I enjoyed Occultation just a bit more than I did The Imago Sequence. I think the former had a sparer, leaner prose style and a stronger sense of atmosphere. Both collections, through, were thoroughly enjoyable books.

These were stories that I couldn't wait to get home to read. The writing, dark and gritty straight down the line, stays with you throughout the day. Barron is certainly one of the stronger voices I've encountered in dark fiction in recent years. "Proboscis" "The Royal Zoo is Closed" and "Parallax" were among my favorites.

These are stories rife with witchcraft, secret societies, wild eccentrics, and ordinary objects that hold horrible properties. It's a great read for fans of the esoteric and literary horror fans alike. Highly recommended...


The Jaguars Make Me Cry

I love this time of the year. Even though we set a new record for high temperatures today (98) in Jacksonville, the weather is about five weeks from cooling down a bit. The baseball pennant races are heating up. College football starts on Thursday, with my Oregon Ducks playing in the national spotlight next Saturday.

But not all is right in Jagland. It's pretty far from it, actually.

I adore these Jaguars. I stick up for that guy you see in the picture there quite a bit; maybe I should stop doing it. David is seriously erratic, and he seems so far removed from his best play (2007). He just threw a sweet deep ball and Jason Hill whiffed on it, but he takes far too many sacks and he misses (usually high) a lot of open throws. I watched the Jags beat Atlanta last week and I saw Matt Ryan throw the ball away at least three times.

Just do that, David! Sheesh!

Our offensive line is bad in pass protection. The team can block the run okay, but they struggle with pressure, and it doesn't help that our first and second round picks from two years ago are pretty much either turnstiles or they're injured.

Our secondary is bad. I'm watching Ryan Fitzpatrick look like John Elway in his prime right now. He hasn't missed a throw. 10/11 and two touchdowns, and most of it isn't even close. He's making our secondary look terrible, which I think it is (when we lost to New England in 2007, Brady only missed two throws the whole night!).

Our wideout core is probably the worst in the league. Poor Mike Thomas. He's a stud, but he is facing a serious deficit when the teams double him all the time because nobody else can catch it.

Marcedes Lewis is a great player. Rashad Jennings is a great player. Maurice Jones-Drew is a great player. I think Tyson Alualu is good, and Daryl Smith can really play.

The Jaguars have a ticket-selling campaign. They keep airing these commercials with the players chirping, "It's go time."

If this team continues to play like this, it'll be "go time" for Jack Del Rio and David Garrard, among others...

To further piss in the corn flakes, I was terribly saddened to hear that Mike Flanagan committed suicide a few days ago. I watched Flanny pitch, probably, thirty games for my beloved Baltimore Orioles when I was a kid. It was strange--we were living in tiny John Day, Oregon, and our cable provider had a station called Home Team Sports. They carried all the Orioles games! Watched that team every night (my parents met and married in Baltimore, and we still have family up there), and Flanny was a fixture.

I won't deny that I got a little misty when I read that he took his own life with a firearm. I wish you well, Flanny, and I'm sorry that things had become tough for you in recent years. I hope you find some rest...

The O's, whose box score I still study every morning (yes, I get a real newspaper in my driveway), have won five in a row. I hope Flanny is enjoying the win they had last night over the Yanks (the O's will wear a patch with his number '46' on it for the rest of the season).

And, as I type this list of complaints out, David goes all David on me and has a monstrous, mannish run for a touchdown. Probably a top-10 play tonight on Sports Center. And that's why it's so damned tough to be a Garrard backer in this town! He keeps pulling me back in...

We'll be in section 405 for you on opening day, David. It's 9/11, and there will be a huge amount of emotion and passion in that stadium. I got your back. Not sure how Jeanne feels about you. But let's get this thing cranked up, Brother! Let's get this offense working!


Some Film Reviews...

Stone (2011) presents an interesting examination of morality and ethics. I took a look at the film to watch Norton and DeNiro, and came away only impressed with the former. Norton's performance as Stoney, a criminal who killed his grandparents in a drug-addled haze, is compelling. Norton mumbles his way through a performance in which his character undergoes what appears to be an authentic transformation. Seeking parole, and needing DeNiro's Jack Mabry to rubber stamp it, Stoney turns to pseudo-religion.

Only for him, it seems to take. He becomes docile and subservient, ultimately gaining a measure of peace with himself.

The early give-and-take between these two is good, vulgar fun. They can both cuss with the best of them.

Mabry is a church-going, bourbon-swilling sinner with a golf fixation. He's about to retire, and he seems at a moral crossroads of his own. You see, this guy is a turd--a jerk who threatened to kill his own child when his wife attempts to leave him. He is a controlling right-wing gun nut that listens to talk radio all day while judging others, only to become a drunken lecher when propositioned by Stoney's wife.

Stoney's marriage to Milla Jovovich's Lucetta is an odd one. Jovovic is okay in her turn here--bouncing around with flirtatious angst while trying to expedite her husband's release from prison.

It's a simple story that becomes convoluted in the third act. The resolution isn't satisfying, and the only one I felt sorry for was Mabry's poor wife. She gets a little revenge late in the film, and more power to her, but it's too little and too late for my liking. There are too many Jack Mabry's in the world, and most of them never experience anything like a real form of punishment.

Worth a look (B-)...

Source Code (2011) has a few good moments as an interesting little "time replacement" sci-fi thriller. My wife liked it a bit more than I did (I'd say a C+). Jake Gyllenhall is okay, and I liked his chemistry with Michelle Monaghan's Christina Warren. Unfortunately, that chemistry is also the thing that kind of sinks the film for me.

Gyllenhall's Colter Stevens is able to transport his consciousness back into the body of a school teacher named Sean Fentress. He's doing it to stop a terror attack on a Chicago train, and he gets a dozen shots at it. It does, in the first act, feel a bit like Groundhog Day, and that's a shame for the pacing.

My problem, though, is with the storyline. Stevens saves the day, of course, but decides to take over Fentress's body! What happened to the poor school teacher? He's just collateral damage? Pish tosh!

Interesting movie that kind of ticked me off...

The Eagle (2011) is better than watching that infomercial for the shark vacuum. Channing Tatum runs around with Jamie Bell. They fight those seal people above. They have some adventures. Tatum makes one face for the whole film. He gets hurt and has a miraculous recovery. He gets the eagle back--because everyone knows that imperialists need to celebrate their victories with important ornaments. I'd give it a C and advise you to instead watch Master Chef if you have it on DVR...


When is a Six-Iron like a Story?

That golf course there is where I've spent just about every Thursday afternoon over the course of the last year. Mill Cove is a wonderful neighborhood institution. From the club manager to the head golf pro and the superintendent, the people there are tremendously kind.

The course has a challenging layout--an Arnold Palmer design that, when played from the rear tees, can offer a stiff test for the seasoned player. It's out here, sitting beneath canopies while Florida gully washers blow lukewarm sideways raindrops the size of red plums, that I've figured out a lot of stuff.

Last week I was on fourteen. Playing from the back tees, I hit a long slice just to the edge of the first cut. The pin was set at the back of the green. I had to fly a pond and a couple of large spruce trees to hit it. 185 yards or so.

I grabbed a six, visualized the shot, cleared my mind, addressed the ball and hit it perfectly. It feathered up there, floating, hit the pitch, bounced once and checked up. I made a birdie.

More than anything, it just felt good to execute the thing that I was hoping to execute.

I'm finding that to be the case more and more with my fiction. I'm not writing here in the web journal as often because I've been writing much more fiction--actively creating, and not just polishing--over the last few weeks. I put down just shy of 5,000 new words last week, which is a lot for me. I expect I'll have a similar output by the end of this week.

I write short fiction more sparingly than I used to, but I'm better at it. Five years ago, I wrote a story and submitted it twenty-five times before retiring it. I'd do that twenty times a year.

Now, I'm writing longer stories. The subjects are more selective, and a bit more complex.

I've received good news on two recent stories in just the last week, with one success representing the culmination of a goal I set for myself years ago. It feels very good to have made this happen, but it just signifies a new place for me in my fiction.

When I hit that golf shot last week, I had every intention of it finding it's mark. After years of practice, that's a realistic expectation for me, and my scores reflect it.

I feel the same is now true for the stories I've been writing. I'm confident, every time I fully invest in a piece, that it will find a worthy home.

Time...it's all about time and repetition and practice and bringing a level of serious intention to the table. I hope that, for those dropping by here for a read from time to time, each of you is making the time to pursue your passions, and that you're occasionally (or, better yet, often) delighted in the little markers along the way that foster that love...


Side Effects Not Typical

February 12, 2010

Fox Broadcasting Company

P.O. Box 900

Attn: The Super Big Banana!

Beverly Hills, CA 90213-0900

Dear Mr. Calemczuk,

Well, I’m afraid I’ll have to withdraw my name as a candidate for employment with Fox. I only get to send one letter a week, but I wanted to let you know that I won’t be able to join the show, at least for this season.

I’m in the Nassau County Detention Center. They say I attacked my mother, but I don’t know why they’d say such things! The accusations! So cruel. So so so so so so so so so so CRUEL!

I could never do what they say I did. It’s not in my nature, not at all.

You know the worst part of all this? They took away my meds. In a week, I’ll be back to square one. I can already feel the change, and I just missed one day! My legs, my bladder, my eyes, my muscles—all of it is going to shit, Emiliano!

I can still watch the show in here. They let us have two hours of television privileges each night. Just enough to keep my streak alive!

It’ll be hard watching all those ads, knowing how I’m falling apart in here. Oh, well. Mother’s holding on in the ICU, so maybe it won’t be long until I get out of here after all.

I thought you deserved prompt notice, Mr. Calemczuk. I know Ellen has done a fantastic job, but if you need a replacement in the future, I encourage you to look to your fan base.

Believe me, Mr. Calemczuk, there are thousands of girls out there just like me.

Maybe even millions!


Abbey Tinsdale, Yulee, Florida


Side Effects Not Typical

February 03, 2010

Fox Broadcasting Company

P.O. Box 900

Attn: The Super Big Banana!

Beverly Hills, CA 90213-0900

Dear Mr. Calemczuk,

Well, I won’t lie to you sir.

I’m a little nervous.

I was watching one of your news shows and Sarah Palin leaned out of the television and spoke to me!

“God’s chosen ones will assume leadership over the race of men, and the Earth will be ruled by the strong willed, you betcha!” she said. Mr. Calemczuk, she was staring right at me! “And you will know God’s chosen ones by the color of their eyes!”

“Oh Sarah!” I shouted at the television set. “What color are they?”

She leaned forward, pointed to her own eyes, winked at me, and said “Brown! The chosen ones will have brown eyes!”

Well, I almost fainted, Mr. Calemczuk. You see, I have blue eyes! My legs got to twitching and I felt all kinds of muscle pains (my fibromyalgia gets particularly bad in the winter) and I could barely get myself to the bathroom without having an accident (thank you, Vesicare!). I looked in the mirror and, lo and behold, my eyes are brown!

It’s an honest to goodness miracle!

I’m in! Please thank Sarah for me, and keep up the good work over there.


Abbey Tinsdale,

P.S. I don’t mean to be pushy, but do you have any news about the job?


Side Effects Not Typical

January 27, 2010

Fox Broadcasting Company

P.O. Box 900

Attn: The Top Dog

Beverly Hills, CA 90213-0900

Dear Mr. Calemczuk,

Thanks so much for the autographed picture of Randy! He’s really slimming down, isn’t he? Wowee, what a cutie-pie!

Also, I didn’t see an application in the packet you sent. Do you need me to fill anything out? I’m asking because I could really use this job, Mr. Calemczuk. Unfortunately (ha, ha!), I’ve lost a little bit of money. I’ve been betting on the NBA lately. Don’t ask me why, though, because I’m not a huge sports fan. But still, I thought the Nets had cool uniforms so I put a nickel on them. Honestly, who knew the Lakers had the league’s best record?

And talk about your meltdown! Dad hasn’t spoken to me in days. I used some of the money he and my mom had been putting aside for a trip to Barbados. But I can get it back. I know I can. The Hawks are playing in Miami tonight, and their road uniforms are just adorable!

Who picks the drug commercials you guys have been showing on your show? I only ask because I’ve never felt this good! The Xanax helps me calm down, the Lunesta puts me to sleep and the Mirapex controls those pesky crazy legs.

I’ve also taken your recommendation and started a regimen of Latanoprost to help with my glaucoma. I didn’t realize things were getting so blurry with my vision, but this stuff has really sharpened it all up for me.

Thanks again for the picture of Randy. Tell him I can’t wait to meet him in person!


Abbey Tinsdale, Yulee, Florida

P.S. You really need to do more of the production numbers! You can just tell how much the contestants love each other when they get to sing together like that!


Side Effects Not Typical

January 20, 2010

Fox Broadcasting Company

P.O. Box 900

Attn: El Grande Enchilada

Beverly Hills, CA 90213-0900

Dear Mr. Calemczuk,

Well, I lost my job. One of the twins choked a little bit on a Lego block and I missed it because I was asleep. The funny thing is, I was dreaming about little Dory (that’s her name; her brother’s name is Cory—cool, huh?) choking on a Lego block when it happened! Really strange coincidence. Anyway, outside of turning a little blue, Dory is just fine, but they don’t want me working there anymore. It’s unfair, I think, because I paid such close attention to those kids that it made me really tired and everything, but oh well, right?

I was watching Idol last night and it occurred to me: I actually have restless leg syndrome! I wasn’t sure about it until I saw those commercials, which explains a lot, by the way. Before I dropped out of school, I’d just sit there in class and look out the window at the trees and the birds and the squirrels and things, and my legs would just be bouncing around like they were putting out a fire down there under my desk! I swear, I thought the devil was in me. It was like I was one of those crazy Russian dancers that can almost sit down before they kick their legs out like a New York City Rockette!

I made an appointment to see Doctor Collins this afternoon. I hope I can get a prescription for Mirapex. I’d hate to be under the lights when auditions are over and we’re back in Hollywood and then—BAM!—out of nowhere I start doing the Charleston underneath the table because I wasn’t properly medicated.

How embarrassing!

Well, I still haven’t heard from you sir, and I think my parents are getting a little nervous about having me in the house. If you could let me know how to meet up with Simon and Randy and the rest of them as soon as possible, I’ll tell the wolf that’s been staying in my closet to just go away. I’ll tell him I have a job and responsibilities and that he should go bother someone else.

I can’t believe they put that Kendra chick through to Hollywood! You can tell that she tans in the salon, and everyone knows that’s just not healthy.

Respectfully Yours,

Abbey Tinsdale, Yulee, Florida


Side Effects Not Typical

January 16, 2010

Fox Broadcasting Company

P.O. Box 900

Attn: The Head Honcho

Beverly Hills, CA 90213-0900

Dear Mr. Calemczuk,

Well, it’s been a few days and I haven’t heard from you, so I thought I’d try another letter. Can you believe how mean Simon was on Wednesday? I mean really, that girl was trying very hard and he made her cry on national t.v.! It’s not her fault she has to live in South Dakota!

I love Simon to death, but I think he really needs someone like me up there on stage who can shoulder some of that responsibility. I read an article in US Weekly that said that he has a hard time falling asleep at night.

Has Simon tried using that Lunesta stuff that you guys have been advertising (that butterfly is SO cute!)? A lot of the girls in my support group take it and I’ve been on it for a little while. It’s really great—I go out like a light every night.

Mom’s trying to get me to quit the stuff, ever since she found me in the yard raking leaves at 3:30 in the morning. I actually don’t remember it happening, if you can believe that! Dad, thank God, told her to get off my case. He thinks it’s awesome that I’m “pitching in” around here.

And believe me, Mr. Calemczuk, if you give me a chance to work with Randy and Simon and even that icky Kara (what a total bi-yotch!), you’ll see that I’m a hard worker. I’m totally dedicated!

I’ve been making some extra money babysitting our neighbor’s twins, so I don’t need a decision like right away. But soon would be nice, because my parents have been really critical lately and I’d like to show them that I can take care of myself.

Thanks again for your time.


Abbey Tinsdale, Yulee, Florida

P.S. Is there any chance you guys will be doing a swing through Florida again? If you can just send someone to pick me up in Yulee I can join the team before our next stop!


Side Effects Not Typical

January 13, 2010

Fox Broadcasting Company

P.O. Box 900

Attn: The Big Cheese

Beverly Hills, CA 90213-0900

Dear Mr. Calemczuk,

Before you think I’m just another weirdo with too much time on her hands, I just want you to know that I have never missed an episode of American Idol. Not a single one!

Even when I had surgery on my deviated septum, I made sure that the nurses taped the show for me at the hospital. It’s a good thing, too—it was the first time Sanjaya changed his hair!

At any rate, I’m writing to you because my mom says I need to get a job and move out of the house. I know you have a lot of smart people that work for you at Fox, so I want you to know that I did get my G.E.D.! I took the test the summer after season two was over, but I didn’t pass because I didn’t study that much and I was having a little trouble with my weight, which was kind of bad for my confidence. But then I buckled down and I started taking hydroxycut and I lost a lot of weight and I took the test again when season three was finished.

Guess what? I passed!

And I know that Paula Abdul left the show, and I heard that Ellen was taking her place, but then I had a thought: who knows more about Idol than I do? Nobody does, that’s who!

So I thought that I’d write to you about a job as one of the judges, and I appreciate your time in considering my request.


Abbey Tinsdale, Yulee, Florida

P.S. I’m so glad that you guys started running those Xanax commercials during the show! I’ve been on the stuff for over a month now and the “flip-outs” (that’s what my mom calls them) are almost totally gone!


On the Debt Ceiling...

When I turned in for bed last night, I was a little disgusted. $2.8 trillion on a debt projected to be over $20 trillion by 2020 is like putting a band-aid on an arterial wound.

After weeks of political turmoil, I thought that meaningful change would take place. I thought this might be the catalyst that would change our course (Ah, the "Grand Bargain"!) for the better--some legislation that would signal the positive reform in spending and the tax codes that would plot the course for a more prosperous future.

Entitlement reform. A decrease in defense spending. Re-thinking our approach to foreign aid.

I was excited to see how we might rethink a few of these issues.

Instead, we get a quick salve that gives us a rubber stamp in the eyes of our foreign debt holders. The deal allows us to pay our bills (last night, NBC Nightly News showed hundreds of our military service personnel wondering out loud whether they would be paid--I mean, sheesh!) and honor our obligations.

That said, and as the pundits have opined here, I feel like this was a squandered opportunity by our leaders. If President Obama doesn't have the political capital to roll back the $1.6 trillion in tax breaks that President Bush gave our wealthiest citizens and corporations, then things don't look good for a second term.

And I'm sad to see that.

But last year's midterm elections showed the American public's sentiment toward his first two years in office. He stepped into a politically loaded situation. Like George H.W. Bush, he'll likely be a martyr (when Bush's dad raised taxes to pay our debts, he was roundly thumped by Bill Clinton).

That's if this thing gets passed. As our local political writer Ronald Littlepage likes to say, stay tuned, folks...

You Know When It's Good

If you spend any real time at the word processor, you understand that sometimes the writing flows and you just know in your heart and in you...