The Last Randomology Post (No Joke)

I know I published a post with a similar headline on April Fool’s, but this one’s not a joke.

I’ll be taking a hiatus from the site because I need to sort a few personal things out. I’ll still be active on Facebook and Twitter, though much less often. I’ll also not be posting Youtube videos for a while.

I honestly have no idea when I’ll return, but I’m hopeful it will be soon. In the meantime, I’ll also be re-posting some old stories and articles, and I’ll certainly keep you all updated on Charcoal Streets and its release date, which is right around the corner.

I’d ask that you keep telling people about the site, share stories, and be patient with me.

I’ll see you around. Take care of yourselves.

A Good Shepherd: Puppets and Bibles

This man once shamed a room of adults after having made silly voices and using puppets. Respect.
This man once shamed a room of adults after having made silly voices and using puppets. Respect.

December 21, 2012

Many of you who are regular readers will not be shocked by my condemnation of religious groups seeking to impose their will on the world at large. You will find no shortage of anger at those who commit acts of violence or oppression in the name of a holy book or a god. You’ll be familiar with my utter contempt with people who pray for peace and love and then spread hate.

It’d be easy to think I have a dislike for anything religious. You may be shocked to learn, then, that I hold a very high opinion of Pastor Stephen Wallace of the Crossroads Church here in Laredo, Texas.

When I was about nine or so, we started going to Crossroads, and that’s when I became familiar with the concept of a children’s ministry. It’s where I met Pastor Stephen. He was a man with long hair and glasses who played a guitar and sang songs with the children. Imagine, if you will, a California surfer entering middle age, maybe gaining a few pounds, and that’s Pastor Stephen.

He wanted to show children that forgiveness is always possible. Every week was filled with stories from both his life and the Bible. He showed me how playing and laughing have a place even in a church. Puppets, too. He wanted to have fun, and his energy was infectious. When I was twelve and finally too old to stay in the children’s service, I was dismayed. I would be leaving to finally go to the adult service.

I acclimated, though, and still saw Pastor Stephen in the mornings and after the service. New generations of children came and went. His children grew up. I grew up, too.

Childhood’s End by ~ahermin on deviantART

One day, Pastor Norman told us that Pastor Stephen would be giving the sermon to the adult service.

To say I was intrigued would be an understatement.

And right there, in front of old ladies with nice blouses and pins, with men wearing cowboy boots and suits, in front of a full house of working men and women, Pastor Stephen pulled out the puppets and guitar.

He handled that crowd as well as anyone I’ve ever seen. There was laughter from the congregation, something too rare in a church service. Genuine laughter. Once that was said and done and everyone had a good high from singing, the real message began. Pastor Stephen’s sermon focused on how Christians had become too judgmental and uptight. Right there, those men in cowboy boots suddenly looked uncomfortable. I’m sure many of them hunted and had stared at charging wildlife, but Pastor Stephen actually made them nervous.

“I have a secret to tell you,” he told the hushed room. “I’m sure this will be a surprise to many of you, but having a glass of wine or a beer is not going to send you to hell.”

A nervous chuckle.

“I know, I know,” he continued. “That’s common knowledge. But I’ve heard some of you talk. I’ve seen what you do, and while many of us are perfectly happy to judge others for what we think are sins and immoral behavior, we fail to look at our own attitude.”

I’ve rarely been in a room as quiet or awkward as that.

He continued to chastise everyone who would pass judgment yet knowingly commit the same sins. Enjoying life and having fun, he also made sure to point out, where not against God’s will. Life could be fun. Life was life. If you spent your entire existence looking for the bad things and being on edge because you were afraid God would smite you and bad things would happen, you were missing the point of being alive. It wasn’t about being a saint or a monk. It was about being a good person.

“Chill, so sayeth the Lord,” he concluded.

I have a Bible my parents gave me when I was younger. I wrote that on one of the blank pages near the back. I figured that was a quote worthy of a religion.

Humility by ~magicdash on deviantART

Pastor Stephen Wallace passed away this morning after a fight with cancer. He was given at least month, but that time was cut short. I wish his family had at least this one final Christmas to spend with him, but I take comfort in knowing that they knew the time was upon them. They had the chance to say their goodbyes and say the things that needed to be said.

Stephen Wallace was an example of what it meant to not only love life, but your neighbors. He lived as an example and was one of the most approachable, life-loving affirmations of what it means to love what you do.

Goodbye, Pastor Stephen. The pain is gone. You’re at peace.

Rest, good shepherd.

You’re Better Than You Think

Somewhere under all that ink lies an actual work.
Somewhere under all that ink lies an actual work.

December 19, 2012

With the semester ending, it’s time to look back at the students and the work they’ve done recently. I can recall all those sessions over the last five months and I’m once again struck by a virulent belief in the school population.

Kids, listen to me because I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again.

You’re better writers than you think. I’ve had nearly every tutoring session and class start with someone saying how bad he or she is in regards to writing and school work. In a way, they’re right. They lack the knowledge of structure and fallacies. They’ve never been exposed to these concepts before.

Writing by ~Likethenight94 on deviantART

But VERY few people are bad writers. If all you need is to learn format and some grammar, those are mechanical issues. Those are things that can be learned. But everyone has something he or she wants to say. One of the biggest secrets about writing is that good writers aren’t necessarily “good writers.”

They’re good editors. A good writer can look at something and figure out what works and what doesn’t, what should be rewritten and what should be expanded. A good writer can place him or herself in the mind of the reader and see how a particular piece of writing. Most of the freshmen I see can understand that their writing is not the greatest. However, it’s when they stop trying to fix it that they become “bad writers.” Sure, it helps to have a good imagination and come up with an original idea, but that’s not all of it.

Editing and rewriting as just as important as finishing that first draft. Learning to recognize what works and what doesn’t work is important. No first draft is ever perfect. Hemmingway said it best. First drafts are always shit.

Day 100: A Writer’s Workplace by ~umerr2000 on deviantART

But that doesn’t mean the first version is the last and the best that can be done. Sure, a professional writer can probably spit out something akin to a first-year writing student’s final draft on the first go, but that’s practice and training.

I was once asked to check a novel for a college professor. The novel was 800 pages of the worst drivel I have ever read. Ever. For anything. The plot was nonsensical. The grammar was terrible. The characters were unoriginal and completely unbelievable. Let me put it this way. One character who started out as a dog groomer eventually became an elite commando heading into South America after getting some lessons on the firing range.

And it was supposed to be based on true events.

It does go to show, however, that while editing and revising are important, it’s the imagination that’s important. Good writing starts off with a good idea, then gets polished into the final product.

Most students I see have a good idea to start. Maybe they don’t realize it, but they do.

So stop beating yourselves up for not being “good writers.” There are writers and writers who don’t try and give up. It’s the same as anything else in life. Some people have innate talent. Training and persistence, however, go a long way.

And now, let’s clear our minds with the full-length Star Trek Into Darkness teaser. Can you say, “Squee”?

Guns, Bats, and Dingbats: Why the Right Can’t Talk About Guns

These are “tools” designed for “peace.”

December 11, 2012

There’s been a lot of gun talk recently since the murder-suicide of Jovan Belcher and the recent Florida murder of Jordan Davis by a Michael Dunn, who claimed to be defending himself from nefarious teens with loud music. In fact, maybe it’s me, but it seems that senseless deaths and massacres were the big gun stories this year. And now, of course, Fox has to go and offer their take on this very touchy issue. A lot of people on Facebook are also running to the protection of these defenseless firearms.

Let’s start with the conservative right-wing noise machine, though. It’s black people’s fault. I’m not even joking about this. Just take a look here. Also, check out the flippant way Gutfield here just dismisses kids being killed by guns as just gang members killing each other off.

Gun violence is an “urban problem,” just some kids in gangs shooting each other. Sorry, but that’s crap. Statistically, rural areas, especially in the south, have higher instances of gun violence than urban areas. Of course, whenever someone at Fox says “urban,” you know what they really mean. It’s the same position they had regarding welfare. The one where they said welfare was hurting the black community.

Oh right. Whites use more welfare than blacks. But never mind facts.

The conservative circle-jerk, though, got ugly when Fox suggested that female victims of violence should just make better decisions. The advice was not, you know, for men to stop being violent. Or for us to find the root cause of all this violence in our country. Nope. Blame the victim.


This dribble from Fox would be offensive and rage-inducing enough, but I also saw something floating around Facebook over the last few days. Feast your eyes:

Wow. Yeah. Uhm, baseball bats?

Sorry, but no cigar.

Here are the real stats according to those organizations. You may notice that blunt objects account for a VERY small part of this and firearms account for more than two thirds of the total. The graph on Facebook uses some weird Martian math we humans haven’t perfected yet, but the bottom line is that guns help crimes. You want to talk about the Second Amendment and its role in helping citizens defend themselves? Wonderful, but don’t tell me bats kill more people than guns. Don’t tell me people go on mass batting sprees. Don’t tell me children get killed by not knowing how to use a bat.

First of all, a gun is a weapon, not a tool. A car is designed to move people and good from one point to another. Its status as a “killer” on that list is because people don’t properly use them. It’s intended purpose is transport. The same thing goes for a knife. Drug abuse and falls hurt the person too stupid to know what he or she is doing. Drugs, I might add, are also used for religious ceremonies in certain cultures. And many of the things on that list are ACCIDENTS. How many gun deaths are from accidents? How many are intentional? That’s another huge difference.

When properly used, a gun kills something. When improperly used, a gun kills something. It’s a weapon. See the difference?

If we’re going to have the gun discussion, we need to all be on the same page of reality. Stop talking about guns as though they were some holy artifact of American pride. A gun is not a tool. It is a weapon. Firearms have been involved in more deaths than any other weapon and our country has the highest homicide rates in the modern world. Areas with the most lax gun laws have higher homicide rates. Most NRA members support tougher gun laws, registration, and background checks, but the idiots at the top (including Ted Nugent) say “No” because if we can track guns and make sure criminals have a harder time getting to them, then apparently scary Obama and the communists will invade America.

Yes, there is such a thing as a responsible gun owner, but a responsible gun owner should also be aware of the damage that a firearm can do.  The bulk of the NRA knows this and wants tougher gun laws. Believe it or not, I’m pro-Second Amendment, but I’d like to make it harder for sickos to buy a thousand rounds of ammo before they shoot up a school. I’d like to know convicted criminals can’t get their hands on a Beretta. I want to know that if someone owns a gun, he or she is well-trained and continues to be well-trained. You have to at least be able to read a sign to drive a car, but apparently, asking for mental stability when purchasing an item that is strictly a weapon is a sign of fascism.

A gun isn’t a blanket. Stop clinging to it like a five-year old.

Those Wacky Terrorists

Just your average screw-ball romantic comedy featuring genocidal madmen and Nazi superweapons…

November 26, 2011

How long is long enough for “too soon” to be long ago enough?

More specifically, when can we start using real-world events for fiction? I recently managed to catch a piece of the film Iron Sky, a dark satire of modern world events, American attitudes, and racism that tells the story of Nazis on the moon who have decided to finally invade Earth after hiding for 60 years.

Yes, Nazis. On the moon. With spaceships. Just try to not make too much sense of it.

Iron Sky Wallpaper by ~Dominator501st on deviantART

The movie has its moments, such as the gorgeous space battle between weaponized space satellites and the Nazi fleet, the Sarah Palinesque American president and her shallow bid for reelection, and one moon Nazis conflict with her own morality after learning the true history of Nazism. Overall, not perfect, but it did get to me wonder.

When did Nazis become acceptable as comedic villains? As dark as the movie could get, the villains were over-the-top and as comical as villains on any old movie serial. Nazis have been fodder for pulp action for decades now, and Mel Brooks led the charge, I believe. He once stated that his goal was to make Hitler so ridiculous that no one would take him seriously as a leader. Maybe it’s worked. Brooks, though, is also a World War 2 veteran and was at the Battle of the Bulge, so as far as rights to mock Hitler, Brooks is covered.

But when can we start making fun of modern-day despots and terrorists? The Film Four Lions tried to do this and was met with positive acclaim. The sting of terrorism, though, it very much fresh for many people. Nazism pretty much died with Hitler, and although modern-day Nazis still exist, they are labeled as nuts and whackos, radicals without a home who have been fought and defeated, yet they still cling to an ideology that sent the world into war.

+iKillu+ by ~MadmanV3N0M on deviantART

Terrorism, though, is much more complex. It still exists today, and between drone strikes and invasions, there are many who view it as a legitimate tool to fight oppression and bring vengeance upon the enemy. American imperialism is also very much tangled with exceptionalism and other extreme patriot movements.

The key is that comedy is aimed at the perpetrators of these heinous crimes, not the victims or the crimes themselves. For example, I’m not sure anyone would seriously think a comedy about the holocaust would be either appropriate or funny. Comedy based around terrorists, then, must be about the perpetrators, not their crimes.

Unless you’re racist.

Likewise, it seems we’re not too preoccupied about making movies based on recent events. How long did it take for 9/11 movies to come out? A few years? Television shows set in the modern world obviously had to address these concerns, but how soon is too soon to make a drama about terrorism? 24 was well into production when 9/11 occurred. Now, we have Homeland.

It’ll be interesting to look back on this time from twenty, maybe thirty years from now and see just how our entertainment dealt with a dark period in our history. Will we groan at our dash to capitalize on tragedy or see terrorists reduced to inept, albeit scary, movie monsters?

Just something to think about.

In any case, here’s a group of people who really wish they’d stayed in bed. See you later, and keep sharing posts!

D&D Next Preview

November 20, 2012

We finally got a chance to go through a playtest session of the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons, and I had a chance to take notes, see how my players worked with the new rules, and get a general feeling for how this new edition will or will not appeal to players.

In my head, however, I just kept screaming “SQUEEEE!”

The Set-Up

I’m part of the D&D Next playtest group, which means I get access to the new materials as they are designed and I, along with hundreds of others, report back what we feel about the new changes.

The new edition feels like a strange hybrid of 3.5 of 4E, a bit like what Pathfinder tried to do, but this one is much more streamlined and open-ended. If you want to skip the technical stuff, read on ahead, but for those who are wondering, here are some major changes from 4E to Next:

  • Class cherry-picking appears to be back. Players will be able to take levels in whatever classes they want instead of having to choose multiclass feats from a single class beside their starting class. This means your fighter/ rogue/ wizard rides again!
  • Backgrounds and Specialties, new optional rules, can provide minor abilities such as spellcasting, contacts, and military ranks.
  • Healing surges are gone, instead replaced with Hit Dice, a pool of dice you can roll throughout the day to regain hit points. Once you roll all your Hit Dice, you better rest for the night to regain them.
  • It seems the “standard pantheon” will be done away with. Clerics, for example, get special abilities based on the god they serve, but these are specifically designated as the Lightbringer, the Trickster, etc. Text indicates this is done so players can create their own pantheons.
  • Powers are gone, instead replaced with both maneuvers and spells. Martial characters like rogues and fighters get to choose from a set of maneuvers which cover everything from reactions, to attacks, to fighting styles, to weapon tricks. Maneuvers have virtually no restrictions aside from what class you have a level in when you can choose one. It seems you will be able to multiclass rogue/ fighter, for example, and get to pick from almost everything on the list. These abilities can be used at will.
  • Vancian spellcasting is back! Fans of older edition will remember the age-old question for clerics and wizards: “Have you prepared your spells today?” Spellcasters must once again prepare spells that are lost as soon as they are cast, but there are slight differences. Characters don’t get extra spells per day based on high ability scores. Instead, clerics become more spontaneous, gaining the ability to cast from a set pool they choose every day. They can cast one spell several times or cast several throughout the day until they run out. Wizards also have the option to choose spellcasting traditions to give them at-will spells they can cast as long as they wish.
  • Solo, elite, and minion monsters are gone.
  • There is an actual condition called “intoxicated,” once and for all eliminating the need to cherry-pick conditions when a player decides to hit the ol’ dwarven ale.
  • Defenses and attacks do not scale up, but hit points, hit dice, and skills do increase, albeit gradually. This means that low-level monsters can still be used at higher levels to function as “minions,” or one-shot-one-kill monsters.
  • One of the biggest changes, and the one Wizards of the Coast will help unite the varying factions pushing for AD&D, 3.5, and 4E, is the fact that the new system is modular. If you’re a fan of old-school, classic D&D, you simply play the game as is. If you want a 3.5 or even AD&D experience, you can bring in the specialties (feats, special abilities, etc), and powers. In essence, they’re broken up the  rules into distinct packages that DMs and players can choose to use to create the kind of game they wish.

Our party was 4th-level and consisted of a hafling fighter, an elven cleric of trickery, a dwarven wizard (academic tradition), and a human rogue.

Their names were, respectably, Chikis, Sadie Moon Blue, Vorg Hammertime, and Kent. Obviously, Kent was the freak in the group.

Now, for those interested in the way this all played out, here we go.

The Good

The game did away with powers and a lot of other crap and went back down to basics: adventuring. Since there are no more encounter powers, the adventure design philosophy went back to a day’s worth of adventures. That may seem academic, but think about it. You can no longer just rest and get your hit points back or get all your encounters again after a skirmish.

This makes adventuring more tactical and much more dangerous. When confronting a single low-level spellcaster and her thugs, the party made a few mistakes and the rogue wound up getting a shocking grasp to the face… and got knocked to 0 HP. After getting healed by the others, he had to contend with a handful of HP from his lone healing potion, his Hit Dice, and the protection of his comrades.

It was a sobering return to the days of clerics (AKA armored first aid kits) and healing potions, and it worked very well. Players knew they could no longer be reckless and just hope for everything to reset.It gave a slight edge over the 3.5 system, but it didn’t turn the PCs into walking hit point reservoirs like 4E.

The simplicity with the system is also a breath of fresh air. We’ve been playing 4E for almost four years now and the group is at 25th level and on its way to fighting gods, primordials, and horrors from Lovecraft’s nightmares, but even at low levels, DMing was a CHORE.

The new streamlined rules are closer to 3.5, but without the baggage or ten thousand monster special abilities. This doesn’t mean the flavor is gone. The orcs, for example, felt like brutes and powerhouses while the bandits still felt crafty, mobile, and sneaky.

One of the biggest changes, though, is the ability to do almost anything you wish with the new Contest rules. Want to flip that table over and knock someone off-balance? Make a Strength versus Dexterity check. Want to grab the guard’s sword in the middle of the fight? Trip someone? Push them? There are quick, easy rules for all of that. Plus, the new edition has the advantage/disadvantage rule. If conditions are very favorable (such as you having just thrown dirt in the orc’s eyes or having flipped said table over to knock someone off-balance), you can roll your d20 twice and use the best result. If, however, you have unfavorable conditions (you’re drunk or just happened to be set on fire before trying to concentrate), you roll twice and take the lower one. It’s a quick, easy way to handle modifiers.

The Bad

There are only four classes out right now (five including the recently-added monk), and the classes only go up to level 10 for the playtest. This, however, is a product of the system still being in development, so it’s forgivable.

My biggest gripe, however, is with the way skills and damage don’t scale up. I foresee a major problem like with 3.5 wherein the players will beat on an enemy for an hour and still only deal a small amount of damage relative to Hit Points. This damage progression was fixed in 4E, but there isn’t anything like it in the new edition. Maneuvers and high-level spells might offset it, though, so we’ll see.

The fragmenting of skills is another. For example, was there a big push to make Knowledge: Heraldry, History, and Warfare skills? Any need to split Perception into four skills: Spot, Listen, Track, and Search? That was one of the nice fixes with the last edition.

Some classes also feel much less adaptable. Without a solid set of at-will powers, wizards and clerics can easily find themselves at a loss once all their spells are expended whereas fighters adn rogues can keep regenerating their maneuvers.

The Verdict

Overall, much more good than bad. The new edition is still in its early stages and things are changing all the time. For example, last month, they released the initial drafts of the sorcerer and warlock builds… and promptly took them back after a huge negative reaction in order to retool them.

At the end of the day, it’s like they took the lessons learned from 4th edition on ease of play and applied them to the customizability of 3.5 while streamlining the whole system. Some parts, like the skills, still feel very clunky, but since this edition is being playtested by fans BEFORE release, I’m somewhat hopeful that the final product will fix most of these problems.

And now, as promised, a few picks from our game. Have fun, and I’ll see you around.

Fired, Broke, and Beaten… Best Thing Ever

Seriously. That thing annoys the crap out of me.

November 9, 2012

Four years ago, I was in Washington DC, working as a speechwriter. I was working 50+ hours a week but making decent money. I was also freelancing on the side to help pay off the debt I’d incurred moving to DC. I was staying with a friend in Indiana who was kind enough to open the door for me while I found a job, but had to leave after only one week. The job started literally the day after I arrived and managed to find a place to live. I was stressed, lonely, and barely slept, but I was prepared to work even harder to be the best I could be and make my mark and possibly a new career…

Then… things happened. And I was $3,000 down, jobless, and had to pack what few belongings I had left into my car and drive and hope for the best. Longest 40 hours of my life.

Now, I’m making less than a third of my former salary…

But I met the love of my life upon returning to Laredo, I have a job with two bosses that I respect, teach children how to write using Mythbusters and Batman, have the time to write and do what makes me happy, started, and have a kick-ass D&D group. And did I mention my AWESOME wife?

All I’m saying is… plans change. The world kicks you in the tender spots. You know what? Get drunk. Cry. Meet up with friends and tear it up. Pack everything up and drive through snow and hope you don’t die… and when you get to your next destination… well, you never know.

Someone asked me upon returning, “What are you going to do now?” I just said, “Start over. What else is there to do?”

I guess as I sit here editing Charcoal Streets and reading the news for a new video for Monday, I look over at my wife working on her graduate studies, translating a new document, and I can’t believe I might have missed all this. I might have missed her.

Just four years ago, the world seems simple and difficult. Now, it’s still difficult, and I may not be making the kind of money I was making before, but I’m happy. Plus, I get to prove that I can bounce back from something like that and make the people who doubted me eat crow.

What more could I possibly want?

Oh right! We’re going to watch Mister Bean, Parks and Recreation, and Star Trek and drink Blue Moon later. WORLD. GOT. EVEN. BETTER.

Man on a Mission (To Self-Destruct)

I’m going to listen to the Dresden Dolls until the pain goes away…

November 6, 2012

Politics, religion, and sex are the three most taboo topics in the world. That might explain some of the weird searches people use to get to this site…

I’d be lying if I said I felt really terrible for not posting as much the last two months, but the truth is that the website has really take its toll on me. Yes, it kept me writing. Yes, it’s been a blast hearing from all my readers, your wonderful comments on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, everywhere. At the same time, it’s exhausting. The research, the cross-checking, everything.

I was in Washington during the last presidential election. I remember receiving the first batch of “Obama is from Kenya” emails at the office. I remember walking into the chief of staff’s office and asking if he’d seen this. The “WTF” look on his face as he realized these people were serious is something I’ll never forget. I asked, half-in-jest, if it was acceptable to write an email to send back to these concerned citizens and call them the frakin’ morons they rightfully should be called.

I was told to be as polite as possible. And I was.

But I never forgot how I had to sit there and write a letter that was the equivalent of telling a charging rhino to sit. The whole time, I just sat there and thought of what I really wanted and needed to say:

I’m sorry, I agree that you have concerns, but I can’t really say that you’re the biggest fucking idiot I’ve ever met since my job depends upon my boss making everyone happy at the expense of not showing any spine or actual conviction. However, I understand you like to believe reality is a big conspiracy against you and the scary black man is going to take away Jesus and apple pie, and while such a scenario is about as likely as me gaining the powers of the Q Continuum just because I’m bored, I have to hold your hand and tell you that you’re right. Why? Because while liberals may have mistakenly latched on to the idea of relativism, the Right took it even further and declared that reality itself is so subjective that tangible, verifiable facts do not matter if you believe strongly enough. They believe that they can change reality by simply stating a bald-faced lie. Sure, I’ve been working in this office for only a few months, but even I know that both sides stretch the truth, exaggerate, and so on. However, I would present to you the following analogy.

Both of us are asked how to better move a couch up the stairs. My side suggests getting a bunch of people together to lift it, move it over the railings, and getting a few people inside to maneuver it through the door. Unwieldy, sure, and perhaps inefficient, but at least it worked. Your solution? Empty a gun into the sofa and hope God pulls it up.

I’m sorry. I’m supposed to be tactful, right? Positive? Okay.

Dear sir and/or madam, I am quite positive you have a massive learning disability, possibly self-inflicted from years of watching Fox and listening to Limbaugh. But just because you’re offended, you’re not right. Just because ten thousand people say it, it doesn’t make it true. Dismissing science, logic, and maturity does not make you quaint and homey. It makes you a child.

But I’ll be nice to you. Because it’s mean to be mean to children. Unless they’re idiots and refuse to learn from their mistakes. You know what? Forget it. You’re an idiot.

I’m pretty sure that was the moment I decided to try to reach out and educate people, maybe get a discussion going. I know some people will never be swayed by facts and experience, but I’m thankful for the things I’ve taught and for the things I myself have learned.

But frankly, the last year has been exhausting. I’ll be glad when the election is over. I’ll be more glad when I can finally tell myself I’ve edited Charcoal Streets as much as it’s going to get edited.

Good night. See you tomorrow, and remember…

Stories don’t tell children dragons exist. Stories tell children the dragon can be beaten.

Specter Spectacular Review

If you read horror with more than one light one, you don’t DESERVE HORROR!

October 30, 2012

While horror movies are all fine and good for this time of the year, nothing really tops a good book in a dark room while you’re wrapped in a blanket. To that end, I picked up a copy of Specter Spectacular and read through it to get my ghost story fix on.

The Good

The stories range from the witty to the macabre, so there’s something for everyone. Those stories that go for creeps certainly deliver on this promise. “Alabaster” has a suitably atmospheric cabin in the woods and a mysterious location, as does “The Little House at Bull Run Creek” with its abandoned Southern manor and mysterious noises. The beginning story, “My Rest a Stone,” has a suitably creepy child narrating the events on a life boat as everyone loses his or her mind.

The stories that really handled description well were my favorites. Horror is all about putting yourself in the characters’ situation, empathizing to the point where you actually

Perhaps my favorite story, however, was “Death and Taxes,” about a ghost desperate to be scary. The very British humor would not have been out of place in a Monty Python sketch, and while I may have been thinking Harry Potter, I could very much picture John Cleese as Jeck, the hapless ghost. On the other end of things, “Wendigo” was very subtle and had wonderful characters to latch on to, as well as a story that was equal parts unsettling and sad.

The Bad

As far as ghost stories and scary tales go, few of the entries in the anthology actually gave me chills. Then again, I’ve been pretty desensitized to those sorts of things and it takes a lot to scare or creep me out. That’s not to say, though, that this is a terrible thing.

Some stories also felt forced. “The Haunts of Albert Einstein,” for example, felt like more of an overtly-long description instead of a story. There were other missed opportunities for great stories. For example, “The Secret of Echo Cottage” was all about a World War II site that was now a home to a pregnant couple. The final twist in the end was obvious, at least to me, but by playing with those expectations, each story could have easily been something different and much more subtle.

The Final Word

While it didn’t give me nightmares, it certainly was fun to read. I enjoyed the patchwork of stories and styles and many of the stories, especially the funny ones, were a good change of pace. If there’s a sequel, I’m defiantly buying it.

Overall, a good read. 8 out of 10.

You can pick up a copy here and see what others have said.

And speaking of ghost stories, let’s see if the remake of Evil Dead is any good. It has all the players behind the camera, but I still think it needs Ash. Tell me what you think in the comments below.

Macho Mitt and the Latino Vote

The man is about as compassionate as a hungry shark. And as understanding as a 1930’s Disney animator.

I’ve had it up to here with the Romneys and their condescending attitude towards Hispanics, Latinos, the working class, and anyone who wasn’t fortunate enough to be born with silver spoon up their nose.

And if I sound angry, it’s because I really am angry.

Let’s break this down, shall we? It really got going a few weeks ago when Ann Romney stuck her Prada in her mouth and tried to explain to Latinos why we weren’t voting for her husband. Then, Romney went ahead and dipped himself in Jersey Shore Juice before going on a Hispanic channel in an attempt to appear to be “one of us.” Then we have his now-infamous remarks from the 47% fundraiser where he jokingly claimed that being Mexican would be a huge advantage to him in this election.

During this week’s debate, however, they decided to load another bullet into the gun they’d just spent a month unloading into their own foot. Apparently, the reason they’re gaining a lead is because they’re convincing Latinos that Romney is more a tough, macho leader while Obama appears weak. This could also factor in to why Tagg Romney said he wanted to punch Obama after the president called Romney a liar.

As a Hispanic citizen and a first-generation immigrant, I would like to now address all members of the Romney family and campaign.

Ladies? Gentlemen? Dressage horses? Shut up. Just stop it. Right now. This instant.

There’s a reason Romney is polling thirty or forty points behind Obama among Latinos, and yes, the gap is closing, but that’s expected after a pair of weak performances on Univision and then the first debate. As was said wonderfully here, it’s not that we think Romney is white and rich and that’s why we don’t want to vote for him. We’re not voting for Romney because he talks down to us. Now, this latest set of comments from him and his son show just how he thinks he’ll win us over.

Not with proper immigration reform. Not by allowing the children of illegal immigrants a chance to become citizens. Not by addressing women’s issues. Not by supporting an economic plan that will help not just us but the whole country.

He’ll win by showing he’s more of a man and by posturing, by appealing to Hispanics’ love of “machismo.”

Look here, Mittens. Firstly, thanks for characterizing us as posturing machistas who need a fierce leader and shun signs of cowardice. In essence, we have the leadership requirements of Vikings. Or Klingons. Neither is too appealing.

Secondly, please don’t tell me you’re showing real bravado and strength as I’m sure you believe that we believe a man should act. A real man owns up to his mistakes. A real man values honesty. A real man accepts the consequences of his actions and learns from them. You are not a man. You’re a child who was cursed with wealth and a myriad of opportunities many of us will never know, but please, keep telling me how All Mighty-Whitey is going to solve my problems if I just shut up and vote against my own interests for a man who wouldn’t know “macho” if John Wayne himself stomped on his head.