#Idea| “…no less than the trees and the stars…”

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Another fine message found in the poem “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann.

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The Reading Room | 5 #Books to Binge-Read After Binge-Watching #StrangerThings

Fill your ‘Stranger Things’ void with books!

Did you watch “Stranger Things” on Netflix?  Did you tear through it? Were you left wanting more? Then check out one of these books, sure to leave you riveted. Filled with the supernatural and extraterrestrial, normal people in bizarre circumstances, and a tinge of nostalgia, these books are must reads for anyone looking for stranger things…

I answered yes to all three of The Reading Room‘s questions above, but I’ve only heard of two of these titles–the King novel The Tommyknockers, for one–but I had no idea that John Dies at the End was a book. Whether it started that way or this is a novelization of the film matters not; it looks like I need to be making a trip to the library!

Have you guys seen Stranger Things yet? Did you like it? Do you think this Reading Room list does your feels from the series justice?

TV | The X Files Season 10 Premiere

Source: Fox Broadcasting

I am so excited to have The X Files back in active rotation. Just caught up with the first episode, “My Struggle,” and found it close to form. It generated a lot of new questions, barely answered any old questions, and gave us a whole new revised version of the old conspiracy to theorize about. All I know is I am locked in for the next episode, because I have just got to see how this mini-arc ends.

It was lovely to see Scully and Mulder “back together” and in the most awkward of consequences. They were more often trading barbs than kisses, which I’m okay with either way, but they did a fine job of simply making it feel awkward to watch them together. Again, not a bad thing, they are actors, after all, and it would be awkward to be called by a former boss to find a former lover, who is also a former co-worker, wouldn’t it? And, then, after more than a decade, hang out like it’s old times? Yep, definitely awkward.

We also get to see Skinner and the Cigarette-Smoking Man. Sans awkwardness, but with heated exchanges and statements of the obvious, respectively. And then there’s Joel McHale, playing buddy believer with Mulder, as a conservative TV host, who the New York Times felt was miscast here. But I thought he brought just enough energy, zeal, and overt seriousness (I mean, sometimes it felt like he was just trying too hard there.) to bring that character to life. It just reminds me that I need to start watching Community.

Overall, I was pleased, and I’m looking forward to where this little reboot takes us.

Pop | Tarantino Gets Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Source: USA Today

Congratulations to Quentin Tarantino!! I have been a big fan of his movies since Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. I love how he tells a story, the actors he works with, and his dialogue is always intelligent and engaging. I haven’t seen a Tarantino film that I didn’t like. Pure entertainment, and well earned! Congrats to the folks who joined him in the “Class of 2016”. Click the image to see the entire USA Today article.

Love his quote:

“That’s really cool, I must have become a big shot,” he joked during his speech. “This is a real, real groovy day.”

Books | The Bazaar of Bad Dreams from #StephenKing

Source: Simon & Schuster

Simon & Schuster just sent along some information on Stephen King‘s newest short story collection. Here’s what they had to say about it. Certainly can’t wait to dig my claws into it!

A master storyteller at his best—the O. Henry Prize winner Stephen King delivers a generous collection of stories, several of them brand-new, featuring revelatory autobiographical comments on when, why, and how he came to write (or rewrite) each story.

Since his first collection, Nightshift, published thirty-five years ago, Stephen King has dazzled readers with his genius as a writer of short fiction. In this new collection he assembles, for the first time, recent stories that have never been published in a book. He introduces each with a passage about its origins or his motivations for writing it.

There are thrilling connections between stories; themes of morality, the afterlife, guilt, what we would do differently if we could see into the future or correct the mistakes of the past. “Afterlife” is about a man who died of colon cancer and keeps reliving the same life, repeating his mistakes over and over again. Several stories feature characters at the end of life, revisiting their crimes and misdemeanors. Other stories address what happens when someone discovers that he has supernatural powers—the columnist who kills people by writing their obituaries in “Obits;” the old judge in “The Dune” who, as a boy, canoed to a deserted island and saw names written in the sand, the names of people who then died in freak accidents. In “Morality,” King looks at how a marriage and two lives fall apart after the wife and husband enter into what seems, at first, a devil’s pact they can win.

Magnificent, eerie, utterly compelling, these stories comprise one of King’s finest gifts to his constant reader—“I made them especially for you,” says King. “Feel free to examine them, but please be careful. The best of them have teeth.”

2015 State of the Union Address Makes #History

State of the Union Banner
Source: WhiteHouse.gov

President Obama almost looked happy to be delivering this message, almost. He made history last night releasing the text of his upcoming speech not just to the media, but to the public. Talking heads on one of the news stations admitted it’s how they all sound so educated and informed about it–because they see the text of the speech before the Pres even steps up to the podium. Seems like it was the most accessible State of the Union in the history of the address.

The text is still available on the official White House Medium page, and you can re-watch the entire speech at the White House’s official State of the Union page.

It sounded like Mr. President’s catchphrase last night was “Because it’s the right thing to do.” And, I especially loved the sentiment, “You think it’s easy raising a family on full-time income that’s less than $15,000 a year? Try it.” It sounded, for a moment, like maybe President Obama had a beer with John Fugelsang before he gave the address. That would be a cool conversation to see; hell, to sit in on!

How did you feel about the State of the Union? Did President Obama stand up to expectations or crumble beneath them?

Smithsonian | Finding #Elvis Beyond Graceland

The King's Keepers: Five Quirky Locations for Finding Elvis Beyond Graceland | Travel | Smithsonian

On the tail of The King’s birthday, I thought this trans-America list of Elvis haunts from Smithsonian online would be noteworthy. Enjoy!

The King’s Keepers: Five Quirky Locations for Finding Elvis Beyond Graceland | Travel | Smithsonian.

In the decades following his death, the singer—who would have turned 80 on January 8—has been elevated to levels bordering on the religious: the sites he visited turned into pilgrimage destinations, the items he touched transformed into pop culture relics.

Graceland, his Memphis home, averages 600,000 visitors a year and has spawned duplicates both miniature and life-size. But beyond the neon lights and shag carpets, in places like Connecticut and Arkansas, live people who believe deeply in the importance of preserving the history—and legacy—of Elvis Presley in unexpected ways.

 

 

Media | Reflecting on #CharlieHebdo

Source: Wikipedia

You can see their first cover post-attacks here. There was an NBC Nightly News story that I caught last night about Charlie Hebdo that prompted this blog.

In one week, I’ve seen various responses to this attack. The only thing I can think to say is that Freedom of Expression isn’t something to take lightly, but it’s a two-way street. Even the language we see as “offensive” is protected, and that is because language is used to transfer thought to speech. Yes, America is a land of censorship and Puritanical morals, but we revere freedom of speech above nearly all things. We know how important it is to have a sense of humor about things like radical political leaders and horrific political attacks. It’s an added dose of perspective that we cherish, that we require in order to get some reality, some understanding out of the tragedy that can occur when people lack a sense of humor or an ability to laugh at themselves.

No, I’ve never read Charlie Hebdo, not once. I don’t even know what the political cartoon from 2005 looked like. I just know that it caused an uproar, for the folks who don’t know how to look at things outside of their own connection to them. How to take a figure of great religious import and realize that he may not be that important to other people–but that doesn’t inherently negate the importance he has to you. That also doesn’t mean you need to kill those people. Negating the different doesn’t stop people from being different; in fact, I would say it calls them to it. Murdering someone for having a sense of humor about something you don’t find funny is pointless and only makes people want to distance themselves from you.

Unless they already feel laughed at, mocked, or put down for being different.

It’s easy to say lighten up and have a laugh, but when you’ve been the butt of jokes your entire life you start to think of laughter as a weapon. It can hurt; it can isolate; it can alienate. Laughter itself and the things that incite it can be hurtful to people on the receiving end of it. Especially when the jokes come at the expense of individuality, self-esteem, and unique expression.

This isn’t about censorship–can’t stand the shit. This is about having a little understanding for the other side of the fence. This just keeps proving how important and powerful words actually are, and how dangerous they can be when the people receiving the message have a different worldview from those delivering it.

Being able to speak your mind, even if it’s aimed at someone of great political or religious import, is a beautiful thing. And I would hate to see that get stunted, limited, or stopped entirely because people can’t take a step back and consider what the agenda is behind a message, because people don’t know how to carry around an ounce of perspective for someone else’s point of view. Am I going to be incensed or angered at a narrow-minded perspective? Of course, but I would never rob a person of having that narrow-minded perspective. (Un)fortunately, they are entitled to it. All I can do is try to understand why it’s so narrow and offer to broaden it.

That’s all anyone can do. And, in that light, I have to say, “I am Charlie.” Because I revere freedom of expression over the freedom to defend that which is religiously important to you because that will always be at odds with someone else–and it is that inherent diversity that makes us a richer people. We need this diversity to prevent becoming an autocratic, oppressed race of automatons who don’t care, don’t have passion, and can’t fight for anything.

Should you stand up for what you believe in? Unabashedly yes, but that doesn’t mean you have to fight every single battle to the death. Killing people in retaliation to media they created is an act that can never be erased and will never be stood for by the good people defending and promoting the freedom of expression.

The Top 10 Horror Novels of 2014

And I trust that Matt Molgaard would know! Please, direct any comments to the original post!

Horror Novel Reviews

Written by: Matt Molgaard

What novels scored big with readers this year? Truth is, that’s a tough question to answer, as we all seem to be looking for something a little different. However, we can definitely let you in on the books that really won us over. The following are the 10 best novels released in 2014, as voted on by myself and a number of our contributors!

butterfly-skin

10 Sergey Kuznetsov – Butterfly Skin

Verdict: Butterfly Skin reads, at times, like a vintage giallo picture… mixed with a little Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest. It’s wonderfully written and about as addictive as I imagine crack being. A stunning story that delivers tons of chills, the novel is about as disturbing as they come. Reviews of the novel seem to be a bit mixed, but lovers of the extreme are going to dig this one quite a bit.

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09 Benedict…

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Yahoo! News | Ryan Murphy recruits Jamie Lee Curtis and Emma Roberts for #ScreamQueens Fall 2015

Saw this on Yahoo! News and I’m so excited I can’t even find words…So, I’ll just use theirs. Enjoy!

Ryan Murphy recruits Jamie Lee Curtis and Emma Roberts for new horror series - Yahoo News
Source: Yahoo! News

Both well acquainted with the genre, the two actresses will headline the horror-comedy series “Scream Queens,” which is due to premiere on Fox in fall 2015.

Jamie Lee Curtis is preparing to reconnect with the genre that propelled her to fame. The actress whose career was launched in 1978 with John Carpenter’s “Halloween” went on to star in several other spine-chilling films, earning the epithet of “scream queen” at the time. So she was a logical choice in the title role of Ryan Murphy’s next series….

Fox has placed an order for the first 15 episodes, which are to focus on two female protagonists played by Jamie Lee Curtis and Emma Roberts. Julia Roberts’ niece is already familiar with Murphy’s flavor of horror, having appeared in the two most recent seasons of “American Horror Story”: “Coven” and “Freakshow.”

Read the entire article by clicking the link below!
Ryan Murphy recruits Jamie Lee Curtis and Emma Roberts for new horror series – Yahoo News.

Writer’s Digest | The 10 #Books That Never Left Me

NaNoWriMo Banner 11.1.14

If you follow my other blog, then you know that I’m taking part in National Novel Writing Month this month. That may also explain why posts here have been far fewer than normal. However, in an effort to celebrate NaNoWriMo across all of my social media arenas, I’m listing here another meme of sorts. At “The Writer’s Dig”, the regular blogging site of the Writer’s Digest Online Editor, Brian A. Klems, he’s asked his readers to make a list of the 10 Books That Never Left You. Those 10 stories that left an indelible mark on you. I’m going to do my best to get all 10 in this post–so that tomorrow I can get back to bringing you the funny!

Again, these are in no particular order except for that in which I remembered them, which may say something more about them than an intentional ordered list would:

1) IT, Stephen King

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This was the first adult book I ever read, and at the age of 12 it certainly left its mark. Especially since I would probably go on to re-read this about 10-20 more times in the time I spent waiting for high school to happen.  Back then, it was the character of Beverly who intrigued me. Being the only girl among a circle of boys, creating “The Loser’s Club”, I felt like I could relate to her more than the other characters–even though Ben and I shared weight issues and bullies who insisted on pointing it out. Even if it meant my fighting Pennywise along with them, I desperately wanted a Loser’s Club branch at my high school. It’s still one of my favorite novels of all time, and the story of perseverance and facing your demons is relatable for anyone who picks it up.

2) Invisible Monsters, Chuck Palahniuk

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The first Palahniuk characters I was introduced to were those from the film Fight Club. No, I haven’t read that yet, and I know I should–because I loved the movie. However, I was kind of hoping that one day dear old Chuck would write a similar story about a female character. Though Invisible Monsters is no Fight Club, for me, it was even better. It looked at issues of beauty and identity. Living up to the expectations of others while trying to pursue your own ideals. And what it really means to live the life you choose, even if that means totally forgetting where you came from. Brandy Alexander and Shannon McFarland make us look at what it means to be a woman in today’s world–biologically or constructed.

3) The Gunslinger, Stephen King

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The first in his iconic 8-part series (with the introduction of Wind Through the Keyhole) easily made me hungry for the rest. The compelling chase and familial discord is yet another arena for a head-strong and developed character to face his own demons. The Man in Black proves to be a worth adversary, causing havoc in more stories than just The Dark Tower series, but no matter what he sends out Roland doesn’t stop. Time is merely a face on the water; the wheel of ka turns, and you have your place along the beam if you’d like to take it up. Doing so will alter your imagination in ways you never imagined.

4) Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

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The story of a young woman making her own way in the world after basically growing up an orphan. This classic love story does so much more than present a stage where boy meets girl. Jane is complicated, as are her feelings for the men in her life. Even when she’s at her lowest point, sleeping in a field under a tree when she has nowhere else to go, she finds solace in her connection to the world. But, she is the epitome of unconditional love. Though Rochester does little to garner her affections–especially considering how he’s handled treatment of his current wife–Jane does not give up on her man–caring most for him when he cannot seem to care about himself. Her determined loyalty and unconditional affections reflect my own actions in a romantic arrangement, even to my own detriment. Even though the overall theme of the book is to criticize the social situation of women, I feel like it is truly about a woman’s ability to overcome all those expectations and achieve the happiness she truly wants, even from the heart of a boorish brute of an employer.

5) White Oleander, Janet Fitch

White Oleander Janet Fitch Book Cover
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Exploring the vital intricacies of the mother/daughter relationship, I felt like this book called to me. Though my relationship with my own mother wasn’t nearly as toxic, I felt like I could understand Astrid’s loyalty and desire to connect to others when her mother was locked up. My mother could only provide me with so much in life, and trying to make up for that is where Astrid and I cross paths. We are both overcompensating for a maternal connection that simply didn’t provide a strong enough foundation of self-esteem, functionality, and capability to connect to others and seek out what we need. We try our best not to need the affections of others, but we quickly realize that though isolation may keep our hearts intact, it does not a happy life make.

6) The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

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Exploring one woman’s psyche from the 1950s resonated more with me than I thought I would. I didn’t get the chance to read this book until later on in my college career, and it left a mark on me that could never be wiped away. Esther is a very talented girl, but that doesn’t seem enough to keep her happy. She questions, she wonders at her purpose, she squirrels herself away in a vain attempt to hide the fact that she just can’t get happy. Even with a New York City opportunity, even with the potential for love, poor Esther just can’t find her joy. When she begins seeking treatment after a particularly awful breakdown where she hides herself in the family basement, I sobbed for her first attempts at shock treatment, and my heart broke for her when it seemed like no one would listen. Sylvia’s words of discovery upon interrogating Esther’s issues will forever speak to me in a way no other book ever has.

7) Prozac Nation, Elizabeth Wurtzel

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That is, until I read Prozac Nation. However, the funny thing is, is that I read PN first. Just a year before I read The Bell Jar. Though Elizabeth’s version of depression recalled more of my own life than The Bell Jar did, I wasn’t as self-destructive as Elizabeth. Even though I always wanted to be. I longed for the downward spiral, for all of its confusion, for all of its glamour, because then I might have a reason for feeling as badly as I did. Speaking more to my own generation’s issues than The Bell Jar could, PN would not be here without Plath’s path to come before it. Wurtzel’s depression felt like my depression, but Plath’s breakdown for Esther was more of an emotional journey for me.

8) Hatchet, Gary Paulsen

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A novel I read in middle school, Hatchet made me realize that I had power of my own. Even though I was viewed as a child by the rest of the world, Gary Paulsen made me feel like with the right tools in hand I could conquer the world which underestimated me. Though hanging out in the wilderness isn’t exactly my idea of a good time, connecting with nature can call up a kind of clarity and strength within us that we might not have been aware we had before. Brian’s adventure was one that I wouldn’t wish on myself in a literal sense, but the discoveries Brian made about himself on that journey are goal-worthy, post-adventure or not. And I just learned recently that there are four other novels in this series. After NaNo and finishing the books I’m in the middle of now, I may just have to visit my local library and check them out for myself. I would love to see what else Mother Nature brought out of my old friend Brian on his return treks into the wild.

9) My Favorite Book, Good Will, Inc.

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This is the very first book I ever remember reading, and that was sometime before kindergarten–easily between the ages of 2 and 4 (and I say that because I don’t remember learning how to read at all, but I remember my baby sister being born just before I turned 4). It talks about gratitude, positivity, and being generally kind and thoughtful. It talks about appreciating the sunrise and bedtime. Apparently, there was an earlier edition (this is from 1980) that had religious/Christian references in it. And, I have to say that I’m glad I didn’t get that one. My grandmother went a long way to putting Jesus in my head, but this book taught me to appreciate good things for their own sake, on their own merit. Appreciate the good because it is good–not necessarily because it came from a good God. That is a trait I carry to this day, along with having mad respect for Jesus (while some of his followers worry me). I believe in being good for the sake of putting good things out in the world, not necessarily because an omnipotent father-figure thinks I should. I think I can have this book to thank for that.

10) The Dancing Man, Ruth Bornstein

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I freaking love this story, and I can’t believe it wasn’t the first one I thought of. (P.S. I had a chance to re-read this just this morning; so it’s very fresh in mind.) Though, whenever I think of my favorite novel IT  is the first one that always comes to mind. But, when it comes to pure story, Ruth Bornstein brought it back in 1978. The Dancing Man may appear to be about a dancing man on the surface (the very cover, no less!), it is really about the passing along and sharing of dreams. Every writer should read this story, because dreams are made real only after they are shared. That is the moral of this beautiful, simple story. Is time glossed over? Yes. Do we ever find out what happens to Joseph’s village (*SPOILER ALERT*)? No. Are we ever told how Joseph is always able to fit in the same outfit for the entirety of his life (*SPOILER ALERT*)? No. But does it matter what you wear when you share dreams? No. Does it matter how we got to the southernmost sea? No. What matters is that a new reader, a new author, a new book fiend could be there at the end of our road, with new dreams of their own, just waiting to carry on the torch your dreams ignited.