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Calling all Memoir Writers

21 Jan

If you have a complete book-length memoir, here’s your chance to have it read by an agent!

Just follow this link: http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/Dear+Lucky+Agent+Contest+Memoir+And+Narrative+Nonfiction.aspx

Good luck – though I hope I beat you… 🙂

Things I Don’t Want for Christmas

15 Dec

In case you’re considering buying me anything, I wanted you to know what I like. And since it’s easier for me to tell you what I don’t like, I thought this list would help.

So, things I don’t want for Christmas:

  1. A flaming bag of poo upon my doorstep.
  2. Tickets to “Lorena Bobbit on Ice!” (The doorprizes are just gross.)
  3. A copy of Chris Brown‘s new CD. (I think it’s called, “Please forgive me… anybody? Please?”)
  4. A copy of Rihanna‘s new CD.
  5. A colonoscopy.
  6. Ear hair.
  7. A tie that Craig Sager would wear.
  8. Driving lessons from Adrian Peterson.
  9. A Zhu Zhu. (Further proof that we are on track to follow the Roman Empire into the dump heap of history.)
  10. A guest spot on “Jersey Shore.”
  11. Wang Chung’s greatest hits album. (Sad part is, I was trying to be funny. Then I Googled it and found out it really existed…)
  12. This.
  13. A season’s pass to “Six Flags Over Hoboken.”
  14. Tim Tebow’s book, “How to Keep Your Composure on National TV.”
  15. The Nobel Peace Prize. (I want to earn it.)
  16. A $2 million dollar raise. (Again, I want to earn it.)
  17. The Defensive Coordinator’s position at UGA.
  18. The Ambassadorship to Afghanistan.
  19. A draft notice.
  20. A wasteful, do-nothing federal government that lacks sense and is disconnected with the American public. (I already have one of those.)
  21. This.
  22. I would like to know how the critic on the cover of the above item still has a job though. You can get me that information.
  23. The Big Book of Literary Criticism from the Marxist/Nihilist Point of View.
  24. The Big Book of Dry Political Memoirs That Reveal Nothing.
  25. A wedgie.

Happy Start to Hanukkah – Here’s Some Neil Diamond

11 Dec

Since Hanukkah starts tonight, just thought this most awesome cover of Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song” deserved to be shared.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the one, the only… Neil Diamond.

Top Five Most OVERRATED Movies Ever. Period.

8 Dec

This list is going to get me in trouble, if for no other reason than number three. I know that several of my friends will disown me for even suggeting it.

But, what’s the purpose of lists like these if not to generate controversy and discussion? So, into the breach. Here’s yesterday’s Top Five Most Underrated Movies, so you can have some basis for comparison.

Scent of a Woman (1992) – God awful. Tripe. Chris O’Donnell gets smaller and smaller throughout the entire movie as Al Pacino chews more and more of the scenery. This was the first flick that I noticed “The Pacino Technique”, in which an actor simply shouts key lines as a way of projecting emotion. Interestingly, Pacino has been stuck in that mode ever since. I think he passed the threshhold for audience’s tolerance with his awful performance in “Any Given Sunday” which would have made this list if anyone had considered it worth anything to begin with. On the plus side, “Scent” did give us an early glimpse into the gifts of Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Titanic (1997) – this is a movie that has diminished as time passes despite the fond memories of its “brilliance”. The special effects are not-so-special now (this is strictly in reference to CGI shots; the set pieces remain some of the best artistry ever put on film) and the story, much maligned when the flick was released, is even worse now. This movie tapped into a momentary flux in the zeitgeist and became huge. Today it wouldn’t even pass muster as a Lifetime Movie of the Month. Well, okay – Lifetime would green-light it, but even that’s telling you something, if the silliness of their recent flick “12 Men of Christmas” is any indication of their selection skills.

Star Wars (1977) – I’m going to get killed on this one. I love Star Wars. I wanted to be Luke Skywalker when I was a kid. And when I was in high school. And college. But now, as a grown man and father, looking back on the storyline and dialogue – dear Lord, is there a wussier hero than Luke Skywalker? It took Yoda and a butt-whuppin’ for the blond haired one to become a real hero instead of a whiner and then he stepped into psycho by the time Jedi rolled around. So we get a total of five minutes that feature Luke as even remotely heroic. As a kid, I never understood why so many people identified with Han Solo; now, I wish the movie were told from his perspective alone.

King Kong (1933, 2005) – both the original and all of its remakes. Stop-motion monkeys and blue-screened scream queens do not captivating film make. And it gets even worse when Peter Jackson stretches out a thirty minute story (at best) to almost THREE FREAKING HOURS of tedium. I didn’t even go see this one on the big screen; I waited until someone in my circle of friends was silly enough to buy it, then borrowed it. On the plus side, though, let’s hear it for the T-Rex vs. King Kong fight scene in the movie’s early moments. That should have been the entire film right there; or Kong could have gone on to face other massive animals in sort of UFC fashion. That would have been cool to see.

Transformers (2007) – I wanted to love this movie, I really did. But Michael Bay let me down by focusing too much on Shia LaBeuf and the other irrelevant human beings. Why couldn’t they just tell the tale of the Autobots vs. Decepticons and let the machines be the stars? As it was, there was too few Transformers and too many human beings, specifically John Turturro, who must have done something horribly wrong in Hollyweird to have to take crap roles like this. What happened to the dynamic actor in Quiz Show? Where’d he go?

 

So there they are. What movies are missing? Which ones deserve to be here more? Leave a comment below to add to the discussion.

Blog for the Cure

24 Jun

beat-breast-cancerI’m a big fan of boobies, which, being a man, is sort of like saying that fish are fond of water. I think there is a DNA sequence that creates the otherwordly attraction that men have to breasts.

But I digress.

As I said, I’m a big fan of bo0bies, and recently my wife’s family has been scarred once again by breast cancer. Rachel’s mom is a two-time breast cancer survivor, and her sister was recently diagnosed and is currently in chemotherapy with radiation to follow. And did I mention she already had the preventative double mastectomy?

So, the boobies that I love the most are now even more in danger of cancer.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I love my wife as a person, not just for her anatomy. She knows this. I’m just using the irreverence to help make a point:

If you haven’t been involved in beating breast cancer – by supporting Susan G. Komen, or doing a three-day walk, or just wearing a ribbon to raise awareness – you need to get up off your butt and do it. The statistics on this disease are insane, and to find a cure we’ll all have to help.

Preserve the boobies, men! Mobilize to prevent breast cancer.

Otherwise, a whole sequence of our DNA may become a Darwinian albatross.

Face(book) It – Blurbs That Ain’t Funny Just Don’t Cut It

9 Apr

facebookNO, YOU’RE NOT ON THE WRONG WEBSITE.

I’ve only recently realized that the world has been taken over by Facebook and Twitter, and that most of what the world has to say isn’t funny.

Seriously. Have you ever read some of the status updates people put out? “Gone to bathroom. Will return.”

Truly, Hoss? You couldn’t just type – “leaving my desk. Be back in a few”?

It’s amazing how much talent it takes to type something hysterical in the limited amount of space you get with Facebook and Twitter status updates. Few people really have the talent, and even then, those people run out of interesting things to read after awhile. Usually a person is good for about 15-16 funny status updates in a given week; when you consider that most folks update their status that many times IN A FREAKING HOUR, you realize how many unfunny updates we’re being exposed to.

Look, if I wanted the CNN news ticker, I’d just go to CNN. I don’t need your take on the hostage crisis aboard the Maersk Alabama – I have Anderson Cooper for that. When I go on Facebook, I want to be amused by your creativity and imagination. I want to see the literary flair that average people possess without realizing it.

I mean, some folks just come up with downright hilarious observations and thoughts about life. Others regurgitate funny lines. But it’s those folks who choose to make you snooze to the minutiae of their daily droppings that kill me.

S0, as a public service, here are some funny and creative status updates for your Facebook or Twitter comedy-challenged friends and acquaintances. Feel free to use them any time (with proper attribution – at least leave me a comment and let me know you used it, even if you don’t tell anyone else…).

[Insert your user ID] wonders if Bob the Builder uses illegal immigrants.

…thinks that there should be more coffee, less morning.

…wishes that just once, the rest of the world would learn to obey me as they should.

…has seen fire and rain. Just not at the same time, because water extinguishes fire.

…wonders how in the holy hell the song “Rock-a-bye Baby” is supposed to be comforting to a small child. Have you ever really paid attention to the lyrics?

…wonders if the President ever goes around singing his name to the tune of “Rock the Casbah”?

…once gave a five dollar bill to a homeless man, who promptly gave it back and said, “Thanks, but by the look of things, you need this worse than I do.”

…would like to know: if you’re in the same bathroom as the Pope, and he drops a deuce, can you say “Holy crap!” and it not be a sin?

…thinks North Korea is mad because their leader looks like this guy from “The Simpsons”:
hans

…says if you have to ask “What would Jesus do?” chances are you aren’t going to.

…thinkth thpeech impedimenth aren’t funny.

…would like to market the doll “Demolish Me Elmo.”

This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. Feel free to add your own hilarity in the comments section, and if you’re good, I’ll steal it and use it on my Facebook page. Plus, if you’re a Facebook member, you can become a member of the group“People With Good Taste: Folks Who Read The Southern Gentleman.”


Tennessee’s Ghost – The Bell Witch (Or, Why I Don’t Go Spelunking Anymore)

28 Oct

Hey - at least they warn something creepy is about to happen...
Hey – at least they warn something creepy is about to happen…

ADAMS, TN – I’ve never been to the town of Adams, Tennessee, so I can’t verify what the fine folks of that town say has happened over the course of history in their area. But more than enough people have been affected by the phenomenon to render it America’s most well-known ghost story (if you don’t believe that, then check out the latest movie version: An American Haunting).

Southern Ghost Story Number One: The Bell Witch.

John Bell, a farmer in the Tennessee hinterlands bought a large parcel of timberland that he cleared to farm and erect a house for his family. As the story goes, one day, while hunting in his fields, Bell came across a dog – or what he thought was a dog. The animal, however, sported the head of a rabbit and unleashed a bizarre howl at Bell when he shot at the animal. Bell returned home, shaken by the incident, but thinking nothing of it.

Until the house was assaulted that night by the sounds of animals moaning and scratching the outer walls. Soon, the disturbances moved indoors, harrassing the family – Bell’s daughter Betsy in particular. The child was often pinched and slapped, leaving visible bruises and hand prints, or she was disturbed in the middle of the night by screeches, the shaking of her bed, or the sudden removal of her blankets.

Eventually, the Bells left the house and allowed some friends to stay overnight, just to test and see if the Bells were crazy.

They weren’t. The spirit attacked the visitors, and the Bell family returned to their haunted abode.

The legend only grows from there; the Bell Witch is said to have poisoned John Bell, leading to his death. The Witch is also credited with driving Betsy Bell to break off her marriage to her one true love, forcing the tormented child into the arms of her considerably older school teacher.

The spirit seems to have lingered in the area, not only on the Bell’s former property, but all around the Tennessee valley. Reports of ghostly activity have often been attributed to the Witch – everything from audible phenomena to unexplained illnesses.

The current owners of the Bell property have made a tourist attraction of the land and the Bell Witch Cave, a dry cave on the property that the spirit supposedly lives in. Psychic and paranormal investigators, both amateur and professional, have spent time researching the grounds, looking for any clues as to why there would be such an agressive temporal disturbance. Supposedly there is an ancient Indian burial mound not too far away. Some believe the Cave itself was once the burial site for an Indian woman who was then disturbed by explorers who removed her from the cave. Here’s a photo from the Cave’s mouth; because the Cave has been labeled a dry cave by expert geologists (meaning that the only time there’s water in the cave is when it rains) the mist like form captured on film but not seen by the photographer’s naked eye ain’t just cave fog. But judge for yourself…

Grown people pee their pants when they see something like this.

Grown people pee their pants when they see something like this.

Whatever the story is or isn’t, it scared the holy heck out of me when I was a kid and my Boy Scout Troop went spelunking at the famous Cumberland Caverns in Tennessee. Cumberland Caverns is one of the more famous cave systems in the South. The caverns run deep into the mountains and underneath the Tennessee soil into regions that have still yet to be charted. One of the spooky stories of the Caverns was that the Bell Witch Cave actually connected with the system, and that at night, in the pitch black of the cave, the spirit could be seen floating through the cavern.

There was also another story about some dude covered in glowing, viscous slime, but I don’t really remember that one.

What I do remember though, is being pre-teen and lying in the belly of the earth, wondering, as I struggled with sleep, whether or not such things as ghosts existed. I tried to rationalize the stories as mere fantasy. But something in the night made me change my mind. It happened when I got up to go to the bathroom.

If you haven’t been to Cumberland Caverns, it ain’t for the claustrophobic among you. Tiny crawl spaces, thick, mucousy mud, and an eerie silence truly remind you that you are beyond your normal circumstances. While there are several miles of tunnels and caves to explore – and may I recommend you take the guided tour? – the biggest mind-bend of all comes when you bed down for the night in the sleeping chamber. Nothing more than a large, cleared out cave, it has relatively few lights – all of which are extinguished once the curfew is announced. The cave goes completely black, and except for each individual’s flashlight, it is impossible for the eye to adjust. There is no light whatsoever.

All you have is the void before your eyes, and the distant sounds of other people dreaming – and whatever ambient noises a hell-deep cave produces.

The bathroom is right through there...

The bathroom is right through there...

So naturally, we pack the place out with hyperactive pre-teen boys who enjoy working their imaginations overtime. The sound of mass hysteria is 23 kids (and a lot of the adults) hyperventiating in inky blackness. Tiredness eventually sets in, though, and most folks get off to sleep. For those of us who have OVERLY active imaginations, the security of sleep is not an option.

I lay there awake, remembering to breathe, repeating certain passages of the Bible in my mind, trying not to think about some fiendish apparition hovering unseen above my head, waiting to strike me with the slightest unintentional provocation. That image has a way of fixing itself in a young man’s mind, and I simply couldn’t sleep. Add to the terror the fact that caves don’t come with central heating and air, and I was shaking worse than Keith Richards singing lead for the Parkinson’s Five. Shaking + nerves + cold + 500 cups of juice/water/Coke = really needing to pee. Which meant getting out of my sleeping bag, leaving my father’s side, and traipsing to the toilet – which was really just a hole that went to God-knows-where with a board over top it.

I didn’t want to pee. The more I tried to convince myself that I didn’t have to pee, the more I had to pee. So I got up, grabbed my flashlight, turned it on and covered the beam with my hand. I didn’t want to wake anyone else by accidentally shining a light in their face; and, I didn’t want to see if there was any misty-ghosty-spooky-floaty thing in front of me. I made my way to the edge of the sleeping chamber and then, once past all the slumbering spelunkers, I removed my hand from the head of my flashlight to reveal…

…nothing. I exhaled, put a little skip in my step, and trotted to the potty.

Once I got to the latrine, I noticed the cave was considerably colder. Like, wicked colder. Which naturally made my bladder want to explode. I stepped into the men’s portion of the latrine and set about to do my business.

Misty river takes your mind...

Misty river takes your mind...

Have you ever seen early morning mist, or early morning fog, the kind that hangs low over the ground and sort of moves with the terrain? It’s kind of dense, and difficult to see through. You know what causes such fog, so it doesn’t scare you. Imagine that kind of fog, in a cave toilet, about one and half miles underground, creeping toward your foot in the dim light of your tiny AA flashlight. Then, as if the creeping fog weren’t enough, I heard someone exhaling; which sounds like no big deal, but when you know you’re alone, and the exhale lasts longer than 45 seconds, either you’ve been holding your own breath for too freaking long or something seriously other-worldly is shaking down.

I was paralyzed. Completely frozen. The fog crept over my feet as the exhale continued, and then, just as soon as it had appeared, it passed from my view as the exhale faded. Thank goodness I was already in the latrine to pee. Had that same thing occurred in the sleeping chambers, I would have peed my pants, my dad’s pants, the four sleeping bags nearest me and probably the ceiling of the cave. As it was, I was pretty scared.

What made it worse was when I came out of the latrine. There, tucked behind a stalgamite, were three of my friends from the Scout troop. They had been awake, seen my flashlight, and figured on scaring the bejeezus out of me when I came out of the toilet. Only, they were sitting stock-still behind their natural barrier and all three were honestly spooked. I shined my light on one of their faces, and all he managed to say was, “Are you okay?”

We quickly chatted about what we saw, and decided it was the Bell Witch. Or some seriously lost early morning fog. Or the angel of Death cruising for another victim. Or the mist from Stephen King’s short story. Or any number of diabolical, evil, hellish, satanic entities seeking whom it might devour. We huddled there for a good long while, working up the courage to head back to our sleeping backs and the blackness of the sleeping chamber. When we finally made it back, we all vowed to go to sleep, but when the lights came on in the morning, we were all wide awake – and so were several other people. Turns out, we weren’t the only ones to see some deranged fog in the night. We particularly felt better when a grown man exclaimed, “Once I get outta this hellhole, I ain’t never going underground agin!” When it was pointed out (by his wife) that he would eventually have to be buried after his death, he responded, “Not me, sister. I’ll gets creamated afore I go back underground!”

The entrance to the Caverns...

The entrance to the Caverns...

Knowing that a grown man was scared enough to burn his own body rather than bury it made all of us feel a lot better. But we still couldn’t get out of that cave fast enough. When we burst out of the cavern’s metal doors, we lapped up the sunshine and the comfort of knowing that we would soon be on the highway headed toward a most-decidedly unhaunted home. When the Cumberland Caverns idea came up again a few years later, we were quick to offer alternative plans.

Do I believe I saw a witch? A ghost? A haint? A spook? A spectre? I don’t know. All I know is I’ve never been back. And never will.