Found a Marvelous Story: Cat Pictures Please

A few days ago, I was reading Amanda Marcotte’s Salon column on the alt-right hijacking of the Hugo Awards, and it quite naturally mentioned some of the winners.  There was actually a link to the winner of the short stories category, Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer, so I took a look.  You should too. It’s a heartwarming little story about an AI that just wants to help, and thinks the greatest things humans ever created was cat pictures.  I finished it in the time it took me to take the subway home, so it’s just a quick, satisfying little literary snack that richly deserves the award it won.

 

Interesting Links – 07/20/2016

Hey, all.

In addition to my own work and that of my friends, I’ve found a number of marvelous things around the Internet that I’d like to share with you all.

To start with, here are two beautiful and moving photo collections:

We’re nothing but human

and

Breathtaking Photos of the Human Species

Next we have something very different, but still beautiful in its own way, and definitely very interesting:

Photographs of Everyday Life in 1950s New York

Then we have some baby pictures of something I love very much in:

Traveling down Coney Island to the Beach…in 1868

And finally, we have:

7 Terrifying and Disturbing Horror Films You Can Actually Watch Tonight And Never Sleep Again

Frankly, I think the title is a bit of an exaggeration, but I suppose every horror-related thing almost has to claim to be the most nerve-shattering thing ever.

Of the movies, I like The Birch for its interesting monster, and Mother is what all kids like to imagine our mothers would do if actually confronted with the monster in the closet.  The Little Mermaid reminds us once again that trying to keep supernatural creatures as slaves is a bad mistake.

But it’s the last one, Derailed, that really hits me where I live.  As a city dweller, I fear the darkness beyond the end of the train platform, and find the outlands that are the train yards at the edge of the city to be uncanny.  In this movie, they really are…

Hope you enjoyed all of those.  Don’t forget, Prize Bucks and In the Make-Out Room are still available for free download at Amazon, and will be through Thursday.  And keep watching, there’s always more to come.

 

 

Reviews: Streets of Fire

streets_of_fire_poster

 

This review was first published on March 8, 2013, back on Dreams of the Shining Horizon.  I bring it here for several reasons.  First, I intend to bring  all of my reviews over – I believe they have relevance to writing theory and my philosophy as a writer.  I bring this review over  first because it was the first and, in my opinion, one of the best on the old site.  What’s more, this movie remains a great inspiration to me as I continue to write fiction about myths and dreams.  Finally, it’s summer time, and this is by far my favorite summer movie.  Enjoy.

On my About page, and again in my first post, I mention that one of the things I intend to write about on this site is movies.  It would be strange if I didn’t: I’ve been a movie buff ever since I was a little kid hanging out in the local video store, wishing I could take the entire stock home.  And while there are certainly movies I’m going to pick apart or hold up as examples of what not to do, most of them are going to be movies I love, or that inspire me in some way.

That’s why the very first movie review on Dreams of the Shining Horizon is going to be about Streets of Fire.  It fits into both categories, and I wanted to get the whole endeavor off to a positive start. Continue reading “Reviews: Streets of Fire

Coney Island: Opening The Beach

Coney Island Greeting Card

I had an experience I didn’t expect this weekend.

It was a bright, sunny summer day, and my fiancee was going record shopping with some friends to commemorate the closing of several well-beloved old record stores.  As you can probably guess from the banner, I decided to go to Coney Island instead.

When I got there, I saw people in colorful costumes and makeup, and I started to get worried.  Then I saw the police barriers set up, and I was dismayed to realize I was right: I had arrived on the day of the Mermaid Parade.

For those who are unfamiliar (and who didn’t follow that link), the Mermaid Parade is New York City’s Mardi Gras, a celebration of the beginning of summer at Coney Island, a tradition that goes back to 1983.

I’d been to the Mermaid Parade before, once on purpose and once by accident, and resolved to never go again.  Way too crowded for an introvert like myself to enjoy.  But after this weekend, I may need to make it a yearly thing.

While I would still want to avoid the parade route itself, Coney Island that day was filled with the strange and beautiful creatures of New York, with their makeup, their colored hair, and their costumes.  See here, here, here and (for this year’s event) here to see what I’m talking about, but be careful – those links are very NSFW.  It is legal for women to go topless in public in New York, and the Mermaid Parade is one of the few times you’ll see any significant number of women actually exercise that right.  Seriously, so many bare breasts in those links, you guys.

One of the Strange Beautiful Creatures you don’t see in those pictures is the Snake Guy, who was walking the boardwalk with his pet boa constrictors wrapped around his shoulders.  I didn’t pet them, but others did.

I was out on the Steeplechase Pier getting ready to leave – more specifically, to head to the Violent Femmes concert in Prospect Park where I spent the evening with my fiancee and some friends – when I noticed a bit of commotion down on the beach.

I looked down, and who should I see but Dick Zigun himself, founder of the Mermaid Parade and unofficial mayor of Coney Island:

Dick Zigun

That’s when I realized I was present for the annual Opening of the Beach!  This is the ceremony that marks the traditional beginning of summer at Coney Island.

I don’t know if this happens every year, but this year they had a houngan perform a blessing: there was drumming and chanting and shaking of an asson gourd rattle; rum was sprayed all around, and a tall, strong fellow placed a basket of fruit on his head and walked out into the water until the fruit floated out of the basket, which I believe is an offering to Agwe, the loa of the Sea.

I’ve written many times and in many places of the spiritual connection I feel to the waters, to Coney Island in particular.  To see someone else, even from a distance, even from a tradition I don’t understand very well, recognize and honor that holiness was a powerful and moving experience.

So I think I’ll go again next year.  Avoid the worst of the crowds as best I can, mingle with the strange beautiful creatures, and take a more active part in blessing the waters that have so blessed me.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday in June.

Sights of New York: Green-Wood Cemetery

Green-Wood Cemetery 6-11-2016

My fiancee and I were in the neighborhood this past Saturday, and we happened to stop by Green-Wood Cemetery.  That gatehouse you see up above caught our attention.  It was beautiful and peaceful – everything a cemetery should be, instead of everything that horror writers like myself always turn them into.  We’re planning to go back sometime, to get more and better pictures.  And I’m almost certain to set a future story there.

(Still and all, we might have been better off if we hadn’t watch all four Phantasm flicks before we went to visit this place…)

Spotlighted Link: Slacktivist

slacktivist-banner

I’ve been following Fred Clark’s blog, Slacktivist, for a very long time.  Back to the Typepad Days, as other long-running Slacktivites might say.  Nearly fourteen years now, almost since the very beginning of Fred’s famous deconstruction of the Left Behind books.

I chose Fred Clark to be my first Spotlighted Link, and the first link on my Links page, for three reasons:

  1. Fred’s Left Behind posts may be the best “What Not To Do” primer for writers on the Internet.  The Left Behind series is, as Fred himself says, “Instructively Bad”, and seeing their many flaws dissected (complete with suggestions as to how it could have been done better and even fix-fic in the comments) has aided the development of my own writing a great deal.
  2. Fred grew up in the White Christian Evangelical subculture, and remains a member to this day, though he is known in that subculture as “controversial” (which, if you were a reader of Fred’s work, you would know means “heretical”).  Reading Fred gives you an intimate view into this subculture, with all its traditions and shibboleths.  If you’re an American, you may think you know them.  You don’t.
  3. Last but not least, Fred has been a tremendous inspiration to me personally.  His compassion and hunger for justice, and his writings on those topics, have given me both desire and directions to be a better person.  His post LB: The Rise of the Anti-Huck (a post from his Left Behind critique) is probably the best example I can offer, as he analyzes the greatest moment of Salvation and triumph of love over The Rules in American fiction…and contrasts it with the “heroes” of Left Behind.

Check it out!  Before you go, check out my brand new Links page.

By the way, as we say in pretty much every thread on Slacktivist, Fred has a Patreon.  Support the artist.

And while you’re at it, consider picking up some of Fred’s books, which collect his blog posts.

There’s

Long March of the Koalas

…which discusses his opinions on Creationism (spoiler: not only bad science, but bad religion).

And of course, there’s what you really came for: the two-volume The Anti-Christ Handbook, which collects his columns on the first book of the Left Behind series.

Anti-Christ Handbook 1

Anti-Christ Handbook 2

 

 

 

“It’s about believing in yourself.”

I saw the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line for the first time last night.  It was a powerful movie, but there was one scene in particular that stuck with me:

If I could, I’d put a recording of that speech in my alarm clock.

Every artist, in every medium, has a responsibility to tell their truth in their work.  Maybe it will sell, maybe it won’t.  In the end, we have no choice, because nothing else will work.  You can’t tell someone else’s truth and make anyone else believe it.

Found Stories: The Meat Loaf Album Covers

This story was originally published on my old blog on February 19, 2013.  I include it here partly because I think it’s an interesting meditation on creativity, inspiration and the process of writing…and partly because I really like it and want to share it with a new audience.

As I say on my About page, I’ve always loved the Stories. But here’s the thing about the Stories: they don’t stop. Call it a blessing, call it a curse – I can look at the most unlikely thing and build a story out of it. For example, I’ve built an entire mythos out of Meat Loaf album covers. It’s true. Let me show you what I mean:

meatloaf_bat_out_of_hell
Continue reading “Found Stories: The Meat Loaf Album Covers”