Saturday, July 30, 2011

Crossing Borders

So, we've come to that fork in the road. I guess I should have seen it coming as soon as I heard, as early as 2008, that Borders was in trouble. It was eventual that they would be losing business and would be closing some stores. Naively, I just thought they would close twenty or thirty. Surely that can't mean all of them, I thought.
But, no, it was true.

It hits me hard to know that a fine chain like this would be closing its doors.

Why does it hit me hard?

Several reasons.

Borders, namely the one in Oak Park, was always my constant escape hatch. When things weren't so cheery at home, all I had to do was walk, hitch a ride with a friend or just drive there myself. I'd go there to relax, read, drink a mocha frappe from the cafe. The usual. I was so used to coming in, the minute I'd walk in I'd stretch my arms, roll my neck and head for the shelves.

I think the longest stretch of time I spent in a Borders was nine hours. Yeah, I bought a couple, okay, several, okay, a couple bags of books but that was just my thing. I think twice I've taken a nap in a chair at Borders. That bookstore was my second home.

A couple years go by and I finally come across the fact that there's an open mic night called the Lucid Apple once every month. I told my first story, Failing Upwards, there in February of 2010. It was the night of my life. I told more stories as the months went by. I did mostly stuff from my first and second short story collection. I read The Nature of a Second Hand, Powerless, The prologue to Mr. Dead Eyes, The prologue to Wearing Donnie Torr, Lighter, The Graveyard Shifters, I Want to be a Monster, The Flight of Red Sophia, and finally Ghostbusted, which was my first nonfiction essay.

Each night I had weak knees, terrified, but still came running back for more.

Now, with Borders liquidating, everything is falling apart. No more Open Mic's. They are trying to move to a different place, which I hope they do, but right now they are negotiating for one more night which seems damn near impossible to get. I hope they keep it going, though. I will definitely show up. But it's a rough sock to the gut.

I knew what the problem was. It was eReaders. A takeover. If Borders was just a few years earlier with the Kobo, who knows, it might have been Barnes and Noble closing.

I stopped by the Borders in Naperville for one quick look at what I feared most.

July 23rd, 2011: To borrow Roosevelt's line is, "A [day] that will live in infamy."

This one picture gives me chills...

Everything must go, hardly anything did...

I weep for the Future...

Had to do my last tribute to Borders by planking. The two books in my hand are Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski and The Man who Loved Books Too Much...

So long, Borders. I wish I could've stocked my books in you.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Danse Macabre

Okay, let's be honest. Stephen King is pretty prolific. He's not only written many books but also mind-boggingly lengthy. Some have been wordy. Some could have easily been shorter (namely Gerald's Game). But you have to hand it to good old king. He sure knows his stuff.

If there's one thing I love from reading Stephen King, it's his introductions. Each one is a story within itself. Who can forget his story notes on Everything's Eventual, Skeleton Crew and Nightmares and Dreamscapes? Who can simply pass by The Importance of being Bachman (an intro into his life as a pseudonym and that eventual end.)?

I know I can't.

I know that the introduction isn't the biggest selling point of a story but it certainly is the tidiest way to move you along, find out the author's motivations for writing the story, a peek behind the curtain, if you will.

Well, I'm here to tell you that his non-fiction book, Danse Macbre, is like one big introduction to the horror genre from 1920 -1980. Of course, it's King, so you can expect some divergent thinking and many tangents, even footnotes that sort of bog down the point. The first half is about the movies and myths he experiences from his youth. He covers vampires, ghosts, werewolves, mad scientists and even that Hook story all the teeny boppers knew in the 1950's. Like the Red Sea that it is, it is a lot to wade through. But, if you hang steady and let the tide take you, you eventually get to the meat.

Once he goes through the ins and outs of proper horror, classy horror, the black and white horror that we've forgotten with all this Psycho-in-your-face-torture-porn, he gets to movies that did it right and, more importantly, books that did it right. Back in those days you dealt with cold, hard, true terror. Now everything is done for shock value. That doesn't seem right to me. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Incredible Shrinking Man just to name a few. He also pays tribute to the writers, sharing some insight on interviews behind the stories they wrote.

The last chapter is, I think, by far the best, where he rotates real news stories on crimes inspired or inadvertently comitted by horror films and books. There's this crazy article about Baltimore in 1980 where a women gets attacked by someone while she's reading a book while waiting for the bus. I won't spoil what happens next. You'll have to read it to believe it.

By the end of it all, you've gathered that half was criticism and half was the really delicious meat we were hunting for. The last two sections give an Appendix A and Appendix B. Appendix A is a list of all the classic, well-done, well-directed horror movies with a few stinkers just to get you started. The other index a list of every horror book referenced and they are classics. I suggest you read them. I've already added them to my reading list.

If you can take one thing away from reading this book, you could say that, although lengthy at times, King was able to go through every nook and cranny to show us the classier horror of the day. No rock went un-turned.

Truly, a good read from King.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Lost: Let Me Explain

I figured I owed the good readers of this blog more of an explanation to the events that eventually led to me hating the show Lost.

So here it is.

My wife and I like to get into shows late in the game. Some shows we break this rule and watch on a week to week basis because they're just that good. (i.e. Numbers, The Mentalist.) But other times we take the plunge and search for shows that have already finished or are at least three or four seasons in. We've come to watching them on instant on Netflix. It's a nifty little way for us to gorge on a chunk of episodes.

With Lost, which debuted in 2004, we found it around 2009 or so. We tore through the first season like nobody's business. Eventually we found ourselves slowing down in the fifth season and came back to it several months later. We finally came back to the show and finished season five and had a marathon of season six, which only got more confusing with each passing episode. On the last day, there were only three episodes left. We decided to save them for one day. A day I labeled "Happy Answer Day" because, well, y'know, I actually THOUGHT THEY WOULD BE GIVING CONCRETE ANSWERS!

However, as the events unfolded, we found that the episode descriptions were not matching up with the episode in question. Like an Episode with the description, "Locke finally reveals his real motives." What we we treated to instead was an episode composed entirely of a flashback from Lord knows when. Locke appeared five seconds before the episode ended and didn't say much of anything important.

But the real kicker was when we downed the last two hour and a half episodes that completed season six. When the last credit rolled, we were left sitting there with, as usual, 45 questions left hanging in the air. My patience was fading and we both squinted at each other. My wife and I expected more. Wanted more. Deserved more of an explanation.

In the end we realized that, the hours wasted watching the show equaled a total of five days we would never get back. All that time we could've been out with friends. We could've been living it up. I could've been writing.

Look, I know that J.J. Abrams wasn't originally to blame, because he focused on Season 1 & 2 and left the rest of the show to dimwits, but he abandoned a project that left way too many holes. With each episode I felt as if I were kicked in the face.

So, okay, J.J. Abrams wowed me with the Star Trek movie but, as my wife and I have discussed, that wasn't his baby. He was working with someone else's brain child. He did a good job but most of his movies just left me disappointed.

Cloverfield? Too much noise and not enough explanation.

Mission Impossible 3? It was alright but not groundbreaking.

Fringe? I stopped watching after ten episodes.

Now everyone is telling me to go watch Super 8. Well, whatever excitement I had toward that movie has disappeared. Enough so that I may just wait until it is on dvd.

So, there you have it. A Lost rant if there ever was one.

So disappointing. I guess the only thing I've taken away from the show is that it was a lesson on how not to F^*% with your audience when you are writing. The acting was good, the story was compelling, but everything fell short. I mean everything.

If you're like me, I know you've probably watched the Epilogue show somewhere online (which answered two meaningless questions) and you've probably come across the Lostpedia site which tries to satiate your frothing curiosity but, in the end, it wasn't worth the time. I guess I'll just have to settle for self-contained shows in the long-run.

That's about it.