Monday, May 31, 2010

Irish actors play Civil War vets in 'Seraphim Falls'

A few days ago, I watched the 2007 western, “Seraphim Falls,” which starred Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan and was surprised by the overall quality of the movie.
The story takes place after the Civil War and centers on former Confederate colonel, Morsman Carver, who’s out for revenge against a former Union captain named Gideon. Carver blames Gideon for the deaths of his wife and children and is out to make Gideon pay with his life.
This movie is remarkable for many reasons, especially its use of sweeping western landscapes. The movie begins in the snowy Rocky Mountains, moves into the plains and eventually ends in the scorching desert.
This movie was very entertaining, and it often left me wondering about who I should be pulling for. Both of the main characters were compelling, and, as a viewer, you’ll find yourself sympathizing with both.
There are a number of interesting bits of trivia about this movie that make for good conversation. The Seraphim Falls referred to in the title is a reference to Carver’s farm, where his family meets their end at the hands of Gideon’s men. Some of you will remember from Sunday School that a seraphim is a type of angel. One theory about the movie suggests that Carver and Gideon are actually a pair of fallen angels who are forced to battle each other from heaven (the Rocky Mountains) to hell (the desert).
Another interesting side note is the fact that neither of the lead actors, Neeson and Brosnan, is American. Despite their roles as American Civil War veterans, both of these actors were born and raised in Ireland.
In the end, if you like Westerns, you’ll enjoy this movie. There’s plenty of gunplay, horse riding’ and lots more for fans of the genre. Let me hear from those of you who have seen it. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this movie.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Stephen King's Favorite Horror Films, Part II

Tonight, I give you Part II of the list I started yesterday, that is, Appendix I: The Films from the back of Stephen King’s nonfiction classic, “Danse Macabre.” The list is a best-of horror films list that King put together, covering films that came out between 1950 and 1980. Yesterday, I gave you those titled A-I, and today I give you the rest of the entire list.
Here they are, and, remember, King’s personal favorites are denoted with an asterisk (*):
- Jaws, 1975*
- The Killer Shrews, 1959
- Lady in a Cage, 1963*
- Last Summer, 1969
- Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, 1971*
- Macabre, 1958
- Martin, 1977*
- The Masque of the Red Death, 1964
- Night Must Fall, 1964
- The Night of the Hunter, 1955*
- Night of the Living Dead, 1968*
- Not of This Earth, 1956
- No Way to Treat a Lady, 1968
- Panic in the Year Zero, 1962
- Picnic at Hanging Rock, 1978*
- The Pit and the Pendulum, 1961
- Psycho, 1960*
- Rabid, 1977*
- Race with the Devil, 1975
- Repulsion, 1965*
- Rituals, 1978*
- Rosemary’s Baby, 1968*
- Salem’s Lot, 1979
- Séance of a Wet Afternoon, 1964
- Seizure, 1975
- The Seventh Seal, 1956*
- Sisters, 1973*
- The Shining, 1980*
- The Shout, 1979
- Someone’s Watching Me, 1978
- The Stepford Wives, 1975
- Strait-Jacket, 1964
- Suddenly Last Summer, 1960
- Suspiria, 1977*
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974*
- Them!, 1954*
- They Came from Within, 1975
- The Thing, 1951*
- The Tomb of Ligeia, 1965
- Trilogy of Terror, 1975
- Village of the Damned, 1960
- Wait Until Dark, 1967*
- What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, 1961*
- When Michael Calls, 1971
- The Wicker Man, 1973
- Willard, 1971
- X – the Man with X-Ray Eyes, 1963*
- X the Unknown, 1956
Let me know if you’ve seen any of these movies and what you thought about them. I’ve seen a few of them (and have even written about a few of them on this blog), but there are a few on this list that I’ve never heard of.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Stephen King's favorite horror movies

I’ve been posting a lot about great movies lately, and it dawned on me a couple of days ago that I’d never shared one of the best horror movie lists that I’ve ever read – Appendix I: The Films from the back of Stephen King’s nonfiction classic, “Danse Macabre.”
Published in 1981, “Danse Macabre” is King’s take on horror fiction in print, on the radio, in movies and in comic books and his feelings about how horror fiction has influenced popular culture.
In the back of this (great) book, King includes two appendixes, Appendix I: The Films and Appendix II: The Books. Here’s what King had to say about Appendix I.
“Below is a list of roughly 100 fantasy/horror films tied together by their time and their excellence. All were released during the period 1950-1980, and all of them seem to me to be particularly interesting in one way or another; if I may say so without sounding like an Academy Award presenter, all of them have contributed something of value to the genre. You will find my own personal favorites marked with an asterisk (*).”
Without further ado, here are titles A-I on King’s best-of horror film list:
- The Abominable Dr. Phibes, 1971
- Alien, 1979*
- Asylum, 1972
- The Bad Seed, 1956
- The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, 1969
- Black Sunday, 1961*
- The Brood, 1979*
- Burnt Offerings, 1976
- Burn Witch Burn, 1962
- Carrie, 1976*
- The Conqueror Worm, 1968
- Creature from the Black Lagoon, 1954*
- The Creeping Unknown, 1955*
- Curse of the Demon, 1957*
- The Day of the Triffids, 1963
- Dawn of the Dead, 1979*
- The Deadly Bees, 1967
- Deep Red, 1976
- Deliverance, 1972*
- Dementia-13, 1963*
- Diabolique, 1955
- Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors, 1965
- Don’t Look Now, 1973
- Duel, 1971*
- Enemy from Space, 1957*
- Eraserhead, 1976
- The Exorcist, 1973*
- The Exterminating Angel, 1963
- Eye of the Cat, 1969
- The Fly, 1958
- Frenzy, 1972*
- The Fury, 1978
- Gorgo, 1961
- Halloween, 1978*
- The Haunting, 1963*
- The H-Man, 1958
- Horrors of the Black Museum, 1959
- Hour of the Wolf, 1967
- The House that Dripped Blood, 1970
- Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, 1965
- I Bury the Living, 1958,*
- The Incredible Shrinking Man, 1957
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956*
- I Saw What You Did, 1965
- It Came from Outer Space, 1953*
- It! The Terror from Beyond Space, 1958
Like “The LOST Books” list from earlier this week, I’ll present you this complete list in the days to come. Let me know if you’ve seen any of these movies and what you thought about them. I’ve seen a few of them (and have even written about a few of them on this blog), but there are a few on this list that I’ve never heard of.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Have you ever wrote a 'triolet'?

One of my favorite magazines is Writer’s Digest, and one of my favorite regular features in the magazine is its Poetic Form item. In the Poetic Form piece, the magazine’s editors introduce (or reintroduce) readers to an unusual form of poetry.
In the March/April issue, the “triolet” was the featured poetic form. Never heard of this type of poem? Me neither, at least so far as I can remember.
A triolet is an eight-line poem that consists of repetitive lines, rhymes and has eight to 10 syllables per line in this pattern:
A: First line
B: Second line
a: Rhyme with the first line
A: Repeat first line
a: Rhyme with first line
b: Rhyme with second line
A: Repeat first line
B: Repeat second line
These types of unusual poems are often fun to try and you can write them in a short time or you can really put a lot of thought into them over an extended period of time. As an example, I’ll spit one out real quick for you.

I once had a dog named Winston.
He was as loyal as could be.
His curly tail wagged like a piston
I once had a dog named Winston.
Ol’ Winston was always much fun.
And I hate that he never saw three.
I once had a dog named Winston.
He was as loyal as could be.

OK, now that I’m on the backside of my first triolet, I can say that it requires a little more thought than I first thought. Next time, I’ll choose to end my first line in something that’s easier to rhyme with than “Winston.”
In the end, I’d encourage you to try this unusual poetic form, and if you want, post your efforts in the comments section below. I’m sure they’ll be fun to read and are bound to be better than my quick tribute to my ol’ buddy Winston the Pug.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

'The Wicker Man' unusual, creepy, edgy... and entertaining

I scratched another Saturn Award winner for Best Horror Film off my list, and this time around it was the 1978 winner, “The Wicker Man.”
Based loosely on David Pinner’s 1967 novel, “The Ritual,” this movie was released in the UK in December 1973 and eventually in the US in June 1975. I can say with little doubt that it’s one of the most unusual, creepy and edgy movies I’ve ever seen. That’s not to say it wasn’t entertaining.
In a nutshell, the movie’s about Neil Howie, a police investigator who visits an isolated Scottish island to investigate the report of a missing girl. Almost from the start, Howie realizes that the folks living on this island aren’t quite right, and he finds out the full truth about them far too late for his own good. Edward Woodward plays the role of Howie, and Christopher Lee plays Lord Summerisle, the owner of the island and spiritual and civic leader of its inhabitants.
Those of you who haven’t seen the original “Wicker Man” may be familiar with the movie thanks to the 2006 remake, which starred Nicolas Cage in the role of Howie. I’ve seen both of them now, and I can tell you that the original is the better of the two, while the remake is much more, shall we say, “family friendly.”
I would not recommend this movie to everyone, especially those who are too young to join the Army, but if you like horror movies, you’ll enjoy the original “Wicker Man.” While it doesn’t contain any scary monsters or outright supernatural elements, it does fit well within the horror genre. (In fact, a scene from the movie ranked No. 45 on Bravo’s list of 100 Scariest Movie Moments.)
Next on my list of Saturn Horror Award winners is 1979’s “Dracula,” an American/British film, which starred Frank Langella as Count Dracula. This movie also stars Laurence Olivier as Professor Abraham Van Helsing.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

'The LOST Books' Part III

Today I give you the third and final installment of “The LOST Books,” that is books and authors that appeared or were referenced during the hit television show, LOST.
As I mentioned on Monday and Tuesday, some fans of the show have made a side hobby out of collecting and noting all of the books and authors that appeared or were referenced during the show’s six seasons. The show was so mysterious that fans often saw these books and references as clues with a hidden meaning about what was really happening and where the show was headed.On the Web site, Lostpedia, there’s an entire section devoted to the books featured on the show as well as literary references made during all six seasons. On Monday, I covered titles A-F on the list, and on Tuesday I gave you titles G-O. Today, I give you titles P-Z. Without further ado, here they are.
1. The Pearl by John Steinbeck
2. Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy
3. Rick Romer’s Version of Astrology by Rick Romer
4. Roots by Alex Haley
5. A Separate Reality by Carlos Castaneda
6. The Shape of Things to Come by H.G. Wells
7. The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
8. The Shining by Stephen King
9. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
10. The Stand by Stephen King
11. The Stone Leopard by Colin Forbes
12. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
13. The Survivors of the Chancellor by Jules Verne
14. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
15. The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien
16. Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
17. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
18. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
19. Ulysses by James Joyce
20. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
21. Valhalla Rising by Clive Cussler
22. VALIS by Phillip K. Dick
23. Watership Down by Richard Adams
24. What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge
25. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
26. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Before I wrap this thing I up, I should mention a short, LOST book list called the “Sawyer Book List.” In spite of his rough personality, James “Sawyer” Ford is an avid reader. Throughout the course of the show, he’s seen reading or references a number of books including “Watership Down,” “Lord of the Flies,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Lancelot,” “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret,” “Julius Caesar,” “Bad Twin,” “Of Mice and Men,” “The Fountainhead,” “Evil Under the Sun,” “The Invention of Morel,” and “Grimm’s Fairy Tales.”
In the end, I'd like to know how many of these books have you read. How many have you always wanted to read? How many of them have you never heard of? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The LOST Books, Part Two

Today I give you Part Two of “The LOST Books,” that is books and authors that appeared or were referenced during the hit television show, LOST.
As I mentioned yesterday, some fans of the show have made a side hobby out of collecting and noting all of the books and authors that appeared or were referenced during the show’s six seasons. The show was so mysterious that fans often saw these books and references as clues with a hidden meaning about what was really happening and where the show was headed.On the Web site, Lostpedia, there’s an entire section devoted to the books featured on the show as well as literary references made during all six seasons. Yesterday, I covered titles A-F on the list, and today I give you titles G-O. Without further ado, here they are.
1. Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
2. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
3. Haroun and the Sea Stories by Salmon Rushdie
4. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
5. High Hand by Gary Phillips
6. The Holy Qur’an
7. Hotel by Arthur Hailey
8. I Ching
9. The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares
10. Island by Aldous Huxley
11. Julius Ceasar by William Shakespeare
12. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
13. Kings of Love: The Poetry and History of the Ni’Matullah Sufi Order, translated by P.L. Wilson and Nasrollah Pourjavady
14. Lancelot by Walker Percy
15. Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov
16. Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins
17. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
18. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
19. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
20. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
21. The Moon Pool by A. Merritt
22. Mysteries of the Ancient Americas: The New World Before Columbus by Robert Dolezal
23. The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
24. Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
25. The Oath by John Lescroart
26. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
27. The Odyssey by Homer
28. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
29. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
30. On Writing by Stephen King
31. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
32. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
33. The Outsiders by Susan E. Hinton
That takes us through titles G-O, so I'll stop right there for today. Look for the rest of the list in the coming days.In the end, I'd like to know how many of these books have you read. How many have you always wanted to read? How many of them have you never heard of? Let us know in the comments section below.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The LOST Books, Part I

The hit television series LOST wrapped up for good last night, and now it’s time to post a recommended reading list that I’ve been holding off on until after the show’s grand finale.
Over the past six years, some fans of the show have made a side hobby out of collecting and noting all of the books and authors that appeared or were referenced on the show. One of the main characters, Sawyer, is often shown reading, and other characters are often shown reading, holding or reaching for books. The show was so mysterious that fans often saw these books and references as clues with a hidden meaning about what was really happening and where the show was headed.
On the Web site, Lostpedia, there’s an entire section devoted to the books featured on the show as well as literary references made during all six seasons.
This list is long, so tonight I give you “The LOST Books, Part I.”
1. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
2. After All These Years by Susan Isaacs
3. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
4. Animal Farm by George Orwell
5. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
6. Bad Twin by Laurence Shames
7. Bluebeard by Charles Perrault
8. Book of Laws by Manu
9. The Holy Bible
10. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
11. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
12. Caravan of Dreams by Idries Shah
13. Carrie by Stephen King
14. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
15. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
16. The Chosen by Chaim Potok
17. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
18. The Coalwood Way by Homer Hickam
19. Dark Horse by Tami Hoag
20. The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
21. The Dark Tower III: The Wastelands by Stephen King
22. The Dark Tower VI: The Song of Susannah by Stephen King
23. Dirty Work by Stuart Woods
24. The Epic of Gilgamesh
25. Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor
26. Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
27. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
28. Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard
29. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
30. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
That takes us through titles A-F, so I'll stop right there for tonight. Look for the rest of the list in the coming days.
In the end, I'd like to know how many of these books have you read? How many have you always wanted to read? How many of them have you never heard of? Let us know in the comments section below.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I can't believe that LOST is finally over...

Like millions of other people tonight, I watched the final episode of LOST. In fact, it wrapped up about 15 minutes ago, and I’m still reeling from the effects and trying to process it all.
There is little that I can say that won’t cheapen the experience of the finale for true, die-hard fans. For those of you who aren’t into LOST and have never watched the show, you’ve really missed out on something special.
Many series finales come up short and are unable to deliver because of all the build-up and hype. However, I think the writers, producers and actors of LOST pulled it off. The series, and especially the final season and finale, are master examples of fine storytelling and will be hard to top. Even small touches, like how the series began with a close-up of Jack’s eye and how it ended with a close-up of his eye closing, weren’t overlooked.
I honestly believe that years and years from now, this series (primarily its scripts) will be viewed as fine literature and will likely be studied as one of the great all-time stories ever told. In short, it was an epic tale that rivals or surpasses such tales as Beowulf, The Lord of the Rings, Hamlet, The Odyssey, etc., etc.
Of course, there were a few questions left unanswered. Foremost in my mind are these: Where did the island come from? What was the light at the heart of the island? Who built the contraption that keeps it in check? When did they build it? Where did they go?
In the end, I plan to eat up all of the old re-runs that I can. And I imagine that, if I’m lucky, in the decades to come, I’ll be able to sit back and say that I was one of those millions who watched the final episode of LOST and while the shows of that time will likely be pretty good, they’re going to have to be damn good to top Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, John Locke, Desmond, Ben, Sayid, Jin and Sun, Miles and all the others. Thanks for six great seasons!

Sinbad puts on a good, funny show

I saw the comedian Sinbad live for the first time last night in Atmore, and he his show was a lot better than I expected it to be.
He’s obviously a veteran entertainer, and his stage presence was great. As you might expect, a good portion of his routine was aimed at poking fun at Alabama and the South in general, but it came off as a lot of fun. Like many comedians, his material also included jokes about husbands and wives, relationships with children and traveling. A good portion of his routine also included wisecracks about the BP oil spill, immigration, Tiger Woods, President Obama and health care. Most notably, his routine was very clean, and I’m sure he didn’t cuss once.
Sinbad, who’s real name is David Adkins, has appeared on a number of television shows and movies. His most notable movie appearances were in “Houseguest,” “Firstkid” and “Jingle All the Way.”

Friday, May 21, 2010

'Coraline' borders on psychedelic nightmare

I watched the 2009 movie “Coraline” for the first time tonight, and it wasn’t quite what I expected.
Based on the 2002 novel by Neil Gaiman, “Coraline” is an animated PG, horror-fantasy film that tells the story of young Coraline Jones. Coraline and her parents have moved from Pontiac, Michigan into the weird Pink Palace Apartments in an unnamed town in Oregon. Coraline’s parents are preoccupied with work, so Coraline ends up with plenty of time to explore her new apartment, which is part of a rickety, 150-year-old house that’s been divided into three apartments. After she finds a small door that’s been wallpapered over, she ultimately finds herself at the center of a struggle with an ancient monster that’s been sucking the life force out of children for generations. In the end, Coraline has to help free the souls of the monster’s past victims and her parents who are nabbed by the monster.
To say the least, this was a very weird movie. In parts, it bordered on psychedelic nightmare and reminded me of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Being rated PG, I thought this movie would be suitable for young children, but I wouldn’t recommended it to any viewer that hasn’t graduated from kindergarten.
This movie made its American debut in February 2009. Gross revenues from the film totaled $120,154,106, offset against a budget of $60 million. The movie’s an hour and 41 minutes long. Celebrity voices on the movie include Dakota Fanning (Coraline) and Teri Hatcher (Coraline’s mom).
In the end, this movie was worth watching, mainly because it satisfied my curiosity about the film after having heard so much about it from some of my friends. They loved it mostly because of the visual spectacle of the film, which was impressive. This movie was shown in 3D in theatres, and I bet it was stunning.
How many of you have seen this movie? What did you think about it? Let us all know in the comments section below.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Top 20 Books Every Man Must Read

A couple of years ago, Playboy magazine published an interesting recommended reading list, and I’m passing it along to you tonight. It’s called “The Top 20 Books Every Man Must Read.”
Without further ado, here’s the list:
1. American Tabloid by James Ellroy
2. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
3. The Complete Stories by Franz Kafka
4. Dispatches by Michael Herr
5. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
6. Drown by Junot Diaz
7. A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley
8. The Fermata by Nicholson Baker
9. The Fight by Norman Mailer
10. Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet
11. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
12. Hell’s Angels by Hunter S. Thompson
13. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
14. Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson
15. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
16. Miles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis
17. Pastoralia by George Saunders
18. The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
19. Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth
20. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
By my count, I’ve read a number of these, including “Blood Meridian,” “Hamlet,” “Hell’s Angels,” “Invisible Man” and “The Sun Also Rises.” They’re all excellent, and I’d recommend them to anyone. In the end, let me know if you’ve read any of the books on the above list and what you thought about them.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Horror movie with long title is also long on suspense

This afternoon, I scratched another movie off my list of Saturn Award winners for Best Horror Film to watch. This time around, it was the 1977 winner, “The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.”
This movie, based on the 1974 novel by Laird Koenig, tells the story of a 13-year-old girl who tries to hide the fact that she’s living in a great, big old house all by herself. Her rich, poet father died from a debilitating illness, but set her up with enough money to live in the house alone until she’s old enough to start her own life. Unfortunately for her, a handful of people suspect that something’s not quite right with the girl and her living arraignments and get a little too nosy. And that’s when the dying starts.
This was a very good movie, but by today’s standards, I would not call it a horror movie. It’s rated PG and contains no monsters or supernatural elements. In today’s terms, it fits better into the categories of suspense, thriller or crime drama.
That’s not to say that this movie wasn’t very good and very suspenseful. It stars a young Jodie Foster as the 13-year-old and a very young Martin Sheen, who plays what may be his creepiest role of all time – a pervert who has a lurid interest in Foster’s character.
It should be noted that this movie actually received two Saturn Awards, one for best horror film and another for best actress (Jodie Foster).
I must admit that I’d never heard of this movie before setting out to watch all of the award winners, which comes as a surprise given the quality of this move. In the end, I would recommend it to anyone old enough to vote because it’s very good and worth the time it took to watch.
With that said, it’s on to the next Saturn Award winner, 1978’s “The Wicker Man.” I’ve seen the more recent version of this movie (staring Nicholas Cage), but never the original. If it’s half as good as “The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane,” then I’m in for a good movie.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Details about another Old Federal Road marker

I found myself on Conecuh County Road 5, between Bermuda and Repton, this morning and spotted another Old Federal Road marker, this time, at the intersection of CR 5 and what I believe is Conecuh County Road 37.
(I’m not 100 percent sure of the location because the 911 sign at the intersection has apparently been taken down. Some of you will know CR 37 by its other name, that is, Reed Road.)
Some of you may remember my April 12 and May 13 posts in which I described the Old Federal Road markers near Coley Chapel Church in Goodway and Old Bethany Baptist Church at Burnt Corn.
The marker I found today is the third that I’ve run across, and here’s what it says about the Old Federal Road:
“Old Federal Road
“Duncan MacMillan’s stage stop was located near here. According to the traveler James Stuart in 1830, he (Duncan) ‘did not taste fermented liquor’ and ‘thought coffee was the best stimulant.’ Mr. MacMillan came from Scotland and like many early settlers cleared his own land and grew sugar and cotton.
“Erected in 1998 by Monroe County Heritage Museums and the J.L. Bedsole Foundation.” As many of you will remember from you history lessons, the Old Federal Road dates back to 1805 when the relatively young U.S. federal government established a “road” from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans. I say “road” because in the beginning it was not much more than a horse trail. A portion of this old road now follows the Monroe-Conecuh county line. In the end, this is the third marker of this type that I’ve encountered, and there are likely more. If any of you out there in the reading audience know the locations of the others, send me an e-mail.

Monday, May 17, 2010

'Burnt Offerings' is very creepy in parts

A few weeks ago, with the help of Netflix, I set out to watch, in order, all of the movies that have received a Saturn Award for Best Horror Film, going all the way back to when the first award was given out in 1972.
This morning, I scratched the 1976 winner, “Burnt Offerings,” off the list. I’d heard very little about this movie prior to watching it, and I’m sure that I’d never seen any part of it before this week.
“Burnt Offerings,” which is based on the 1973 novel by Robert Marasco, reminded me a lot of the 1977 Stephen King novel, “The Shining,” which was made into a hit movie in 1980.
In “The Shining,” a husband and wife couple, along with their young son, plan to spend the winter as the caretakers of a secluded, snowbound Colorado hotel. Almost from the start, it becomes apparent that something’s not quite right about their new home, and the father begins to lose his mind.
In “Burnt Offerings,” a husband and wife couple, along with their young son and an aging aunt (played by Bette Davis) agree to spend the summer as the caretakers of an old mansion in the secluded California countryside. From the beginning, they begin to realize that there’s something unusual about the house, including the presence of an old woman upstairs (Mrs. Allardyce) that they have to leave a plate for three times a day. From there, it’s not long before a handful of weird and unexpected events cause the husband and wife to lose their marbels, especially when the husband almost drowns the son in a swimming pool. Before it’s all said and done, “the house” tries to claim the boy twice more, once more in the pool and another time while he’s sleeping in his room.
This movie was very creepy in parts and from the very start it had an edge to it that kept me wanting to see what would happen next. The movie’s director, Dan Curtis, did a very artful job of putting this movie together, and it’s no wonder that it was recognized with a Saturn Award. This movie also left me with the desire to read the novel by Marasco.
From here, it’s on to the next Saturn Award winner on my list, the 1977 winner, “The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.” This is another movie that I’ve never seen and have heard very little about. It stars Jodie Foster and Martin Sheen and is based on the 1974 novel by Laird Koenig.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hellboy graphic novels are better than HB movies

Over the past two days, FX has been rebroadcasting the original Hellboy movies, and it’s got me thinking about trying to read all of the Hellboy comics, er, graphic novels, which are now pretty much all available in trade paperback editions.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Hellboy, he’s a comic book character created by writer and artist Mike Mignola. Hellboy is referred to as the “World’s Greatest Paranormal Investigator” and often finds himself up against all sorts of bad guys, including modern day Nazis.
Hellboy first appeared in comics in 1993, and Hellboy: Seed of Destruction, which consisted of four issues from March 1994 to June 1994, was the first comic mini-series dedicated to the Hellboy character.
Most people are familiar with the character through the feature films that have been made about Hellboy. The first Hellboy movie premeired in 2004 and Hellboy II: The Golden Army came out in 2008.
Almost all of the Hellboy comics have now been published in trade paperback editions, and they are as follows:
- Hellboy: Seed of Destruction (Oct. 1994)
- Hellboy: Wake the Devil (May 1997)
- Hellboy: The Chained Coffin and Others (Aug. 1998)
- Hellboy: The Right Hand of Doom (April 2000)
- Hellboy: Conqueror Worm (Feb. 2002)
- Hellboy: Strange Places (April 2006)
- Hellboy: The Troll Witch and Others (Nov. 2007)
- Hellboy: Darkness Calls (May 2008)
- Hellboy: Wild Hunt (March 2010)
- Hellboy: The Crooked Man and Others (June 2010)
I've read a handful of these, and they're a pretty fun read. I would have eaten this stuff up as a kid, and I'm left looking forward to Mignola's upcoming projects.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturn Award winners for Best Fantasy Film

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve published the lists of all the movies that have received Saturn Awards for Best Horror Movie and Best Science Fiction Movie since those awards was first given in 1972. The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films also gives Saturn Awards each year for Best Fantasy Film.Tonight, here’s a list of all the movies that have received Saturn Awards for Best Fantasy Film. Once I’ve finished watching all of the horror award and sci-fi winners, I may try to tackle this list.1973 – The Golden Voyage of Sinbad
1974/75 – Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze
1976 – The Holes
1977 – Oh, God!
1978 – Heaven Can Wait
1979 – The Muppet Movie
1980 – Somewhere in Time
1981 – Raiders of the Lost Ark
1982 – The Dark Crystal
1983 – Something Wicked this Way Comes
1984 – Ghostbusters
1985 – Ladyhawke
1986 – The Boy Who Could Fly
1987 – The Princess Bride
1988 – Who Framed Roger Rabbit
1989/90 – Ghost
1991 – Edward Scissorhands
1992 – Aladdin
1993 – The Nightmare Before Christmas
1994 – Forrest Gump
1995 – Babe
1996 – Dragonheart
1997 – Austin Powers
1998 – The Truman Show
1999 – Being John Malkovich
2000 – Frequency
2001 – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings
2002 – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
2003 – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2004 – Spider-Man 2
2005 – Batman Begins
2006 – Superman Returns
2007 – Enchanted
2008 – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
In the end, I’d like to know how many of these you’ve seen and what you thought about them. Which one of the above movies is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below.

'Beer that made Milwaukee famous' goes down easy

I got the chance to sample a can of Schlitz beer for the first time yesterday, and it wasn’t half bad.
This is probably another one of those “No, I haven’t been living under a rock” moments, but I’ve never taken the opportunity to sample “The BEER that made Milwaukee famous.” I spotted it beside the Pabst Blue Ribbon in the large beer cooler at Lee’s Quick Stop the other day, and I thought I might as well sample it for the sake of this blog.
When poured into a glass this beer has a nice golden look to it, a short head and very little carbonation. This beer is very drinkable and is probably what most folks would call a “belly washer.” It goes down easy, and it’s not overly bitter. I’d describe it as an old-timey beer that’s perfect for sipping on the back porch at the end of a long day.
One 12-ounce can of this beer contains 4.7 percent alcohol by volume, and each can contains 146 calories.
This beer is brewed by one of the oldest brewery’s in the county, the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. in Milwaukee. The company was started in 1849 and eventually ended up in the hands of the Pabst Brewing Co. in 1999.
In the end, it wasn’t half bad, and I’d have no problem with sampling it again. For more information about Schlitz visit
(Again, don’t be an idiot. Drink responsibly and never drink and drive.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Old Bethany Baptist Church Historic Marker

I drove through Burnt Corn this morning on my way home and spotted another Old Federal Road historic marker, this time, along Monroe County Road 5 in front of the Old Bethany Baptist Church.
Some of you may remember my April 12 post in which I described one of the Old Federal Road marker near Coley Chapel Church in Goodway.
Here’s what the marker at Burnt Corn says:
“Old Federal Road
“Burnt Corn, Monroe County’s earliest settlement, became the crossroads of the Great Pensacola Trading Path and the Federal Road. Settler Jim Cornells returned from Pensacola in 1813, finding his home destroyed and his wife kidnapped by a Creek Indian war party. As the Creeks returned from procuring arms in Pensacola, Cornells and volunteers ambushed the Indians. Thus began the Creek Indian War of 1813-1814.
“Erected in 1998 by Monroe County Heritage Museum and the J.L. Bedsole Foundation.”
An interesting side note about Cornells is that, according to B.F. Riley’s “History of Conecuh County,” he was a Creek Indian himself and fought on the side of the U.S. during the Creek Indian War. (And, although the exact location is still debated to this day, it’s generally accepted that the “Battle of Burnt Corn” did not actually occur at Burnt Corn, but at a spot on Burnt Corn Creek in present-day Escambia County.)
As many of you will remember from you history lessons, the Old Federal Road dates back to 1805 when the relatively young U.S. federal government established a “road” from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans. I say “road” because in the beginning it was not much more than a horse trail. A portion of this old road now follows the Monroe-Conecuh county line.
As mentioned earlier, the marker in Burnt Corn sits just off the highway in front of the cemetery at the Old Bethany Baptist Church, which was established in 1821 and is now owned by the Monroe County Heritage Museums. A number of years ago, this church was also placed on the Alabama Register of Historic Places.
I got an inside look at this church in the fall of 2005 during a trip there that was part of the Monroe County Leadership Now! history tour. If you ever get the chance to visit this church, take it, because it’s worth seeing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

PBR is pretty dang good

A few days ago, I got the chance to sample a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer for the first time ever.
I know. I know. I swear that I haven’t been living under a rock. It’s just that for whatever reason, I’ve never had the opportunity to sample this wide-ranging and popular brand of beer.
With that said, I’ve officially dubbed Pabst Blue Ribbon as my third favorite beer, right behind Miller High Life and Guinness Stout.
Pabst Blue Ribbon, often referred to as PBR, is sold by the Pabst Brewing Co. of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Simply put, this beer tastes almost like the fabled ambrosia of the gods. Since I couldn’t put it any better myself, here’s what Brewers Association president Charlie Papazian, said about PBR in 2008.
“A contrasting counterpoint of sharp texture and flowing sweetness is evident at the first sip of this historic brew. A slowly increasing hoppiness adds to the interplay of ingredients, while the texture smooths out by mid-bottle. The clear, pale-gold body is light and fizzy. Medium-bodied Blue Ribbon finishes with a dusting of malts and hops. A satisfying American classic and a Gold Medal winner at the 2006 Great American Beer Festival.”
Apparently, PBR has enjoyed success as a great tasting lager for sometime. Here’s how the inscription on the can reads: This is the ORIGINAL Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. Nature’s choicest products provide its prized flavor. Only the finest of hops and grains are used. Selected as America’s Best in 1893.”
In my defense, I must admit that one reason I’ve likely never tried this beer is because it’s hard to find where I live. Only because I was seeking out a new beer for this blog did I happen up it in the lower right-hand, fog-enshrouded corner of the large beer cooler in the back of Lee’s Quick Stop, which is located on U.S. Highway 84 on the Monroe-Conecuh county line.
In the end, I wonder how many of you have tried PBR and what you think about it. Is it all that I’ve made it out to be or is it the next best thing to “The Beast.” Let me know in the comments section below.
For more information on PBR visit (And, as always, don’t be an idiot. Drink responsibly and never drink and drive.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ultramarathoner Jurek is also an experience collector

From the start, this blog has been all about having and documenting new experiences, and I read a magazine story yesterday that went right to the spirit of the blog’s purpose.
The story, “The King of Pain,” is about ultramarathon runner Scott Jurek, and it appeared in the April edition of Runner’s World. Jurek, a physical therapist by training, is probably the world’s most famous long distance runner.
At age 36, he’s the only runner to win the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run seven years in a row. (He set the course record in 2004, running the distance at an incredible pace of 9:21 per mile.) He’s also the only American to ever win Greece’s 153-mile Spartathalon race from Sparta to Athens (He’s actually won it three times, to date). He’s also the only person to win, in the same year, Western States and the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon that starts in Death Valley.
All of this is to say that Jurek isn’t a normal human being. He’s known for running incredibly long distances, and he leaves a host of the world’s best long distance runners in the dust.
But it’s cost him.
Not only has all that running taken a toll on his body, but it also led to a divorce, massive debt, family strain and the loss of good friends.
When Runner’s World writer Steve Friedman asked Jurek why he does it, Jurek’s answer struck home, and I had to pass it along because it goes right to the heart of this blog.
Over dinner, Friedman tells Jurek that its “pretty freaking special” that Jurek can run faster and longer for more years than anyone in the world. Jurek responds by telling the writer that he’s missing the point.
“Running fast and running far is not about winning. It’s not about money. It’s not even about suffering or redemption. It’s about discovery.
“It’s about finding one’s path. It’s about using experience in life to shape something completely different. That’s the art of living.”
(To read the full story about Jurek’s ultramarathon career, visit,7120,s6-243-297--13460-0,00.html.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

'Young Frankenstein' is one of the funniest movies ever

Several weeks ago, I set out to watch, in order, all of the movies that have received a Saturn Award for Best Horror Film, since that honor was first given in 1972. Tonight, I scratched the 1974/1975 winner, “Young Frankenstein,” off the list.
Like most of the movies on the list, I was sure that I’d seen some version or bits and pieces of it before, but I couldn’t say with any degree of certainty that I’d seen the theatrical release.
“Young Frankenstein” is a comedy film that was released on Dec. 15, 1974 and was directed by Mel Brooks. It starred a number of famous actors and comics including Gene Wilder (who also co-wrote the movie), Cloris Leachman and Gene Hackman.
Those of you who have seen this movie will know that it’s a black-and-white parody of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” novel and that it’s one of the funniest movies ever made. Those of you who haven’t seen it are missing out.
The movie is so funny that it’s been officially recognized as one of the funniest movies of all time by a number of institutions. Bravo ranked it No. 56 in its list of “100 Funniest Movies,” and the American Film Institute ranked it No. 13 on its list of 100 funniest American movies. In 2003, a copy of the movie was placed in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry to preserve it for future generations because it had been declared "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the United States National Film Preservation Board.
In addition to having received a Saturn Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, “Young Frankenstein” also received a number of other awards. They include a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, a Nebula Award for Best Dramatic Writing, the 1977 Golden Screen Award and the 1976 Toronto Film Festival Award for Best Comedic Film.
In the end, “Young Frankenstein” was very entertaining, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s never seen it. With that said, it’s on to the next Saturn Award winner, 1976’s “Burnt Offerings,” which starred Bette Davis.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

What's up with the Rolling Rock '33'?

A few days ago, I got the chance to sample a bottle of Rolling Rock Extra Pale Premium Beer, and I think the best way to describe it is “Sprite Meets Beer.”
That’s not to say that it wasn’t good, I just couldn’t drink the thing without trying to convince my mind (and taste buds) that I wasn’t drinking Sprite.
First off, the bottle is lime green just like a Sprite bottle and when I poured the contents into my giant, clear glass Viking mug it fizzed and bubbled for more than a few minutes just like Sprite. It was somewhat weird.
Rolling Rock Extra Pale contains 4.5 percent alcohol by volume and was first brewed in 1939 by the Latrobe Brewing Co. in Pennsylvania. In 2006, they sold out to Anheuser-Busch and now the beer is brewed in New Jersey.
The back of each bottle also contains the following message: To honor the tradition of this great brand, we quote from the original pledge of quality. ‘From the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe, we tender this premium beer for your enjoyment, as a tribute to your good taste. It comes from the mountain springs to you’ ‘33’.”
In interesting bit of trivia about the No. 33, which is printed prominently on all bottles of Rolling Rock. One widely held idea is that it is to mark the repeal of prohibition in 1933. However, according to one former CEO, the “33” signifies the 33 words in the beer’s original pledge of quality. According to Wikipedia, there are several other lesser-known theories or urban legends about the “mysterious” number 33, but none have ever been verified.
In the end, I enjoyed the bottle I sampled, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. It was pretty average, and I won’t make a special trip to get any more. On the upshot, it wasn’t half-bad, and I can scratch it off my list of beers that I’ve never tried. Also, on the plus side this beer has a twist off cap, which I prefer.
For more information about Rolling Rock Extra Pale, visit
Have any of you out there in the reading audience tried Rolling Rock Extra Pale? If so, what did you think about it? Let us know in the comments section below.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Slaughterhouse-Five received first Saturn Award for Sci-Fi

Several weeks ago, I published a list of all the movies that have received a Saturn Award for Best Horror Movie since that award was first given in 1972. The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films also gives Saturn Awards each year for best science fiction and best fantasy films.
Tonight, here’s a list of all the movies that have received Saturn Awards for Best Science Fiction Movie. (All of them that I’ve already seen, I’ve listed in italics.) Once I’ve finished watching all of the horror award winners, I may try to tackle this list.
1972 – Slaughterhouse-Five
1973 – Soylent Green
1974/75 – Rollerball
1976 – Logan’s Run
1977 – Star Wars
1978 – Superman: The Movie
1979 – Alien
1980 – The Empire Strikes Back
1981 – Superman II

1982 – E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
1983 – Return of the Jedi
1984 – The Terminator
1985 – Back to the Future
1986 – Aliens
1987 – RoboCop

1988 – Alien Nation
1989 – Total Recall
1991 – Terminator 2: Judgment Day

1992 – Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
1993 – Jurassic Park
1994 – Stargate
1995 – 12 Monkeys
1996 – Independence Day
1997 – Men in Black
1998 – Armageddon, Dark City (tie)
1999 – The Matrix
2000 – X-Men
2001 – A.I.
2002 – Minority Report

2003 – X2: X-Men United
2004 – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2005 – Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
2006 – Children of Men
2007 – Cloverfield
2008 – Iron Man

In the end, I’d like to know how many of these you’ve seen and what you thought about them. Which one of the above movies is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below.

Friday, May 7, 2010

BL Golden Wheat better than expected (Meant for yesterday)

I recently got the chance to sample a bottle of Bud Light Golden Wheat and was pleasantly surprised.
In a case of judging a book by its cover, I wasn’t expecting much. I don’t care much for any of Budweiser’s products, but I can’t say that about BL Golden Wheat. It wasn’t half bad.
This beer has a golden, almost orange, color to it. Its aroma is pleasing, and I don’t know if it’s the power of suggestion or not, but you can almost taste the wheat. This beer was better than I expected, and I wouldn’t have any problem trying it again.
Also, another plus, this beer comes with a twist off cap. No extra equipment needed for this one.
Have any of you tried it? If so, what did you think about it?

Clive Cussler could fix oil spill... no doubt

A friend of mine on Facebook mentioned yesterday that it would be great if we could call in Clive Cussler’s NUMA crew to take care of the recent oil spill problem in the Gulf of Mexico.
Those of you who have read any of Cussler’s books will have little doubt that his crew would be able to swoop in and save the day.
Those of you who have never read any of Cussler’s many best-selling adventure novels are missing out. Simply put, they’re great. All of his novels seem to involve in some way adventure on the high seas, and not only are they very entertaining, but they’re also very clean.
Cussler has written many books over the years, including fiction for adults and children as well as non-fiction. Here’s a list of his books if you’re interested in trying to read all of them.
The Mediterranean Caper (1973)
Iceberg (1975)
Raise the Titanic! (1976)
Vixen 03 (1978)
Night Probe! (1981)
Pacific Vortex! (1983)
Deep Six (1984)
Cyclops (1986)
Treasure (1988)
Dragon (1990)
Sahara (1992)
Inca Gold (1994)
Shock Wave (1996)
The Sea Hunters: True Adventures With Famous Shipwrecks (1996)
Flood Tide (1997)
Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt Revealed (1998)
Atlantis Found (1999)
Serpent (1999)
Blue Gold (2000)
Valhalla Rising (2001)
Fire Ice (2002)
The Sea Hunters II: Diving the World's Seas for Famous Shipwrecks (2002)
Trojan Odyssey (2003)
White Death (2003)
Golden Buddha (2003)
Lost City (2004)
Sacred Stone (2004)
Black Wind (2004)
Polar Shift (2005)
Dark Watch (2005)
Skeleton Coast (2006)
The Adventures of Vin Fiz (2006)
Treasure of Khan (2006)
The Navigator (2007)
The Chase (2007)
Arctic Drift (2008)
Plague Ship (2008)
Medusa (2009)
Corsair (2009)
The Wrecker (2009)
Spartan Gold (2009)
The Silent Sea (2010)
The Spy (June 2010)
Lost Empire (2010)
Cussler also has a number of upcoming books on the table, including the children’s novel, The Adventures of Hotsy Totsy (May 13, 2010); the novel, The Spy, written with Justin Scott (June 1, 2010); the novel, Lost Empire, written with Grant Blackwood (Sept. 7, 2010); and the novel, Crescent Dawn (Nov. 16, 2010).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Outside's Best Adventure Books List

Several weeks ago, I posted National Geographic’s 100 Best Adventure Books list, and tonight I give you a similiar list: Outside Magazine's 25 Best Adventure Books of the Last 100 Years. I haven't read many of the books on this list, but I've heard good things about many of them. How many have you read and what did you think about them?
Here's the list:
1. Wind, Sand & Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1940)
2. (Tie) The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1922) and Journals by Meriwether Lews and William Clark (1841)
3. West With the Night by Beryl Markham (1942)
4. The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen (1978)
5. Desert Solitare by Edward Abbey (1968)
6. Endurance by F. A. Worsley (1931)
7. Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum (1900)
8. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (1996)
9. Coming into the Country by John McPhee (1976)
10. Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger (1959)
11. Touching the Void by Joe Simpson (1989)
12. The Mountains of My Life by Walter Bonatti (1998)
13. In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin (1977)
14. Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez (1986)
15. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby (1958)
16. Tracks by Robyn Davidson (1980)
17. The Long Way by Bernard Moitessier (1971)
18. Running the Amazon by Joe Kane (1989)
19. Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean (1992)
20. The Great Plains by Ian Frazier (1989)
21. Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl (1950)
22. My Journey to Lhasa by Alexandra David-Neel (1927)
23. (Tie) Alive by Pier Paul Read (1974) and The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger (1997)
24. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (1998)
25. Old Glory by Jonathan Raban (1981)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Outside's inaugural 'The Greatest' list

Outside magazine is one of my favorites. It has great content supplied by great writers and contributors. For those reasons, I pass along to you an interesting “editors’ choice awards” list the magazine featured in its March issue, simply titled, “The Greatest.”
For this inaugural list, the magazine’s editors “gathered 51 of our favorite things into a rollicking compendium of capital ideas, sublime destinations, brilliant equipment and more.” Along they way, they tell of their favorite adventures, gear, beer, events, books and more.
Below, I’m giving you the short version of the list. For more details, read the complete story online at
Without further ado, here’s the list:
1. Beginner surf spots.
2. Growing a winter beard.
3. Walk/bike-in theaters.
4. Film cameras.
5. Rope swings.
6. Apres-ski hot tubs.
7. The Whisperlite backcountry stove.
8. Selective hitchhiking.
9. Chocolate milk.
10. Sorel’s Caribou boots.
11. That feeling of lightness (after taking off a heavy pack and walking around camp).
12. Southwest Airlines.
13. Dawn patrol.
14. Any book written by Peter Matthiessen.
15. Rob Machado’s hair.
16. Helly Hansen’s stripes.
17. Watching the Boston Marathon.
18. The Patagonia catalog.
19. Kiehl’s face protector.
20. P-cord.
21. McCann’s Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal.
22. Utilitarian bikes.
23. Postcards.
24. Tofino, Vancouver Island.
25. Cat skiing.
26. Wee Mountains.
27. Woolrich’s Buffalo Check Shirt.
28. The Tulluride Film Festival.
29. Homegrown hurt, as in locally organized down-home events.
30. Lifetime guarantees.
31. Duluth’s AWOL bag.
32. Tarps.
34. Alta Peruvian Lodge’s Room 99.
35. Victorinox’s Infantry Classic.
36. Unpopular ranges.
37. Slightly risky spots.
38. A great survival story.
39. Going all in.
40. James Brown’s “In the Jungle Groove.”
41. Empty trailheads.
42. Catching a native trout.
43. Pabst Blue Ribbon.
44. Huckleberry Bearclaws.
45. A strange new city as seen from a bicycle.
46. People who never say die.
47. Nepal.
48. The Gorge Amphitheatre.
49. A goose down vest.
50. Yurts.
51. Sledding.
In the end, I’d like to know if you’ve had any experiences with any the above items. Some will sound familiar to you, others you’ll need to read the full story to completely understand what they’re talking about. In any case, let me hear from you in the comments section below.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Beck's Dark gets B+

I recently sampled a bottle of Beck’s Dark beer, and I was impressed by the overall quality of the imported beverage.
The beer and others under the Beck’s label are brewed by Beck’s Brewery or as they say in Germany, Brauerei Beck and Co. This internationally known brewery, which dates back to 1873, is located in Bremen, Germany.
I like “dark” beer, and this one reminded me of my all time favorite, Guinness Stout. Beck’s Dark contains 4.8 percent alcohol by volume and 146 calories per 12-ounce serving.
When poured into a clear glass from its green bottle, the beer has an impressive amber color and little foam. A strong whiff conjures up an aroma of malt and a slight grainy smell. It tasted great and was sort of thin for a German dark beer.
On the downside, the bottle doesn’t have a twist-off cap. When it comes to beer, I like the no extra equipment approach.
Overall, I give it a B+.
For those of you who have tried Beck’s Dark and like it, you might want to try one of the 12 other beverages produced by Beck’s. They include regular Beck’s, Beck's Blue (alcohol free), Beck's Premier Light, Beck's Gold, Beck's Green Lemon, Beck's Green Lemon Alcohol Free, Beck's Chilled Orange, Beck's Level 7, Beck's Ice, Beck's NEXT, Beck's Oktoberfest and Beck's VIER.
(And, as always, don’t be an idiot. Drink responsibly and never drink and drive.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Scratch "The Exorcist" off my Saturn Awards list

A couple of weeks ago in this space, I announced my plans to watch all of the movies that have received the Saturn Award for Best Horror Movie, in order, since the award was first given in 1972.
I made progress toward that end last night when I watched “The Exorcist,” which won the award in 1973.
Like most of you, I’d seen this movie a handful of times before, but I couldn’t be sure that I’d actually seen the theatrical release. Thanks to NetFlix, I no longer have a doubt. (I actually watched the restored version of the movie, which is sort of a director’s cut. And, for the record, I watched the movie late at night, alone and in a well-light room, armed only with a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon to help my nerves.)
To sum the movie up in one sentence, it’s about a pre-teen girl, who has to have an exorcism performed on her after she gets possessed by evil spirit.
I think there is little doubt that this is one of the most unnerving movies ever made. (There’s even talk of an ongoing curse among the folks who were members of the film crew.) It’s frightening on an almost elemental level and seems to tap into humanity’s earliest fears from our prehistory. You’ll definitely never even want to touch an Ouija board after seeing this movie.
That doesn’t mean people don’t like it. “The Exorcist” is one of the most profitable horror movies of all time, having grossed over $440,000,000 worldwide, off set against the $12 million budget used to shoot the film. It has also been named the scariest movie of all time by Entertainment Weekly, and AMC.
Those of you who have seen the movie will remember the now-iconic flight of stairs that lead up to the apartment where most of the movie is set. Those stairs are in Georgetown, just outside of Washington, D.C., and I actually saw them first hand when I was living in that area in 1995. “The Exorcist Steps,” as they’re now called, are at the end of M Street in Georgetown.
Many of you will also know that this movie is based on the novel by William Peter Blatty, which is supposedly based on the real-life exorcism case of Robbie Manheim. I read the novel several years ago, and it’s the scariest horror novel I’ve ever read, hands down. (My kids will never read it with my permission.)
In the end, this movie isn’t for the faint of heart. I recommend it only to people old enough to vote, who have a strong stomach, a taste for horror movies AND aren’t easily offended. (If you’re offended by the movie’s content, don’t say you haven’t been warned.)
With that said, I’ve scratched another one of the Saturn Award winners off my list of movies to watch. Next up is 1974/1975 winner, “Young Frankenstein.”

Saturday, May 1, 2010

How many of these Bond... James Bond... movies have you seen?

The television station G4 has been showing James Bond movies all day, and I got to thinking that it would be cool to watch all of the James Bond movies in order. (That is, of course, after I finish watching all the Saturn Horror Award films in order. More on that tomorrow.)
I have to admit that I was a little surprised to learn that there are actually 25 James Bond movies out there. Here they are in chronological order:
1954 – Casino Royale
1962 – Dr. No
1963 – From Russia With Love
1964 – Goldfinger
1965 – Thunderball
1967 – You Only Live Twice
1967 – Casino Royale
1969 – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
1971 – Diamonds Are Forever
1973 – Live and Let Die
1974 – The Man With the Golden Gun
1977 – The Spy Who Loved Me
1979 – Moonraker
1981 – For Your Eyes Only
1983 – Octopussy
1983 – Never Say Never Again
1985 – View to a Kill
1987 – The Living Daylights
1989 – License to Kill
1995 – GoldenEye
1997 – Tomorrow Never Dies
1999 – The World Is Not Enough
2002 – Die Another Day
2006 – Casino Royale
2008 – Quantum of Solace
I’ve seen the made-for-TV version of most of these, but I’m sure that I’ve never watch the theatrical versions of most of these, especially those released before 1995’s GoldenEye. With the help of NetFlix, I should be able to watch all of them in order, even though it will likely take some time.
I think few people would disagree that Sean Connery was probably the best James Bond, but I was interested to learn that he hasn’t been in a James Bond film since 1971, that is, five years before I was even born. Altogether, six other actors have portrayed 007 on the big screen.
Many of you will know that the James Bond character and movies are based on the novels of British author and journalist, Ian Fleming.
Here’s a list of Fleming’s James Bond novels (and two short story collections) in order of their publication:
1953 – Casino Royale
1954 – Live and Let Die
1955 – Moonraker
1956 – Diamonds Are Forever
1957 – From Russia With Love
1958 – Dr. No
1959 – Goldfinger
1960 – For Your Eyes Only (short story collection)
1961 – Thunderball
1962 – The Spy Who Loved Me
1963 – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
1964 – You Only Live Twice
1965 – The Man with the Golden Gun
1966 – Octopussy and The Living Daylights (short story collection)
Of course, there has been a host of spin-off fiction stemming from Fleming’s books. Most notably is “The Moneypenny Diaries,” a trilogy of novels chronicling the life of Miss Moneypenny, Bond supervisor M’s personal secretary. The novels were written by Samantha Weinberg, under the penname of Kate Westbrook, who is depicted as the editor of the series.