Archive for August, 2009

Oddest Places – A Spirit & Place Essay

The Spirit and Place Festival invited me to write an essay on its theme of “Inspirational Places.” The essay is up on their site but I thought I’d preserve here also:

The terrible secret of my writing is that I don’t have a great
imagination. I have to go to a place, soak in its atmosphere, its
nuance, and let it speak to me. I’m sitting in a rear corner booth in
a bar/café in downtown Indianapolis, a known haunt for
prostitutes and strippers when they are “off shift.” Under the
crimson glare of the bar’s lights, I stare out at a sea of empty lives.
Women clinging to men to fill a void they might not even be aware
that they have; men searching for the momentary distraction of
bedroom companionship to numb themselves from the pain of
their reality. The décor reeks of a pervasive hopelessness that has
settled even into the formica tables; an air of desperation as thick
as the fumes of spent Scotch from the nearby table.

And here I find inspiration.

I’m a horror author, not a genre often associated with spiritual
musings. I have a novel to write—three, in fact, over the next
eighteen months—and some might not think what I choose to
write about honors God. It’s like we have come to believe that the
only thing that makes art redeemable is if it’s a set up for our
proselytizing sales pitches. But I believe that using your gifts to
your fullest—and bringing yourself to Him in worship—is what
pleases God.

My faith informs my writing, that secret alchemy of creation, that
strange union of art and spirituality. What we believe, why we
believe—from nihilistic to religious—are a part of us and thus a
part of our writing. We all have stories, mine is no better than
anyone else’s, all of us leading broken lives to one degree or
another. And I find inspiration writing about redemption, about
wringing hope from hopelessness.

To think, as I sit here drumming my fingers along this table waiting
for inspiration to hit, all I need is a pad and a pen and a place for
something mystical and profound, yet simple and ordinary, to
happen. I believe that we’re called to creative purpose. I write
because I have to, in order to still the voices in my head. Because
something in the core of my being crawls up and takes hold of me
and makes me move pen to paper. The Creative Spirit’s work, the
good news of grace, drives me into mission, to use my gifts to be a
blessing to others.

My notepad has been like my security blanket, since I never know
when a good idea will strike. My notepad is also my act of worship.
It contains my attempts to join in with the Holy Spirit by
participating in creation. I carve out places to write in the same
way that I carve out places to worship. We often think of church
as the building we go to in order to worship God. Yet, it’s just a
structure. There is nothing “sacred” about it until a sacred space is
carved out … by the people. The church is people, a sanctuary set
apart where heaven and earth meet and we can connect to God
… not a building. In the same way, I find my places of inspiration, to
get into that mental place, where I can capture the ever-elusive
ideas and words and wrestle them to this blank page which scares
me with its sheer … emptiness.

I love working on my stories at church, even (especially!) the
darker ones. Surrounding myself with reminders of who the
ultimate Author is, whose work I join in, I’m working out my
spiritual journey as much through my art as through my faith. So
it’s okay if we pursue art for art’s sake because creating beauty is
its own pursuit of truth and all truth points to God. I was born
with the gift to write and when you are doing what you were
created to do, you are doing God’s work.

Life is wondrous, even the dark sides of it, and there is a beauty
not only to Creation but in the act of creation. So be it a seedy
bar, a poorly lit street corner at 2 a.m., a neighborhood left
forgotten and abandoned by folks who lock their car doors while
speeding through them, or the other sides of a city hidden in
shadows, I carve out places to find inspiration. It’s no Walden Pond,
but it works for me.

American Son – A Review

Many movies have tried to offer commentary on the Iraq war and have failed tremendously at the box office. From Paul Haggis’ In the Valley of Elah and the Reese Witherspoon vehicle Rendition, these movies have struggled to find an audience. It may be fatigue, not wanting to “escape” by watching such movies, or it may be simply a matter of not wanting to be lectured to. So hopes were not high for American Son.

Coming home to life in Bakersfield after coming back from Camp Pendleton and Marine boot camp, 19 year old Mike Holland (Nick Cannon) re-examines his life and relationships. To be honest, the idea of Nick Cannon in a serious role might be cause for skepticism (although he has really grown on me since becoming the host of America’s Got Talent. Yeah, I said it.). Armed with a powerful, honest screenplay by first-timer Eric Schmid, he exudes a confident charm and a sly humor.

“Live it up, my man. It’s all gone so fast.” –Dad (Chi McBride)

American Son explores the familiar territory of how we can’t go home again (even apparently after a few months … if nothing has changed but you have), dealing with family and the possibility of a new relationship, on the eve of being shipped off to war. The reality of his mortality driven home by this fact, Mike looks at his life in a new way. Grasping on to what is important while clinging to his responsibilities and duties.

“Tell you the truth, I’d much rather be over there facing that shit than wasting away life everybody else.” –Mike

With 96 hours until he ships out, regular inter-titles count down the hours until his departure, he has to come to terms with his life. He wanted to test himself and seek out new opportunities, but he still has to deal with the realities of his life: his younger sister (Erica Gluck) who idolizes him, his religious mother (April Grace), his drug addict brother, his stoic-to-the-point-of-stone stepdad (Tom Sizemore), and his brief reunion with his estranged father (a steller, yet understated, performance by Chi McBride).

Subtle commentary on race … by not commenting on race. Our lead hero is black, his best friend Jake (Matt O’Leary) is white, and his girlfriend Cristina (Melonie Diaz) is Hispanic. The movie proceeds as if that’s the norm/not unusual and respects its audience enough to not feel the need to point it out. It gets its point across through performances, like the polite distrust of Cristina’s family when they first meet Mike.

“Why does it have to be you?” –Mom

No one wants him to go off to war. They want him to stay safe, with them. Mike’s mother knows all she can do is pray for her son. We have a natural sense of God as our protector and desire to seek His protection. We want His protection, especially in light of the fact that we can’t protect one another. When bad things happen, it’s like we long for God to step in, in a more direct way, and control things. We don’t ask such things when things are going “okay” (or as we’re making our own bad decisions). It’s like we want a “sovereign” God when it’s convenient.

We can live in a state of freedom in life, having a state of peace, faith, and confidence stemming from the assurance that we have in Christ Jesus. OR, we can continue on our own way, left to our own devices, with fear, doubt, and insecurity, trapped in a cycle of spiritual death. This assurance springs from faith in God as the ultimate protector, that sense that He is the ultimate, faithful judge.

“Whatever you’re doing, where do you think it’s going to take you?” –Mike

American Son makes for a mildly compelling, though wholly melodramatic, movie. While a personal movie looking at the life of a soldier about to be shipped off to Iraq, it has its share of dropped and unresolved storylines which didn’t make for the most satisfying of endings. Well-acted and without a political dimension, this movie is just a portrait of a man off to war: somebody’s son, somebody’s brother, somebody’s friend, somebody’s boyfriend. So maybe it can find its audience on DVD.

Gossip Girl (Season 2) – A Commentary

I may be completely missing the boat on the whole Gossip Girl thing. I hear folks describe it as a guilty pleasure, full of wit, and trashy fun. I just don’t see it. Maybe I’m taking Josh Schwarz’s teensploitation soap a little too seriously. It’s Dynasty for today’s teen set, rich people looking good while behaving badly. The kind of night time escapism that will never go out of style. The plotlines are practically beside the point—endless revenge, back-stabbing, and hooking up—with viewers needing a scorecard to keep up with the shenanigans. As I said in my review of season one, “maybe watching lily white, privileged teens cavort and struggle doesn’t do it for me.”

It’s easy to grant that some people are disadvantaged, but more difficult to admit that some people are privileged. Privilege would be the set of advantages that are enjoyed by some people beyond those commonly experienced by other people in the same social, political, and economic class. Something of value possessed by certain members of society, some sort of social, political and cultural advantages accorded. This privilege is “an invisible package of unearned assets” as Peggy McIntosh defined it, denied and protected.

Privilege is the shiny coat on a culture of oppression which had became ingrained in some peoples’ souls, part of the character of who they were. A mentality which insinuated itself as part and parcel of their identity; a part of a systemic evil of financial ascendancy, money, power, and politics. Money can be a means of oppression. At the same time we need reminding that God is for the oppressed, the marginalized, and the forgotten.

The Gospel speaks to the disinherited, the poor, the disenfranchised , the oppression of the weak by the powerful. The Gospel is an offense to the rich and powerful. It’s the death of their ideas of wealth and power, those priorities. Part of the societal pathology that has us sweeping the poor under the rug. If we’re going to be judged, it will be on how we treat, in Jesus’ words, “the least of these”. The poor. The disadvantaged. The non-privileged.

So another season of Gossip Girl is upon us, as if teens couldn’t be portrayed as even more vapid, self-involved and obsessed with surface beauty and trends. With an air of campy ridiculousness with no shortage of teenage and emo nonsense, I’m sure some folks will enjoy.

Interview with Coach Culbertson

I had a chance to catch up with the uber-busy Coach Culbertson of Relief: A Christian Literary Expression as well as, of special interest to me as a horror writer, Coach’s Midnight Diner.

What is Relief and how does it relate to the Midnight Diner?

Relief: A Christian Literary Expression (often just called Relief Journal) is currently a bi-annual literary journal that publishes literary fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. In our first reading submission period back in 2006, we received a lot of great genre submissions, but the editorial team thought that Relief should remain literary in scope. So instead, we decided to launch Coach’s Midnight Diner, a genre anthology made up of hardboiled genre works with a Christian slant. Both publications have an uncensored edge.

What do you see as your mission? How would you describe it?

We started Relief and the Diner after my wife and I both left the inner city where we taught high school. Kimberly wanted to be able to write about our experiences at the high school, but the question quickly became, “Where would it get published?” There were way too many amazing interactions with God for her stuff to be published in the secular markets, and way too much reality that shouldn’t be censored as it would diminish the power of God’s interactions with the students we took care of. So we ended up creating a venue for writing that falls in the gap between the Christian publishing markets and secular publishing markets.

Christian writing has long since been criticized as being too censored, too fluffy, lacking in artistic excellence, and way too preachy. We wanted to create an outlet where authors can have the freedom just write the damn story–to practice excellent craft, use authentic dialog (not – “gee whiz, Beav, what are we going to do with all this swell crack? Oh fiddlesticks, they just busted a cap in my rear end.” ) have characters talk about and have sex (and yes, Song of Solomon is not just symbolic–it really is about sex), wrestle with doubts and huge questions, interact with God, all in an authentic and real fashion.

Life is messy, rough, and difficult. It’s also wondrous, amazing, and sublime. Our writing should reflect reality, not sugarcoat it. No one lives in a “perfect” world, and neither should our words. We bridge the gap for writers who want to write real stories, poems, and creative nonfiction about real characters in real situations with a real God, without compromising the work’s integrity.

How hard is it living in the tension between ministry, art, and commerce?

Overall, the Relief and Diner projects have met with a very warm reception. So many authors and readers have said, “Oh wow, what a relief,” (pun intended, once they discover what we’re about. We find that overall Christians and non-Christians find a sense of understanding and acceptance when they read our books. They feel like they can breathe again.

We have yet to be condemned to hell or called the whore of Babylon, so I guess that’s good. Issues of Relief and the Diner have been known to show up in church libraries occasionally. Every once in a while we’ll get a standard “Oh, Christians shouldn’t write like the world,” or “All Christians should only write so the lost can get saved” argument, but not very often. We publish the kind of stuff that hits people where they really live, and that’s the artistic impact we’re out to make.

The commerce side is a little more difficult. Most people don’t know what a literary journal is, and many Christians think that a Christian horror story is an oxymoron. So we have a small, loyal audience at this point in time who appreciates what we’re doing, but I still have to reach into my own pocket every once in a while to pay the tab when sales are sucking. The economic downturn doesn’t help, but we’re making it through anyway.

We’re a 501c3 nonprofit, and part of the reason we can continue to exist is that the Relief and Diner communities pony up dollars to make these projects possible. Nobody’s making any money on this deal, our staff is completely volunteer, including me, which does make it a little easier to stretch the dollars way further than they might stretch in a different company.

Where do you see yourself in the genre/marketplace?

I see the Diner and Relief as a launching pad for authors (and editors and cover artists, etc.) who write brilliant unrelenting works who have very few (if any) outlets for it. We’re in the small press/micropress segment. But an interesting bit of trivia: we have editors from both big Christian publishing houses and big secular publishing houses on our customer and subscriber lists.

What sort of stories are you looking for?

I’ve actually hung up my spatula and retired from my position as Head Fry Cook of the Diner. Michelle Pendergrass now has the keys to the Diner as the new Editor-In-Chief (or Midnight Waitress, if you will), so that question might be better asked to her and the team for the 3rd Diner. But I can tell you that the team will be looking for stories of horror, crime, and the paranormal that do not suck. Michelle just posted up the specs for the next Diner up on, so go take a look.

Who would you like to see submit to you? Beginning writers? Pro/name writers?

Ummm, I’d say Michelle and the Diner team will looking for (italics)good(italics) writers. Name recognition doesn’t mean much when it comes to what we publish. It’s nice when we get a well-known name on the menu, but as a company, writers who are starting out have just as much of a chance to get published as the “big names.” It’s about writing a great story.

Writers who think that every word they write are drops of God’s holy grace to the world, however, need not submit. We’re looking for authors who are easy to work with, and understand that “the relationship between editor and author is sacrosanct” (thanks to Relief author Anthony Connelly for that statement).

Some might see the midnight diner as somewhere between a 4theluv type market (paying writers in exposure) and a semi-pro (with 5 cents/word being the demarcation between pro and semi-pro). Could you explain the thought process behind your policy of paying a few writers vs. giving all an equal, if only token, payment?

It’s not so much a thought process as it is a matter of economics. Hell, I’d love to pay every author a hundred bucks or more for their work, but that’s not a feasible option with our current financial situation. The Horror Writers Association requires a paid publication of at least $70, so great authors like Kevin Lucia who are just starting out can get their foot in the door, so we can at least help a couple folks take another step in their careers per issue. I didn’t really plan that initially, I just wanted to get people to write Jesus Vs. Cthulhu stories, but it was a nice side effect.

How do you see yourself growing
in the market place and building your base audience? Where would you like to be 5 years from now?

5 years from now, I’d like to be sipping margaritas in Cancun on a beach for a living, but seeing that’s probably not going to be the case, I’d like to see the Diner be the go-to publication for new talent and fresh writing, an almost sure-fire ticket to furthering an author’s career.

But largely, the future of the Diner will be in the hands of the new team. I’ve built the sandbox, with the help of Vennessa Ng, Mike Duran, Melody Graves, Adrian Rivero (the cover artist for the 2nd Diner), Robert Garbacz, Matt Mikalatos, and of course Relief’s Editor-In-Chief (who also happens to be my lovely wife) Kimberly Culbertson, but now it’s time for other folks to play in it. The Diner’s in good hands with Michelle at the grill.

What story have you put out that you’re the most proud of?

Damn, that’s a good question. Just the fact that we’ve put out the Diner at all is a miracle, and the fact that the quality has been so high has been due to the fact that there’s Christian and non-Christian authors who have been willing to go to that place of tough symbolic reality with me. So I’m going to cop out and say all of them.

When can we expect the next volume?

Michelle and her new crew (which is also made of some of the old Kitchen Staff as well) plan on getting the next one out sometime next year, I think. Watch and for news about it.

Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire – A Review

Adapted by Damien Paul from the work by former Harlem teacher and poet Sapphire, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire is a nightmare brought to life, both harrowing and unsparing, yet courageous and hope-filled. Easily one of the most powerful and devastating movies of the year, the movie is as uncompromising as its eponymous heroine. Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe as Claireece “Precious” Jones and Mo’Nique as her mother, Mary provide two standout performances. Mo’Nique’s portrayal is utterly terrifying. Sidibe totally inhabits her character, providing a characters the audience roots for to get out of her situation and to succeed.

“Everyday I tell myself something’s going to happen … someone’s going to break through to me.” –Precious

Dark black, overweight, 16 years old, pregnant with second child (both by her father), in junior high school, can barely read, Precious has been told she was stupid and worthless her entire life. Academic tests paint a picture of her being stupid and goes to the lie her mother had been spoon-feeding her. She daydreams of a light-skinned boyfriend, wishing to be a white blonde girl, negating her sense of self, believing such a life would be better. And her unrelenting circumstances propel the narrative of the movie.

“That’s why God made new days.” –Precious

Precious lives in all too common conditions: limited opportunity, limited education and extreme poverty; and too often, a “get over” by any means necessary lifestyle. Physically, sexually, and emotionally abused from an early age, she has built walls around her as she wears her angry scowl, hard shell, and attitude like a mask to get her through life. The masks have become part of her in order to interact with others and the world. Without realizing it, she became trapped by false ideas of herself. These lies of who she is and how she sees herself started developing when she was young, a part of how her family shaped her.

Precious has bought into so many lies about herself, she doesn’t realize the true beauty she is. The tragedy is that beauty is so often determined from the outside. She finds herself consciously or unconsciously asking “Do you see beauty in me? Am I worth another glance?”

After 16 years of life, she finally finds some people who believes in and love her: her teacher, Ms. Rain (Paula Patton); the nurse’s aide who attended the birth of her second child, Nurse John (Lenny Kravitz); and her social worker, Ms. Weiss (Mariah Carey, speaking of acting revelations, she amazes with her performance). Having people who believe in her, she’s able to begin to challenge the lies and thinking her mother instilled, such as how school “ain’t gonna help none” and how Precious ought to take her “ass to the welfare office”. But this was only the beginning of her journey to change.

“Alternative school. It’s like a choice. An alternative way of doing things.”

Besides attending an alternative school, she eventually has to change the setting of her life, moving into a halfway house. The picture of the halfway house is quite telling: halfway between her old life and where she wants to be. At the same time, knowing she can’t stay there, she has to keep moving forward.

The other important step in changing who she is and how she saw herself is realizing the truth of her name. She is a precious creation of God. Precious. Someone who needs to not only accept herself, but also accept the truth of herself; that she is an eikon, an image-bearer of God; worthy of respect, value, and love.

We were created in love, for love, and are to open ourselves to the possibility of love. We all need to draw on the love already in our lives and embrace the love while finding freedom and empowerment in it to love and be loved.

“You can’t handle this.” –Precious

The movie maintains its steady footing in the real world, with director Lee Daniels using Precious’ fantasies as relief valves from the steady stream of dire circumstances. Poignant, despairing, hopeful, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire is a tough movie to watch, leaving the audience emotionally drained. But the experience can be summed up in the movie’s tagline: “Life is hard. Life is short. Life is painful. Life is rich. Life is … Precious.”

The High and Not-As-High Price of Stupid Decisions

With great trepidation, I wade into a take on sports*. The one-time Super Bowl star New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress accepted a plea bargain and, with good behavior, will spend 20 months in jail for accidentally shooting himself in the thigh at a Manhattan nightclub. The Cleveland Browns receiver Donte’ Stallworth spent 24 days in jail for running over and killing a man while driving drunk. The big debate revolves around whether the two men received equitable treatment under the law.

One the surface, it may seem easy to compare the two cases, however, there are some important observations. The offenses took place in different states, New York and Florida, respectively. Different jurisdictions make for different sentencing guidelines. New York has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, thus not the best place to bring an unlicensed firearm into a night club. Then there were other mitigating factors, such as the state possibly having a difficult time securing a conviction because the victim in the Stallworth case having ran into traffic.**

It’s easy to see people found guilty of a crime receiving what appears to be different penalties for them and think that, once again, an injustice has occurred. Again, on the surface, it might seem like only one is paying a price and looks like the other is getting over. Though, they were both superstar receivers, when they faced serious legal trouble, they ran radically different routes.***

Donte’ Stallworth pulled over immediately after the accident. Though undoubtedly tempted to flee the scene, he tried to help the man and stayed around until the police arrived (even submitting to a blood test). He made a settlement with the family and a plea agreement with the prosecutor. Though a tragic situation, he made the best of it through his unconditional acceptance of responsibility for the incident. Owning it immediately, being contrite, getting with those he’d hurt, he tried to make things right and accepted the consequences of his actions (while not wanting this incident to define either him or his team).

On the other hand, instead of calling the police, Burress thought that he would try to outsmart the police. Not that he called them; rather, he had a teammate call his trainer. He tried to hide the gun and avoided taking an ambulance. He gave the emergency room staff a false name. And he ignored the advice of the counsel in his life and long refused to make a plea deal of any sort, employing a strategy of denial and delay.

We’re a forgiving people. We’re all about giving folks a second chance because, well, everyone makes mistakes and we get it. Just own up to it. Don’t blame others, play the victim, deny, trot out different theories of what happened, have to be chased down for an apology, or act like you did nothing wrong. It all boils down to how you respond when you get caught. How you get back up after you stumble and live with the consequences—from the shame to your contrition to your rebuilding of your life—that reveals who you are. Responsibility is a simple concept; it means to it means accepting the consequences for the things that you do. There can be forgiveness, though you are responsible for how you deal with the consequences.

Just don’t kill a dog.

*The fans are every bit as nuts as those in the gaming scene and this is far from my area of expertise.
**I just remembered, I’m as much a lawyer as I am a sports analyst. I’ll stop now.

***I hate puns, yet …

Inglourious Basterds – A Review

“Once upon a time … in Nazi-occupied France …”

With that, the revenge fantasy known as Inglourious Basterds begins its rollicking romp across the silver screen. A wildly re-imagined take on World War II, with a healthy dose of being a Dirty Dozen throwback, the movie builds to a tale of how the movies help end the war. Quentin Tarantino (Grindhouse) plays once more in his familiar palette of a deep knowledge of genre movies and a love of pop culture. From the previews, we know that eight Jewish-American soldiers, led by Brad Pitt’s Tennessee-twanging Lt. Aldo Raine, are off to kill some Nazis. Yet that doesn’t do service to the sprawling storyline of the movie.

“Let’s discuss the prospect of ending the war tonight.” –Landa

Inglourious Basterds is divided into five “chapters” and has a Sergio Leone, spaghetti western vibe to it. From the opening sequence, the notorious Nazi “Jew Hunter” Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), who even in asking for a glass of milk manages to both charm and terrorize, sets the precedent of wrestling this movie from Brad Pitt. When either is on the screen, the movie takes on an entirely lively bounce.

In the less compelling, but thematically important, storyline, a member of a Jewish family, Shosanna (Melanie Laurent), survives one of Landa’s massacres and comes to own a cinema. She endures the unwelcome advances of Nazi war hero Frederick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl), who is in Paris for the red carpet roll out of the biopic of his wartime exploits, “Nation’s Pride” (in which he also stars). She then has to suffer the company of the infamous Nazi propagandist, Dr. Goebbels (Sylvester Groth) as her cinema becomes the site of the film screening and host to the Nazi Party top leadership. A party Pitt and company also plan on crashing. Mayhem ensues.

“What shall the history books read?” –Landa

Inglourious Basterds revolves around the power of story, especially cinematic story, to twist or write new stories. Such propaganda, of which Goebbels was a master, succeeded in turning one’s enemies into something less than human, thus making it easy to be inhumane to them. War becomes about the loss of humanity rather than being what we were created to be.

Every person has a story to tell and is the sum of their stories. People groups, be they Jew or Nazi, can be defined by their shared story, a story that defines and continues to form them. When stories are reduced to caricature, dogma, or animal imagery, their vitality is drained. When people no longer tell or listen to others’ stories, they become locked in their provincial mindset, cultural ghettos of their own making. And when people become so removed from another’s story, they may become compelled to destroy those (other’s) stories for those other stories become a threat.

“I think this might just be my masterpiece.” –Aldo

One might walk into Inglourious Basterds expecting a Nazi kill fest, but this is a much quieter film than advertised. That said, Tarantino wields violence like a scalpel in the hands of a master surgeon, with violence so brutal, shocking, and disturbing that the audience winced. The highlight of the movie was easily the basement tavern scene, featuring crisp Tarantino dialogue, tension, and a brutally bloody climax. No doubt, more of this kind of sequence was what the bulk of the audience came to see.

Then again, the kind of continual violence one might have expected to see was screened by the Germans (or rather, satirized by Tarantino) in “Nation’s Pride”. The movie-within-a-movie revolves simply around the killing of three hundred men (300!) and serves as a commentary on both our movies and our culture of violence, including the audience cheering every ridiculous kill shot.

There are long stretches of quiet in Tarantino films which can be taken as one of two ways: it allows for a more thoughtful meditation on war; or the movie becomes bogged down in its mild indulgences, caught up in the cool of being a Tarantino film, as he gives into his love of the sound of his own dialogue. The audience is expected to forgive the sometimes protracted, overly drawn out dialogue scenes as they almost inevitably lead up to lethal moments. The best scenes build on escalating tension, with the palpable tension present like an unbilled character, because when it explodes, there is a blood rain all over again.

Inglourious Basterds isn’t Tarantino’s best work, falling just behind Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, and Reservoir Dogs. Like with Jackie Brown, this movie could have been trimmed down by nearly a half hour and make for a better, tauter film.

Gen Con 2009

As my regular readers know (and note, I refrained from calling you all “my Precious”), my blog will be fairly erratic as I put my nose to the grindstone to finish the second novel in my trilogy. Occasionally, I will find a way to procrastinate. This weekend it was Gen Con. Allow me to share a few picture highlights from the con. Two are hanging with John C. Hay and, well, what I’m calling the dorkcycle.

Though I was at the convention the entire time, on Saturday, the family joined me. My sons came appropriately dressed as Batman (Reese) and the Hulk (Malcolm – and as to not make Wrath James White upset, note that it’s the green Hulk, not the gray one). Since we were babysitting my nephew at the time, he was indoctrinated into the typical Broaddus family events. Turns out, Scooby was the hugest hit.

All the boys were constantly having their pictures taken (though the Hulk proved to be quite shy, so I ended up bribing him with candy to cooperate with the photographers). And they were invited to join in the Gen Con costume parade.

We wrapped up the afternoon building a house of cards which was added to the city of cards. We even returned to Gen Con late at night in order to participate in the charity destruction of the city of cards (oddly enough: boys + chance to destroy buildings of cards = WIN!)

We wrapped up our evening by checking in on a Magic the Gathering tournament. Notice that we have opted to pose for a picture of just us rather than show a picture of Mr. Hay’s ignominious and brutally quick defeat.

The rest of the pictures are available on teh wife’s Facebook albums:

I’ll post some actual reporting from the con in a few days. At some point I have to earn my press pass.

Uncle Boogeyman Now Up on Dark Recesses

Back in college, I began to seriously consider pursuing writing. I took a few creative writing stories and the end result was three stories, more or less. The first was my story which became Soul Food, a tale of a sin-eater in the hood, published in the inaugural issue of Hoodz magazine (after a convoluted path to print).

The second was my story which became Dark Night of the Soul, a piece I’d been tinkering with since high school about a man who falls in love with the goddess Kali. It saw print in last year’s anthology, Dark Harvest (which also reprinted Soul Food).

The third story was my 10K word opus reflecting on my days as a Certified Nursing Assistant. Eventually, I realized that I was actually telling two stories and I split the story into two. The former, the story of an assistant working in a nursing home of demon possessed elderly patients, was published in Dark Dreams III (Nurses Requiem). The latter, a tale of corrupt nursing assistants abusing patients to serve a greater darkness, has been published on Dark Recesses.

I hope you enjoy Uncle Boogeyman (plus, it’s another free read, so you have no excuse not to read it).


As I’ve been rooting around in my past and dealing with some issues, I ran across these steps from the Celebrate Recovery program:

STEP ONE – We admit we are powerless over the past and as a result our lives have become unmanageable.

STEP TWO – Believe God can restore us to wholeness, and realize this power can always be trusted to bring healing and wholeness in our lives.

STEP THREE – Make a decision to turn our will and our lives to the care of God, realizing we have not always understood His unconditional love. Choose to believe He does love us, is worthy of trust, and will help us to understand Him as we seek His truth.

STEP FOUR – Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, realizing all wrongs can be forgiven. Renounce the lie that the abuse was our fault.

STEP FIVE – Admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of the wrongs In our lives. This will include those acts perpetrated against me as well as those wrongs I perpetrated against others.

STEP SIX – By accepting God’s cleansing, we can renounce our shame. Now we are ready to have God remove all these character distortions and defects.

STEP SEVEN – Humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings, including our guilt. We release our fear and submit to Him.

STEP EIGHT – Make a list of all persons who have harmed us and become willing to seek God’s help in forgiving our perpetrators, as well as forgiving ourselves. Realize we’ve also harmed others and become willing to make amends to them.

STEP NINE – Extend forgiveness to ourselves and to others who have perpetrated against us, realizing this is an attitude of the heart, not always confrontation. Make direct amends, asking forgiveness from those people we have harmed, except when to do so would injure them or others.

STEP TEN – Continue to take personal inventory as new memories and issues surface. We continue to renounce our shame and guilt, but when we are wrong promptly admit it.

STEP ELEVEN – Continue to seek God through prayer and meditation to improve our
understanding of His character. Praying for knowledge of His truth in our lives, His will for us, and for the power to carry that out.

STEP TWELVE – Having a spiritual awakening as we accept God’s love and healing through these steps, we try to carry His message of hope to others. Practice these principles as new memories and issues surface claiming God’s promise of restoration and wholeness.