Friday, December 29, 2017

Beware the Christmas Carolers!

It's the holidays. That terrifying time of the year when every time the doorbell ding-dongs, I fear carolers may sing at me.
An absolutely terrifying prospect. Oh, the humanity!

I don't do well with people performing in my face. Whether it be singing, acting, dancing, whatever, it doesn't matter. I'm not sure how to respond, particularly if the talent's terrible.

My poker-face is lousy. Nervous muscles twitch. One eyelid flutters, the other remains land-locked in a passive lie. I paste on a smile, a jittery one, one that looks like the Joker's having an epileptic fit, while I try to make it through the performance on my stoop.

This year, I've been lucky so far. No singing visitors yet. But every time the UPS guy rings the doorbell, my heart skips a beat. Caroling will happen eventually, yes it will. When it does, I hope I handle it with a modicum of decency: no screaming, hurling, and a minimum of eye-rolling.

The whole idea of caroling, I think, is kinda odd, not to mention an infringement upon people's rights. I didn't sign up for a personal, one-on-one concert on my doorstep.

"Merry Christmas," I'd like to say, "ho-ho-ho, and get the hell offa my porch, ya psychos, before I get a restraining order!"

Look, I'm a writer. But I know better than to ring your doorbell, sit down with my laptop, and write on your stoop. It's like a surgeon rolling a patient up on a gurney to your door, strapping on a mask, and removing a gall bladder. Which makes me kinda wonder what hookers do this time of year.

I've been told carolers invade because they're struck by the holiday spirit. I get that, I do (even if it sounds a little violent). But, carolers, please, please, PLEASE just send me a video, disc, link, something where I don't have to grimace and bear it in your face.

But you know what? In the spirit of the holiday, in the hopes of the new year being better than 2017, with the goal of getting along with my fellow inhabitants of earth, I'm gonna let the carolers carol at me. 

In fact, let's all forget how ugly 2017 got. Let's embrace compassion, tolerance, and acceptance no matter how the "leader of the free world" is leading by example.

Happy New Year and peace.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Annual Christmas-time, Cursing, Tree-Erecting Horrorthon!

Lo, and a Sears salesman said, "taketh this fake tree home and pluggeth the pre-attached lights in. Easy as 1-2-3. Would you like to open a Sears account for a seven percent discount?"

Talk about your false prophets. That salesman can shove his guarantee up the softer side of Sears.

Every holiday I struggle with this damn artificial tree. So, this year, I thought I'd include you all in the terror. Merrrrrry Christmas, everyone!

I'm blogging and egg-nogging live while I try to erect the accursed tree. (One glass of eggnog in and I think the word "erect" is funny. *Snicker*)

After the first year I put the tree up, the lights have never worked properly. I sorely regret when I tore off the pesky "A," "B," and "C" labels on the kazillion plugs and sockets when we first purchased it. What was I thinking? I'll tell you what I was thinking...I thought the stickers would be ugly. By corky, they're not as ugly as dead lights.

What a terrible invention, Christmas tree lights...

(Time for more alcohol.)

I'm back! Where was I?

So, what's up with Christmas tree lights? Every year, much to my wife and daughter's amusement, I lay out strings and strings of lights on the floor, then plug 'em in. And watch them do nothing. Zip. Deader than honorable presidential behavior. Like a yuletide Godzilla, I stomp across them, roaring, tearing down the spirit of Christmas, cursing like Bea Arthur on a four-day bender.

Christmas tree lights have the stupidest technological flaw, don't they? Clearly, when Michael Jackson sang "One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch, girl," he'd never, EVER put up his own Christmas tree. Had his crew do it for him. Red or whoever (or maybe that was Elvis.)

Let's hoist a drink to Elvis! And Michael! And all the late singers of Christmas past!

Anyway...(*burp*)...stupid lights. One goes out and the whole line is shot. My wife says these are the old-style lights. I've got too much invested in this old fake tree now (two hours, four drinks, and a bad back) to go out and buy new stuff.

Fine. I'll make do with other lights.

Crikey! I haven't even started the ormaments... ormandoes... ormummies... those dumb pretty balls yet.


Let's drink!

Good Gawd! Mice have been defecating on top of the Christmas ornaments box! Is nothing sacred?

Man, I'm discovering lots and lots of forgotten ornaments. For some odd reason, tons of penguins. The Kansas City Chiefs. Barbie. Lion King. Bigfoot ("Bigfoot?" The hell?)

I ask my wife how I'm doing . She says the tree needs "schoosing." I need to schoose the branches.

"Schoosing," I slur. "What's that?"

"You know...schoosing." She lifts her hands continuously, some kind of lazy yoga move.

I schoose. I schoose like the wind. Those pesky wired branches don't schoose easily.

I'm winded. Tired. Discouraged. This calls for a shot of Christmas encouragement.

Happy holidays! 

We're down to the dregs of ornaments now...  Shards, beheaded angels, and like so many crappy, Christmas horror movies, sleds with only the legs of riders attached.

But I tire. Still never too tired for just one more holiday drink...

Crap. I just found one more tub of decoration stuff to spread around. This is friggin' endless!

Gotta drink.

Whew. Done. No presents yet. Wait...I gotta wrap now? Noooooooo!

Wrapping can wait awhile. I'm gonna admire my day's long handiwork first. Just sorta snuggle in beneath the tree. Admire the view...and...zzzzzzzzzzzzzz....
For more Christmas cheer, why not check out Grinning Skull Press' new holiday horror anthology, The Shadow Over Deathlehem? I'm honored to have a story in it along with the many other talented authors. Even better, all proceeds go to The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Stuff some scares into that stocking!
Click here for KINDLE and here for PAPERBACK.

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Fond Farewell to our Loyal and Beloved Friend, Zak

On Tuesday, we lost our beloved dog, Zak. He gave us ten joyous years of love, loyalty, and play, while the eleventh year was fraught with emotion, and at times harrowing as we saw him go through four major surgeries, one amputation, rehabilitation, and finally, loss.

Zak was an absolutely unworldly ball of energy finally done in by the limitations of his physical body. He simply couldn't be contained within his aging body. His high-level play did in his back legs.

He will be sorely missed. He is missed. This is the hardest blog post I've ever written.

But I don't want to mourn, but rather celebrate Zak's wonderful life.
Zak was a rescue dog. At six months old, we found him rummaging through trash cans, love at first sight! The first night we brought him home on a trial-basis, I found myself sitting on the kitchen floor, laughing hysterically as he licked me with wild abandon.

I said to my wife, "I really, really like him."

"Yeah," she answered, "we're keeping him."

And we were off! What an adventure we had...

Alas, because of Zak's breed--half pit-bull terrier (the other half never determined and it didn't matter to us one bit)--he faced a life-time of prejudice. My mom, brother, a good friend, even strangers on the street when I walked Zak, were terrified of our dog. We had to be extra careful with him.

Not that we needed to. Zak was the best-natured dog we'd ever met. The only threat from him came from loving you to death, smothering you in kisses. Everywhere Zak went--doggie daycare, the vet, the nail clipper gals at Petco, physical therapy--he received lots of compliments and made fans. Everyone fell in love with him, his good nature, his loyalty, his temperament. Even my mom finally came around (and she NEVER comes around on anything), proclaiming him, "such a sweet, good dog."

In his years of life, Zak only bit two people (not bad odds for any dog): one, a mower in the next yard, who definitely deserved it for taunting Zak; and two, a cable guy who I wanted to bite. Hey, Zak was just doing his job. Loyalty like his couldn't be bought. He took his protection duties very seriously. Just ask the mailman. Dunno what it was about the mailman, but it was pretty much the only person Zak never liked. Even on our walks, Zak could spot the blue uniform several blocks away and wanted to assure the postman stayed far away from invading our turf.
Zak shared with everyone a universal desire to be loved. And we did; we loved him so much that this has been a very painful farewell. Clearly Zak returned that love in bunches. Once, while I sat on the deck, he ran up to me, something draping from his mouth...two rabbit legs. He dropped the half-carcass at my feet. Wiggled his tail, golden eyes full of hope for kudos at his gift to me. A gift presented out of love. Unfortunately, I responded with girlish shrieks. But I understood the intent. It was the kind of dog Zak was. Very giving in many ways. Whenever my wife screamed at seeing a spider, Zak beat me to her rescue.

Oddly enough, Zak was never very food-oriented. Playing was his bag. And play he did, hard and fast and furious. When he was younger, he ran whip-fast, crazy-eights in the backyard. He'd actually pounce--pounce!--on his hind legs like a kangaroo. The first time I ever saw him "play" with another dog, I was horrified; it looked as if he wanted to tear the other dog apart, all growls, nips, rough and tumble worse than a no-holds barred Black Friday shopping spree. But I also noticed Zak never bit the other dogs. Even in the unrestrained passion of play, he withheld himself. When the other dog would take a bite, Zak would just back-off, tail wagging. He loved dogs, never met a dog he didn't like. Except for maybe my daughter's brat of a beagle. Which is weird, because they started as friends (my daughter insists it stems from an unseen backyard bone incident).
In his older age, Zak still maintained his energy and that's what ultimately did his back legs in. Both of them, one by one. We tried to repay Zak's unflagging loyalty. We did everything we could to save him. But my wife saw he was hurting. And the remaining back leg had developed another bone infection, one that antibiotics couldn't stop.
 Seeing that wonderful, loving, playful, force of great-natured energy stilled on the vet's table was hard. So very heart-rending.

Over the last six years, I'd spent nearly every minute of my life with my friend, Zak. As a full-time writer, I wrote 18 novels with him at my feet. 

I'll miss him greatly. My friend. My companion. My dear loyal, furry love.

Here's to you, Zak. *Tink* I hope you're happily chasing stupid angelic rabbits and mailmen with wings.

Friday, December 8, 2017

So long to the funniest show on TV...The Inhumans

I grew up as a comic-book geek kid (oh, NOW they're cool). So when I first heard there was an upcoming TV series based on the "Inhumans," a strange Marvel comics superhero group, I frothed. Fairly foamed at the mouth, I tell you. It takes a lot to make me froth. Frothing is hard-earned in the Stuart household.

Eight painful episodes in (I'm a television masochist!) and I'm stabbing a stake in the show's bone-headed heart. (Pretty sure ABC agrees; after the eighth episode--and 13 were contracted--that sultry, smoky-voiced, ABC promo guy called it the "season finale.")

Where did the show go wrong? Let me count the ways...

The best actor on the show was a 2,000 pound, teleporting, CGI bulldog. I loved that guy. The rest of the cast? Not so much. The hero, the mute king Black Bolt, comes off as a drunken, constipated mime, prone to bouts of horrific mugging that would kick Jerry Lewis out of France.

Look, the show had a really cool built-in concept of a bunch of neato mutants living on the moon. Boom! Instant awesome! But the TV Gods chose to do the dumbest thing possible: the Inhuman gang is separated and tossed onto earth. Instead of political intrigue, we get Karnak wedged into a love triangle on a secret weed farm. Medusa? The strong first lady married to Black Bolt with the wiggly tendrils of hair? In the first episode, her hair's chopped off. Triton, the green-skinned amphibious guy, my long-time fave of the Inhumans? They "kill" him off in the first three minutes of the first episode. I knew he wasn't dead, not really, just comic-book dead. So I suffered through seven awful episodes to see him come back. He did. And, lo, he was as boring as my dad's socks.

There were many problems with the show. For some odd reason, earth car traffic befuddles the Inhumans. Yet, they take to skinny jeans like a second skin.

Maybe the problem was the bad guy, Maximus. Stolen from Game of Thrones, the actor pretty much reprises his "Ramsay Snow" role with a trendier haircut. Call it method acting. 

Here's the deal, though: Once the Inhumans go through a complex, mandatory process of metamorphosing ("terragenesis"), they're expected to gain special powers. If they don't, they become "human" and are sent straight to the working mines. (President Trump fully endorses this show). Maximus is supposed to be villainous because he wants to free the "normal humans" from the hellish working conditions of the mines on the moon. Black Bolt and his royal family want to keep things status quo. And they're the heroes? I'm already endorsing a Maximus-Dwayne Johnson presidential run in 2020.

There's another villain, Mordis, who is described as "death itself." Guess what? Death is like an irritating child on a long car trip. "Are we there yet?" "I'm tired." "My feet hurt." "How much longer do we have to walk through this jungle?" Yep, a truly terrifying villain.

I could go on about the wise, talking wall and other fun stuff, but let's not.

ABC had huge hopes for the show. So much so that they put the first couple episodes out in theaters to launch it. No one went. No one cared. Except for hell-raising critics which is probably why it ended up on Friday nights, the dead zone for loser TV shows.

It's been said we're living in a golden age of television. Maybe we are if you watch FX, AMC, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and all the other outliers.  It's just no one's bothered to tell the networks. The network heads still insist on serving up the same horrible crap they've been shoving at us for years. If they keep it up, they're bound to become as extinct as the Inhumans.

I don't like to celebrate failure. As a contributor of entertainment content, I mourn creative failure. So here's to the late, great "Inhumans!" I hoist a terragenesis cocktail toward you, ladies and inhumans!

Not quite as funny as The Inhumans, but I tried:
One click away from pants-wetting ha-ha's.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Donald's Diary

For your perusal this week, I present something very special: a page torn from President Trump's diary. (The cover displays unicorns caught in bear-traps).
I know what you're in the world does our President have time to maintain a diary when he's busy tweeting 24-7? Good question. But the facts don't lie.

Here we go...

"Dear Diary:

It's me, Donald. You know, it's really, really, really hard making America great again, but I'm up to the challenge. I'm pretty much super-human, after all. And there are a lot of white, privileged, angry, rich men counting on me.

Stupid checks and balances, bah. Congress keeps trying to stop my rise to greatness. Aided, of course, by liberals, CNN, and the evil vampires from Twilight. Not the good ones, like Robert Pattinson. They're firmly on my side.

Melania says I need to do something fun to cheer up. Maybe I'll declare it open hunting season on baby seals. Or maybe I'll make a reporter cry, that's always good for a couple of laughs.

No, wait, I got it! I'll start World War III, my very own war! That'll be really, really neat. Where's my phone?

Got it! Okay... I need to come up with some new names to call Kim Jong Un... I've already used short, fat, childish, terrorist, and rocket man. I really, really like that last one. How 'bout "Tweedledumbest?" No, wait, got it! "A human egg." Even better, a "Chinese weeble!"

Done. Tweeted and got my finger on the Big, Red Button as I write.

Whew! It's three in the morning and I've had a highly presidential day! Good night, world."

Before President Trump pushes that button, how about a little laughter in your life?
One click away from loads of laughs and action!