The Debt of Nature: My Shameless Plug




Welcome to the Debt of Nature companion blog!

This is a shameless plug for the project I’m working on, a historical horror series that spans centuries and starts in 1873 in Manitoba, Canada.

As a person who loves to have his art freely available, it pains me to say there is a modest cost for this subscription site. I started up a separate blog to serve as a supplement to the ongoing story and to allow feedback for people.

As a person who is excited about everything they put their hand to, it is not particularly unique to hear me say that this is the best thing I’ve done, but I think it is. The majority of fiction I watch or read isn’t compelling to me, and I think the onus is on me to rise above merely criticizing and start creating.

The Debt of Nature takes everything I love about monsters, and then adds all the cool stuff about history I probably never paid attention to in school, and then I focused on plots that felt fresh, while Jasmine helped me fill out the characters. Originally, I was going to draw this as a webcomic, but our President will be a sentient brain in a jar before I finish that. On the plus side, it meant we spent years getting some of this stuff right.

So in summation:

The Tractate Middoth: A Review


, , , ,


For decades the BBC has honored legendary horror author M.R. James with short film specials, through one production or another. James’s formulaic, reserved stories make for great reading, but honestly the adaptations can be quite dull. (1971’s version of The Stalls of Barchester should not be watched if you intend on operating heavy machinery) This 2013 version is delightful though.

It was adapted by Mark Gatiss, who has worked on Doctor Who, the League of Gentlemen, Sherlock, various Agatha Christie projects, and various other successful endeavors.

This guy? He's not up to anything.

This guy? He’s not up to anything.

I had never heard of him prior to this film. M.R. James has been dead for nearly 80 years and I talk about him all the time. Not sure what that says about me.

This is the first project that he has directed and he needs to stick with it because he’s onto something.


Sacha Dhawan is William Garrett, a mild librarian who is asked to retrieve a book for John Eldred (John Castle) an older man who seems rather reluctant to get it himself. At first, it seems like the book has been checked out already, but that was a mistake.

When Eldred returns, Garrett finds out how who actually has the book, and the shock of the discovery causes him to faint and destroys his nerves. You see the Tractate Middoth is not a normal book, and it has something that seems to follow it.


Through a rather convenient co-incidence Garrett finds out the history of the book. It was owned by the vile Dr. Rant, who found himself in declining health with both a niece (Louise Jameson as Mary Simpson) and nephew (our Mr. Eldred) that he doesn’t care for at all. So he decides to have a bit of fun. His entire estate will go to one of them in a will. The will will be hidden in a book, and the book will go to a place that only he knows. The niece and nephew will be given only a couple of clues to find the will, and each person won’t be given the same clues.

And what we know, but they don’t…is that the book is cursed.


Gatiss does a great job adapting the short story and even capturing some of the humor inherent in James’s story, and he provides the best ghoul in the entire BBC M.R. James oeuvre. The only thing I really don’t understand is that in the story, the denouement occurs in the evening, creating what I visualized as an unsettling ending and here, Gatiss shoots it rather light. Aside from this, The Tractate Middoth is an amazing looking short film, just some of the work with the diffused light is spectacular.


I’d like to see another generation of BBC adaptations in this vein.

Seven Random Things I’ve Learned About Being a Bouncer




I recently stepped away from the business and I decided to share some random thoughts about the experience. Some of them are going to be offensive even if I don’t mean them to be but they’re based on what I’ve seen. I do want to give a little context first.

I started out ten or so years ago and worked a little over five years of that time at various spots in the Philadelphia area. The business changed radically over that time, and not for the better. I worked in a variety of contexts, and unlike a lot of other guys, there were places that I worked by myself.

I’m not going to sit here and present myself as the toughest guy out there. I was able to stay around because I didn’t fly off the handle a lot, I showed up on time, and I didn’t chase girls or drink up the bar. But I would have washed out a long time ago if I couldn’t fight or was afraid to stick my nose into things. Which leads to my first point.

1. If you can’t figure out why the bouncer is there, leave him alone.

Sometimes you’ll be at a place and you’ll see a little guy, or someone that looks like he’s fifty and you probably wonder why he’s there. Sometimes its just a bad hire and he’ll be gone in two weeks. NOT test him.

Yeah…do NOT test him.

Or he’s an absolute terror that you should never mess with. Guys that have been around for a while have faced everything there is to face, big guys, athletes, thugs, drunk cops, MMA fans, martial artists, everything. All that experience adds up. They don’t get excited, they don’t get nervous, they just handle their business.

I remember running a small crew and they gave me this guy from South Philly. He was bald on top, average height and weight…and he was an absolute psycho. It took everything I had to keep him from absolutely killing people that got out of line. Conversely I worked with a modern day Adonis that spent one shift complaining about a hangnail.

Fighting bouncers is a terrible idea, but leave the old guys or little guys alone.

2. People should keep track of their friends.

There a lot of people now that hit the club or bar and immediately start partying with no idea where their friends are. Then at two or three in the morning, they start panicking when their friend doesn’t answer their text. Well…its too late now. Your girlfriend left an hour and a half ago with some creep that was waiting for a drunk girl, and he’s going to do some variety of sexual assault to her. I can stop some of it, but I can’t stop all of it. And frankly, its not my responsibility.

Its your job to protect yourself when you’re out, as opposed to getting helplessly drunk/high. Its also your job to make sure your friends don’t end up in a bad situation when they leave.

I remember walking home after a shift, and I passed a long driveway that was actually a pretty vicious incline from my perspective. At the top, I saw a drunken kid pass out. He rolled down the pavement like a tumbleweed. His clothes were ripped from the fall and he was bleeding everywhere. When he woke up he was incoherent. It was obviously hypothermia.

I watched him turn blue as I called for an ambulance. I put my jacket over him so he didn’t freeze to death. As they loaded him into an ambulance, his buddy showed up.

“Man,” he said. “I was looking for him.”

If you get drunk in winter and wander off without your jacket, you can get frostbite or hypothermia. Anything can happen. Just ask Shane Montgomery’s family. The best protection for people is if their friends know where they are. If you want to hook up with someone, just let them know before you catch a cab.

These are signs of hypothermia...oh yeah, this is the same stuff that happens when you're drunk.

These are signs of hypothermia…oh yeah, this is the same stuff that happens when you’re drunk.

3. Bouncers have multiple jobs.

I cannot tell you how many middle-class kids have insulted me or my guys as they get thrown out of the club by telling us what they do, or what their salary is. Some guys are pretty blue-collar, but there are a lot of guys that bounce and have good day jobs. If you’re a big guy and you want to meet some girls and make a little side money, it makes sense. Don’t assume that I don’t have any money or education. In fact, you know nothing about my background, and maybe you should.

I remember a guy walking around the club with his dog-tags out, trying to pick up girls by telling them he had just come back from Afghanistan. A bouncer got in his face and told him to calm down and to tuck his tags in his shirt.

He got rude. He cursed the bouncer out and explained what sacrifices he had made for our freedom. What he didn’t know was that the bouncer was a Special Forces Captain who was home because he had taken some shrapnel in the abdomen. As an officer he had a clear line of communication to the guy’s superior officer…which he used. That guy was in for hell when he reported back. Lesson is, you have no idea what we do. You might not make more than we do, and also, because you’re drunk you peed yourself and haven’t figured it out yet.

4. A fight in your place is a complete failure.

If you like to fight or want to prove yourself, this is the wrong job for you. Things have changed. That kid that is crazy aggressive and wants to fight you in the middle of the street? The moment he actually takes a bit of damage he’s going to try to sue you, and if they’re too broke to get a lawyer, they might get a gun. (But mostly they’ll try to sue.) The system is set up so people don’t have to take responsibility for anything they do anymore.

Tough guys on the street, victims when they hit court.

Tough guys on the street, victims when they hit court.

You bring liability to your bar every time some idiot fights. Guys like fights, but girls don’t, and guys go where girls do, so fights kill business. In my state, every time the police get called it goes against your liquor license. and you could get the place closed down if you’re considered a ‘nuisance bar,’ which is a really arbitrary designation.

The more you fight, the higher the odds are that you’ll lose a fight. Every time you lose a fight, you plant a seed in people’s minds that you can be beaten, and for some guys there is no bigger trophy then saying they knocked out the bouncer. And even a fight you win still could get you hurt and those injuries add up. Black eye? Busted hand? Well, you’re going to be back working in a couple days so I hope you heal like Wolverine.

5. The secret to my job is just being nice.

If I’m calm, everyone is calm. If you’re just nice, most people are accommodating, mostly because you’re bigger than them. And you end up meeting people. I can’t tell you how many celebrities or important people I was able to deal with because I didn’t walk around trying to act tough.

You being decent to everyone is good for the business. Even kicking someone out, if its not busy and no one is being too aggressive explain to their friends why the person has to go. It goes a long way. People will go peacefully and they’ll come back when they’re sober.

6. Don’t expect a long-term relationship anywhere near a bar

I love my wife. I love my wife. I love my wife...

I love my wife. I love my wife. I love my wife…

I’ve seen some relationships work, especially with married people and my one consistent exception is if both parties work at the same bar. But mostly I’ve seen hot messes.

As a customer, you go to bars and clubs to hook up, if you’re expecting anything else, you’re in for a disappointment. It sounds basic, but I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen that were surprised when the object of their affections didn’t call them back afterwards. Of course they didn’t. The transaction was completed.

Dating someone that works in a bar/club? I don’t know how to tell you this but there is always someone hitting on us. A Bartender’s job is to connect to patrons because basically anyone can just pour a drink and give it to someone. There has to be something else. And sometimes that gets out of hand. Managers have to face a lot of ‘friends,’ the staff they hire that they end up getting close to and random women/men. And bouncers?


If you can’t get women as a bouncer, kill yourself. Most of the time I worked I was married. I have a great wife and a great situation and there was still temptation out there. There were certainly guys that got hit on a lot more than me. It adds up.

Its not realistic to expect the average person to be faithful with that many options and in this business, the options are constant.

7. Fighting is mostly mental.

There are always two things I think about when I go into a shift: that someone might have a weapon, and that I am outnumbered and someone is always going to be coming from my blindside. I am mentally prepared for both and that’s the difference for me.

If you see me walking around in plain-view, I’m just observing what’s going on or I want to know who is going to be trouble later. After that, I stay out of sight because there’s nothing more overwhelming than thinking there’s no bouncer and then suddenly being on the floor because he came from your blind side.

I ambush people because I know I’m outnumbered. This is the most important part. If there are a bunch of guys standing there about to fight, and I show up, they have a decision to make.

Do they try to fight me? What are the consequences of that?

Last week, there was a fight between four guys and I jumped in the middle of it. There was a fifth guy that came from my left, and I grabbed him, put in him in a bit of a collar choke with my left and then put a joint lock on with my right. He started screaming and went down and I dragged him off. No one even twitched even I came back. That happened because I took the guy down immediately and he was in obvious pain. If he had landed a punch on me, took me down, they would have all gotten beer muscles and jumped me.

See crowds are big dumb animals. If you make an example out of the first person that does anything, everyone else will back down. That first guy determines everything.

That’s just one example, but there’s a thought process behind what I do. In the old days, you could just go all out and beat people, but things have changed, so you have to think a little more tactically.

Bouncing can be decent. When I started you made more money, but fundamentally, it was the same place I went to to have dinner and a couple of drinks, except now they were paying me. There’s a potential to meet a lot of people and have a lot of fun. If you were going to do it now, I would say be very cautious. If you hang around long enough, you’ll learn a lot.

Totally Worth It: Winter Survival Edition Part 3


If you’re wondering why I’m still posting a “winter survival guide” in the middle of February, then these articles clearly are not written for you. Enjoy your toasty tropical weather, jerks! (And keep this stuff in mind for next year. Pretty much all of them would be awesome gifts, if you’re so inclined.)


- Korean Ginger Honey Tea (in a jar!)

First of all: this is the most exquisite, delicious tea ever. If there’s one thing you try from these reviews, it’s this flippin’ tea. Still need convincing? Let’s look at the facts.

1) Tea is awesome.
2) It’s a zillion times better for you than soda.
3) It’s a great way to get warm and cozy when your thermostat is at 55° because you can’t afford heating, haha not that I would know anything about that life.
4) Herbal teas (like Ginger Honey) aren’t caffeinated so you can have them whenever you want.
5) Ginger is really healthy or something I guess?

Seriously though, ginger is great for all kinds of digestive upsets, for your general health and metabolism, and both ginger and honey are good for sore throats and colds.


The taste is a perfect blend of sweet and savory. Tom loves strong kick-in-the-teeth ginger flavor (ie: real Jamaican Ginger Beer) and I love sugary junk with only a passing resemblance of actual ginger (ie: gingersnaps). But we BOTH love this damn tea.

The jar packaging is brilliant. Add a large spoonful to a cup of boiling water, and bam! Instant comfort. No steeping. No forgetting your steeping tea until it’s too late, and now it’s too strong and tepid. No sopping wet teabag on a pile of napkins awkwardly shoved into a corner of your desk. No leaving your teabag in the cup, getting stronger with each passing sip, until the dregs are too strong to finish. …You get the picture.


Here’s a picture, in case you don’t.

It doesn’t clump like powdered mixes, and you can eat the delicious caramelized shredded ginger when you’re done, if you like.

If there was one downside, it’s that I can’t seem to find a place to buy this online?

You can find it in a Korean grocery store, if there are any in your area. You might be able to find it in a more generalized Asian or international grocery store, but I make no promises. Here is an online store, but I’ve never used them, so no comment on that either.

We take a look at the ingredients and pick one without artificial preservatives (they don’t last long in our house!), which usually ends up being Jayone brand, although every one we’ve tried so far has been great. A huge 2 lb jar goes for around $10 – $15.

There’s a granulated instant version, which is nice, but just doesn’t hold a candle to the jar kind. You can find other fruit and honey tea jars, which are also nice, but again just aren’t in the same realm as honey ginger.

Here’s instructions to make your own, if you are so inclined.

Totally Worth It: Winter Survival Edition Part 2

- Happy Light

How you SHOULD be using your therapy light: Happy people soaking in happy morning sunshine drinking happy tea while "Good Morning Starshine" plays happily. Happy no longer looks like a real word. You're welcome.

How you SHOULD be using your therapy light: Happy people soaking in happy morning sunshine and drinking happy tea while “Good Morning Starshine” plays happily. And now ‘happy’ no longer looks like a real word. You’re welcome.

During the shorter days of winter, many people suffer seasonal depression*.

* I refuse to call it ‘S.A.D.’. Refuse. I mean… come on, guys. C’mon. SAD? Really? SAD?

You can suffer from seasonal depression even if you don’t have other kinds of depression, and even worse, you can suffer seasonal depression on top of other kinds of depression. Also, the symptoms are kind of broad and can be symptoms for a ton of other maladies, so please do talk to your doctor to make sure that it’s lethargy from depression and not like, ebola. </disclaimer>

While we still don’t understand what causes seasonal depression, it is definitely a result of less daylight. The further north you live, the more likely you’ll want to crawl into a cave and hibernate like a bear.

Fortunately, the best medication for seasonal depression is: get more sunlight.

Now, we can’t magically make the sun stay out longer, but we do have some pretty great artificial sunlight lamps. There’s a large range of “light therapy” boxes that offer a variety of strengths and features. There’s a nice article on Mayo Clinic with a section about different types of light boxes and the factors you should consider when looking to purchase one (ie: blue light vs. white light, UV rays, etc).

The better the light boxes, the higher their output, the more effective they are… and yea, the more expensive they are. But a cheap little light box is still better than no light box.

Last winter I picked up a Verilux HappyLight 2500. This one is only 2500 lux. The same light comes in different sizes / outputs, and right now the Verilux HappyLight Liberty with 5000 lux is going for the same price.

Ideally you can use the light for hour or two in the morning (for the model I have). I use it in the morning before heading off to work, so I can only get about 10 – 15 minutes in. But you know what? Those 10 – 15 minutes help. It definitely works, and it would work even better if I had more time to use it. Anything than helps alleviate the crushing winter-time exhaustion and apathy is welcome.

How you actually use your therapy light: alone in a gloomy room on your computer, reading internet reviews while waiting for your porn to finish downloading, and trying to convince yourself that it's not your fault that your life is a train wreck. Happily.

How you ACTUALLY use your therapy light: alone in a gloomy room on the computer, reading internet reviews while waiting for that porn to finish downloading, and trying to convince yourself that it’s not your fault that your life is a train wreck. Happily.

Totally Worth It: Winter Survival Edition



Now that Tom and his partner in crime Tom are completely overwhelmed with work, it is time for me to swoop in and reap the rewards of all these sweet, sweet, Superbowl commercial hits. That’s right, come for the article on Pete Rose, stay for the… uh…

Anyhow.  Recently, I stumbled upon an old Jezebel column called “Worth It“, which reviewed a variety of items that ranged from life-changing to really-nice-to-have-around. There were some great recommendations, and I loved the concept for the column because:

(1) Sometimes you discover something so splendiferous (its a real word, Google it) that you can’t help but rant and rave to your friends and family about how awesome it is, and if you’re me…

(2) Once you start raving, you find out that everyone else already knew about it and they think it’s great and you’re left wondering if you’re the only person in the world who didn’t know about this thing and how sweet it is. Well, you’re not the only person. There are other people out there who don’t know yet, and you need to tell them, which brings us back to (1).

One of the “Worth It” recommendations was so worth it, that I was inspired to start my own column. These reviews are unpaid and completely unbiased, in fact, in most cases I lost money.  Also, I’m a tightwad so nothing here will be very expensive. Without further ado:

Totally Worth it: Winter Survival Edition

– Heated Seats


Did you know that you can get heated car seat cushions for under $20?

Sorry, let me back up.

I used to think that “luxury features” for cars like heated seats, heated mirrors etc., were the ultimate example of our spoiled, materialistic consumerism. America, everyone! … That is, until we got an old Buick. Leather seats? Meh. Sky window? Leaky roof waiting to happen. Remote key locks? Okay, but still kind of meh. Heated seats?

Heated seats should be a standard feature for all cars sold in the northern US and Canada.

Everything from "cold" up

Everything from “cold” up

When it’s -2° F, and it takes a good 15 minutes for your engine to warm up enough to even have heat, and you can’t wait in the house while your car idles, and it didn’t snow so it’s not like you got your blood pumping while you dug out your car, and you’re losing all feeling in your extremities… those 15 minutes are the worst.

Unless you have a heated seat. Which takes about 30 seconds to get roaring hot.

After the Buick, I was sure I’d never get a chance to enjoy this experience again. Sure, you could get aftermarket heated seats installed, but those are really expensive! Right? Wrong. The high-quality- professionally installed into the actual seat- automatically shut off when you engine isn’t running so you don’t run down your battery kind… those kind are expensive. But the cheapie, cushion that sits on top of the seat and is held in place with a useless elastic strap, plugs into the cigarette lighter, and totally drains your battery if you forget to unplug it kind? You can pick those up from Amazon or eBay for about $20 a pop.

Two things to keep in mind:

1) Like I said. They will absolutely drain your battery if you forget to unplug them.

2) They are cheap. The first one I got died after two months. But the other one has been going strong for almost two years. For $20 it is still totally worth it!

In Memory of ‘Popsy’ Dixon



Photo by Michael G. Stewart

Photo by Michael G. Stewart

On January 9, 2015 Willie ‘Popsy’ Dixon of the Holmes Brothers passed away of bladder cancer at the age of 72. He had been playing with brothers Wendall and Sherman Holmes for the last 48 years.

In terms of major music news, there was barely a ripple. And that’s a shame. So I figured the only way to memorialize an overlooked artist was to discuss him on a blog that no one reads. It seemed fitting.

In terms of a biography or a review, there are better ones online. And while it seems unfair to marginalize his fine drumming, that’s not the reason I was grieved to hear Popsy had passed away.

It was that voice. That voice that no one has, free of pretension or affectation or anything false. Just this honest voice with that sobbing tremolo that cuts right down to the soul of the listener. That was the Popsy we lost.

With a great artist I can remember when I first heard them. The Holmes Brothers covered Gillian Welch’s song ‘Everything is Free,’ a fine song I suppose, but not really memorable for me. I include it here for contrast.

I was listening to public radio and their version of the song came on. When Popsy started to sing, I stopped everything I was doing.

I couldn’t move until it was over. I couldn’t remember anything like it. At certain points in the verses tears came to my eyes and I couldn’t figure out why. And every day since, I’ve listening to Popsy Dixon sing something.

He is a link to something that doesn’t seem to exist much anymore. He wasn’t trying to sing like anybody or cultivate an image, unlike the ‘reality shows’ we see today. He sang from the heart, and he did it pretty much better than anyone else has, and now we don’t get to have that anymore and it seems pretty cruel.

But, I think he can explain what you’re missing a lot better than I can. Rest in peace, Popsy. Your like will not come again.

The Top 15 Horror Movies of the Last Five Years: Number One


, , , , , , , , , , ,


The Conjuring is an astounding piece of work, and while its at the top of this list, it should be among the greatest horror films of all time. Hopefully with this review, I can explain why that is.

James Wan has quietly followed a very natural progression that culminated in this film. He will be doing the sequel after switching genres to the Fast and Furious franchise, which is the best possible news imaginable. You never want to see a genre director burned out like Takashi Shimizu was, so its good he got to do something else, but at this point, I don’t know who else could make another film like this.

It wasn’t always like this.

If your dog doesn't like something, figure out why.

If your dog doesn’t like something, figure out why.

Wan and partner Leigh Whannell created Saw in 2004, a lean, clever film with an industrial aesthetic that was retroactively condemned as torture porn because of its sequels. But looking objectively at the first film, which is the only one Wan directed, you see a serial killer thriller that stood out from the pack.

Simultaneously, the Hayes brothers, who were the writers of The Conjuring did House of Wax. Again, this film was dismissed as a slasher film with Paris Hilton, which dated it immediately. I recall the film as having a difficult first third, before transforming into a surprisingly effective movie that stood out from other ‘wax horror’ movies.

Looking at the cast and director Jaume Collet-Serra (who went on to direct the bizarre Orphan) its possible the problem was the lack of talent in front of the camera, and the lack of a storyteller behind it.


The music box stuff in this movie is absolute genius.

In 2007, Wan directed Dead Silence. Now, I want to be clear, Dead Silence is a failure as a film, with some serious plot issues and a focus on horrible performances by Donnie Wahlberg and Ryan Kwanten. (Side note: Judith Roberts was so good in this film, it made my head hurt to think that they saw that performance and didn’t give her more screen time. I still don’t understand.)

But Dead Silence showed me a side of James Wan I didn’t know, a guy that liked gothic horror, a guy that was experimenting with sound design to create tension. I saw the influence of Mario Bava in his lighting and in his monster, who reminded me of Bava’s legendary ‘A Drop of Water,’ short film. Dead Silence was a miss, but I wondered if he was onto something.

In 2010, Wan did Insidious, which was the best remake of Poltergeist we’re going to get. Budgetary and scheduling issues dragged the second half of Insidious down, but the first half of the movie is absolutely pulverizing. Leigh Whannell wrote his tightest script yet, and Wan created a fast-paced, very scary film that was less violent than any of his prior work.


Insidious was occasionally chided by ‘critics’ for cheap scares, which is frankly a stupid critique. There is more than one kind of horror film, and jump scares are a legitimate technique for a filmmaker. (As far as I know Evil Dead is still a classic.) Insidious was more exciting than the majority of horror films released at any level. But I get the feeling that that negative feedback was relevant somehow, because The Conjuring has both the slow creeps and great scares.

My first feedback on The Conjuring was about its “R” rating. Producer Walter Hamada explained that the film was intended to be a PG-13 and the MPAA rejected that idea completely. There was no cut they could make to the film, because it was simply too scary.

Now that sounds like gamesmanship, except that the recent environment for horror films has been PG-13 ratings because they tend to make more money. And the MPAA description of the rating, “Rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror,” is extremely nebulous. Having seen the film, I can tell you that there is no nudity, little foul language, little actual violence, and it is quite nearly bloodless.


I don’t know of another film like that.

Seriously, think of another film that was for adults only, solely based on the terror it created and not for any objectionable content? I can’t.

The acting was on point as well, seeing Lili Taylor in anything is usually a good sign, but Patrick Wilson was subtly great (and honestly, he’s displaying more range in his career than I thought at first), the talented Vera Farmiga had something to do, and Ron Livingstone was able to use his comic timing and natural likeability to great dramatic effect. It helps your film a lot when you don’t have a single bad actor.

The Conjuring is about the Peron family, who claimed to be tormented by an ancient witch named Bathsheba Sherman. They were helped by the Warrens. (For the record, I am completely uninterested in debating how ‘real’ the events were, which has been a weird sidebar to the success of the film.)


I had an expectation on how the film would be laid out, perhaps an early jump scare and then a deliberate build, like most films of this type, or Wan might just eschew the beginning and take the first twenty or so minutes and focus on character and mood.

The Conjuring caught me flat-footed by immediately focusing on another case, a rather malignant doll named Annabelle that absolutely is the most paralyzing evil doll that I’ve ever seen in anything ever. I have watched a lot of evil doll movies, and I saw Annabelle concept art before I saw the movie, and I wasn’t blown away by it. Now, I hate looking at the thing.


The Annabelle storyline completely changes the timing of the movie. The Conjuring is impeccably paced, instead of slowly building around the Peron family in a predictable fashion, the movie flips back and forth between the two cases until they eventually intertwine.

There have been plenty of movies with hauntings, but almost none show the savvy that The Conjuring does. Wan knows exactly when you expect to see something and when you don’t, and he teaches a masterclass on manipulating audience expectations. The Conjuring simply wears the viewer out over its run time. In the end, The Conjuring was the scariest film I’ve ever seen in the theater and the audience clearly agreed with me.

When I put this list together, this was number one and it wasn’t close. The only thing that gives me pause is that the sequel intends to focus on the Enfield case, which was the basis for the legendary BBC special Ghostwatch. With this creative team working on that project, it would be a good idea to make sure you’re on the right heart meds before you see it.


A Holiday Wish


, , , , , , , , , ,

Usually when the holiday season rolls around, I like to spend my time as many of you do: Navigating my way through throngs of bitter last minute shoppers, making the case for the Greatest Christmas Movie of All Time, and ragging to friends about how much Christmas music sucks.

This song is the suicide vest in the War on Christmas.

This song is the suicide vest in the War on Christmas.

But this year, with so much tension and negativity leading into and continuing through the holiday season, I’d like to take this opportunity to ask for a gift from all of you: understanding.

You can also give me cash if you want, but the understanding is more important.

You can also give me cash if you want, but the understanding is more important.

Between Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, African Americans were given a stark reminder that we are still far from the true realization of Dr. Kings dream, and the struggle for real equality is far from over. The protests and movements that sprung up in the aftermath are a step in the right direction. However, the criminal behavior invoked by some in the protests, and especially the recent despicable assassination of two NYPD officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, has threatened to derail a meaningful dialogue about race in America – a conversation that must desperately take place.

It is human nature to pick sides in a conflict, and to stand with those you have most in common with when it seems the world is against you. It is an artifact from the days of cavemen, when staying together in tight-knit groups was the difference between surviving and becoming saber-tooth tiger shit.


“Lonely Caveman: It’s what’s for dinner.”

Outsiders, early man soon discovered, were probably not coming around your tribe to hang out, but to take your resources to ensure their own survival –  resources which, since more often than not you were none too keen to just hand over, required them to take your life as well. Our species has since then huddled together, protecting our own against “The Others”.

As time went on, this trait was no longer helpful. In order to advance as a society, we began to need each other more, as individual tribes had made innovations that all humanity could benefit from. So, groups got bigger, but the inherent fear of “The Other” was still ingrained within us –  it was just relaxed to include those who looked similar to us, and mark them as more trustworthy than those who did not.

As time went on and empires rose and fell, it is this primitive relic of evolution that led those in power to create systems to keep those deemed different, scary, “other”, away from those deemed part of the tribe, and to give favorable access to those within it. As such, some groups were able to attain more resources than others, and to look down upon those who had not. These “others” were not simply scary, they were primitive. Uncivilized. Inferior.

And thus, racism was born.

Unfortunately for early man, the concept of regular bathing did not catch on as readily.

Unfortunately for early man, the concept of regular bathing did not catch on as readily.

Time has passed since the initial inception of racist attitudes, when the idea that someone is inferior based solely on their skin color was just an accepted concept. But the damage done to minorities during the implementation of this idea is not as easily fixed as a simple declaration. Attitudes must be changed, and the only way to do that is to be willing to accept and learn from other cultures, to extend our empathy and understanding to all people, not just those with whom we have much in common, but to those with which we have very little.

"What do you MEAN the prequels are better that the original trilogy?!? Are you an imbecile?"

“What do you MEAN the prequels are better that the original trilogy?!? Are you an imbecile?”

This concept is not exclusive to whites: Minorities must be willing to do the same. We must all – Black, White, Latino and Asian – be willing to sit with a person who, despite not possessing any animosity towards minorities, might have attitudes shaped by cultural homogenization and ignorance, and not instantly write that person off before trying to understand their point of view, even if it is misguided.

When talking about race, we must understand that the dialogue has to be not racially and culturally neutral, but rather racially and culturally inclusive. #blacklivesmatter is an important statement and a true one, but we must understand how someone who can not truly know why that statement is important to us as African Americans could interpret it as an insular and even divisive statement. When we as African Americans engage in discussions about race, we must remember that we are a part of the human race, and that our goal is not only to impart that black lives matter, but that #ALLlivesmatter.

We are living in a time of both great technological and cultural advances, and we have only been able to get to this point as a species through the gathering of collective knowledge and experiences from which all society has benefited. It was the collective effort of people of all races, not just minorities, that allowed us to make progress in tackling the challenge of eradicating racism from society, and it will take all of us – Black, White, Latino and Asian – to finish the job.

As another holiday season heads to a close, I wish that all of us can give the gift of understanding, that we remember that it is only through understanding that our society can cure this disease. This holiday, try to look at things from the perspective of someone whose experience is vastly different than your own. It is a fools errand to be color-blind, but rather, try to find what you have in common, and work your way out from there. It will open you up to experiences, ideas, tastes, sights and sounds you may never have discovered on your own, and will help each and every one of us take one step closer to achieving that seemingly impossible dream of racial equality and tolerance.

And, unlike some other gifts you’ll give this year, it won’t cost you a damn thing.

And you won't have to listen to this shit to get it.

And you won’t have to listen to this shit to get it.

 *Author’s note: In my haste to complete my thought about tolerance and understanding of other races, I neglected to include Native American brothers and sisters, which was an error on my part. I did not simply forget to include them, I actually overlooked them completely, which given the subject, was a terrible oversight on my part.

I’d like to apologize, and correct that oversight here. I’m doing it this way, rather than editing the article, to highlight my own mistake, and to demonstrate that cultural bias is not just a problem for whites, but for all of us, and that recognizing it and understanding why it may be offensive is the only way to fix it. #changethename


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 282 other followers