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Welcome Home, College Football!

Hey there, College Football. Have a seat and grab a cold one. Great to see you! We've missed you around these parts for a few months, but your formal arrival in my living room means a lot, and I'm damned glad you're here.

You see, we love baseball. We love the October Classic. We love the Orioles, and everything about going to the ballpark and watching the pageantry of BP and the wonderful game-within-a-game of the pitcher versus the hitter. All of that is riveting, and we'll always love the boys of summer. Seriously can't wait for the playoffs...

But there's just something special about your arrival on the scene. The weather cools. The leaves turn. There are thoughts of Halloween and turkey and pine trees in the living room on the horizon. There's all of that amazing renewal that accompanies the start of the new fall term. There's the hope of the chase for a conference championship and the debates around the water cooler and the love--nay, the pure joy--in knowing that the Men of Oregon will once again take to the gridiron.

It all starts tonight! It starts with those plucky (pun intended) little rodents from Corvallis, invading Minnesota for a match-up with the Golden Gophers (rodents in their own right). For this night, at least, Go Beavers.

Thanks, College Football. Glad to have you back, and here's hoping for a memorable year...



While it's true that the title of this post certainly applies to my activity on this blog, the fact is that I'm posting this little update on the fleeting nature of sleep. The last eighteen months have been a whirlwind. It has been one of the most productive, satisfying, frustrating, wonderful, and bewildering periods of my life, and I'm looking at the healthy, happy reason for all of that as I type this, the first remnants of a tropical depression just whipping the branches of the old live oak out in front of my home office.

Luke David Powell is something of a miracle. 

Jeanne and I had a rough time in 2015, with everything culminating in some bad news last summer that I don't need to get into. We went from soaring heights to devastating lows in a period of about ten days. Life is like that sometimes, of course, and when the dust cleared we clung to each other and our daughter and counted our blessings. Something changed in our home, and it was a healthy change. I thought we were moving forward, just the three of us.

But I still had some hope. I still wanted to try for another little one, and I kept the faith and, pretty soon, we found out that we were pregnant. We were elated, but we were also guarded. It's hard to invest yourself so fully when a large part of you is also scared to death.

The baby did well, though. He hung in there and, ten minutes before boarding our flight home to Portland, Oregon, for Christmas, we got the news that everything was perfect with his health and we could fully freak out in joy.

And freak out we did. I'll never forget the way the three of us hit the floor with happiness. He was healthy, and he would be with us soon!

Luke grew and grew and grew in there. By the time we were in range to deliver, we had to go with a c-section because he was so danged big.

He joined us a few weeks ago, and we've had a fantastic summer with him. He's a happy baby. He has the most beautiful mischievous grin, and he dreams like a champ. I don't know what the little guy could be thinking about, but he often laughs in his sleep. He is bright, aware, and just a joy to be with.

I'm teaching nights this term and staying home with him during the day. Three days into that schedule and we already have our routines. No fussing, no mess, no sadness. Just love in the simple act of being together. He eats like a champ, and we hit the YMCA together, sing together, walk together, clean together, play together, and write together.

It's just like it was with Lyla, and those were some of the happiest months of my life. It's such a blessing to have another chance at that time, and we're making the best of it.

Oh, and it's true that I'm a little sleep-deprived at the moment. I could really use six uninterrupted hours... But it's better--infinitely so--than the alternative, and it's hard to say just how thankful I am for that.


Movie Review: Annabelle (2014)

2014's Annabelle, a prequel to the excellent chiller The Conjuring (2013), was a much better film than I expected going in. I hadn't necessarily avoided taking a look at it, but I also didn't seek it out after I had read so many poor critical reviews of the film. Just as an aside, I do think that film-review aggregation has had a net negative effect on my film viewing habits. I'm at a place now where I don't really do any advance critical research on a film if it's one that I really want to see. This is just another effect of the Internet. When we used to get a review or two in The Oregonian (by the wonderful Shawn Levy, still my favorite film critic) entertainment section, I enjoyed gleaning a few thoughts on a film prior to heading to the theaters. But seeing triple digits of reviews all grouped together and then viewing that damn meta-critical score is ultimately counter-productive to my viewing habits. 

I give this film a B+ mark, and I liked it for a variety of reasons. The casting was strong. Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton have great chemistry together, and their turns as young parents in 1964 California were believable and compelling. Wallis shows a lot of strength and vulnerability in her performance, and I liked that Horton put so much faith in her reports of what was happening in both of their homes. His trust is believable here. I'd like to think, skeptic that I am, that I could implicitly trust Jeanne if she were being haunted by a demon from Hell! 

Speaking of that, the occult aspects of the storyline deftly fit the doll's origin story. There was (and still is, truth be told) some weird stuff going on with cults back in that era, and the film's first act is both terrifying and convincing exposition for this particular story. 

The set design was awesome. Suburban California, complete with unlocked front doors, wide, inviting porches, and all of those Cadillac cruisers, was nicely rendered. The special effects were strong, and there are a few of genuinely scary sequences in the film. Mia's troubles in the sub-basement are hard to watch without squirming, and that scene in which the child runs at the door is absolutely chilling. 

The film, like The Conjuring before it, has a real sense of its place in the pantheon of this type of horror story. It's got so much of Rosemary's Baby in it that I can't think the name "Mia" is anything other than allusion. Wallis's believable descent into paranoia mirrors Farrow's in that film, and in both stories it's a heart-breaking thing to watch. 

I liked this movie a lot. It's a simple story of demonic possession that does a great job of filling in some gaps in what has become the best horror franchise going. Definitely worth the time to look at, and a truly scary movie in a sea of marginal films...


Unbelievable Draft Success!

Extremely pleased with the draft that Dave Caldwell and his staff put together this past weekend. The Jaguars upgraded the defense in a major way, adding quality talent in particular at linebacker (Myles Jack) and in the secondary. That guy above, Jalen Ramsey, is a serious athlete. He tested off the charts in the vertical, the 40-yard dash, and with his lifting. He's an explosive player with a lot of versatility.

With the Jags adding Jackson, Gipson, and Amukamura in free agency, that side of the ball should be much improved. Add back in a healthy Marks and this team can make quantum leaps forward. Heck, if they improve on third down alone they'll win three more games. 

I'm excited about the future. Time to get those season tickets...


The Same Deep Waters as You, by Brian Hodge

I've been reading Lovecraft's Monsters (expertly edited by Ellen Datlow) and really enjoying the diversity of the stories and the strength of the writing. It's a diverse collection, with a lot of unique voices. Most of the stories stray from the verbose prose style that plagues so much Lovecraftian fiction (particularly the entries by Laird Barron and Kim Newman), and I found Brian Hodge's "The Same Deep Waters as You" particularly unsettling.

“What you see there is what you get,” he said. “Have you ever heard of a town in Massachusetts called Innsmouth?”
Kerry shook her head. “I don’t think so.”
“No reason you should’ve. It’s a little pisshole seaport whose best days were already behind it by the time of the Civil War. In the winter of 1927–28, there was a series of raids there, jointly conducted by the FBI and U.S. Army, with naval support. Officially—remember, this was during Prohibition—it was to shut down bootlegging operations bringing whiskey down the coast from Canada. The truth…” He took back the iPad from her nerveless fingers. “Nothing explains the truth better than seeing it with your own eyes.”
“You can’t talk to them. That’s what this is about, isn’t it?” she said. “You can’t communicate with them, and you think I can.”
Escovedo smiled, and until now, she didn’t think he had it in him. “It must be true about you, then. You’re psychic after all.”
It's a very creepy tale, unfolding at first very quickly and then stretching out over weeks and months. Kerry is a fully formed protagonist given an impossible task, and its her human ties--her fear of the water and love for her daughter--that makes it so easy to relate to her. 

I wasn't expecting the ending of this one, and it was delightful to be surprised like that. It took me a day to process it, as I had to decide whether I liked the story or not. 

I do. 

It's a horrible, terrible, unsettling final act, so it succeeds as top-shelf horror. Kudos to Brian Hodge on this one...


The Philosophy of Horror, Or Paradoxes of the Heart

Noel Carroll's The Philosophy of Horror, or Paradoxes of the Heart is a remarkable work of critical philosophy. His discussion of art-horror as the emotional impetus for why we engage with dark storytelling seems to logically synthesize much of the work of thinkers such as Nietzsche, Kafka, and Kierkegaard.

He uses primarily classical source materials in outlining his theories of a dark aesthetic. I think the prose is really suitable to this type of study, as he acknowledges the limitations of his survey while still covering a lot of critical territory in advancing his claims. 

If you are working on research in the area of critical horror studies, I'd say begin with this text and then begin branching out into the more specific areas that interest you. I'm writing at present about the sociology of textual production, but I don't think I'd be in such a comfortable place if it weren't for grounding myself first in this book.


Monday Potpourri...

Please excuse all of those cobwebs around this humble Web journal! I've been busy with a variety of endeavors, not the least of which has been preparing for the arrival of a baby in just a few short weeks! Without further adieu, a few thoughts:

  • My family and I really love where we live, but the house is too small. We live six miles from the beach. We live a mile from a great golf courses, and less than three miles from a productive fishing hole and kayak slip. We are close to hiking, biking, parks, a fine nexus for shopping, and some great restaurants. That said, we are really looking forward to moving to a larger house. Jeanne and I purchased this place in 2006. We expected to occupy the home for three years, but then the economy tanked and homes in our zip code lost more than half of their value. The neighborhood is coming back, slowly but surely, yet that really doesn't do much for us. The home is very close to my daughter's excellent school, and I'm thankful that I get to walk her there every morning. But we could use a few more rooms and a larger yard. I think, this time next year, we will be actively looking for a much larger place. We got very creative with moving things around, downsizing our lives, and preparing for our son. We look forward to a great year together, but it will be good to find a bigger spot where our growing family can stretch its legs a bit...
  • I've been writing about the sociology of textual production and publishing biography of horror in the twentieth century. These are fascinating topics, and the circularity between the one-man publishing shops that churned out penny dreadfuls and dime novels and the current digital publishing gold rush is uncanny. Dozens of digital-only magazines and publishers have proliferated in horror alone, and many of them are producing top-quality content. It's been an illuminating period of research for me, and I'm interested to see where we will be going in the near future...
  • The summer and fall terms are shaping up to be highly productive for me at FSCJ. I'm teaching a nice variety of courses, including media criticism, rhetoric and research, American literature, and English composition. The summer will mostly entail a traditional schedule, but I'm switching to nights in the fall so I can stay home with the baby during the day. It's a similar fall schedule to the one I worked when we had our daughter, and I'm thrilled to enjoy that time together during the day!
  • I've been running the trails of Northeast Florida this spring, as our temperatures have been really conducive to being outside. It's unsettling to see the warnings on the Zika Virus in the NPS parks, but the cooler temperatures have largely kept the insects in check. Thankfully, we will have the baby soon and I think our exposure to the virus will be minimal. It's a real and continuous source of anxiety for pregnant women in Florida (and, of course, throughout South and Central America), but I read yesterday that doctors in Brazil are making progress in their approach to dealing with its effects...
  • I looked at Beyond the Reach (C+) and Regression (B-) in the last week on Amazon Prime. They are decent films, though neither brings a ton to the table. I think Emma Watson gives a creepy understated performance in the latter. I'm pretty excited to see the second installment of The Conjuring, and I am about to begin watching The 100. The Walking Dead has been a real disappointment this year. I don't think the current model of feudal warfare has been nearly as compelling as were the depictions of day-to-day nomadic survival.
Enjoy the spring, wherever you are, and drop back by soon. I hope to post here a bit more frequently in the coming weeks as we approach our son's arrival...