Shocking news…

A few days ago came the shocking news that Kate Spade, the woman whose fashion empire was named after her (and whom my wife and daughters love her products) had committed suicide.

Mrs. Spade was 56 years old and the news was incredibly shocking for many reasons.  First and foremost: Her fashion line and Kate Spade stores were popular and I’m certain she was, at least financially, comfortable, yet soon after this shocking news her husband noted she had dealt with both depression and anxiety.

Today I wake up to the equally shocking news that Anthony Bourdain, noted chef and host of a popular travel/food show Parts Unknown, was found dead from suicide in France.  (You can read the CNN article concerning this news here)

Though I never watched a single episode of Mr. Bourdain’s show, I was familiar with him and his sometimes unvarnished comments regarding, among other things, Harvey Weinstein.  Mr. Bourdain, at least the last time I read, was the boyfriend of Asia Argento, one of the women who claimed Mr. Weinstein raped her.

Clearly, Mr. Bourdain had his demons just as Mrs. Spade and the fact that they took their own lives speaks to one of the great tragedies regarding suicide: Depression, anxiety, etc. can strike anyone, young and old, successful or poor.

I’ve faced it and, frankly, was once very much in danger because of it.  In my case, it involved a physical condition that didn’t allow me to sleep full nights.  Basically, in my mid 30’s or so I had a very strong nasal infection that, once it was over, I found that when I lay down to sleep I could only sleep for 3-4 hours before an incredible pressure would build in my right nostril to the point where the pain and inability to breathe would wake me up.

The pressure was so bad I was forced to get out of bed and walk around until the pressure went away, usually an hour later, then and only then could I get back to bed and, again, I would sleep only 3-4 hours before it would again hit me.  Mind you, this wasn’t something that happened once in a while.  This happened each and EVERY night.

Worse, I developed an incredible sensitivity to dust and cigarette smoke.  Frequently I’d feel such a terrible pressure in my sinus that it would give me terrible migraine headaches.  Headaches that would have me on the floor in the bathroom throwing up into the toilet or lying in bed completely unable to do anything.

I went to an Ear/Nose/Throat Specialist and he told me I had a deviated septum.  I had that operated on and, once healed, I was good but only for a few months.  Then, the symptoms came back just as before.

I returned to the Specialist and he re-examined me and said maybe I was suffering from an allergy.  For one year I then went to an allergist getting injections but…nothing resulted from them.

After five or so years of suffering and, quite literally, not having a single comfortable full night of sleep, I went to another Ear/Nose/Throat specialist and that individual (I’m trying hard to be polite) said that “This happens when you get older”.  He nonetheless said if I cauterize some veins in the nose I might get a bit of relief.

Desperate, I went through the second operation.  Like the first, there was relief after I recovered for a few months but then everything came back as before.

Five or so more years passed, now I endured some 10 years of living without being able to sleep a full night and enduring incredibly debilitating migraines.

I was constantly tired, depressed, and increasingly weak.

One day I went to my regular doctor and talked to him about my situation and he said: “Did any of the Doctors you saw before about this mentioned your turbinate?”

None had.

He recommended another doctor and I went to him and this doctor, whom I didn’t mention anything but my symptoms to, looked in my nose and said: “Your right turbinate is eight times larger than it should be.”

Essentially, I had something in my nose that was eight times the size it should be and, when irritated, would inflame to even larger size and this pressure, like a baseball inside my head and under my eye, was the cause of 10 years of suffering.

I got a third operation and this one ended my ten years of suffering.

Each time I went to a Doctor, I was desperate.  Yet two of the Doctors, supposed specialists in their fields, clearly didn’t see what they should have.

And ten years or so of my life were spent suffering when I didn’t have to and, yes, even considering suicide.  The pain and discomfort were that freaking bad.

Don’t let things get this bad for you.  If you or a family member is dealing with depression or anxiety, you NEED to call or have them call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

The number is: 1-800-273-TALK, ie 1-800-273-8255.

Do so.

Need advice on becoming a writer…?

Or perhaps a better writer?

There are a plethora of “how to” books out there regarding this topic and I know what you’re thinking: Which ones are worth spending my vast riches on?

Over at we have the following article which may help you separate the wheat from the chaff…

8 best books on writing, according to Novelists, Poets, and Writing Professors

Now, it’s damn tempting to think that reading a few books like these mentioned above will help your writing.  I suspect that if you study them, you will likely help yourself to some degree.

As someone who has considered doing an “On Writing”-type book (I’ve given my advice here and there on this blog), let me be the first to say this: There is no one advice book that will suddenly make you a superb writer.

Yeah, big reveal there, I’m sure.

The fact of the matter is that each author or potential author has their “style” of writing.  Shadow author Walter Gibson was able to produce a mind-boggling amount of words on a daily basis.  I recall he noted how his very last Shadow novel (these novels tended to be between 50-60,000 words so they could be considered novellas) was written in a single long sitting and sent out to the publishers of the pulp magazine the next day.

Stephen King, at least according to what he wrote in his On Writing book, stated he writes a book in roughly three months or so, puts it in a drawer to “let it cool down”, then comes back to revise it and its out.  I suspect that since releasing that book, he’s streamlined his writing habits even more.  I wonder if he revises his books much at all, or leaves it to editors.

Then there are authors who take up to ten years plus to create their work.  Clearly and unlike Walter Gibson and Stephen King, they sweat all the details.  Perhaps a little too much!

Me?  At first I was able to release roughly a book a year but of late I’ve found myself taking two years to write a book.  Though I wish I could release material more quickly -oh how I wish I could!- it takes a while to get all the details of a story together, much less present it in a way that I feel is exciting and interesting to a potential reader.

The thing about writing is that you have to have something of a vault of information in your head regarding stories.  Not only the ones you admire for their success, but also those you look back on and learn from their failures.

Mind you, I’d be the last person to say all my books are magnificent, earth-shattering triumphs (though over at my books have earned a cumulative average of 4.10 out of 5, something I can’t even begin to say how much I’m humbled by and appreciate).

However, I’ve tried to be a sponge with regard to stories.  I’ve been that way since I was old enough to read.  Whatever it may be, comic books, novels, stories, TV shows, movies, etc. etc. I’ve taken in, enjoyed, then mentally taken apart.  I’ve examined what worked and what didn’t, where the author/actor/director really got me as a viewer/reader and where they didn’t.

Again: What worked and what did not.

And this sort of examination helps me, I feel, as a guide when I’m writing my own works.

Why does it take me 2 years to write a novel?  Because on average I go through 12 drafts of a novel before I feel it is good enough to release.

12 drafts, ladies and gentlemen.

12 times I go through a book, the first 5 or 6 drafts usually being a gradual build up in the story, to the point where I feel I’ve gotten all the elements needed in their proper place.  The next 5-6 drafts tend to be about the storytelling itself, to make sure the book is lean and mean and doesn’t feature any repetition or awkward phraseology.

In other words, work, work, work!

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017) a (mildly) belated review

Sometimes, you just sit back, put your brain in neutral, and enjoy whatever you can about a goofball comedy you’re watching and, afterwards, decide its best not to think too hard about what you’re seeing.

Such is the case with the Ryan Reynolds/Samuel L. Jackson film The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

I mean… where to start?

The plot, in a nutshell, is this: Ryan Reynolds is Michael Bryce, a very good “bodyguard” who, in the movie’s opening minutes, loses a charge.  Two years later he’s considerably lower rent and dealing with some clearly whacko clients.

Meanwhile, villainous ex-Dictator Ladislav Duckhovich (Gary Oldman in what amounts to an extended cameo role) is under trial at the Hauge for his brutal reign in Belarus (or some such country) and it turns out the case isn’t very strong and prosecutors need to get the testimony of Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson).  Kincaid is imprisoned in England but offered a deal for his testimony.  He agrees to testify.

Bryce’s ex-girlfriend Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung, who is OK in a pretty blandly written role) is in charge of moving Kincaid to Amsterdam but, of course, things go sideways and after a bloody encounter with the ex-Dictator’s thugs winds up having Roussel and Kincaid in the wind.

Roussel calls in her ex-boyfriend Bryce to protect and take Kincaid to the Hauge and hilarity ensues as the two are familiar with each other and, of course, don’t like each other much at all.

(It is not terribly clear why Roussel brought her ex-boyfriend in to do this.  You would figure in another movie she would have moved Kincaid on her own.)

Anyway, what follows are some good laughs and plenty of -at times- bloody action.  Of course in The Hitman’s Bodyguard world, stray bullets or out of control vehicles or explosions don’t hurt any innocents and Kincaid, who is shot in the leg early in the film and is so weak from bleeding out, nonetheless recovers remarkably well minutes later and moves around with a light limp which doesn’t affect the action all that much.

Look, its a silly film and I’m starting to do what I shouldn’t: Think too hard about it.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard aspires to be nothing more than an entertaining work which gives people a few chills and thrills, laughs and romance and it accomplishes this, though the plot itself lurches around and could have been streamlined—

Again, don’t think too hard about it!

I recommend the film.  It is at times quite fun.

Just don’t expect much more than that.

Ash vs Evil Dead (2015-18) Third Season review

I’ve noted before I’m a fan of the original three Evil Dead films.  The first one, released in 1981, was a low budget horror film that, for its time, was eerie and quite scary.  The character of “Ash” Williams, played by the irrepressible Bruce Campbell, first appeared in the original Evil Dead.  His character, as presented in this film, is very different from what it would become…

As presented in this film, Ash was just a nondescript “other” guy in the group of doomed youth who headed out to a cabin and stumbled upon the Evil that was there.  Unlike the others in his party, Ash manages to survive to the end of the film but those closing minutes strongly imply he’s toast, too.

A few years later and in 1987 Evil Dead 2, the remake cum sequel to that original film -and in my opinion the best of the Evil Dead works- came out…

In its opening minutes Evil Dead 2 essentially “remade” the original film, then went off on its glorious own, having Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams go mano-a-mano against the supernatural forces haunting the cabin he was trapped in.  The thing that made this movie work so gloriously was that the makers/stars realized there’s a thin line between humor and horror and they pushed both to their limits, making the character of Ash Williams a weird goofball who acted at times like one of the lost Stooge brothers… only with a lot more blood and gore.

In 1992 came the third Evil Dead film, this one titled Army of Darkness, and it further evolved the character of Ash Williams, this time making him more of a smart ass/know-it-all and the biggest joke, of course, was that he was a total idiot… though one with an affinity to battle evil…

This film is my second favorite Evil Dead work, though it does lose a little steam in its second half (curiously, in the commentaries provided on the BluRay, director Sam Raimi noted the same, saying at one point that he lamented the fact that the film became a Ray Harryhausen-like film and lost, to a degree, Ash Williams).  Despite this, the opening and closing acts are an absolute hoot.

The movie, alas, was a flop.  It didn’t do well at all in theaters and the property appeared all but dead (pun intended?!).  However, the Evil Dead films did extremely well in the home video market and, many years later and in 2013 (yup, twenty years later), a new theatrical remake of Evil Dead was released to theaters and, though Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams didn’t show up but for a few seconds at the very tail end of the film and after the credits, it did reasonably well and seeing Ash Williams once again seemed to kick start an interest in bringing more of him.

Which led to Starz! taking up a new series, titled Ash vs Evil Dead, to premiere in 2015.

Now, I liked the first two seasons of the series though I didn’t like either season’s endings.  The first one was too damn open ended for my taste while the second season, it was revealed later on, was hastily assembled at the very last minute because of friction between one of the series’ producers and head writer/showrunner.  The later would leave the show after the second season and I worried as to how the third season would turn out without him.

Welp, I’ve just finished seeing the rest of the episodes in the third season and… its OK.  Not the best, but there are enough really good things to make it worth pursuing.

This season, unlike the two others, to me lacked much of the near constant wicked humor that made the first two seasons so damn good.  Further, there is a helter-skelter quality to the story presented, a sense of throwing things in but not resolving them or resolving them lamely, storywise.  It almost felt like the writers were more killing time with little bits and pieces here and there before getting to the end and those bits and pieces wind up not mattering all that much.

For example (mild spoilers) toward the very end of the third season we get an extended sequence involving Ash’s daughter Brandy (Arielle Carver-O’Neill) that plays out like a remake of one of the better sequences in Evil Dead 2 (I’ll not give everything away, but that sequence has an Ernest Hemingway Farewell to Arms punchline).. yet 1) its not as good as the original and 2) when its over the story moves forward and what Brandy went through is all but forgotten.

Characters such as Lucy Lawless’ Ruby Knowby are reduced to a somewhat ordinary “bad guy” status and is scheming and looking eeeevvvvvilll at the camera but otherwise isn’t given much of a chance to strut her stuff, especially against Ash directly.  Given how important she was supposed to be as the main antagonist in this season, it was weird how she was ultimately dispatched (SPOILER AGAIN!) without Ash doing much of anything to get rid of her.  We also have a situation where for the first half of the season the main characters are curiously on their own, Ash over here, Pablo over there, Kelly doing her thing, and Brandy (a new character) taking up a lot of time with little result.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Arielle Carver-O’Neill.  For a young woman she’s already got a good resume and I assume she’s a good actress but as presented here, she never seemed to work well in the Evil Dead mileu.  It might have been better to have Dana DeLorenzo’s Kelly turn out to be Ash’s daughter -as was originally intended- and not have to introduce a new character so late in the game.

But perhaps the biggest disappointment of the season is the fact that the wicked humor which was so prevalent in all Evil Dead works since the second film, the general tone of season three of the show feels more focused on gore and horror which, I suppose, was one of the reasons there was friction between the producer and ex-showrunner.

I like horror, but Evil Dead worked as well as it did because it balanced horror with humor.

Still, there are moments here and there where the show works, including the welcome return of Lee Majors as Brock Williams, Ash’s father and a climax and conclusion that, frankly, was pretty damn cool… though given the fact that the show wasn’t renewed -and the fact that Bruce Campbell has announced in no uncertain terms he would not return to the role of Ash Williams again- we’ll never see what happens after those closing minutes.

Ah well.

Look, if you’re a fan of the series, seeing the third season is a no-brainer.  If you’re not a fan or if you’ve never seen Evil Dead before, you may want to check out Evil Dead 2 or Army of Darkness first before checking out Seasons 1 and 2 of the series before going to Season 3.

Otherwise, if the idea of mixing gory horror and humor isn’t your cup of tea, you may want to stay away.

If this is indeed the last we’ll ever see of Ash Williams, let me say here and now: Thanks Bruce Campbell and company.  You created a unique character in Ash Williams, one that evolved and changed but was almost always fun to watch.

You’ll be missed.

Whose property is it anyway…?

I love the internet.  It allows me fast access to near unlimited information, be they technical information, opinions, reviews, analysis, articles, etc. etc. etc.

I’ve learned much, almost every day, and while at times reading people’s opinions (and trolls) can be frustrating, sometimes you have to take the good with the bad and sort things out on your own.

One thing that I’m noticing, however, is that this opening in allowing people to opine on things like movies, books, and TV shows and I’m realizing this leads to a sense of ownership of these properties on the part of fans.

I’ve long pondered why there was an almost literal lynch mob around the release of Batman v. Superman, a movie I liked quite a bit -moreso in its Ultimate Cut- and its director Zack Snyder.  Whatever your opinion of the film is, to many it was as if Mr. Snyder had committed some kind of unforgivable sin with what he did with the characters.

After the film left theaters, the anger turned toward the Ghostbusters remake, though to a somewhat lesser degree, yet for many this too was some kind of unforgivable sin against a beloved property and the people behind it should be… I don’t know, what exactly?

More recently, there appears to have been something of a repeat in the release and the fan reaction with Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  To many fans, the movie was a betrayal of the original Star Wars films (I don’t know… I have the film but as of yet haven’t seen it).

Today and over at, I found this article by Willa Paskin which focuses on fan theories regarding the Benedict Cumberbatch starring Sherlock series, specifically that many fans of the show feel the character of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were/are lovers…

The case of the fractured fandom

I find that speculation, which isn’t terribly new regarding Holmes/Watson (the idea that they might secretly be homosexual lovers has been around since at least the 1940’s and likely before!), nonetheless in this era of the internet allowed groups of people, including someone mentioned within the article itself, to really go to town with developing this theory and offering examples of how the creators, in their opinion, were pointing towards this alleged relationship.

Which brings me to this point: Speculation and/or scorn toward the way characters are handled by fans is perfectly fine, but bear in mind: These characters are the property of others and they will do with them what they choose.

Sure, Sherlock Holmes is now in public domain, but the Sherlock TV show is being made by the BBC under the control of several individuals who make the decisions of how the show will progress.  They can, if they want to, read the many fans’ opinions on how the show should progress and whatnot, but ultimately they decide the direction of the show.

(A digression: I suspect the show is done and will not return for a fourth season.  I could be wrong, but that’s just my opinion).

Similarly, whether you liked them or not -and its certainly your right to love or hate them!- the people behind Batman v. Superman and the Ghostbusters remake were granted authority to use these characters and create these properties by the people/companies that control them.

The films themselves may have been great or horrid, but them’s the breaks… not everything works out and with properties such as Batman and Superman, just because one version comes out not to your liking doesn’t mean the ceiling’s about to fall in on any future incarnations of said characters.  Superman survived the release of the not very good Superman III and the outright terrible Superman IV and Batman certain survived the release and ridicule which came after Batman and Robin.

I guess my point is this: Sometimes fandom needs to back off, at least a little, take a breath, and understand that your pleasure/disgust and speculations regarding property X are just that: YOUR opinions on it.

Do you hate Batman v. Superman?  Do you feel the characters in Sherlock are lovers?  Do you feel The Last Jedi was a betrayal of the original Star Wars films?

That’s perfectly legitimate… for you.

And you have every right to either hate these works or love them or speculate about their meaning or anything else you desire.

My worry -and the great danger- is that when fandom becomes powerful enough to dictate the release of new creative endeavors, then we’re treading into dangerous waters.

I feel fandom did affect what DC has done since the release of both Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad.  One has but see the Justice League film to see that end result.

Will the pressure of fans lead, if it should happen, to have Sherlock season 4 reveal that Holmes and Watson are lovers?  Will we have a Last Jedi redo where Luke Skywalker is treated “better”?

I worry when fans become such a powerful force.

But I suppose I also worry too that certain properties have become as big as they are and brings out these emotions in people.

The other day I looked up the top films of 1979 (don’t ask) and it surprised me that the #1 box office film of that year was… wait for it… Kramer vs. Kramer.  The other nine films, in order, were:

The Amityville HorrorRocky IIApocalypse NowStar Trek: The Motion PictureAlien10 (the Bo Derek film), The JerkMoonrakerThe Muppet Movie.

Interesting list, no?  Only two of the movies were sequels and/or part of a series (Rocky II and the James Bond film Moonraker) while a few others became series and/or had sequels but at this point were original works.

Compare that list with the top box office films of last year, 2017:

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast, The Fate of the Furious, Despicable Me 3, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Wolf Warrior 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman.

Of these ten films, a whopping EIGHT of them are part of a series and/or are sequels to other films and one of them, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, is a somewhat-sequel/remake of an original work.  The only “original work” is actually a live action version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast animated film!

So, essentially, NONE of the top 10 highest grossing films of 2017 were “original” works from start to end.


In conclusion, perhaps it’s no wonder, given how many sequels and cultural blanketing these works have created, that fans become so enmeshed in these works.

Not creepy at all…

Sometimes you go around this newfangled interweb and discover stuff you never heard of and… well… sometimes that stuff is downright weird.

Or, as I point out in the headline, creepy.

Here then is a link to an article by Priscilla Frank and found over at that durn liberal website concerning…

The creepy tale of an artist who ordered, then decapitated, a doll made to look like his ex

This is the tale of one Oskar Kokoschka (as I said, I’d never heard of him or his story before) and his ex-lover/muse -and prolific composer- Alma Mahler.

Seems that Ms. Mahler tired of Mr. Kokoschka and she ran off with another guy and the boy didn’t like that (sounds like the lyrics to a Paul McCartney/Beatles song).

Instead of rushing into the local saloon and confronting the man who would wed his ex and/or trying to somehow profess his love and win back the love of his life, our Mr. Kokoschka instead commissioned a doll in Ms. Mahler’s likeness and… well… how freaking strange is that?

Strange enough that he grew tired of the doll, decapitated it, and placed it on his front lawn which eventually got the attention of people and the police, who naturally were worried this was a real person on his lawn.

Oh, and this all happened back in 1919.

I can’t imagine what he would have done had this happened in the age of the internet.

Probably like many men, I’ve had my share of heartbreak.  There have been women I’ve fallen for who either never returned the affection or dropped me for whatever reasons they had to do so (most likely because I was an idiot, but that’s neither here nor there!).

But this… well, I could never imagine myself going this far to… I don’t know… self-flagellate?  Torture yourself?

Just… weird.