Sunday, November 29, 2015

AHS: Hotel

My thoughts about the first few episodes of AHS: Hotel so far:

This is from "Episode 2--Chutes and Ladders"

1. Whenever I see a scene like the blonde getting a cloud of white powder fluffed on her once she died, I think, "Now there's a sinus infection waiting to happen."  That's how often I get those.

2. Kudos to Falchuck and Company for referencing House of Cards, which isn't a Fox show.

3. I'm guessing that once someone violates one of the Ten Commandments, they're stuck in the Hotel Cortez.  Again, "...prisoners of our own demise."

4. Of course, Holden and the other kids were kidnapped, not sinful.  (And a thousand kudos to the show for the Holden / Catcher in the Rye reference when he was kidnapped on top of the angry horse on the carousel.  That horse was straight from the book's cover.  As is the name Holden itself.)

5. The Shining reference #12 or so: Rotting bodies in the shower.  Same green and brown splotches.

6. Saw the chutes.  Where are the ladders?

7. Ah, there.  In the bar.

8. The little girl wanders off during the fashion show and takes a public bus alone.  Great parenting.

9. Little kids acting in a show this adult is a tiny bit unnerving.

10. Ah.  I was waiting for the Hotel Cortez origin story.

Extra: The guy who built the Hotel Cortez is modeled after the very real H.H. Holmes, the butcher of the 1893 Chicago Expedition / World's Fair.  He built a house there with hallways that went nowhere, rooms to nothing, torture chambers, furnaces.  If you're into serial killers and the creepy, Google him.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Being Thankful--Happy Thanksgiving 2015

I recently asked some people to explain what non-material things--besides family, friends, home and technology--they were thankful for.  Here's mine:

--A job I like.  (Most people I know hate their jobs.  I love mine.  Not every day is a fairy tale, but I love the job overall.)

--A good career, with good benefits.  (I get lots of sinus infections--as if that was my career instead.)

--My numerous interests.  (Writing; literature; baseball; baseball cards; the writing industry; short story and novel reading [and writing]; antique buying and dealing; dealing baseball cards [I'm also a part-time picker]; football; walking; hiking; biking; movies...)  You get the idea.  I think boredom is the worst kind of hell.

--My abundance of energy. (Until lately, I could subsist quite well on 4-6 hours of sleep per night.)

--My "intelligence."  (Real or imagined.)

--My imagination. (Which can often get out of control, and which is often not a gift.)

--My health.  (I used to be a lot worse off, and my sinuses--as terrible as they are--used to be much worse.)

--My sense of humor.  (Again, real or imagined.  If I'm only half as funny as I think I am, then I'm still hilarious.)

--My proximity to mountains, beaches, rivers, hiking and biking trails, and big cities.

--My local sports teams.  (I've got the Patriots and Red Sox.  True, the Sox finished last the past two years, but even then they're entertaining.  And they've still got 3 World Championships in the past eleven years, with a few other post-season appearances thrown in.  Plus I've got Fenway.)

--Great neighbors.  (Bad neighbors can be nightmares.)

--Heat, electric and an affordable education.  (Most people in the world don't have any of those.)


WHAT'RE YOU THANKFUL FOR?  (It's okay to comment even if it's not Thanksgiving anymore.)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

For France

                        VIVE LA FRANCE

Photo: From the Flag of France Wikipedia page.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

Photo: First Edition front cover, from the book's Wikipedia page.

Quick note: I'm just the 27th to publish a review of this book on Goodreads, as of 10.10.2015.  Though I'm sure someone will have typed one up and posted it before I finish mine.  Mine, as you know, are long.

Very good short story collection, but then again they all are.  (Except maybe Everything's Eventual, which I dimly remember had more misses than hits for me.)  This one has more hits than misses--many, many more--and even the misses miss in just minor ways for me.  My biggest beef with them is that they were maybe insignificant to me.  They might not be to you.  To each his own.

The book begins with a disclaimer that most of the stories have, of course, been previously published.  There's some claptrap about how a story is never finished, but he's got to write something there, I guess.  The fact is, these stories have been published before, and only a couple have been extensively revised, and he's publishing them now because that's the cool thing about short stories: you get paid for them once, and then if you're a name that anyone cares about, you can collect them in a book and get paid for them again.  Much more this time for King, I assure you.  I wonder if he's still getting $10M per book, if he ever was.

In front of each story is a short comment about the genesis of each.  Entertainment Weekly said these were reason enough to read the book.  These are usually distracting for me, so I read them all at once, before I read any of the stories, and then I started reading the stories the next day.  Again, to each his own.  But he's written better intros than any of these.  (My fave's probably the one with The Bachman Books.)

Anyway, some quick thoughts about some (stop now if you don't want to know anything about a few of the stories):

"Mile 81" reads well, as all his stuff does.  You're maybe sick of reading the phrase "compulsively readable" in my reviews of King's stuff by now, but I'll continue typing it as long as it stays true.  Such is the case with this story, except that it's one of my "insignificant" ones in this book, which is not necessarily a terrible thing.  Who doesn't need a good, irrelevant story?  But I read this book (impulsively and compulsively) when I perhaps should have been doing something else, so I felt badly when I felt that tinge of "So what?"  In this one, an alien vehicle kills some better drawn-out characters than usual for this kind of story, and then flies away.  And that's what happens at creepy and abandoned rest areas.  A better story could be made of this.

"Premium Harmony" is a very effective story about a guy and his wife (who very much don't get along), and a dog that prefers her over him.  This one's very memorable and very well-written, and could actually happen.  Good voice and good ending--not always a King strong-suit.  I read this one before somewhere.  Maybe in DetailsAtlantic Monthly?  There's usually a Previously Published In... page, but not this time.

"Batman and Robin..." is okay, a good story that passes the time.  Won't stick in my noggin' but it may in yours.

"The Dune" is a very good story about a judge who sees names in a sand dune, and when he does, that person drops dead soon.  Clever little ending, reminiscent of King's Night Shift days.

"Bad Little Kid" was okay.  The kid in question is sort of representative of all evil, in a ghostly kind of way.  Stands in for Death itself, too.  This is actually a common theme in this collection.

"A Death" is an extremely successful little story that'll leave you guessing until the end.  Written in a different style and tone for King, and he pulls it off.  Very good detail, and it'll make you question your belief system--even if you know how far people will go to deny, and to save their own skin, even from themselves.  I've seen way too much of that, and I was still surprised.  Created a long conversation between myself and my better half.  I read this one somewhere before, and was still impressed when I re-read it again here.  Very memorable.

"Morality" is an effective, nasty long story.  Sort of like a more shrill take on Indecent Proposal.  I read this, and "Blockade Billy," in the limited-release book that had just those two stories, and something originally written for his son, if I remember right.  Anyway, this one says something about the human condition, though I'm not sure what.  Maybe that you can't run away from your own guilt, but he's done that better elsewhere.  What was that short story about the farmer who killed his wife and tried to run away from it but kept seeing and hearing the rats?

"Afterlife" was entertaining and okay.  Probably not memorable for me.

"Ur" was also good, and a welcome back to the men in yellow coats and a bit of the Tower.  Good.  No surprises.  One of the longest in here.

I'd read "Herman Wouk Is Still Alive" somewhere before and just skimmed it here.  Very good story.  A bit of a head-scratcher about life, about depression, about poverty.  About how some find peace and some don't.  Memorable.

"Under the Weather" is probably the most effective and memorable for me.  What does one do when someone you've placed your heart and soul to dies?  So effective because I can imagine this actually happening, in exactly the way that it does here.  And I think you will, too.

For "Blockade Billy," see "Morality" comment.  This is a good story that maybe baseball fans--especially those who like the game from the early 1900s like I do--will better appreciate.

"Mister Yummy" is a bittersweet take on the same themes as the bad kid story.  This one worked better for me, but again it's about getting old and dying, and about what might come next.  There's a lot of that in this collection.

"The Little Green God of Agony" didn't work for me.  Not a bad story, exactly.  A shoulder-shrugger.

"That Bus Is Another World" could have been titled "Kitty Genovese."  I liked it's point more than I liked the story, and it doesn't go with King's intro for it at all.

"Obits" worked for me, but the love-interest tie-in didn't, and it sort of peters out at the end.  Good idea; bad follow-through.  Okay story.

"Drunken Fireworks" was the clunker of the collection for me.  Skip it.

"Summer Thunder" is the bummer of the collection, but still a very good story and very memorable, though the ending is never in doubt, and there really wasn't any other ending King could've given it.  Because of all this, it's a huge victory that this story is still so readable and memorable and sad.  It tries for a strong human will ending that was just more sad for me, though it may register a little better for you.

All in all, this is a great short story collection that shows some of King's best writing in years.  Worth your money and time.  Get it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

"The Saddest Dog in the World"--Read On for Happier Ending

Before I show the picture, know that the dog is out of the shelter now, and is happier and doing much better, but still only in a temporary foster home.  As of this writing, she's still looking for her "forever home."

Photo: © Courtesy: Rescue Dogs Match via The picture of Lana that went viral as the 'Saddest dog in the world'.

For the video, go to this address from

Excerpted from the article, until the drawn line:

Lana, also known as the "saddest dog in the world", is currently in a foster home waiting for her forever home thanks to an outpouring of support after her story went viral. 
The one-and-a-half-year lab mix is a foster dog with Rescue Dogs Match. She originally arrived in Toronto, Canada, when she was a puppy. 
Recently, Lana was returned to Rescue Dogs Match, a volunteer organization, after it did not work out with the family who took her in at five-and-a-half months old.
Mighty Mutts, which trains dogs, posted on Facebook that Lana had some guarding issues that were worked on when she was a puppy. "However, a year later she is exhibiting those guarding behaviors around food with people she is not completely familiar with," Mighty Mutts posted. 
Although her guarding issues were "non-existent when she was adopted," they began to surface, Mighty Mutts added on Facebook. 
"Because there were children in the family it was decided that it would be best for Lana to come back to our rescue so that we could find an adult only home with an experienced handler," Mighty Mutts wrote on Facebook.  [Go to this site to learn about these awesome people, and the godly work they do to save animals.]
Upon her return, a photo was taken of Lana and shared on Facebook of the dog appearing despondent, with her head down, leaning against the wall in a boarding kennel.  
Mighty Mutts posted that she would only come out of her kennel for two people. "She just shut down," Dahlia Ayoub, owner of Mighty Mutts and a volunteer dog program coordinator for Rescue Dogs Match, told The Dodo. "It's almost like her world shut down." 
She remained unresponsive for a day, The Dodo reported. No one could move her to go for a walk. 
But this is Lana, "The Unhappiest Dog in the World," now:

[Me, now.]  Lana is currently in a temporary foster home and is working with Mighty Mutts Training to fix her guarding issues.  (This means she gets testy when she's eating because she had to defend her food against 12 other dogs when she was younger.)  She'll soon be ready for adoption to a "furever" home--someone who can take her permanently.  
For now, Lana will continue to stay with her foster mom. This week, she will begin her strict training regime to correct her guarding issues with Mighty Mutts Training. Lana came from a terrible place as a tiny pup. She had to compete with 13 other pups for food. Although her guarding behaviours were non-existent when she was adopted, they did recently come back. We know she will do well with her training because she is, after-all, such a sweet and smart young girl. Mighty Mutts already has a plan of action for Lana's training and is confident that she will soon be ready for adoption.

We, again, want to thank everyone for their offer to help Lana. If you were touched by Lana's story and are not located in Ontario, Canada but would like to help, PLEASE check out your local shelter/rescues or . There are so many Lana's out there waiting for their big break. Lana is just one of millions of homeless animals that long for a family that will love them. If you are located within Ontario and interested in adopting Lana, please pop us an email to complete an application at

We will be looking for a home for Lana with the following requirements:

Lana is a timid girl in unknown environments. When she is with people she knows and trusts, she is silly and sweet. Lana is great left alone, good with other animals (cats & dogs), however, she may exhibit guarding behaviours around food with other animals. She loves to go hiking and is very good on a leash. The perfect home for Lana would be with one or two people who are experienced with guarding behaviours. No children. A quiet, routine home is a must. More to follow as we continue to work with Lana.

If you would like to make a donation so that we can continue to help dogs Like Lana, please click on this link (the amount raised is an accumulation of donations starting from January 2015):

Please share Lana's story and help other dogs like Lana find their furever home!

[Me, again.]  I'm the super-proud owner of a saved greyhound--who just turned 13 on Halloween!!!  Happy Birthday, Jackson!!!

But I digress...There are a ton of dogs and other animals out there who need help. Lana, for example: think of what she went through to go from Mexico, where she was born, to a place that saved her in Canada.  The video said she's been with other people but saved from them, too!  Then she was at her last place for a year, and (perhaps understandably, since kids, other animals, and food guarding issues were involved) had to be sent back.  She's been sent back and forth so many times!  She must feel so unwanted and unloved!  So I saw this story, and the photo (Doesn't she look so hopeless and depressed?) and I decided I'd post the whole story and pass it on to my readers.
Please consider donating to the program that saves these animals and always, always, always takes them back.  Animals like her are at least saved for life, and are not put down or caged, or treated inhumanely. (I donate a lot to the ASPCA, who also do angelic work.)  Or consider going to your local shelter and adopting a pet there.  Adopting Jackson the Greyhound is literally one of the best things I've ever done, for too many reasons to go into.
If you live in Ontario, Canada, please consider adopting Lana when she is ready.
Please share this story on your blog, Facebook, Instagram, etc.  Your reader could be the one to help this dog.

Thank you.