Trust No One

The X-Files has returned after almost 14 years. It was worth the wait. Even though it was a disjointed premier episode, suffocated with loose ends and layered with seemingly unrelated plotlines, I loved every minute of it. The nostalgia of the opening sequence. The first scene with Mulder andX-Files-I-Want-To-Believe-Poster1 Scully. The “I want to believe” poster. The entrance of Skinner. And even the entrance of Smoking Man. I loved it all. The joyful moments were even enough for me to overcome my disdain for Joel McHale. I do think the character and the actor are too campy, and perhaps too cliché for the X-files, but I have faith those choices serve a purpose.

As much as I enjoyed the first episode, the second episode actually made it seem dull. It fed the plot, but was styled as a classic one-off. It succeeded on every level. Seeing Mulder and Scully sitting across the desk from Skinner again was a treat. And the story was immensely intriguing. Overall, the intensity went up a notch or two.

As much as I anticipate the next episode, I am also dreading that it will all end in just a few short weeks. I hope they’ll decide to give us more. I also hope they won’t make us wait another 14 years.

Death Wish Coffee Co. wins Intuit’s contest

Intuit gives away its 30-second spot to a small business every year in the Small Business Big Game contest. This year’s winner was Death Wish Coffee Company.

Source: Super Bowl 2016 commercials: Death Wish Coffee Co. wins Intuit’s contest – CBSSports.com

I’m very excited that Death Wish Coffee will get the exposure they deserve. I’ve been drinking it for years, and it is awesome. I just hope it doesn’t make it harder for me to replenish my supply.

To Poe

A simple salute to the master Edgar Allan Poe on his birthday. My favorite line by any writer in any form. Ever.IMG0034

“Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?”

Coffee and Motherboards

Coffee. Motherboards. The two have very little to do with one another except that they describe my Saturday in its entirety. One was quite disconcerting, the other, sublime.

quillMy laptop died quite suddenly for unknown causes earlier this week. This is a cautionary tale for all writers. Although it was only a couple months old, it died in its sleep with no warning.  I tried everything I could to wake it from its eternal slumber; I pushed every button, I cursed, I begged, and for a brief moment I nearly wept. As a last resort I headed to Best Buy in search of expert advice. “It’s the motherboard,” was all the guy at The Geek Squad could tell me. He then proceeded to extort $100 from me to save my files. As it turned out, it would take more like $250 since the motherboard was soldered to the hard-drive in some manner that all but ensured complete destruction of all the bits and bytes. I decided to roll the dice, since there was a chance all was lost already. I last backed up the files on 12/10. This is my warning to all writers: back up your files daily, or maybe even hourly.IMG_20160116_152008057

For the rest of the day, I mourned the loss of my words. I don’t remember them all, but perhaps they were the greatest words I had ever written. I decided to brew some coffee to soothe my writer’s lament. I poured some filtered water into the kettle and turned on the stove. I opened a bag of Starbucks small-lot coffee and set the grinder to medium-coarse. I retrieved the Chemex brewer and carefully placed the filter. As I did these things, I already started feeling calmer with the scent of freshly ground coffee in the air. The kettle began to whistle. I slowly poured the boiling water over the grounds and watched  them bloom. By the time I savored the first sip, I had begun to take solace in a few things: 1) The holidays were dry for inspiration, so maybe I didn’t lose too much, 2) the laptop was only a part-time scribing device; the desktop still functioned, and 3) I use a lot of index cards, journals, and good old-fashioned ink.

All that said, I hope karma is real and that my words are returned tenfold.

Here are some random musings about today:

  1. The Seahawks are ruining my lazy day of watching football. No one likes a blow-out. The Steelers had best deliver later today.
  2. I am deeply absorbed in a draft of Erica Crockett’s The Ram. You should probably befriend her and seek your own advanced copy.
  3. Clicking through the news, I saw a photo of the freed hostages stepping off a plane in Germany. It is almost 35 years to the day since I watched the last Iranian hostage crisis unfold (January 20, 1981). I don’t ever want to see another one.

UPDATE 1/31/16: My laptop was returned from the Geek Squad this week. I held my breath as it booted up. Much to my surprise and delight, all of my files were intact exactly where I left them. There was much rejoicing.

Dear Drunken Sailor

Source: HUMOR: Dear Drunken Sailor – Pagosa Daily Post News Events & Video for Pagosa Springs Colorado

A Dear Drunken Sailor column. I wskullish I had thought of this. Well played, Pagosa Daily Post. Well played.

Book Review: The Bride Wore Dead by EM Kaplan

I was engrossed within the first few pages. The story, the character, the dialogue, and Kaplan’s balanced and witty prose were quickly addictive. I am rarely guilty of binge reading; I generally read slowly and I stick to a fairly strict regime of reading for thirty minutes to an hour each day. That said, The Bride Wore Dead wrecked my daily routine. I didn’t want to wrap presents anyway, so it was a joyful distraction.bride-wore-dead

Josie Tucker is a quintessential protagonist. She is cynical and savvy. She is flawed but self-aware. She is highly skilled in many ways, yet humble. Taken out of her quiet, reclusive comfort-zone she stumbles and makes mistakes, but manages to find her way. The unplanned desert expedition is allegorical; I read it so fast and feverishly the first time through that I had to go back and re-read it after I caught my breath. There is so much depth to the character and her story that I may have to go back and re-read from page one. When you see references to Immanuel Kant, Holden Caulfield, and bodhisattvas it’s difficult to resist digging deeper.

I delighted in several moments, character descriptions, and subtle ironies, but here are a few of my favorites:

  • “The Latin incantations reminded her of a horror movie…” [Passage describing a wedding]
  • “Greta Williams seemed like a person who rarely, if ever, was pleased about how things were going.”
  • “Josie brimmed with fermented good wishes.”
  • “A few drops of red wine stained the place in front of her, the red liquid spreading through the cloth so that she could see the crisscross pattern of the fibers.”
  • “You paged me this morning at 4:30. You said you were dying and you told me to bring a priest.”
  • “His silver crew cut hinted at a former police or military career or the desire to have had one.”
  • “The pleated skirt and tight sweater might still fit, but there was something indecent about her world outlook.”
  • “He shot her a look that made her feel like she’d forgotten some of her clothing. Like her shirt.”
  • “Other than the beatings, and the anxiety, I enjoyed myself. For the most part.”

Bottom line: The Bride Wore Dead is an enthralling mystery fueled by an extraordinary heroine. I’m looking forward to the second in the series, Dim Sum, Dead Some.

Follow EM Kaplan on twitter and check out her blog, Just The EM Words.

Musing about bobcats

I spent an inordinate amount of time researching bobcats today. There are 12 species of bobcats in North America. They can weigh up to 49 pounds. The males can range over 40 square miles of territory.

Why did I desperately need this valuable information?

One was spotted less bobcatthan five miles from my house. Since I live in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, I found this to be both shocking and exciting. In Western Pennsylvania, we have deer, groundhogs, squirrels, rabbits, and an occasional fox. Apparently there is also a growing population of coyotes, but I haven’t seen one yet. I don’t really care about coyotes though; they are just wild, mangy dogs. I want to see a bobcat. I really really want to see a bobcat in my yard. I want to feed it and photograph it and name it Poe.

I lived in New England for several years and never saw a moose. My neighbor saw one in my yard (while I was at sea). A friend of mine hit one with his car. But they always seemed to avoid me. I even drove several hours into northern New Hampshire for the sole purpose of spotting a moose. Not a one. Anywhere. A guide at one of the parks actually said I had just missed a few of them by only a couple minutes. This is my chance to right a wrong. I may never see a moose, but I will damn well see a bobcat even if I have to camp out overnight. Of course, with my luck I will stumble upon a pack of angry coyotes. And since I will be unarmed for fear that weaponry would upset the bobcats, I will probably have to fight them off by hand. I’m sure that will make the news.

Speaking of the news, here are some random musings about today’s headlines:

  1. Lemmy from the band Motorhead died. I seriously thought he had died of an overdose years ago.
  2. The ‘affluenza’ teen was captured in Mexico. I want to see him serve some serious jail-time almost as much as I want to see a bobcat.
  3. Navy beat Pitt in the Military Bowl. I am deeply conflicted. I served in the Navy and received my degree from Pitt. I’m happy. I’m sad. I had to work, so I missed the game anyway.
  4. Putin has a calendar. Why in hell does a sovereign world leader need a calendar?

A World Coffee Shortage Is Inevitable

In the coffee-world, there’s been quiet rumblings of a shortage brewing for awhile now. And yet, despite the threat, it hasn’t hit quite yet—but that doesn’t mean it’s gone away.

Source: A World Coffee Shortage Is Inevitable

This is very troubling. I am trying not to panic. I am also beginning to consider if there are rooms in my house that could be converted into long-term coffee storage facilities. I have no knowledge of the requirements for long-term coffee storage facilities, but I intend to find out. I imagine temperature and humidity must be controlled. I will also need some security to protect the precious commodity. I should probably just use the National Archives as a standard.

Thank you, Star Wars

It was the Saturday before Christmas. There was no more shopping to be done. The wife and I went to dinner then decided perhaps we should just go see a movie. We are both old enough to have seen the original Star Wars in the theater, so we intended to see the new one there as well. That said, we had no expectations to see it on the opening weekend. We decided that would have to wait a couple weeks in order to let the crowds die down. There were three other films one or both of us cared to see. The Sisters, Mockingjay Part 2, and In the Heart of the Sea. Truth be told, the first two were mostly her and the third was only me.

Quite shockingly, both The Sisters and Mockingjay were completely sold out. Before we had a chance to ask for the third on our list, the girl at the ticket counter volunteered that there were still tickets available to the Star Wars showing that had just started. How was that possible? She promised the coming attractions were still running and that we wouldn’t miss the beginning. She didn’t lie. We purchased the tickets and found two seats in the second row of the sparsely populated theater. We didn’t even have people sitting on either side of us, or directly behind us.

This is not intended to be a film review, but it was good. Not great. Not epic. Just good. I was pleased that Han Solo and Chewbacca had such large roles. I was a tad nostalgic about the Millennium Falcon and R2D2. I was impressed by Rey and Finn. As we left the theater, I was certainly not as excited as I was all those years ago. I have no desire to collect action figures or reenact scenes. I won’t be begging to return to the theater to watch it a second or third time. However, the kid in me will be looking forward to the next installment. And the adult in me is hoping I have been forever spared from seeing The Sisters.

Adele stole my favorite writing prompt

Somewhere along the way a sage writing professor suggested that we should ‘mine our childhoods.’ I was never certain what she meant by mine. Excavate or explode? Either way, I think the effect can yield similar results. I instinctively wrote the following line on the top of the blank page: When we were young…

writeOver the years, I’ve grown to love that prompt. There is so much potential in those four words. At least two characters are introduced by the first-person plural. A perspective has been established, looking back some unknown number of years. The next word is also loaded with possibilities. Some days I simply chose “we,” other days I chose, “I” without really thinking. Occasionally I chose “there.” When we were young there was an abandoned house at the end of the street near the woods. The results vary and more often than not have nothing at all to do with my actual childhood. Tiny, delightful fictions.

I came across a reference to A. A. Milne a few years ago and realized that “When We Were Very Young” is a title of one of his Winnie the Pooh books. I decided I was OK with that. Perhaps the title was lodged somewhere in the recesses of my memory from when I was actually young. By removing “very” I have improved upon the phrase and made it my own.

This morning however, I was avoiding writing by surfing the internet. The new Adele song has grown on me, so I decided to watch the Jimmy Fallon video I had heard so much about. As I watched Jimmy’s rag tag band accompany Adele, my eyes were drawn to the right sidebar on YouTube. There, about three links down, I saw this title: Adele – When We Were Young (Live on SNL). Yes, I clicked on the link. And yes, I immediately confirmed on Amazon that Adele indeed has a song by that title on her new album. Of course I had to purchase the album. The song is now playing as I write this. I have to admit it’s not too bad. The line has served her well. I was distraught for a moment that perhaps I would have to find a new writing prompt, but then I realized I had stopped watching YouTube videos. I had stopped scrolling through Amazon. I had closed out everything else and started writing. In an odd and slightly ironic way, my favorite prompt has succeeded once again and yielded this:

When we were young I stole a kiss as we sat on the picnic table in your back yard at dusk. You seemed surprised, but kissed me back. We were thirteen and didn’t yet know where kisses led. We were thirteen and in love, perhaps the purest love either of us will ever feel. We were thirteen and my house down the street was empty, the boxes already hauled away to the new place. We were thirteen years old and I was moving to the other side of town, just a few miles away, but it might as well have been the other side of the planet. We were only thirteen and we never saw each other again. A different school district. Different friends. Different loves. Different lives. Although for me, forever changed by that stolen kiss near the sunset of our love.

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