Quote of the Week

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."- Albert Einstein

Sunday, November 11, 2012

#Holidays: Remembering The Fallen

Today was Rememberance Day- a day where we gather and think about the soldiers that have died over the course of the years in order to defend our rights and freedoms.  For many, it's a meaningful day, while for those of us that are either part of a military family (my own Dad and Brother were in the service), or are in the military (I served 16 years, myself), it can be a very personal day of remembering.

I spent today with my Dad and my Brother.  We watched the ceremonies and the parade before retiring to the Legion to reconnect with friends and comrades.  Over hot rum toddies, we called forth memories of various training exercises, summer taskings, and random events that we've been through during the course of our military careers.

We also looked around us at the new generation of soldiers, just starting out in the service.  I found it hard to believe that I once was that young and baby faced.  I also saw many of the Sergeants present were people I knew as Privates.  In fact, I did most of their paperwork when I was in the service.

I also keenly felt the presence of those that were absent, and the memories came flooding back.  Standing on parade while they got their Regimental cap badge, or their promotions.  Sitting in the Junior Ranks Club after a weekend exercise sharing a beer and joking about some of the silly things that happened that weekend.  Going up to the Armoury for a beer and a game of "Axis & Allies", "Risk", or "Halo".

I watched many of them grow as soldiers into fine adults and leaders.  I watched as many of them went off on United Nations missions to Bosnia, or NATO missions to Afghanistan.  I stood as some of them didn't come home.

One young soldier comes to mind.  She was an Infanteer- this was just as women were starting to make a proper impact on the Combat Arms in the military.  She was tasked to help me set up the modular tentage for one of our Brigade exercises in Fort Lewis.  I was standing on a wooden six foot table screwing in lightbulbs as she handed them up to me.  We talked about some of the reasons why I was still a Corporal at the time, what we both hoped to accomplish, etc.  At this time, I discovered that she didn't know if she could honestly make an impact as an Infanteer, and was thinking of moving on to another trade.  She was taking Engineering at university at the time, so we started discussing the possibility of her remustering over to Engineer.  I described to her what Field Engineers, Construction Engineers, and Electrical Mechanical Engineers did, and that I felt that Field Engineering would probably suit her best.

Ultimately, she did decide to remuster, and taking the advice I'd given her, she went Regular Force as a Field Engineer.  The military helped pay for her to complete her university education, and she took her commission and became an Officer.

A couple of years later, during a training exercise, she was killed when the explosives her team and her were laying went off.  I remember the numbness I felt when I heard the news.  I simply had a hard time believing it.

I still have a hard time believing it- and it's been at least a decade or so since the accident occured.  So, when Rememberance Day comes around, and I look at the fresh faced soldiers around me, I remember her, because she thought that freedom and equality was worth the risks involved in her job.

Lest We Forget.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

#Pleasures: Rainy Days

While I was walking home today from the Work Search centre, it started to rain.  Nothing heavy, just a light fall of rain.  It was enough to get me to stop, close my eyes as I spread my arms, and smile upwards to the skies as the drops landed on my face.

Of course, I had to start walking again, since I was blocking traffic on the sidewalk standing like that.

But it started my mind thinking about how much I enjoy walking in the rain- almost as much as I enjoy walking in the fog, actually.  Being who I am, I have a tendency sometimes of analysing my feelings in order to understand them and myself better.  That's what I did while walking home with pieces of the clouds dripping around me into puddles.

There's something cleansing about rain, I find.  I can stand in the rain, and let it wash over me- all the while imagining my concerns and worries, and negative thoughts mixing with the water and flowing away into the gutters... leaving me emotionally fresh and clean again.  I feel so much lighter after a walk in the rain.

I also really like sitting on the porch listening to the rain pitter patter against the metal roof, as I sipped a mug of coffee, and taking a puff on my pipe.  I can watch the smoke from my pipe drift up and away to join the clouds and possibly become drops of rain as well.  The air around me feels scrubbed clean of impurities as I sit there letting my thoughts ripple outwards like the drops of rain landing on the surface of the pool and puddles.  With each breath, I can smell the grass and the flowers that catch the drops and sip from them the way I sip my coffee.

The only problem (other than getting strange looks when I stand in the middle of the sidewalk with my arms spread and grinning up into the clouds) is the cold.  I don't handle cold too well, unfortunately, and when you miss cold and damp, my joints ache.  But for this simple pleasure in Life, I'll simply bundle up a bit, make sure my coffee is steaming hot, and ignore the twinges in my knuckles and hip.  For me, the comfort, peace, and simplicity of rain falling is worth enjoying and being a part of... worth forgetting the aches and pains of Life.  Worth being alive.

Monday, November 5, 2012

#Changes: My Signature

I was helping my Dad today by pulling out all the plants from his flower bed.  When I was done, he needed my signature on some documents for accounting purposes with Veterans Affairs.  When he saw my signature, he told me to put my full signature- not my initals.  I told him that WAS my signature.

He just gave me an exasperated look and shook his head... something older people do to me a lot, actually.  Not sure why though, since it's quite understandable how my signature became what it is.

I spent sixteen years in the Canadian Forces Reserves as a Administration/Finance Clerk.  When I first joined at the age of eighteen, my signature resembled this:

It was a perfectly normal, legible signature at that time.  It was clean, precise, and would've caused serious damage to my fingers, wrist, and arm if I had continued to use it in my duties.

Why?  Forms.  Lots and lots of forms.  Course reports, assessments, charge reports, stationary requests, computer asset requests, signing out and signing in of equiptment, signing paysheets, signing audit documents, signing destruction certification forms, signing memorandums, signing medical documents, signing Military Police documents, signing this, signing that.

So, over the course of my career, my signature evolved... or devolved depending on your point of view.  After about two years of signing forms, my signature resembled:

But that wasn't enough to sign the multitude of forms quickly, AND keep my from injuring my vital digits.  It was good for my personal, non-military correspondance... but I needed to find something that would allow me to get through all the forms I had to sign in a flurry, while keeping myself out of the Medical Inspection Room with a possible career ending cramp.  Because of this need, my signature changed again to resemble:

But as you can imagine, this STILL wasn't good enough.  No, it wasn't.  My career was hanging in the balance!  The forms that needed signing just kept coming and the stacks kept growing.  I needed something succinct and quick.  I realized that it didn't NEED to be something obvious- just something that could be legally considered a signature.  By the end of my career- partly from having fine tuned my signature to it's essence... and because arthritis in my fingers was making it hard to write with a pen, my signature reached it's most pure, bare essential nature:

That's right, "M *scribble*" is my signature.  Oh, I can hear you laughing out there.  If you think my signature is funny, let me tell you about a former employer of mine.  His signature is a squiggle with two dots.  That's it.  Just that.  Oh... and he has a rubber stamp of it for signing forms...

Friday, November 2, 2012

#Holidays: Halloween Recovery

One of my favorite times of the year (if not THE favorite) is Halloween.  People dress up in costumes, kids knock on doors in the search of delicious treats, and I watch a few horror movies.

This year, "a few" movies was actually 13 of them, as I held a special event for my "The Corner of Terror" blog.  For this "Terrorpolooza 2012", I held a 24 hour horror movie tweet along.  From 1:00 am Halloween morning, to 1:00 am the next morning, I watched horror movies, and tweeted along to them.

It went quite well, in my opinion.  I had a decent variety of movies- some good... some not so much, and people joined in the fun by retweeting, favoriting, and commenting upon my tweets.

And I quite enjoyed it too.

The only problem with this Halloween was having to recover from the night before.  As soon as my tweet along was finished, I was worn out and ready for bed.  I don't remember dreaming- which is weird for me.  I closed my eyes, then opened them about 20 hours later.  And I still felt tired.

In fact, it took me almost two days to fully recover from all the stimulus that the 24 hours of horror movies gave my poor pumpkin filled head.

And to think... I plan on doing AGAIN next year...

Monday, October 29, 2012

#Pleasures: The Fog Walk

Life is full of things that frustrate and annoy us humans- which is why it's important for us to also find things that give us pleasure.

Some people go the adrenaline route in their search for pleasure: sky diving, BMX biking, telling Hell's Angles that they would really look much better in mauve.

Myself, I enjoy simple (and less physically painful) things.  One of those things I that really brings me pleasure is the act of walking in the fog.

There's just something about fog that captivates me.  When I lived Downtown, if the fog rolled in, I would walk from my house on 7th and Battle St towards and across the Red Bridge, then through the industrial park to the Halston Bridge, across that bridge, then work my way down towards and across the Overlander Bridge, before walking back to my house.  If you live in Kamloops, you'll know it's a decent walk.

In the fog, it's a magical walk.

I would usually clip my walk-man to my belt (yes, I am that old) so I could have some music to listen to while walking.  The soft click of the cassette tape switch sides back and forth was the only way of telling time in the fog, as without that reminder that time was passing, a second would stretch out into an eternity... and sometimes, an eternity would be over in a second.  With the MP3 player I have now, time will have absolutely no sway over me the next time I enter the soft embrace of the fog banks.

The glow from the street lights would just be that- a dim glow of some orb floating in the distance... something not quite real.  The world would cease to be a concrete thing outside the reach of my arms.  Sometimes, I would wonder if I was even real.  I would no longer be Mike S- man plagued with doubts, and fears, and frustrated dreams.  No, I would be just like the fog and the reality that it created. I would be just pure thought, shedding the negativity like dew on a leaf.  I would leave pieces of my thought-self behind in that unreality.  Entering my "fog walk" meant losing myself for a bit, letting loose the bindings of my thoughts, and letting their vaporous forms drift off and away, before I once again found myself again...

There is something quite therpeutic and soothing about my "fog walks".  When I enter the fog bank, I'm burdened and weighed down, but when I emerge, my back is straighter, and I feel as if my load isn't so heavy.  Even though I would go on these walks by myself- I never felt alone or afraid.  Rather, I felt as if the Universe was welcoming me into those mysterious mists like an honoured friend, weaving time and reality around me like the soft blanket I take comfort under when I'm not feeling well.  The parallel is certainly there.  My blanket wraps around me and comforts me when I'm sick in body, while the fog curls and envelopes me, while brining comfort when I'm sick in heart and soul.

Oh... To get lost in that magical world again soon...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Interests: BOO!

If you haven't figure it out by now, I write reviews for horror movies, novels and video games on a blog called, "The Corner of Terror".

If you're not aware of that... go read that blog.

Now.  I'll wait for you to return.

*insert elevator/hold music while I wait for the reader to return*

Done?  Good.  Now, let's continue.

What got me interested in horror?  It doesn't really make much sense for a relatively sane person- like myself, to want to be scared out of my pants, right?

Well, you can thank (or blame depending on how you view an interest in horror) my Mom and my Aunt for nudging me into the shadowy world of cinematic creepy crawlies.  To be honest, I didn't dive straight into horror fiction.  I actually started with non-fiction works about ghosts and other macabre things- such as a book about the Ressurection Men.  This particular book contained the accounts of attempts to steal Abraham Lincoln's body, and the ransoming of Charlie Chaplin's.  I also read about the life of Joseph Merrick- the famous Elephant Man (the David Lynch film is just a masterpiece in my opinion).  In addition, I read up on the various famous performers in the Victorian "freak shows".

Mom also had several non-fiction books on ghosts (including "Haunted Houses" by Richard Winer and Nancy Osborn- one of my favorite books).  Many of the tales in these books scared me (I was only nine or ten at the time I started reading these particualr stories), but made me more curious about such phenomena.  So, while I enjoyed the tingly, "You're not alone in the quiet house" feeling I got, I saw these books as being more informative than entertaining.  Exposure to horror for entertainment came seperately.

Around this time, I also got into the old "Vampirella" magazines- not so much for the scary stories, but... well... the hot female vampire in a bathing suit.  Blame the hormones.  But these magazines gave me a hint at what horror entertainment was about.  It was up to my Aunt, and Stephen King to really get me into enjoying horror.

My Aunt lived on a ranch of 150 acres, about ten kilometers past the last hydro pole in Vanderhoof, British Columbia.  The road the ranch was one was a dusty, gravely, dirt road called, "Kenny Damn Road".  Propane was used for the stove, and the lights.  There was a generator, but that was used just for the TV and the radio.  The house was a simple log cabin.  In fact, my Uncle spent more money on the comfort of the animals than he did on human comforts.

I used to go out there during the summers, and work in the fields stooking bales of hay for $0.10/bale.  At least until  we discovered that I was actually allergic to hay.  After that, I worked around the ranch painting barns, gathering the eggs, watching the flock in the field, feeding the sheep, etc.

Anyways, it was during on propane lit night that my Aunt suggested that I read to pass the time away.  She handed me "The Shining" by Stephen King.

I was hooked.  I would curl up on the chair sipping hot chocolate, while my eyes would travel across the page soaking in each word, and letting them seep into my brain.  I lost myself in the events that King described on the pages, all the while enjoying the images I came up with play upon the movie screen of my mind.  I allowed the delicious feeling of crawling skin and the tingle that comes when my hair stands up to encase me in its dark pleasure.  I didn't want to sleep because I wanted to keep reading.

Once I'd finished, I began seeking out more horror- old or new, I wanted to experience more and more.  I wanted to feel that sweet fear creeping over my skin again and again.  I started paying more attention to horror movies- discovering movies like John Carpenter's "The Fog", "The Changeling" with George C Scott, and the classic Hammer Horror films.  I began collecting "The Vault of Horror", "Tales From the Crypt", "Eerie", and "Fangoria".

But... WHY?  Why do I enjoy it?  Why do I seek it out?

A couple of reasons, actually.  First off- it's... fun to see if a book or movie CAN scare me.  Secondly, by facing that fear- and surviving, I remind myself that I'm alive- it's a bit like being an adrenaline junkie.  Finally, most horror movies and books are a reflection of the fears that Society holds at the time, so it gives us a chance to examine Society (and ourselves) and discuss the issues that are brought up.

But mostly, because it's fun.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Rum in a Pumpkin... and Shoe Polish Moonshine

I'm not going to fib:  I enjoy alcohol.  It's nice being able to sit down in the evening, have a beer and watch a movie, or sit on the patio and sip a vodka ceasar while I read a good book.  Few things beat the act of sitting around a firepit (or in a carport) and talking about life, philosophy, and movies with a friend and a beer.

I also enjoy trying new things.  I've had nasty doggy tasting beer, horrid banana beer, smooth rum, and delightful stouts over the years.  For me, it's like meeting new people: some beers become friends, some occaisonal buddies, and others fowl enemies deserving scorn and distrust.

Many of the tales of my life have occured in one way or another due to alcohol- as have stories I have heard.

My Dad served 43 years in the Canadian Forces- going from Reservist to Regular Force, back to Reservist, to the Cadet Instructors Cadre.  He worked his way up from Private up to Captain as he was sent to places like Germany (where I was born incidentally), and even Cyprus as part of the United Nations.  He would regale us with his adventures- both good and bad as we grew up.   Several involved, you guessed it- alcohol.

One such story revolved around his early years in the service.  I think he was a Private at the time.  Him and a buddy of his had heard that you could distill the alcohol that was in shoe polish in order to make moonshine.  Dad freely admits that even though he was capable as a kid of building a working ham radio from scratch, he was also capable of what he would describe as "bone headed" things too.

Actually attempting to make moonshine from shoe polish fell under the latter description.  Now, I'm not going to describe the process... since I don't want to start receiving hate mail complaining about "Little Johnny" getting the idea to do this from me, okay?


Anyways, Dad and his buddy decided to give it a try, and went through the process they'd heard about.  Once they were done, his buddy took the first sip.

And promptly went blind for a few days.  Yeah, you read me correctly: BLIND!

Needless to say, I will NOT be attempting this myself.

Dad also told me that it's possible to make rum in a pumpkin.  Yeah, I was intrgued by the sound of that too.  The process he described was pretty simple too. All I would need is a pumpkin, brown sugar, hot water, and wax. Of course though, since this tale quickly followed his "Shoe Polish Moonshine" story, I decided caution was in order.  For the past five years, I've been searching the internet for a recipe or directions on how to do this.

Well, folks- today, I found out how... and it's even simplier than what my dad said.  The video below outlines what to do.  Since it takes about 30 days to make, I wouldn't be able to make any for Halloween... but you can be sure that I WILL be attempting this next year.  When I do, I'll let you all know how it goes.

Now, here's how to make alcohol in a pumpkin:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Childhood: The Thing Under the Bed

Let's be honest with each other, folks: as kids we all either feared The Monster in the Closet, or The Thing Under the Bed.  They were horrible creatures that changed shape to match our worst nightmares, and whispered dark menacing deeds to us from the depths of the shadows they inhabited.

They caused us to keep the light in the closet on, a night light burning by the bed, and brave stuffies on your pillows.  They forced us to cower with the blanets pulled over our heads and to try to jump the ten feet or so from the light switch to the bed.

Even though I review horror movies and books, I wasn't immune to this fear as a child.  I would close and block the closet door with stuff so The Monster couldn't open it; I would get Teddy (dressed as Superbear) to check under the bed to keep The Thing at bay; I would build a fort of pillows around me in case the blanets got pulled off.

But then, I discovered a point of logic that allowed me to confront and defeat The Thing Under the Bed.

Once in a while, we would stay at Grandma and Grandpa's.  Mom and Dad would sleep in the Guest Room upstairs, while my brother, and I would sleep downstairs... In the large unfinished basement... The large, shadowy unfinished basement.  The beds we slept on were old fashioned beds with lots of room under the bed.  Perfect for The Thing.

Night time in the basement was a scary time for a kid of seven or so.  Shadows flittering across the walls, creaks and groans and popping sounds... and rustling... from under the bed.  It was like that one night when I was sleeping in the basement by myself.  While laying there with the blankets wrapped tight around me and shivering with dread as I imagined The Thing's tentacled hand slowly dragging me under the bed into his gaping, toothy maw like I was a kiddie burito, I realized something.

Even at that young age, I knew just enough about Physics to understand that two physical objects could not occupy the same space at the same time.  My child's mind reasoned that The Thing was limited to inhabiting confined spaces under beds- it couldn't exist outside the boundries of that space.  Therefore, if I occupied that space, The Thing could NOT occupy that space.  Thus, as my developing chain of logic dictated, if The Thing could not occupy that space- and could not exist outside of that space, it could not torment me.

So it came to be that the next morning, my Mom came down to wake me up... and found me sleeping quite happily under the bed.  Although she couldn't help but laugh, she admitted that my logic did have some merit.

To this day, I still make sure that the space under my bed if filled with stuff in order to deny The Thing a place to hang out.  And I sleep with the blankets over my head... just in case...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Thoughts on Reality- Part I: Reality in Our Minds

Thoughts on Reality- Light and Vibration
Note- The following is a repost of a "note" I wrote on Facebook April 12 2012.

I've been reading a book called, "2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl" by Daniel Pinchbeck. In it, he details his journey through the world of vision quests, psychic phenomena, psychology, quantum physics, and the Mayan calendar and how it relates to the supposed apocolypse that's to occur this year (2012)... and a possible evolution in humanity's perception of Time and Reality.

It's an interesting book- one that's actually been losing me sleep.

I'm not losing sleep because I believe that the world is actually going to end in a firey rain of death, destruction, and reality TV shows. Rather, I keep having dreams about the nature of Time and Reality.

I'll have a random thought during the day- usually a quick visual thought, that'll come back and get developed and expanded upon in my dreams.

One example is an exploration of how we percieve Reality. When you think about it- what we see is actually just light reflected off an object, captured by our eyes, and processed by our brain. That means that we're not actually percieving the "real" object. Rather we're percieving only an energy form of it after it's been processed by our brain.

Secondly, Matter is held together by gravity, and vibrates slightly at the atomic level. Stopping to think about it, it's hard not to imagine that what we're actually "feeling" when we touch a table is actually just the gravitational and vibrational energies given off by the atoms- once again being processed by our brains. Simple concept until you throw in the fact that quantum physics research has shown that atoms, particles and waves can be in two places at once, or even disappear to appear elsewhere in an instant before returning to it's original location. Given that, it's very possible that parts of that table (at the atomic level at least) are elsewhere at any one moment. What does that say about the "reality" of the table?

Given that so much of what we call "Reality" is based on the perception of various forms of energy, I have to wonder whether Reality is merely a construct in our minds to present us with concepts that we can understand (and handle) at our current level of evolution. IF that is the case, and we're only being fed part of the whole by our brains, what DOES "Reality" really look like?

These are the sorts of things that have been running through my dreams. I'm seeing close-ups of furniture and people in off centered double exposures- as if they're vibrating. I'm seeing colour negatives of cities and forests as if I'm seeing from the other side of the "vision viel". I can feel myself vibrating as pieces of myself vanish and reappear randomly. In one dream I had split vision as my eye appeared on the other side of the room and stared at myself staring at the eye. I can feel myself standing on "solid ground" even though I'm actually above a chasm while a voice says that it's only the concentration of gravity I'm feeling.

Even though these dreams are a little un-nerving, I also find them fascinating- and feel as if I'm about to gain some significant insight into myself and the Reality surrounding me. It's like I'm on a bit of a spirit journey myself... and I'm curious to see where it takes me...

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Giving of Thanks...

This weekend marks the celebration of Thanksgiving in Canada.  As with the American one, it is a time for giving thanks for a good harvest in the hopes that the next harvest will be as bountiful.

The Canadian Thanksgiving also happens to fall in the same month as a special event being held by "The Gratitude Diary" on Facebook, called, "The 30 Day Gratitude Challenge."  For the challenge, you're to post something you're grateful for on a daily basis.  Sort of a month long Thanksgiving.

In order to celebrate Thanksgiving, I've decided to post ten things that I'm grateful for.

In no particular order:
  • I'm grateful for family;
  • I'm grateful for my friends;
  • I'm grateful for my health;
  • I'm grateful for my education;
  • I'm grateful for those that read my reviews on "The Corner of Terror";
  • I'm grateful for my books;
  • I'm grateful for my Life- the good and the bad times;
  • I'm grateful for living in Canada;
  • I'm grateful for the sunrises I get to see;
  • I'm grateful for every breath I take.
I would love to hear some of the things you're grateful for, so feel free to list a couple in the comments section.

In other "news" I'm editing footage for my first vlog- to be posted in the designated box to the left this Friday.  I'll post a new one each Friday, and hopefully the quality of editing, etc will improve over time. LOL

Until my next entry, "May the Fates smile upon thee with Love and Happiness."

Saturday, September 29, 2012

An Invitation...

I have heard that the best thing a person can do is to share their life with others- to let the highs and lows of their own existance serve as guide posts to help others find their own paths through the jungle of Life.

Also, I have been asked once or twice by family, "WHY do you review horror movies and books?  WHY do you blog?"

So, here I sit pondering these questions, and whether I should share my thoughts with the rest of the internet.

The answer turns out to be, "Yes."

Hopefully, people reading this blog will gain insight into the life of a blogger; the life of a reviewer; the life of another human being; and their own lives.

I intend this blog to cover a wide variety of topics, from the personal to the random.  I'll discuss topics of interest that are outside the realm of Horror, and sometimes rather deeply emotional.

Basically, I intend to write about the things that circulate within my mind.  Maybe readers will gain a new perspective on things, or find a new interest, or even just laugh at the odd things that will undoubtedly perculate to the surface.

So, please accept this invitation to partake in a journey through the mind of a blogger...