Thursday, February 4, 2016

Fact Or Faked...Broadcast Again

A few years ago The Syfy Channel put on a little show called Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files. We watched it; we liked it. Maybe you remember seeing an episode or two (or more...).

It was a great little reality show. Six experts used science to debunk myths and the unexplained. Each episode had the group split into two teams and investigate the occurrence. Then they would meet up and discuss their findings. As with anything, some of their investigations were better than others. A few of the original team members left and were replaced by others.

But perhaps the biggest reason we watched was because of the team's leader, Ben Hansen (he's the tall one in the middle...). I had the opportunity of meeting him at several of the Salt Lake Comic Cons and I found him to be a very nice individual.

"Of course, he was," I can almost hear you saying. "Anyone can be nice, at least for a little while." Well, that's true. But not everyone would go out of their way and honor a request made by someone they barely know.

Let me explain. I had a paranormal short story chosen to be published in an anthology from Xchyler Publishing. It was called, Shades and Shadows: A Paranormal Anthology. Since the anthology came out during the run of Ben's show, I asked if he wouldn't mind writing up a prologue for our book. He agreed and he came through. It shows integrity. It shows class.

The show's been off the air for a few years, but the network, Destination America is showing once again those original Fact or Faked episodes, so if you want to see something a little different, give it a shot. Television needs more shows with classy people.

Photos used without permission from the Fact or Faked Facebook page

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Submitting A Screenplay...An Exercise In Trust

Tonight I need to submit a screenplay for our screenwriter's critique group. I'm excited to do it, but there's always that little voice that tells you (or me...) that it's just not good enough.

I know it's for a critique group and it's our job to do what auto mechanics do when they want to learn more about something--they tear it down to its most basic parts, study them and then put it all back together.

Creating anything that didn't exist before (like a screenplay, or even this blog post...) requires several things, one of which is trust. There's a huge amount of trust that's needed for any project to be created and shared. There's entire libraries dedicated to Writer's Block. Those trying to overcome writer's block get lots of advice. Try this, try that, do this, write that. The advice can be useful, but in my experience, overcoming writer's block is a matter of confidence.

And confidence goes hand-in-hand with trust.

So, later tonight I'll e-mail my latest story. It's not my first time; I'm used to the process. Next week we'll meet and go to town. We'll rip it apart and participate in the age-old art of creation. I am excited and hopeful that when we conclude, we'll have something great, something that's the bigger than the sum of our parts. Good thing I trust those guys. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Richard Paul Evans's "The Road To Grace"...A Book Review


A lot of the audiobooks I read/listen to come from my local library. The books are free, but you must have patience to get works written by popular authors. So when I saw a Richard Paul Evans book come available, I checked it out, downloaded it and listened to the whole thing in one afternoon. I didn't realize that the book, The Road to Grace, was number three in a series until after I had finished it. I knew nothing about this book or the series.

Truthfully, it didn't matter. It was a great little book which I enjoyed a lot, even though I had not read the first two books.

The Road to Grace continues the story of Alan Christoffersen, a recent widower who, after the death of his wife and the loss of his business, decides to walk from Seattle, Washington, to Key West, Florida. This book picks up his story as he's walking in South Dakota. It's a first-person perspective, told by the man who has experienced so much loss. I think it makes the story much more impactful than if it were a told from a third-person perspective.

In South Dakota Alan comes in contact with his mother-in-law. Alan does not like her. As the story unfolds, we find out why. I can only imagine more about their relationship was detailed in the previous books, but if not, Evans does a great job in creating tension between these two people. He also beautifully writes how their relationship evolves. 

Alan continues walking and he runs (or walks...) into trouble several times. Along the way he meets wonderfully developed characters, people we would love to meet or have in our lives.

Like I said, I enjoyed the story without knowing there were other books previous to this one. If I had known there were two other books, it might have not enjoyed this one as much. I might have kept thinking that I should have read the other books first. 

I have put the books on hold (like I said, you have to wait for the popular authors...) and even though I know what happens in The Road to Grace, I'm sure I'll enjoy them as well.

* Photo used without permission from:

Monday, February 1, 2016

Thoughts...During A Wind Storm...In The Middle Of The Night

Our cat kept us up last night. Of course, he's not the only thing. The near hurricane east wind shares much of the blame. If there had been no east wind, the cat would have gladly strolled around the house in the middle of the night. This picture shows how the wind carved up the newly-fallen snow.

However, with a howling wind, that darn cat just didn't want to go outside. So he would hiss and carry on and not allow us to sleep. Eventually, the wind died down and the cat went out. But as I sat up around 3 a.m., I had a couple thoughts creep into my mind.

I started thinking about cancer. I read a Facebook post about a friend of many of my friends passed away yesterday from cancer. Cancer's been in the news a lot this year; it's taken many from us, both famous and the everyday. Personally I've lost good friends and friends of friends recently. When I was eight it took my father, and almost nine years ago (I can't believe it's been that long...) it claimed my mom.

Maybe it was that Facebook post, maybe it was because it was the middle of the night and I hadn't gotten a lot of sleep, but cancer was on my mind. Cancer doesn't work well in today's culture, a culture of fairness and equity and feeling good and having nothing bad happen. No, there's no room for diseases that attack both the innocent and the guilty in our modern world, for those who've taken care of themselves and done everything right or those who didn't care at all. 

The thing about cancer is, cancer is 100% honest. It doesn't lie. It just is. It doesn't follow any fairness doctrine. It doesn't care what you think about it. Sometimes it goes away but most times it completes its mission. It's as natural as a tree or a squirrel or a weather system. I'm no doctor or scientist, so I have no scientific claims to back up my statements--I'm sure those who are will say that cancer is not natural. Maybe they're right...maybe.

I wished I could control the wind last night. It would meant getting more sleep. I wish I could take away these cancers that are killing us. I have as much power to do one ask I do the other. I don't know if we'll ever cure cancer. I know many have dedicated their lives to finding out. Personally, I don't think it will ever happen. Cancer exists to prove to mankind that life not only isn't fair, but that it's never really been, no matter how often we tell ourselves it should be...

Sunday, January 31, 2016

ABC's "Last Man Standing"...A Show We Just Discovered

I knew the show had been on the air for several seasons, but we'd never watched a single episode. Then again, there's MANY shows which we've never watched. I guess if we did watch them, we'd like them, then we'd do nothing but watch TV shows.

And we don't necessarily want to do that.

But, the other day I watched one of the best movies to be made about "Geek Culture," Galaxy Quest, and I had forgotten just how good Tim Allen is as a comedic actor. About a week ago we fell asleep to a movie. The TV is then set to the last channel we were watching before the put on the movie. And when we turn on the TV late in the afternoon or evening, Last Man Standing was on. We wouldn't watch it, though.

This time, however, I decided to watch it, and we've watched many episodes since. If, like us before last week, you're not familiar with the show, Tim stars as Mike Baxter and Mike works at "The Outdoor Man Sporting Goods Store. I guess it's like a Cabela's (even though I've never been in that store either...).

Mike has three daughters, one of which is a single parent raising her son. Mike's not your average television character. He's a conservative and our current president is the butt of many of Mike's jokes, as are other current "hot button" topics. Back in the day, we watched Home Improvement, but not religiously. It was a great show, too. I always admired Allen's acting ability. I think had not Jerry Seinfeld been so big, Tim Allen would have gotten more respect as an comedian-turned-actor.

There was another show long before Last Man Standing, Home Improvement or even Seinfeld. It was called, All in the Family. It centered around an opinionated conservative character, too. Archie Bunker became an iconic figure, something that's become a derogatory thing to call someone in today's society. Baxter is no Bunker, not to me, anyway. But I can see why people might make the comparisons. 

The best thing about finding a series five years after it first aired--we can binge-watch.

* All photos used without permission from the American Broadcasting Company

Saturday, January 30, 2016

It's Just Yard Work...

 The other day, as I shoveled the driveway after the latest storm, a thought came to me. It was one of those thoughts that you want to throw out when someone says something and you want to respond with a comment that's well thought out, something that you believe smart people say at the drop of a hat.

Okay, this thought isn't all that "smart." But it was something I could have said when people say something like, "Oh, I just LOVE yard work! I cannot get enough yard work! If I could do nothing but yard work, my life would be complete! Yard work is great--yippie!"

Yeah, during those times.

I thought that when someone can't believe how much fun it is to be outside in the spring/summer/fall pulling weeds and dealing with sneeze-inducing pollen, virus-infected mosquitos and melanoma-causing sunburns, I could just turn to them and say:

"But I'll bet you hate shoveling show in the winter. Why? I wonder. After all, that's yard work, too."

I've blogged before about how much I really enjoy winter. I think that the world covered in a blanket of snow is one of the most beautiful things God ever made. Sure, it's a pain to drive in it sometimes and shoveling show all day can sure do a number on your back (and heart...), but for me, it's worth the price. Many of my friends tolerate winter because they know it leads to spring. For me, I tolerate the rest of the year because I know in just a few month (like, nine...), the days will get shorter, the temperatures will lower and snow will once again cover up all of those summer responsibilities. 

So next time it snows, don't complain--just think of it as a little bonus yard work. Enjoy!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Can Joe Hill Teach Anything...To Us Today?

Books have been written, so have songs. It's been over one hundred years since Joseph Hillstrom was executed in Utah.

Before I took this picture a few days ago, I didn't know much about Joe Hill. And, after checking out a few websites and doing a little reading, I know slightly more about him than I did before.

Looking at this picture reminded me of how things go today, how we view things today. And what I mean by that is this is we live in a society where we believe we are right, in politics, the environment, social issues--you name it. We hold to our beliefs to tightly that we reject opposing opinions even when facts are presented. I look at this huge painting, an ode to a dead man and I think that those who believe Mr. Hillstrom was murdered (as indicated on the painting...) will never change their mind about it. They'll never be convinced that his execution was nothing but illegal and it was murder.

Now, I admit from my scant research there's a good chance he did not kill the two men he was convicted of killing. Then again, most of the websites I checked were written by people supporting him and his causes. There's a lot more written by his supporters than by those representing the other side.

Today we have our views and they're right. They're the only views that are correct. We corner the market on truth. Then someone comes along with opposing views and they have their own "facts" to support their crazy notions. They show us their "facts" which are in conflict with our established facts. We know they can't be right because we are.

I don't know if I had lived in the days of Joe Hill if I would have agreed with the verdict or the other side. If the law ended an innocent man's life then those responsible will pay a price. The painting on the side of a used book store in downtown Salt Lake City reminded me that, as a people, we really don't change very much over time.

And I'm pretty sure I'm right about this.