Optimus Prime

That's Just Prime

Today I want to talk about a first world problem that has been plaguing my life lately. Forget world hunger, or the fact that the only thing keeping us from WWIII is Trump’s angst filled bromance with Kim Jong-un. My first world problem is as serious as it gets. I am woefully behind on movies, and I don’t like any of my options for catching up. I am a victim of streaming services and their arbitrary licensing deals.

This is serious shit, and the streaming universe needs to fix this so they can get more money from me.

Like millions of Americans, I came to my senses and dropped my Netflix disc plan several months back. I was getting emotionally manipulated in the relationship. I would get a disc in, and then not be in the mood to watch it. So it would sit on top of my Blu-ray player. First for days. Then for weeks. Then for a fucking month. Essentially I was paying to have this disc sent to my house, eat all of my food and stare at me with its judgy little disc eyes while I watched other shows.

And I didn’t want to send it back for something else because that would be a waste of money. That would be admitting defeat. The defeat that comes from being in a different mood when the disc gets in than I was when I delicately placed it at the top of the queue. Or when Netflix flexes its bi-polar power and took a movie from Very Long Wait to It’s in the Fucking Mail. It just isn’t fair to toy with my emotions like that. So I ended the relationship.

And don’t talk to me about Redbox, if I wanted to drive to rent a movie I would just go to Blockbuster. Oh, wait……

I have Hulu Live, Amazon Prime and Netflix. What more could a man possibly want? Movies. A man could want movies. New releases if he so desires. Or old favorites. Or the bin of “holy fuck how did I miss that” movies. A man could want access to this at the touch of a button.

But  I would prefer to have these things without being treated like the streaming world’s prison bitch.

Six fucking dollars to watch a movie? That’s more than half of a monthly Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription. For one God damn movie. And nearly as much as going to the movie theater. At that point I should just buy the fucking movie at $15. But that’s like committing to watch it three times to get value, and commitment like that really isn’t my thing.

At those prices, Amazon, who I love and use daily, is never, ever gonna get my money. As much as I want to catch up on movies. There are endless possibilities on the services I have now. And since I have the HBO add-on with my Hulu Live, most movies will eventually find me.

But I have a better solution. One that would benefit not only myself, but allow a streaming service (most likely Amazon) to make some coin from me and other like-minded people who have no intention of paying $6 per movie but would be willing to fork something over.

I think Amazon should start a bonus streaming service concept to fill the void being left by people walking away from discs. And I really think they should call it Optimus Prime, because I am a dork and apologize for nothing.

Netflix offers a tiered system, you’re allowed to have one, two or three discs at a time based on your subscription. Amazon could now do the same thing, only by streaming movies rather than waiting for discs in the mail. A subscriber would be given a certain number of credits per month that they could spend however, and whenever, they chose, but after the credits are used up they would have to wait for the next billing cycle in order for them to reset, or start forking over $6 per movie. They could even make the offer exclusive to Prime members, much like they do their Amazon Pantry service. As a Prime member, I’m good with that.

Need God in your life and want to rent Dogma? One credit.

Ashamed of yourself for not seeing Shape of Water yet? One credit.

Want to stare at Jennifer Connelly for two hours? Career Opportunities. One credit.

I was on the single disc plan when I cancelled, which means if I really hustled and watched the movies the same day I got them I could watch maybe ten movies in a month. This almost never happened. That plan cost me $11. I think eight movies at that price, that I could stream whenever it was convenient for me, would be a fair. And Amazon could offer higher options for people who wanted to consume more.

As a corporate citizen this is the right thing for Amazon to do for America.

Crisis averted. First world problem solved.

I Have Spirit Yes I Do

SOTP Podcast image

Over the weekend I launched my podcast, Spirits on the Plains, releasing it into the world. It’s about the ghosts, spirits and demons from the most haunted region west of the Mississippi. It’s available on all the major podcast directories as well as at www.spiritsontheplains.com. But this post isn’t about promoting the podcast and telling you to go listen to it. Although it’s awesome and you should. This is about the road to getting it made. This is about the pride that comes from seeing sweat equity turn into something tangible.

This is about me being proud of myself for this and sharing that experience.

I had zero fucking clue what I was doing when I started this project. Well, I knew how to listen to podcasts, if that counts. All I really knew is that I loved Kansas City history, and I loved ghost stories, and I wanted to share that love with my community.

Thank God Dr. Internet was there to guide me.

At the start of any new project in life, the best thing you can do is to acknowledge that you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s always a humbling experience, but it turns into something rewarding along the way when you do. I started by reading every article I could find about how to start a podcast, particularly the step by step guides written for people like me who knew next to nothing. I didn’t know what media hosting was, or that I would need it. And I truly knew nothing about recording software or equipment. There were times, particularly at the beginning, where I thought for sure that I had bitten off more than I could possibly chew.

At those times the only thing that really kept me going was that I had shot my mouth off and said I was starting one.

So I started with the tasks that played best to my strengths. I researched and compiled a list of haunted areas around the Kansas City area. I pulled articles about the places I wanted to highlight for the first set of episodes and began to identify people I would eventually want to talk to get more information. Then I started to write, and edit, and edit. And edit some more. Writing when you know it’s going to be converted to the spoken word is a whole different style. Especially when you’re gonna be the one doing the speaking. Also especially when you hate the sound of your own voice.

The most daunting obstacles were on the technical side. As a writer, I didn’t know anything about recording software or equipment, building a website that could handle media files, how to get the podcast distributed on iTunes and Stitcher and had never even heard of media hosting. Quite frankly, once I got to this stage of development, I started to worry about cost. I had no problem putting in the sweat equity to get this project off the ground, but I am not a man of means at the moment, so there was a limit to the amount of cash I was willing or able to sink in.

The fact that I was worried about it truly proved that I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

It turns out there is a free recording software called Audacity that a lot of beginning podcasters use. I really, really like free. It also turns out that for $7 a month I could get set up on Libsyn, a media hosting site that not only houses the website, but also pushes the podcast out to all the podcasting directories (after submitting the podcast to them and getting approval). And their walk-throughs regarding all the technical tasks (except recording) were game changers. It took a series of tasks I had no idea needed to be accomplished and helped me tackle them in a single night.

For $15 I own the domain spiritsontheplains.com helping people find my podcast with ease. And I bought the lifetime rights to the song I am using for theme music for $10. And the basic mic I needed ran me $30 on Amazon.

A sunk cost of $55 and $84 in yearly costs to get a creative project off the ground. My hobbies of reading, running and golf each cost more than that. Hell, my internet and streaming cost more than that per month. This is a steal at twice the price.

Then I moved on to actually recording the first episode and playing with the software. Wanna talk about getting lost in the fucking weeds? I seriously hate the sound of my own voice, so pushing past that alone took some effort. I also learned that I breathe, like a lot. Quite possibly more than I should. And it’s loud. So it would be fair to say there was a learning curve with all that. And that there were moments I was very thankful that I live alone.

It got exciting when I started to learn some tricks that made me feel cool. I learned how to fade audio in, fade audio out, run it in the background while I spoke. I learned how to edit out the worst of the errors. And I grinned like a fucking idiot the entire time.

I also learned that it is in fact possible to grow tired of the sound of your own voice. And that I have a lot to learn about getting comfortable talking into a mic, which is ironic given the fact I’ve spent time as a speech writer.

This experience has been rewarding in ways I can’t even articulate. It’s been beyond surreal to see my podcast, something I created, available on platforms like iTunes and Stitcher. Seriously, I can’t stop opening the apps and looking at it.

I also spent more time than I care to admit dancing around my apartment this weekend. I am unapologetic about my state of childlike joy. And again, because of the terrible dancing, I am glad I live alone.

There is zero chance this would have happened without the support, wisdom and advice of my friends. Some of them simply cheered me on. Others were experts in areas where I needed, well an expert, and were generous, giving and patient with their advice. All of them were supportive every step of the way.

I am constantly amazed at how fortunate I am to have such wonderful people in my life.

It’s terrifying and exhilarating to put something like that out into the world. I’m excited to grow as this project continues to move forward.

Now go download it and give me a five-star review.

The Devil Hides Behind the Cross

Devil Cross

Smoke began filling the air as soon as The Cameron Gang exited the bank. Gunshots, splintering wood and shattering glass surrounded them as they dove behind the troughs for cover. The terror filled cries of horses pierced the chaos. The air was acrid, gunpowder gelling with humidity, creating a stench that reminded Johnny of brimstone.

“Guess they knew we were coming,” Ed shouted, snapping Johnny out of his trance.

“They just wanted to give us a proper sendoff,” Johnny shouted back. His cocksure grin grew wider in defiance of a town trying to uphold its law. To protect its money. To protect its own.

He took the saddlebag from his shoulder and tossed it to the shortest member of their group. “Billy, you and Jim get the horses behind the bank while Ed, Bobby and I draw their fire. We’ll meet you back there.”

Billy and Jim scrambled off without a word, crab walking to avoid the bullets. They obeyed his orders without question. Appointing him leader wasn’t something they decided. No one had questioned him going all the way back to the war. No one knew exactly why, or when. One day they were just following him.

Johnny drew a Colt with his left hand to match the one already in his right. The twin six guns were responsible for countless deaths, saving his life with each one. He learned to kill during the war, and lost his humanity. He parted with it willingly. The war brought him out of a lazy stupor that had dominated his life. It didn’t create his instinct to kill, merely nurtured it. Less of a birth mother and more of a wet nurse. It kept him full. But each time at the tit left him wanting more.

His experience as a soldier and an outlaw guided his hands as he fired in the direction with the most guns pointed at him. He managed to kill seven before diving into the protection of the bank, narrowly avoiding another onslaught of bullets.

He lived for these days and one day it would kill him. But today wasn’t that day and he knew it. Without hesitation he shot the banker, the only soul left in the building, as a precaution.

The others had pinned most of the vigilante townsfolk into a stale standoff. Timidity now weighed down the sporadic bullets.

“What now?” Billy said, crouching under one of the shattered windows. The banker’s head wound oozing blood into a puddle surrounding his boots.

“Go out the back. I’ll meet you there, there’s something I have to do first,” Johnny spoke, his mind already off in the distance. His eyes drawn to a building across the street.

As soon as the gang made a break for it, the vigilantes found their courage. The bullets of novice marksmanship serving as the final death rattle in a battle already lost. A battle that was proof that good doesn’t always triumph over evil.

Just as he had predicted, for a moment the amateur lawmen forgot all about him, providing him with the opening he needed. He slithered along the ground outside until he was clear of the bank.

Johnny sauntered into the church, gun smoke wafting off his duster. Sunlight from the open door melded with the smoke and cast his shadow in front of him. He made his way up the pews with an intense casualness ignorant of the chaos outside. He gazed up, contemplating the Christ child splayed out on the cross above him, his cocksure grin once again dancing across his teeth.

He tossed a coin purse onto the pulpit with a devil may care flick of his wrist, his eyes still engaged in a staring contest. His icy gaze turned to the priest crouched in front of the sanctuary’s two shaking parishioners, a man and a woman humbled by their fear.

“God always gets his cut.”

Silence hung heavy in the air as he turned and sauntered back into the gunfight.

Fahrenheit 451 Blows Smoke

Fahrenheit 451 Movie

“It was a pleasure to burn,” is one of the greatest opening lines in all of fiction.

I felt like an idiot for not keeping my expectations managed. HBO seduced me into a false sense of security, banking on its reputation of creating engaging and gritty content. And to be honest, all the promotions  led me to believe this was going to be a series, not a movie. A show set in a dystopic future world that was originally created by literary great Ray Bradbury equaled Fuck Yes in my book. And the source material has as much relevance today as it did when it was written, as most of the greats do.

Bradbury published Fahrenheit 451 in 1953 during the height of the McCarthy Era, when the ideas of burning books and limiting free thinking were very real threats. Bradbury also stated that the book was a commentary on how mass media had reduced interest in reading literature. In the novel, books have been banned and fireman now burn any they find, turning their typical role of putting out fires on its head. The main character, Guy Montag, finds himself questioning his work, and its impact on society.

The book is one of the most well-known novels in literature and gets bonus points for writing about burning books, which provides a degree of delightful angst for readers and aspiring writers alike. Taking on a classic is risky, trendy and ambitious. And with few exceptions the results are mixed at best.

Although disappointing overall, it wasn’t all bad. I only feel like half my time was wasted.

Let’s start with the intro. HBO is known for creating visually striking cinema for the small screen and they designed an intro that drew the viewer right in. The close shots of famous titles being burned interlaced with footage of the Nazi book burnings created a narrative without using words. It drove home how relevant the themes from this book are in this fucked up Fox News era we live in.

Also, having television projected onto skyscrapers with the fireman looming larger than life, looming over society, while the social media emojis and likes streamed upward was essentially an indictment of our infatuation with the 24 hour news cycle and our obsession with social media. This is actually given voice in the film when Clarisse says “We did this to ourselves, we asked for this.” New forms of the same thing Bradbury was railing against in 1953, advancing my theory that writers of dystopic fiction are just prophets in disguise.

The old woman who burns herself alive with her books after being caught was incredibly striking and served as a terrific turning point in the narrative. That being shown on those larger than life screens reminded me, in many ways of the news footage of huge protests for Black Lives Matter and March For Our Lives, the counter-culture to talking heads and status quo.

And the Alexa-esque AI essentially serving as big brother (and stand in for Montag’s wife) coupled with the shot of an old videotape with the Blockbuster logo and “Be Kind Rewind” written on it highlight the dangers of moving completely away from an analog world and into something completely digital (as I type this on my laptop, with my TV on in the background, a show streaming from my Amazon Fire Stick, my smart phone and Kindle closer to me than my bookshelf).

Lastly, Michael Shannon does creepy very, very well. Whatever he channeled into his role as conflicted and creepy prohibition officer Nelson Van Alden in Boardwalk Empire he brought with him as conflicted and creepy Captain Beatty. Playing creepy takes talent. Playing creepy and conflicted takes superior talent. This talent made the line “I’ve been burned so many times I don’t know where the scars end and my body begins,” one of the most memorable of the movie. His stoic expression only slightly betrayed by his tone. That takes nuance, something that stands out in a movie with such spectacularly brazen themes and actions.

After getting all of these elements to stoke the flame, they went ahead and poured water on the whole fucking thing and pissed on the ashes.

The most polite way to describe Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Guy Montag would be to call it wooden. The only time he seemed alive is when he was playing for a crowd and burning. He never sold me on his internal conflict, and his character’s chemistry with Clarisse McClellen was as disjointed and awkward as two preteens during their first slow dance. And when he meets the members of the resistance, he doesn’t steal scenes as much as he chokes the life out of them. I guess that second part would be the less polite way to describe him.

I also never bought the plot point of the group memorizing books so that the knowledge doesn’t die in the ashes. I know it’s in line with what happens in the novel, but it has a shitty transition to screen. I’m a big proponent of preserving the integrity of the source material, and often rail against shows and movies that take too many liberties. But some liberties are okay, even necessary. The director had already replaced Montag’s wife with Alexa and turned Clarisse into an informant rather than a neighbor to help fit the medium, there was probably a way to change this plot point to something that worked better visually while preserving the integrity of the work. A scanner with an air gapped computer. A microfilm machine. Something. Anything would have been more engaging.

And the ending, with Montag and Beatty and all the burning was phoned in on a rotary phone rendered obsolete in a digital age. Not even Michael Shannon’s skill could save such a poorly designed scene. Even with the filming going on and Jordan’s opportunity to play to a crowd, it was less electric and more power outage.

HBO wrote half a movie and Bradbury’s warning to us all deserved better.

The Grimmys

66th Los Angeles Area Emmys - Backstage

As the 2017-2018 television season comes to a close, I thought it would be fun to hand out some awards (named after my favorite dog Pilgrim) on what has been an interesting season to say the least. In this current golden age of television, viewing has certainly become a year-round affair. However there is something special about the traditional season with a May finish line and networks competing for ratings that will set ad rates for next year. Also network television is not nearly as dead as I previously thought, but with some of the cancellations (and ill-advised renewals) it certainly isn’t for lack of trying.

A couple of notes. These awards are not going to be your typical Hollywood bullshit. I’m not a professional entertainment reporter, nor am I going to try to be one. I don’t have a rules committee, and don’t give a fuck about uniformity. Also, these are based on shows I watch. Not shows I should watch, or shows everyone is watching. But I have pretty good taste, so you should pay attention. I apologize for nothing.

The Flirty Freshman That Caught My Eye

The Gifted (FOX): I’m a sucker for comic book shows, and I have a particular love for the X-men universe. But I was nervous about whether or not this show could deliver. It’s premise is based on some convoluted and obscure mythos that could be difficult to translate to the screen. It’s fronted by Amy Acker (who I’ve been in love with since Angel and Alias), and Stephen Moyer (Vampire Bill was True Blood) so I knew FOX was making a serious run. It did a great job of combining elements of the X-men mythos, Easter eggs for geeks like me and some deep character development that created a compelling and engaging story. And in a year where FOX used its chainsaw in a way that would make Leatherface smile, I was happy to see it make the cut and get a second season.

The I Wouldn’t Watch This Revival With a Fucking Gun to My Balls

Roseanne (ABC): Whoever greenlit this piece of shit idea needs to be shot. Roseanne is one of the most annoying characters on television and a bigot in real life. None of this is helped by the fact that her voice sounds like nails on a chalkboard being serenaded to by a feral cat in heat. Oh, and lets not forget the fact that at the end of the first go around with the show Dan is fucking dead! They teach you in creative writing 101 that you don’t do dream sequences….Do people not remember how pissed off the world was at the end of the ninth season of Dallas? How ABC renewed this trash and cancelled a show hitting its stride like Designated Survivor is truly beyond me.

*Author’s Note: Since the time this was originally published (by less than 24 hours), ABC pulled the plug on Roseanne calling her recent bigoted rants on Twitter “repugnant.” I am letting my award stand unedited, but I applaud ABC for making the right decision.

The Cancelling This Show Makes Me Want to Firebomb Hollywood

Lucifer (FOX): I’m not alone in my intense hatred of FOX for cancelling this show. Although it deviated substantially from the comics (based on my admittedly limited exposure) the series was fun and engaging with enough teeth for some deep story and character arcs. The chemistry among the entire cast has been palpable and organic over all three seasons, a feat not easily accomplished. And although FOX truly limits itself by only providing two hours of prime time content before starting the local news an hour early each night (a cheap ploy to save money), the CW has the same format, and they managed to not sacrifice any quality content because of the constraint. It was obvious by the massive cliffhanger fans were left with that the writers were also blindsided. This move makes FOX look inept, and left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

The I Want the Time I Spent Watching This Back

The X-Files (FOX): This show needs to seriously just stop. It is fucking with the end of my childhood and one of my favorite shows. To be fair, the original run of this show should have ended with season 7, the last two seasons were painful to watch. But nostalgia won the day again, and despite last year’s “limited television event” getting picked up for an undeserved second (or eleventh, depending on how you keep score) season and against my better judgement I tuned in. And holy fuck was it bad. I’m not even sure I know what the show was trying to do. I’m not sure what I actually watched it was such convoluted garbage. The chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson was non-existent. It was seriously worse than the second X-Files movie, and I didn’t think that was possible. It only took FOX six hours to ruin my childhood. The only person capable of doing that faster is Michael Bay.

The How In All that is Holy Did This Get Renewed

SHIELD (ABC): I’ve seen some dumb shit get renewed, but this show’s death rattle was a season long complete with gurgling and gagging and gasping for a final breath. It was almost as convoluted as the X-Files. It had time jumps and aliens, which would be fine for a comic book show, but there was no real rhyme or reason to the order. And the plot this year was in no way a progression of the story, it had no foundation. None. And they killed off a ton of characters in the show, and essentially left it with nowhere to go. I was fine with that. I was fine with watching it die. Watching it try to revive itself into a twitchy animated corpse next season is gonna be painful. My only guess is that ABC has next to nothing to fill all its time slots, there is no other reason this show should stay on the air.

The That Series Finale Made Me Want a Cigarette After

Once Upon A Time (ABC): Let me be clear, this season of ONCE was terrible and should not have been made. The idea to do an entire reset of the show and bringing back nearly none of the original cast members was ill-advised. It should have ended a season ago in , and just taken a handful of episodes to wrap everything up. Actually, there was so much fluff and filler last year they could have just cut that and ended it proper. But they didn’t, and as with a number of shows I watched solely to finish. That being said, the final two episodes of the season were intensely gratifying to those of us who watched from the beginning. And given that the show creators, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, came out of the LOST writers’ room it was no surprise that they went for the emotionally satisfying ending where everyone got their happy ending, especially the fans.

The Networks with Execs Who Should Be Taken Out Behind the Woodshed

FOX puts out some pretty good content. They brought us The Gifted and The Orville this year and had Lucifer, Gotham, Exorcist and Bob’s Burgers on the slate as well. And then they toy with my emotions. Ratings for The Exorcist were terrible, so I wasn’t shocked when the cancelled it. I had hoped that the lower expectations of a Friday night slot could keep it. But as you can see from above I was shocked and pissed about Lucifer. I cannot stand it when network brass doesn’t give writers an opportunity to create a satisfying ending for fans. That’s just shitting all over your customers. If that wasn’t enough, the are postponing the next seasons of Gotham and Orville until 2019, and God only knows what they are going to put in those time slots between now and then.

SyFy continues to kick me in the junk and I foolishly keep coming back for more. First, the cancelled Expanse which was the best show on their network, and the only reason it didn’t tie with Lucifer for the Firebombing Hollywood Award is that Amazon, in its brilliance, decided to pick up the rights and give it a fourth season. The network has a bad habit of doing this, axing good shows (Expanse, Dark Matter, Defiance, Dominion) and keeping absolute shit (Krypton, Channel Zero) on the air. And in the case of Krypton, they allowed a show with potential to approach a tired and overdone Superman concept from a unique angle. And then they massively fucked it up, and renewed it. The sad thing is that I will keep given them a chance, painting my junk like a bullseye and waiting for them to strap on the steel towed boots again.

Performances on the Plains

Kauffman Center

Last week I had the opportunity to see The Barber of Seville, which was the final show in the 2017-2018 season for the Lyric Opera. I was once again reminded of how vibrant the Kansas City performing arts scene is and how fortunate we are to have access to so much quality. If you aren’t taking in some of these wonderful performances, you are doing yourself a disservice.

About five years ago I started to develop a deeper interest in the performing arts, but I had no idea where to start. So I went to my good friend Greg and asked him to teach me, and we’ve been going to shows together ever since. Over the past several years, I have taken in countless performance, particularly at the KC Rep, Unicorn Theater and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. As with every other form of creative content, I was amazed at how vast and diverse this medium was. I have also gotten to see the amazing level of creative talent we have in this community and the level of talent we are able to bring in.

There is something unique about taking in the performing arts, you are sharing air and space with the actors, which makes you a part of the work itself. No other medium offers that direct of a connection.

This season at KC Rep was one of the best in recent memory, which is saying something considering the have all been great. It kicked off with Between the Lines, which is Broadway bound and has music that can blow the doors right out of the theater and took on the Tony Award winning A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (which was based on an award-winning book), a play that examines autism in a unique way, a prospect as difficult as it is rewarding. And in between I had Sex with Strangers, built Fences and a Demon Barber named Sweeney Todd offered me a haircut.

Although I only went to two of the four operas the Lyric offered this year, The Barber of Seville instantly became a favorite. And their 2018-2019 season looks incredible to the point where my friend and I are getting season tickets. This is in part due to their season opener, West Side Story, which will almost certainly sell out. Plus saying that I have “season tickets to the opera” makes me sound much more fancy than I actually am.

And if you are looking for edgy, look no further than the Unicorn, whose tag line is “Bold New Plays.” In recent years I have seen plays about a dystopic future where the Simpsons are worshipped as Gods, to a play challenging the ideas of race and racism in very darkly comedic ways, to modern re-imaginings of classics such as The Seagull. They are also dedicated to making quality theater affordable to everyone by offering special “pay what you can nights” for each show.

These are just the main three venues I frequent, there are countless others around town including the Just Off Broadway theater, Starlight and the annual Shakespeare in the Park Festival which I have seen each of the past 15 years.

If you haven’t yet taken in some of these wonderful performances, then you really haven’t realized why we are called the Paris of the Plains.


The Last Movie Review

The Last Movie

So I recently listened to The Last Movie, and would highly recommend anyone who enjoys docudrama podcasts and a journey into the macabre go download all six episodes right now. Seriously, it was raw, intense and dynamic in a number of ways. Given the stock it comes from, I had high expectations going in. And they were not only met, but exceeded.

Before I get more into The Last Movie let me give a little bit of history. It was developed by Public Radio Alliance, the same production company that puts out Black Tapes, Tanis and Rabbits all podcasts that I thoroughly enjoy. It is billed as a spin-off of Tanis (currently airing its fourth season) primarily because the two shows have the same hosts, Nic Silver and MK. The shows all share the same dark tone while journeying into the supernatural, mysterious and clandestine.

But The Last Movie is the first from this studio to drop the entire first season (six episodes) all at once. In short, it was the first one to offer a binge option right off the bat.

In their own words:

Tanis podcast host Nic Silver and regular contributor MK, explore the possible existence of “The Last Movie,” an infamous underground feature film, reputed to drive you insane. Legend has it that every screening of this film was surrounded by bloodshed and controversy: one reviewer actually described slipping on blood in the aisle, as he ran through dozens of people trying to tear him apart. 

The podcast starts with MK going down a rabbit hole in an attempt to find  something called The Last Movie, an attempt met with innuendo and rumors of demonic behavior and a scene involving movie goers that reminds me of the second season of True Blood, when Marryann Forrester takes over the town of Bon Tempes.

The narrative takes the listener through the shroud of mystery surrounding a director thought to be dead, an obscure cult with a deadly history, and the over eager daughter of an actress who is not what she seems.

The series, narrated primarily by Nic Silver in a subtle tone of voice accentuated with MK’s more abrupt style starts with the gas pedal on the floorboard and never hits the brakes once. It’s a balls to the wall journey that leaves the listener pacing back and forth waiting for season two.

And whether they admit it or not, wanting to watch the elusive Last Movie.

The Art of Tunneling

Writing Journey

Last week I listened to a podcast called Tunnels, and the creator said something in an author’s note he tacked on to the beginning that resonated with me. He pretty much announced that the first season wasn’t very good (the podcast is on season three) because he was a first time podcaster and was essentially learning on the job. He flat out said that he had no idea what he was doing. And he was right, season two was much better than season one. But more importantly, you could see the creator’s passion for creative content throughout.

This is not a review of Tunnels, what I want to talk about is this concept that it is okay to suck at something while you are learning to do it. It is okay to suck at something while putting yourself out there and learning at the same time. That it is okay to suck at something and bring people along on your journey as you learn. Because I am late to this party, and this concept is a wonderful game changer for me.

This runs completely counter to my life experiences so far. I was raised in a house where accomplishment, achievement and intellect were expectations. It was about the trophies, and winning as though the skills were supposed to be downloaded instantaneously like Neo from the Matrix when he learned Kung Fu. No attention or space was given to the idea of growth, and the idea of sucking at something while you learned, or worse, failing at something, was not tolerated. Period.

As if that wasn’t enough, I went into politics and then nonprofit fundraising. These are two industries where the stakes are high, the learning curve is steep and unforgiving, and consequences for failure are significantly higher than other industries.

I’ve let the fear of criticism be a primary motivator in my life for far too long. And it has prevented me from doing the things that I actually want to do.

In short, the idea that is okay to suck at something while you are learning how to do it is foreign to me. This discovery is like a brand new tool I am just learning how to use. I can already tell I am going to like it. This concept plays well with my constant sense of wonder and imagination, the two things that most fuel my creative drive.

This concept, which puts attention on the journey and the growth, is going to be key in terms of pushing myself to put my work out there. I’ve been so worried about creating superior quality,  that I forgot that creative writing degree and talents as a wordsmith in and of themselves are not enough. It is a good start, maybe even a running start. But it is a running start on a long journey, and knowing that it doesn’t have to be perfect is definitely going to help with creative paralysis, in fact it already is.

The ghosts of our past don’t have to define or present and don’t get to define our future.

Cutting the Cord

Cutting the Cord

Anyone who knows me knows of my love for television. But lets face it, cable bills have gotten positively obnoxious. I assume that part of the justification for the rising cost is the endless number of channels they offer. The only problem is that most of those channels suck. And no one needs ten HBOs, seven Showtimes and eight ESPNs. No one. Most of us only watch a handful of channels. Even me.

Before looking into other options, my bill was $190 a month, and I am not alone in this insanity. Now, $70 of it is for high speed internet, which is more or less a necessity in modern times. This leaves $120 just on content. Granted $40 of that was for the premium channels (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and Starz), but in my defense, a lot of quality shows come from them. But still, it seemed high to me so I started looking around at YouTube Red, Amazon Channels, Sling and Hulu Live.

I’m not going to go point by point on all of them. I ended up going with Hulu Live. Basically there was nothing wrong with the other options and pricing is similar, but Hulu had more to offer in terms of original content that I wanted to watch anyway (so I would have subscribed to their basic service regardless), plus the HBO and Showtime add ons I was looking for. The basic commercial-free service is $43.99 and the add ons come to $25, leaving my new cable bill at $68 per month, which saves me over $50 a month while not sacrificing anything that I was getting before, and in fact adds the Hulu original content as well. Technically, I don’t get AMC with this deal, but Walking Dead isn’t worth $50 a month, no show is worth that much.

I’ll admit I was nervous about making the switch. I thought surely at the difference between those prices I was missing something. That there was something I couldn’t live without that would send me screaming back to cable.

Nope. Nope. There really isn’t.

My guess is that cable as an institution will be dead inside of five years. When I went to return my cable boxes to Google, the woman who checked my gear in said that a lot of people were making that switch. And I have heard that Google Fiber is getting away from cable (which is why they never expanded out of KC and Austin) and wants to focus exclusively on internet, specifically WiFi.

Streaming apps are the future. My concern is that at some point there will be so many options, that costs will soon get back to what cable is currently. But for now, I am enjoying the breather.

I Am Peter Pan, Come With Me If You Want To Live


Why yes, yes I do have a Peter Pan complex. And I regret nothing. It comes with a never ending sense of wonder, excitement and imagination. You can’t teach those. You can’t learn those. But just like anything else, if you don’t use them, you can lose them. And I can’t imagine how bland life would be without them.

It’s been awhile from my last post until this one, but it has nothing to do with not being creative or pursuing my passions. It has a lot to do with trying to organize all the projects that started to flood my mind as I made the conscious choice to make my creativity a priority, rather than something that I would swipe at on the few occasions I was left with any energy after spending it all on what I believed I “should” or “needed to” be doing.

It’s also been a little bit about fear (okay, maybe more than a little). It can be a little scary to start putting yourself out there, even on a blog that you “soft open” to ten or so friends while talking about promoting it and secretly hoping no one reads it, while also hoping everyone loves it.

I’ve come to realize that is not how creativity works. You have to go, you have to take that leap. So it is time for me to continue down the path that I started down with this, and to leave the learning for along the way. And also to actually promote this blog so hello, to anyone who is just now joining.

The creative process is not linear, and that has been a huge lesson to to learn.

I got mostly done with the first draft of a novel, Sins of a Smaller God, and then realized I had NO female character, at least not one that was strong enough, and some of the progression was disjointed in terms of pace. However, in writing it, I also created a new layer of flashback that I didn’t have in the outline that adds significant and much needed depth to a work that I want to see eventually become published.

It may be back to the drawing board in terms of the draft, but the lessons learned are infinitely more valuable than time spent putting the words on the page, and I look forward to continuing this project while learning and growing even more in my craft. Plus, I suspect the writing happens faster when you start getting a sense of where you are going.

Within the next month, unless there are any unforeseen snags, a friend of mine and I will be launching a podcast called Spirits on the Plains. I will be dedicating a specific post to it when we are ready to go live. Although I listen to podcasts, I don’t actually know a fucking thing about creating one. So I set out to learn. I’ve found people that know more than me and solicited their advice, read countless articles, and found a co-producer to counter my weaknesses with his strengths. It’s been a rewarding and challenging experience, and I look forward to getting it on the digital “airwaves” despite being nervous and hating the sound of my own voice.

I also have plans for this site. I wanted to keep it basic at first as a head nod, a dipping of the toe at putting myself out there. But soon I will be trying to expand it with a serialized story idea I have outlined, guests posts from fellow creatives and a few other ideas that at the moment are nothing more than a few scribbled notes on a page.

Those that know me, know that I can’t stand children. However, I do like looking at the world with the eyes of a child.