Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Scary Stuff

For as long as I can recall, I have been a fan of all things spooky. Friday nights were spent with my Mum, both of us in front of the TV, soaking up the late night double feature of Hammer Horror. Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee were my heroes, but as much as I loved those blood-soaked flicks, the possibility of real-life ghosts and goblins, and things that go bump in the night, seemed highly unlikely. Part of the allure of those movies, was that you could be scared witless for 90 minutes, but realize that you were safe and sound the whole time.

That viewpoint changed forever, the moment I set foot into my new home; a basement suite tucked into the middle of an ordinary looking subdivision in Calgary, Canada. The weirdness began almost immediately, with items falling off shelves, my clock radio mysteriously changing stations during the night, cold spots, and an unnerving feeling of being watched all the time. My friends thought me mad, not to mention a little boozy, but I knew better. The pinnacle of the events came when I, and  2 friends, saw a man, fully transparent, walk up my hallway and through a wall. My interest was peaked, and my underpants full, all at the same time.

I became somewhat obsessed with the paranormal world, reading everything I could and even joining a ghost hunting group for as bit (an odd bunch that couldn't decide on a direction, unfortunately). That interest cooled a little, but always stayed in the back of my mind, just waiting to be peaked. That came recently, when strange events started taking place in our condo....mostly door-slamming, bangs and strange voices (I have a great recording of one that I will try to get online).

With all that in mind, I have started a new blog where I will post creepy videos, horror movie trailers, and perhaps some of my old horror tales. If you want to give it a looksee, you can do so by visiting, The Daily Scare.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Mind Is Willing

It's another glorious Tuesday here in the ATL. The sun is shining, soccer is on TV, and I am enjoying my day off work. It is a much needed day given my ever increasing list of aches and pains, all work related. The most recent of these ailment is a dodgy lower back, not ridiculously painful, but enough to have me scrambling for some Advil. It's no real surprise given the rigorous lifting nature of my job, as well as my advancing years.

A lot of these issues are in my head. Don't get me wrong, i don't mean that I am imagining some sort of phantom pain, but inside that twisted little noggin of mine lies the belief that I am still in my 20's. A simple turn of thought can place a flowing mane of mullet-styled locks on my bald head, can shave 30lbs off my expanding waistline, and can remove my, ever so trendy, eyeglasses with 20/20 vision. One glance in the mirror brings the reality rushing back, which is why all reflective surfaces have been removed from our house.

Rather than try to combat the ravages of time by the normal route; eating properly, exercising, and getting 8 hours sleep per night, I shun these practices, choosing instead the life of fast food, sloth and insomnia. My efforts at counteracting the aging process include, but are not limited to, covering my wrinkles with tattoos, dressing like a goth pirate, and getting my wife drunk enough that her vision will be impaired enough to see me as Johnny Depp rather than Johnny far, so good.

I really do believe that age is just a number, but it seems that when that number creeps over 40, the body goes into full deniability and attempts to crush that belief into dust. I'm sticking with it though, and I will bet than when my frame does give it up and renders me incapable of doing my current job, I will become a fully inked Wal-Mart greeter welcoming you to the store with a hearty, "AHOY!!"

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jose Can You See?

This coming Saturday night represents a big day in my life as a soccer fan. For those not in the loop, it is the Gold Cup Final between the US and Mexico, as well as the chance for me to complete the soccer brainwashing of my wife. It will represent something of a coming together, Penny embracing soccer, and me cheering for the US in a sporting capacity.

I can still remember when the World Cup was handed to the American back in 1994. Soccer purists, such as myself, were appalled when they landed the holy grail of the round ball world. I vowed never to lend my backing to a country that didn't appreciate the sport the way it is meant to be. That all changed when I fell in love with an American woman with an affinity for beer and sports. It also helped that the US were drawn against England (shower of bastards) the 2010 World Cup Finals. I was introduced, via alcohol, to a little pocket of rabid fans who loved their country, and understood the beauty of the game.....I became a  US soccer fan.

Now, don't' get me wrong, if the Yanks had to play Scotland in any sort of competitive arena, it's be off with the knickers, on with the kilt, and full foul-mouthed Celt in effect. Until such times, I will throw my support behind the bald eagle crowd, and their hordes of adoring fans.

I mean, look at that picture up there...the pride, the color, the pageantry. It is all that is good about US soccer. take a moment and drink in that image, and then look below and compare it with the average, Scottish soccer you notice the difference?

I don't care that I bear a more striking resemblance to the poor lad in the video up there, this Saturday I will be lending my voice to the nation of apple pie and freedom, where names like Donovan, Bradley, and Dempsey will etch their names into my, if they win, I'll be able to collect a boatload of cash and corona's from the Mexican dudes at work.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Crazy Georgia

It's the first day of summer, and we Georgia residents are being treated to yet another day in the mid 90's. That's all well and good for lifetime residents of the state, but pasty Scottish types like myself, are forced to stay indoors for fear that we may explode in the blistering heat, or, worse yet, risk looking like that shiny vampire dude should we ever dare remove our shirts.

It's really hard to complain about the weather here, it's that good, but there are other things, strange laws, that make Georgia living a little kooky. I am a man who is strictly blue collar, and I enjoy the less finer things in life, such as beer, gambling, tattoos, and public nudity (I have to show off my less visible body art). Lawmakers here don't make it easy to do the fun stuff. There are no Sunday beer sales allowed, that is unless you go to a bar. So, to be clear, I can walk to my local liquor store, only to find it closed, but pop into the bar situated next door, and get completely pantsed.....makes sense. Sports gambling is illegal, yet I can play at least one lottery every day of the week here. I kinda understand that these two laws are in place to protect family values and the sanctity of biblical life here in the South, but as an atheist, shouldn't I be able to take my hard earned cash down to the booze shop, polish off a 24 pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon, then place a 10 dollar bet on the Raiders to win the Super Bowl? (actually when I read that out loud, those do seem like poor life choices)

There are some stranger, less known laws on the books in Georgia though. All sex toys are banned. WOW!! How is the average male supposed to please his lady without using his ass blaster 3000? It should be noted that this law has not been enforced since 1968, and is now deemed archaic. (I was born in 67. Coincidence? I think not). It is illegal to use profanity in front of a dead body. I know myself well, and if I am out for a Sunday stroll (to the bar) and I stumble across a dead body, I am not going to say, "Gee whizz, a decomposing corpse is in my way. What should I do? I am at my wit's end." It is more likely to be, "Je$%s H. fuc***g Ch#^$t on a flying fuc*ly broomstick, it's a bas***d dead body, I think I just s**t myself." This outburst has nothing to do with poor breeding or a small vocabulary, I curse when I get scared, or happy, or sad, or.....I curse a lot, you get the picture. It is also against the law to keep a donkey in a bathtub.....I have no words for this, not even foul ones, it's just that weird.

On the bright side, it is looking more and more as though Sunday booze sales may eventually be legal here, with a number of cities voting on it shortly. I complain, but I rarely drink on Sundays as I am usually hungover from Saturday, and I just stick, literally, to the couch, trying to remember where I was and why I swallowed a mouthful of cotton.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Blues

Before I start on today's little bout of self pity, I'd like to send out a couple of long distance dedications. Happy birthday wishes to my sister, Jean, up in Canada, and my wee cousin Stephen back in Scotland. Also, Happy Father's Day to my old man, and all you other proud pops out there.

Rollin' through these hills I've known I'd be comin'
Ain't a man alive that likes to be alone?
.......Ray Lamontagne, For The Summer

I've never been one to buy into those "holidays" that seem to serve no purpose other than lining the pockets of the greetings car makers. Mother and Fathers Day, administrative assistants day, finally free from herpes day, and all the rest. With today being Father's Day, I figured I would be free from the hype that surrounds it, but with my kids away on vacation, and my wife working, I am left alone with my thoughts (always dangerous), and have found that I am a little on the down side.

It has nothing so much to do with the day, but rather the absence of the ones I love. I don't need a card, or a horribly mismatched tie and handkerchief set to validate my Fatherdom. My kids owe me nothing, yet they give me their love every day. There is no match for that, nothing any amount of money could ever buy. It is all the more remarkable given the fact that I feel like I am a failure on a daily basis, that I am letting those around me down. A combination of modern medicine and positive affirmation from my loved ones, tells me that my feelings about myself are wrong, yet they persist. It's just the way my mind works (or doesn't).

Messages from my kids and my wife, left for me to wake up to on Facebook, brighten my day, but the clouds persist somewhat. When that happens, I try to escape by losing myself in writing and music. So when I finish this, I am off to start work on a story I promised my wee ones. It will be a distant departure from my usual work, but a labor of love nonetheless. My kids will be in my head and heart as I write, and as long as they are there, I will never be alone.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bangers And Mash Are Born

It has been an insanely creative 36 hours inside my head. Yesterday I posted an article about character development and mention a pair of detectives named, Bangers and Mash, as a duo that I am thinking of building upon. Well that building is well and truly underway with 8 pages of scribbled notes, town maps, character names, shop names, and much more. I even went as far as to write the opening of the story, a monologue type dealio that I wanted to sound like  Twilight Zone opening. The story is complete in my head, and it's gonna be a long one for me, as I have it broken down into about 12 major scenes. On top of all that, I have the ideas for about 5 or 6 more stories involving these 2, all based on the ridiculous stories I made up for my kids when they were younger. Instead of going the hard boiled detective route, I decided to keep it more kid friendly and as ridiculous as possible....the character names are completely absurd, but made me giggle nonetheless. Writing begins tonight, and I have decided to share the opening which will, most likely, be tweaked a little.

In the heart of England's countryside, hidden below the verdant grass and towering oaks, hide the ley lines. For centuries scholars and scientists have spoken of their power. Truth seekers and mystic have walked their paths in search of enlightenment. The lines yield nothing but rumors and old wives tales, but ask the occupants of the twin towns of Wisteria and Barbignol, and they will tell you of the hum. You see, they believe the lines sing out every once in a while, and when they do, strange events occur. When the humming starts, the townsfolk know they can count on their brave protectors to save the day, their heroes, Detectives Bangers and Mash.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Character Development

I have been scanning through my previous posts and realized that I don't really do much talking about writing or the process involved. This blog has become an exercise in trying to make my wife have a little giggle or two after a hard day's work, that's how much I love her. I thought I would get away from that, just a little, today, and actually write about how I develop characters. The truth is, I do very little in that department. The story outline always comes first, and the characters just kinda flesh out as I write them.

Procrastination has actually helped me get better at development....let me explain. Every time I finish a story, I always believe, "that's it". I simply cannot imagine that another idea will ever pass through my head again, and that my story making days have officially ended. With that in mind, i always keep a couple of ideas in reserve, never knowing of they will ever get written, just keeping them lock inside my twisted mind....a writer's block insurance policy if you will. In doing so, I have actually built up those stories, as well as the characters within, to a point where they actually might be pretty decent.....let's take a peek.

Edwin Grime, AKA The Grime Reaper....a former military man, broken in mind, who hears demonic voices and acts on the instructions they send his way. An all around nasty piece of work who ultimately comes to believe that killing 4 specifically chosen individuals by air, fire, earth and water, will allow Satan to appear on earth....this one has been percolating for over a decade, and Edwin has actually showed up in an unfinished short called, "Echoes".
The updated version of Little Red Riding Hood...wolf killer and sociopath. She has been built up to the point where the story is pretty much done in my head, and the book cover designed. This one will get written, it's just that messed up.
Bonesaw....I've always wanted to do a superhero type story, and Bonesaw, though not really superhero, is my foray into that genre. A gifted surgeon whose family is slaughtered before his eyes, his right hand cut off in the melee. He fuses a bonesaw to the nub and sets out hell bent on revenge. The saw is triggered by anger, wiring that would glow a neon blue, running through his skin, attached to his brain. This will never see the light of day as the amount of research into surgery and brain activity etc. is just a wee bit too much for my lazy ass to handle.
Bangers And Mash....This duo was born this morning after a breakfast conversation with my kids. We were talking about bands with food names, and my daughter thought that bangers and mash would be a cool name for a band, and I replied that I thought it would be a fantastic name for a pair of detectives.....the light came on. The story is now in full head development and will most likely be written for my kids. They got all giggly at the idea.

So there you have it.....The reaper, the hood and bangers and mash will escape from my head, but Bonesaw will stay there, locked in development hell, or until such times as I can afford an assistant to do my research for me....yes, I am just that lazy.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

You Wanna Bet?

Call me a degenerate if you must, but I have always had a love for gambling. I'm not much for poker, blackjack, or any other casino games for that matter, but sports, particularly the ponies, have always held a real fascination for me. My love of horse racing came early on. The sports section in the Scottish newspapers list all the races for that day, accompanied by a whole host of numbers, previous stats that looked like a code just waiting to be cracked. Math always came easy to me, so these numbers seemed like a challenge that was right up my alley. I would pore over these digits, make my picks, then watch for the results. Turns out I developed a knack for it. Too bad I was only 12 years old and betting shops were a no-go zone for impressionable little poppets like myself. Cue my dad who recognized my "studying" and let me make out a betting slip every Saturday. My choice was a yankee, which was choosing 4 horses from all the races that day and watching as the winnings accumulated with each win (doubles, trebles etc). The winnings weren't much for a 10 pence stake, but it was fun nonetheless.

My love affair with the ponies cooled over time, but was re-ignited when I moved to Calgary, Canada, a city that had live horse racing every spring. My mom and I would go every second Friday, and it was back on again. I started my own website, posting my selections and ended up with a pretty large following. I made money for a lot of those followers, but every time I played seemed to coincide with a losing streak (I am not the luckiest person in the world). The inability to actually bet here in Georgia, once again waned my interest, but, thanks to those usually annoying facebook ads, I found a couple of alternatives that would let me get my daily betting groove on and not cost me a penny in the process. Both sites offer free money to play with (only 10 cents to start), but you can rack it up pretty quickly, plus they give you another 10 cents to play if you lose. All great fun, and the perfect tonic for the casual gambler who would like to keep their shirt. You can check out both sites here...Centsports and FreeSportsBet ......I have also set up a blog, posting my selections most every day, check it out here ......I had a solid month in May, but I am in the crapper this month. Just figured that letting other people know might just turn my luck around.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Breakfast On A Budget

On a day off from work, it would be easy to get up, put the coffee pot on, and pop some bread into the toaster. Easy, but not what the rules of dayoffdom dictate. After a number of 12-14 hour shifts, it's time to let someone else make my breakfast for me, but money is tight, so where to eat?

IHOP is great, but a little on the pricey side for the breakfast budgeted, plus it only stays inside me for about 30 minutes before making a hasty exit (I'll leave the gory details to you imagination). Burger King has been permanently stricken from my list after deciding to eliminate the enormous omelet sandwich from their menu. The was a gloriously meaty grease bomb that came complete with its own defibrillator. McDonalds has enough dollar items to satisfy the money scrimping eater, but getting that means buying an extra hashbrown for my dog, who will sit and stare at me with lustful desire, tongue hanging out, saliva dripping, until she is given her morsel. It's the kind of look you normally only see on the face of a sex-starved man at a free brothel. Krystal's little sunriser sandwiches are yummy and cheap, but their coffee blows, and I MUST have coffee.

let me explain my coffee thing. I love that stuff, need it to get started for the day, but have a penchant for cheap. Dunkin Donuts good, Krispy Kreme, blech. McDonald coffee is fine, but I usually go with a vanilla latte which is a touch too expensive. QT gas station latte, cheap and good, but breakfast items are foul. The best, by far, is Tim Horton's, a Canadian coffee shop chain that make java to die for. Penny and I import it by the ton, and so my decision is made, a compromise if you will. I will start a pot of Timmy's, then head to Krystal's for 4 sunrisers, and a bag of hashbrowns for the dog.....$5, not bad.

As with any budget, there are unforseen incidents that blow it out of the water. Today is a Starbucks meetup with my daughter, which will, more likely than not, order a venti mocha frap, served in a gold encrusted chalice, with a topping of whipped cream made from the milk of a 2 horned narwhal. My venti vanilla latte will bring the total order to around $48. Oh well, at least the dog isn't coming.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Far From Home

Time has a funny way of slipping by unnoticed. Your waistline spreads and your hair recedes, leaving you looking very different from how you feel on the inside. My head says 25, my body screams 40 something. Even stranger to me is that I have now spent more years living in other countries (Canada and USA) than I did in my homeland of Scotland. The upside of living abroad is that you come off looking and sounding far more exotic than you actually are. The negatives tend to be a little more grating on the nerves.

Number one on the downside is the complete inability of some people to understand a single word you say, this despite the fact you are both speaking English. People have difficulty understanding simple words like bird, butter, and Constantinople, not to mention thinking my name is Joe rather than John. I avoid the telephone like the plague as the simple task of ordering a medium cheese pizza turn into a marathon conversation that screams for the Rosetta Stone, or UN intervention. It's when people say, "speak English", that makes me really bristle. Before you utter this little gem, pause for as moment and think about how old my country is compared to yours......who was speaking English first? I am doing it properly, it is you who are the marble mouth, pox-marked jolthead.

Living far from your native land also brings on a cokehead like craving for food and drink from home. More than once I have found myself face down on the floor of the nearby British shop, covered in delicious sweeties, trembling furiously and hollering, "give me what I need daddy." Sure, you can find some of your favorites, but there is always that elusive thing or two that you can never have. A decent serving of fish and chips ranks highest on my list. There is nothing like a grease soaked bag of chips, a soggy piece of cheap ass fish, wrapped in newspaper and served with a bottle of Irn-Bru (Scottish soda) to wash it all down. I swear if perfume makers sold a white vinegar fragrance, I'd be on it in a shot. Beer also doesn't quite live up to expectations, and I would sooner drink my own urine than swallow a single gulp of Budweiser. Why do you think Bear Grylls is so keen to gulp down his piss during his exotic adventures?

I am not saying that it's been all bad. My kids are Canadian, and the beer up there came close. The weather here is fantastic, and my wife represents all that is good about the US. Still, there are those moments, few and far between now, when I wanna slap on my red slippers, click my heels, and exclaim that there is no place like home.........even if it is just a 10 minute trip back to get a fish supper.