weeks ago I walked into Home Depot for the first time with home owner eyes instead of “I need to get such and such at Home Depot” eyes. I had only gone in for one simple item, but for the first time, the power tools section beautiful. I spent way too much time looking at drill bits for my power drill, even though I didn’t need any. I spent time looking over hatchets as there’s some branches I need to hack down behind the property, despite the fact that I can probably just borrow a chainsaw from my uncle. I almost bought a lawn mower just because I wanted to mow the lawn (I still technically need to get one).

Since then, I’ve been researching gravel and fill online. There is a muddy area behind my property that I want to completely cover with rock to prevent vegetation from growing and put a fire pit in there. Eventually, I plan to build my own grill from brick.

I’m looking to get some good rakes and mulch. We’ve got a lovely stone wall that’s been falling into disrepair. Some of the stones have long since embedded themselves into the ground. I want to dig up the stones that have fallen and place them back upon their former glory. I want to remove most of the vegetation near the wall and cover it with mulch to improve it’s beauty.

Inside the home is no different. Now that we have power in the garage, I’m going to be moving all my exercise equipment in there (I have no intention of storing vehicles in it, mostly because it’s on the opposite side of the house). I’ll have a great area to work out and listen to the AM radio. That’s right, I found an old AM radio in the garage and cleaned it up real nice. This way I can listen to Rush Limbaugh when I exercise. Nothing get’s the blood pumping like Rush Limbaugh. Only Alex Jones is more effective.

I’ve already carved out a section of the basement for my wife’s Rock ‘n’ Roll band, Drive by Todd (shameless plug) and now I’m slowly working on carving out my section of the basement. I’m carefully working on making my video game cave, with consoles going back roughly forty years. Now that I own my own space, I’m finally looking to get everything hooked up. Buying the right power strips, the right adaptors and switch. And if anyone knows where I can get a good Sony BVM at a reasonable price, that would be awesome. Video games aren’t going to be the only thing in my area of the basement. I’m going to be hooking up the VCR and building up a substantial VHS horror collection. There are so many great, but lost horror flicks you simply can’t get on DVD, BluRay, or streaming. Also, there’s the simple fact that a lot of the older ones are just better on VHS. A Nightmare on Elm St is one of my favorites, but I don’t recommend any of the recent releases. They cleaned it up too much and you can see everything that you weren’t supposed to.

There’s so much I’m looking forward to doing, stuff that never would’ve carried any interest in me before. It’s a brave new world with such strange people in it, namely me.

 

Dennis the F***ing Menace

It’s not terribly often I actually contact a company about it’s content. Honestly, my opinion is the company can have whatever content they please. But every now any then, I come across some questionable decisions and even more questionable algorithms. So begins my gripe with Hulu.

I don’t use Hulu often, but they’ve got a few programs I like and they give me a good monthly cost. I have a children’s account setup for my daughter, but the show selection is honestly dubious at best. It’s mostly just terrible/stupid programming that has no redeemable qualities whatsoever and when you do find a good quality show that children can appreciate, it’s only available on a regular user’s account. And sometimes further, the logic behind what is acceptable on a children’s account and what is not makes no sense. Now, I like the Dick Van Dyke show as much as the next guy, but can anyone tell me why this is available on the children’s account but Dennis the Menace isn’t?

Anyhow, because of such nonsensical decision making and my great disdain for most of the other programing on the children’s account, I will occasionally allow my daughter to watch a show on my account as long as I approve of it. One such program we enjoy watching together is the 1959 version of Dennis the Menace. Oh, the mischief that boy gets into. How is he going to torment Mr. Wilson next? I guess I’ll just have to watch and find out.

So I had the house mostly to myself a few weekends ago and I thought I would sit and watch an episode of Dennis the Menace by myself (don’t let my daughter know that I watched it without her). It was the episode where Dennis threw out Mr. Wilsons old phone book not knowing there was a slip for $500 worth of stocks inside. Oh, that Dennis. Anyhow, it was during the second commercial break that a commercial for Shameless came on, a show I actually want to see. I was a little surprised that the commercial was running during an episode of Dennis the Menace, but I didn’t really put too much thought into it. I mean really, what’s actually going to happen in an advertisement during a family show?

The word “fucking” happened, actually. It was very clearly and forcefully said in the commercial. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it was verbalized in all caps. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. It was in the middle of the day during a family show. Now, I realize Hulu is an online pay service and I pick the programming I want to watch when I want to watch it, but surely they must have an algorithm for choosing ads better than this, right? Like, if I was watching say Dexter of Spartacus, I absolutely would’ve expected a commercial like this and not given a second thought about the f-bomb. But I wasn’t watching Dexter or Spartacus or anything of the sort. I was watching old fashioned, good wholesome, family friendly, 1959 black and white Dennis the Menace. You’d think whatever algorithm they use for choosing advertisements would be considerably better. If I watch the Addams Family, are they going to recommend me Game of Thrones and show somebody in the process of becoming his own uncle?

I called the company. Can you believe it? A major corporation this day and age that still has a customer service line that was semi-easy to find. You’d be surprised how uncommon that is. Anyhow, the lady I spoke with a extremely friendly and absolutely wonderful. Exactly what a customer service rep should be. She was surprised to hear that an ad for Shameless came on during Dennis the Menace and even more shocked to hear that an f-bomb was dropped in it. She actually asked the same question a couple different ways to make sure that she was hearing what I was saying correctly. “It wasn’t censored? It was clear? During Dennis the Menace?” She was very sympathetic. And assured me that she was going to be taking this to their….I forgot what she called the team, I think it was a content department something, but she must’ve gotten it done as I haven’t seen a single inappropriate advertisement since, not even on shows were I would expect an ad like that.

So I have to give great props to Hulu and their customer service rep. It was honestly a much better experience than I would’ve imagined. There was a surprisingly bad hiccup in their advertising and they handled it splendidly. I hope that lady gets a raise.

Blair Witch

I have a certain love for bad movies. I don’t know if started with watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 late night way back in the day, but there is a certain joy that comes from watching a bad movie. But every once in a while, I come across a movie so bad, I have to question its reason for existing. For a long time, the worst movie I had ever seen was called Time Chasers, a movie from 1994 that looks like it could’ve been made in 1979. Astonishingly terrible. However, some years down the road, that throne was vacated to make way for a horrible little film called Ultraviolet starring Mila Jovovich. Now, I know a lot of people seem to love that movie, but to this day, it’s still the worst movie I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Manos: The Hands of Fate. If you’ve never heard of Manos: The Hands of Fate, the fact that manos is Spanish for hands should tell you everything you need to know about the movie. I still remember the night I saw Ultraviolet. When it was done, my friend said he was going to chuck that DVD out his Jeep window on his way home. I quickly replied, “Don’t do that. Some little kid might find it.” I just couldn’t bear the thought of some poor kid sitting through that movie. My friend made sure to destroy that disc.

Now, it being October, I love to sit down and watch horror movies. Earlier this month, I sat down and watched both Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky much to my delight. Let me just say that if you want to watch a good horror flick this year, might I recommend Curse of Chucky. They took a step back from the comedy of the previous two and made a great horror movie with a legitimately creepy Chucky. Anyhow, back on topic. Last year, a new Blair Witch movie came out and judging from the trailers, it was going to be good. I saw the original The Blair Witch Project in theaters back when it first came out and found it to be a great movie. I know some people didn’t like it, but considering that it was in a way the first of its kind, I delighted in every bit of it. This movie was made extra creepy by the fact that me and my best friend watched on a dark and stormy night. My friend’s dad taking us back home took a wrong turn and accidentally drove us through a cemetery and into the woods where we were eventually stopped by a road closed barricade. Though we had our suspicions, his dad swears he wasn’t messing with us and he just turned too early because of the fog.

A few years later, Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows came out staring Jeffrey Donovan who would later go on to star in Burn Notice; a show so much better than this movie that you honestly for get he starred in it. While people generally seemed to dislike Blair Witch 2, I rather enjoyed it despite the acting. It had a great premise in which it basically pretended the first film didn’t happen. Yes, that’s right. Instead, the first movie was a movie and the plot of this movie is there are a group of people who are studying the mythology of the movie. Crazy stuff happens and it turns out that the Blair Witch is real. I understand the criticisms of this movie, but I appreciate the path that they took for the sequel. I’m glad they decided to go the traditional horror movie route instead of another found footage movie because how much belief would you be able to suspend with a second found footage movie about the same thing. Yes it was cheesy. Yes the acting was bad. But at least it understood what it was trying to be, which is much more than I can say for the third one.

When I saw the trailers for a new Blair Witch movie last year that got back to the basics, it looked promising. The brother of one of the people from the original film now 24 years old looking for his sister was a very cool hook and a reasonable way to try to pull the found footage thing again. This movie also pretends like the second movie didn’t happen (or at least it doesn’t address it). Very early on in the movie, it seemed so promising. It wastes no time in showing you all the cool modern high-tech gadgetry it would be employing to capture the footage from camera headsets, to drones, to GPS tracking. There was so much potential in this movie and the people making it had no idea what to do with it. Unfortunately, all the cool tech that should’ve made the movie better, made the movie worse. In what should’ve re-enforced the horror, the gadgets only made it difficult to suspend disbelief.

I’m going to get this out of the way right now. The movie automatically assumes everyone watching it doesn’t understand technology. The movie came out in 2016, but claims to take place 20 years after the original, so that would but this setting in 2014. MicroSD cards would’ve commonly been at about 128GB max (there may have been some 256GB out there, but I shudder to think of how expensive they would’ve been), yet everything is clearly in high-definition. They must’ve been changing out memory cards constantly, to say nothing of charging those video headsets.

And then you’ve got the extra camera functions such as the deer cams, the drones, the headset cameras that capture everything. One of the great things about The Blair Witch Project is you never saw anything. You’re left to your own devices to imagine what’s going on. Not so much with this one. You see it all and it’s all bad. Gash on the foot? Gash spasms cartoonishly. Stick figures connected to people some way. Break stick and kill person on camera cartoonishly. Movie about a Blair Witch? Show the cartoonishly large Blair Witch. In fact, just about every single thing that was creepy in the original was cartoonish in this one. It shows too much and it shows it badly.

One of the things that made the original movie so great was the acting, or lack thereof. Much of the movie was ad-libbed, so things didn’t feel rehearsed. Also, the crew in the original movie legitimately harassed the people in the movie in ways to make them terrified, so the fear you’re seeing in that movie is real. Yet in this new one, you can feel the acting. Everything thing feels so rehearsed that it’s painful. Nothing feel genuine. Now, you can talk all you want about the bad acting in Blair Witch 2, but here’s the thing, it wasn’t a found footage film. Acting in a found footage films should never ever feel like acting. Ever. Bad acting can get a pass in a standard movie, but not in a film in which the entire premise is to purport to be real, stated or not.

When you pull everything together, it’s like it was trying to be a big budget Hollywood blockbuster with an identity crisis, as though it was under the impression it was a found footage film. Now, I realize movies like Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, and The Blair Witch Project are all huge Hollywood successes using the found footage premise, but my problem with Blair Witch is that it feels like it was actually filmed like a Hollywood blockbuster. Most of it doesn’t feel remotely like found footage at all. Because of this, it rips you out of any immersion that was potentially there. Watching Blair Witch, I was bored the entire way through. While I wouldn’t call this the worst movie I’ve ever seen (no one can dethrone you, Ultraviolet), it is one of the stupidest. After this was over, I watched a sixteen minute foreign film called Banana Motherfucker about demon possessed bananas impaling people and honestly, it was a much better movie.

If Blair Witch 4 happens, I think it best that it make like the previous two sequels and pretend the most recent one didn’t happen.

Tender Wings of Desire

Every once in a while, a book so magical comes out that it seems to defy it’s very own existence. Enter Tender Wings of Desire. Written by “Colonel Sanders” and copy written by YUM! Brands (yes, the company that owns KFC), Tender Wings of Desire tells the story of a high class young woman Madeline Parker who is to be wed to Duke Reginald, a man with whom she has no romantic interest. On the night before she is to be married, she flees her home on horseback and ends up in an English fishing town working as a barmaid.

She soon falls in love with a young sailor named Harland who can only be described as Sexy Colonel Sanders. This is a fun little romance novel that actually contains no smut, but leaves you completely amused at the entire concept. For the most part, the story plays it straight, but with gems like “I think it’s time for you to put aside your childish sailing and come back to take up the mantle of Colonel Sanders” and “The hills of Kentucky miss you, as do all of us” written into the story, it’s one not to be missed.

Sadly, it probably will be missed as the book was only available for a few days around Mother’s Day. It was free, however, and if you can find yourself a copy, I surely recommend reading it. It’s quite short (roughly a hundred pages or so) and something to behold. If I had one complaint on the story it would be this; it did not end with everyone eating a bucket of fried chicken. In fact, there was no fried chicken to be found anywhere in story. The only fried chicken to be found is on the cover of this amazing book. A book you need to read.

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This cover tells you everything you need to know about the story and what you need to know are the words written inside of it.

 

 

Reverting back to VHS

For the most part, the switch from analog to digital for movies has been a success. In most cases, the superior picture and sound quality make for a far better experience. Sure, there are a few cases where the poor quality of VHS is better for the experience, usually in low budget horror movies where a cleaned up digital version can suck all the horror out of it. But one thing  the switch to digital that was really fantastic was bonus features.

Remember when DVDs came out and there was a menu full of cool extras like a trailers, interviews, and etc. that you could jump to at anytime? It really made spending twenty dollars on a movie worth it. VHS rarely had extras and if it did, you had to fast forward to the end of the movie to watch them, perhaps further if you were looking for a very specific one. Because of this, more people built up huge collections of DVD and Blu-Ray movies than did those who did the same with VHS. So when digital streaming and download started becoming more prevalent in recent years, you’d think it would carry on the fine tradition of DVD and Blu-Ray. Except it didn’t.

For some strange reason, the switch to a purely digital format took step backwards to the days of the VHS cassette. Imagine my surprise when I bought my first fully digital movie with bonus features unable to find anyway to access them, only to discover that to watch them, I had to wait until the movie finished. This is not just once isolated incident, however, as it seems to be the common game for online movies. How is it in a day of instant access, the extras are hidden at the very end? And if you wish to view these extras without watching the movie, you are bound to fast forward and rewind to access it, as even the chapter skip that was standard in DVD and Blu-Ray is often not to be found. I can’t imagine how much a pain it would be if commentary was a bonus feature. This poor implementation is perhaps the thing that shall keep Blu-Ray alive (for me at least) just a little bit longer.

Serial Girls

There’s an app about town that’s managed to attain the direction of my fancy. It’s called FaceApp. It’s main rise to fame (from what I can tell on 9Gag) is it’s gender swapping capabilities. Now, while I can’t that I agree with changing one’s gender, one has to admit that it’d be a lot of fun to find out what one would look like as their opposite. Especially when you get that uncomfortable realisation that you would totally date yourself.

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Female me would need a little waxing maybe have those jowls toned up, but I’d take me out.

Of course, once I got my kicks out of that, I started to wonder how I could apply this to another passion of mine. And that’s when I started hunting for good quality pictures of Jeffrey Dahmer.

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Ms. Dahmer has mastered the resting bitch face.

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You can never win her approval.

So, female Jeffrey Dahmer might be a little cute, but you’d never want to go out with her. Not because of the cannibalism; that’d be the least of your worries. No, your problem would be that nothing would ever be good enough for her. No matter how hard you tried, she would always find some way to disapprove. Do all the dishes? She’d be pissed that you didn’t make the bed. Cooked her an amazing dinner? It wasn’t what she wanted. After a few months, you’d be praying for her to eat you.

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I tried the man filter on Aileen, but it didn’t change anything.

Now here we have John Wayne Gacy and Aileen Wournos. Instead of becoming a member of the community by dressing up as Pogo the Clown, Ms. Gacy is the love of children everywhere thanks to her freshly baked cookies. And you can tell that she’d make the best damn cookies, too. Not because she’s plump, but because her face just shouts out with pride, “I am a pillar of the community and I became that pillar with chocolate chips.” I would certainly go. I bet they’d be delicious. I’d just be sure to bring a friend so I don’t end up below the crawl space.

This one I feel kinda bad about. I attempted to make Aileen a man, but there was really no change, so I ended up using the female filter. And this is why I feel kinda bad. You see, by putting the female filter on her, it makes her claims about murdering all those people in self defense actually seem more believable. It’s a little bit troubling how just making someone appear more pretty can alter your perception. Granted, once she started talking we’d quickly realize batshit crazy she really was, but she probably would’ve escaped the death sentence.

 

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Why yes, a Tupperware party sounds just delightful.

Ted Bundy was able to blend in like nobody’s difference and his female alter-ego would be no different. She’d be very popular and probably host Tupperware parties with the other ladies around town. She’s got a kinky side that’s just enough to make people blush, but cool enough to keep rumors from spreading. Just watch out for your butt; she likes to bite.

 

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We all know which one would be the mean friend.

You can’t help but look at female David Berkowitz and feel bad for her. Right away, you can tell that she’s the really nice friend who always get’s taken advantage of. She begins making poor decisions with her body in a vain attempt to fit in, but only furthers her into depression. Eventually, at the advice of her cat, she buys a gun.

Her “friend”, female Richard Ramirez, certainly didn’t help matters any. Always bringing her to trashy night clubs to make herself look better. Ms. Ramirez was no friend. Her only concern was making herself look better to get what she wanted and wasn’t above using insecure nice girls like Ms. Berkowitz to do it. When something wouldn’t go her way, she would exclaim, “OMS! (Oh My Satan!)” To say Ms. Ramirez had an unhealthy relationship with the devil would be an understatement. I wouldn’t be surprised if she used her dark arts to influence a certain friend’s cat.