Category Archives: Essays

On animals

I love animals. So, when I saw this post about Justin Bieber, I had to climb up on my soap box.

Here we go.

Don’t adopt or buy animals if you’re going to abandon them.

There. Is that really so hard? Dogs and cats and everything else are living creatures. They are intelligent, have feelings, and can know fear. As the dominant lifeforms on this planet, we have to take better care of the animals we love and adopt.

Speaking of which, adoption is a great way to get a great pet. I have lived with 9 dogs over my life (several dogs at a time, we aren’t some kind of crazy animal murderers), and each one has been a rescue adoption. Each one has been great. Best of all, if you still want a designer pet, you can usually find one if you look hard enough at rescues. With the internet and all the websites dedicated to finding rescue animals, there really isn’t any excuse not to start there.

This might upset people, but if you aren’t going to show a dog in competition, which is worthy of a ranting post on its own, then don’t buy a show dog. Show dogs are bred to conform to standards set by kennel clubs that like arbitrary traits that are usually cosmetic but harmful to the dogs. Don’t believe me? Check out pictures of award-winning German Shepherds vs. German Shepherd police or military working dogs. You’ll see a huge difference, and those working dogs usually come from more experienced breeders.

Finally, spay or neuter your pets. Unless you plan on breeding them, which by God I hope you know what you’re doing, there is really no reason not to. Puppy litters are big, and this keeps unwanted dogs from ending up in high-kill shelters or pounds.

Okay, I would climb down from my soap box, but let’s be real. There hasn’t been a wooden box for soap since like, 1934. The soap box has been crushed by the weight of my massive muscles. Sorry Dove.

Horror Movie Review: The Babadook

Let me start by saying that I love horror movies. That in itself should be apparent, based on the content of my site. I like my horror with supernatural elements, not too much blood or gore, and still a bit of mystery. For instance, you probably won’t find me reviewing “Saw” or the like. However, I had heard good things about a new Australian movie, “The Babadook” from a source I trust on horror movies, and I had to talk about it.

Outright, “The Babadook” is the best horror movie I’ve seen in years. Now, let me tell you that it starts as a slow burner. Jump scares are minimal, but perfected. The story follows a mother as she tries to live with her strange young son after her husband’s death. She is coasting through life, and her son’s behavior is getting worse and more bizarre.

Shortly after the film begins, she finds a book called The Babadook on her son’s bookshelf, with no publisher or author information. Upon reading the book to him, she releases a creature known as the titular Babadook who not only imposes a physical danger, but emotional and mental ones as well.

The story hinges on the relationship between the mother and her son, which is why this is one of the better movies I’ve seen in years. Their relationship, and her stress as a single working mom with a behaviorally challenged son, proves to be just as enigmatic as the Babadook itself.

A little bit of a spoiler, but my favorite scene is shortly after the mother destroys the book and it reappears. This is a common trope in horror movies, but is handled in a much more spectacular and eerie fashion. The use of a child’s pop-up book adds to the creepiness factor, and leaves you dreading yet needing to know what’s on the next page.

I give “The Babadook” 5 stars out of 5. I’m extremely harsh on horror movies, so this may will probably be one of the only 5 out of 5’s I write about. Absolutely great horror movie, and one of the best in years if not the past decade. Like I said though, know going in that it’s a slow burner and not jump scare after jump scare. The movie definitely focuses more on dread and atmosphere than jumps.

Only in dreams

“You know what Dee, I don’t want to hear about your dream, okay? I hate listening to people’s dreams. It’s like flipping through a stack of photographs. If I’m not in any of them, and nobody’s having sex, I just… don’t care.”

-Dennis, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

I had two separate nightmares tonight. In one, I was assisting in a murder investigation at a coal mine in South Africa, when a previously unknown pocket of oil was struck. The oil was flooding the mine, and I barely escaped with my life and could feel myself choking on the rancid liquid as I fought for air and saved one of my fellow investigators. I honestly thought I was going to die.

In the second nightmare, I was in a classroom filling out a worksheet, while a strange man would come around and ask basic science questions. I was sitting next to some friends, both those new and those who have gone their separate ways, when he came to me and asked what were the three types of rock. “Easy,” I say. “Sedimentary, Igneous, and… uhmmm,” I stammered.

Guess which one woke me up in a cold sweat. And I still can’t think of the damn third rock. I refuse to look it up.

Continue reading Only in dreams

Paul Buchheit: The Super-Rich and Sordid Tales of Selfishness

This article is excellent. Puts my thoughts in to words better than I ever could. “Eat the rich,” just doesn’t carry the same effect as a well thought out argument.

Normally I don’t reblog, because I honestly don’t understand reblogging etiquette. But as someone who has first hand experience in the last few months dealing with a man who ruined the lives of several good employees because he made slightly less than the year before, I’m going to break my rule.

Subscribe to Vox Populi. Everything they put out is well said. Even if you don’t agree with a piece it’s still presented in a solid way. I wish I had found the blog sooner honestly.

10 Lesser Known Disasters That Shaped Chicago

Chicago has a famous and extensive history of tragedies from both before and after its founding. While known as an amazing city with great culture and history, it undoubtedly has a dark past. The stigma of Mafia violence and corruption in the city government remain famous, but some of the darkest points in the city’s history have been often overlooked. Just about everyone knows about the Great Chicago Fire, or the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre that both often pop up in history books. Many of the other defining moments of the region have either been forgotten or overshadowed by other famous events. The Great Chicago Fire actually happened on the same day as the Peshtigo Fire just 250 miles to the north in Wisconsin. The Peshtigo Fire actually killed more than four times the amount of people as the Great Chicago Fire, yet it remains relatively unknown. This isn’t a complete list of events, but 10 parts of the Chicago’s relatively unknown tragedies I found interesting. Although morbid, many of the disasters led to new national regulations that have saved countless lives over the years.

10. S.S. Eastland Disaster

Arguably the most famous of the tragedies on this list, the S.S. Eastland disaster is still not very well-known outside of Chicago. On July 24th, 1915, the S.S. Eastland had been chartered along with four other ships to transport the employees and their families of the Western Electric Company to a picnic in Michigan City, Indiana. The Eastland, largest of the ships and first scheduled for departure, quickly reached it’s passenger limit of 2,500. While still docked along its mooring on the Chicago River, the ship slowly started listing towards its port side. Passengers took little notice as the crew tried to move them around to distribute the weight during loading. As the passengers began to move to the starboard rail, the port side was still listing dangerously low enough that water started to slosh onto the main deck through its scuppers, the drainage holes along the boat to drain any water that ended up on the deck. Despite the warning signs from the ship and another ship captain on the dock, Captain Harry Pedersen ordered the moorings released and to prepare for departure. Below in the engine room, the engineers were having trouble getting the ballasts to fill with water and right the ship. After a brief window in which no evacuation order was issued, the boat began to tip over. Within two minutes the ship slowly rolled over into the twenty-foot deep Chicago River. Of the more than 2,500 people on the ship, 844 died. It is still the greatest maritime disaster on the Chicago River and Great Lakes. 22 families were completely wiped out while stuck below decks, in stairwells, or not able to make it into the water. Many of the deceased were moved into the basements of local buildings serving as temporary morgues, including what would become Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios, leading to rumors of the buildings being haunted.

9. Our Lady of the Angels

On December 1st, 1958 a small fire started at the bottom of a stairwell in the Our Lady of the Angels grade school. The fire, thought to have started in trashcan in the basement, soon spread to the stairwell itself. Smoke started filling the second floor of the 1,600 student school. The school was built in 1910 and was exempt by a grandfather clause from recent fire regulation that required new schools have sprinkler systems, fire doors, and direct emergency lines to the fire department. Although the nuns teaching the classes saw the impending danger, many did not evacuate their classrooms. Rules were that a fire evacuation and ringing of the evacuation bell itself could only be ordered by the Mother Superior, who was not to be found. The Fire Department was not notified of the fire until 40 minutes after it had started due to this delay since the call had to be made outside of the school. One of the teachers finally rang the fire bell and started an evacuation of the building, however the wood and plaster that made up the building accelerated the spread of the fire, trapping students on the second floor. Many children either jumped to safety or were rescued by the fire department, however 92 children and 3 nuns, perished in the blaze. Within days, the tragedy led many cities to force schools to modernize their fire safety equipment and ended up being the driving force to set national regulation for fire prevention in schools. It remains the third deadliest fire in Chicago history.

8. American Airlines Flight 191

Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is one of the busiest in the world, and the day of May 25th, 1979 was no exception. American Airlines Flight 191, a DC-10 jumbo jet destined for Los Angeles, began its take-off from Runway 32-Right. As it took off, the No. 1 engine ripped free of the left-wing and caused the plane to begin pitching to the left. The tower radioed the plane asking which runway it would like to land on, as emergency training generally provided a way for the pilot to recover enough to land. The plane kept climbing despite the emergency procedures executed by the crew, since the lost engine had also torn away the hydraulics used for the cockpit controls. As the plane banked to the left with the change in aerodynamics from the lost engine, the nose dropped towards the ground. Flight 191 hit the ground and exploded into a fireball nearly a mile from the runway. All 271 souls on board were lost, and 2 people on the ground were killed as well. Investigation revealed no fault of the pilot and crew, terrorism, or weather incident. Maintenance crews in Tulsa, OK, had taken shortcuts in the engine removal and repair process that caused a tear between the engine pylon and wing. It finally failed completely as the plane took off from Chicago. DC-10’s were grounded and investigators found that other maintenance teams from other airlines had taken the same shortcut and caused the same structural tear that would have eventually led to other DC-10’s crashing in the same way. The FAA fined American Airlines for improper maintenance and grounded all DC-10’s until safety upgrades could be installed. It is still the deadliest civilian airliner accident in US history.

7. Fort Dearborn

Shortly after the start of the War of 1812, Fort Dearborn was a US Army outpost built in what would now be Chicago’s Loop. It existed on the edge of American expansion, with the closest US fort being in Fort Wayne, Indiana. As the War of 1812 started, the British and allied Native American forces captured Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Fort Dearborn’s commanding officer, Captain Nathan Heald, was ordered to evacuate the fort as his superiors felt that supplies to Fort Dearborn would be disrupted. A rescue group was dispatched from Ft. Wayne, composed of Miami warriors and Captain William Wells. Heald met with the local Potawatomi tribe, informing them of his intention to evacuate the fort, and asking for safe passage. He offered the fort’s surplus provisions as payment, including whiskey and weapons. Regardless, Heald ordered them be destroyed as to not fall within the hands of tribes allied with the British. One of the local Potawatomi Chiefs, Black Partridge, warned Heald of an impending attack by a faction of his tribe. The evacuation party of 93 people: soldiers, militiamen, women, children, and the 30 Miami warriors, began the trip to Fort Wayne. About a mile and a half south of the fort the party came into contact with 500 Potawatomi warriors waiting in ambush. Whether Heald betrayed the truce by destroying the whiskey and weapons leading to the attack, or if it was an attack of opportunity, remains debated. What is known, is that Heald ordered his forces to fire and charge the Native American forces. The fight lasted about 15 minutes, with Heald and half of his force, in addition to women and children, dead in addition to 15 Potawatomi. Survivors were killed or ransomed. Long known as the Fort Dearborn Massacre, recently some historians, Native groups, and the city itself now call it the Battle of Fort Dearborn due to the evidence that Heald may have broken the truce, also as it was part of the War of 1812.

Completely Subjective: Alien(s), the Best Film Pair of All Time

Apologies for not catching up on my Halloween posting. It’s been a surprisingly busy previous couple of days, but I recently re-watched “Alien” and “Aliens.”

Now, I feel I need to make a claim. It is completely subjective and all of you will probably disagree, but I don’t care.

I feel that “Alien” and “Aliens” are the best sequel combination ever. Yeah, I said it. Suck it “Godfather.” Beyond that, Ellen Ripley, the protagonist of the two films, is the best action hero of all time. The reason being that not only did they set the standard for horror and action movies in space, but two different creative teams ended up completing a complex overall arc for the main character between the two movies.

So, here is my completely subjective opinion on the two films and Ellen Ripley. Having never taken a film course, this should be fun.

Spoilers abound, and I’m going to feature mainly on the development of Ripley’s character in “Aliens,” following her mental state at the end of “Alien,” so watch those. If you haven’t I’m a bit disappointed, but we can still be friends.

Continue reading Completely Subjective: Alien(s), the Best Film Pair of All Time

Long time comin’: MAKING PEOPLE UNCOMFORTABLE: MY LOVE OF HORROR AND MY INSPIRATIONS PT. 4

My mom had probably the strangest experience in the house. I had been a sickly child, getting ear infections and strep throat often. The first year of my life I suffered from horrible seizures that luckily went away with time.

When I was just able to start making coherent sentences, I came down with an extremely bad flu and a horribly high temperature. My father was away for the weekend on a business trip to Atlanta, where the corporation he worked for held most of their meetings. She was trying everything in the book to get my temperature down, but the fever wouldn’t break.

Continue reading Long time comin’: MAKING PEOPLE UNCOMFORTABLE: MY LOVE OF HORROR AND MY INSPIRATIONS PT. 4

Making People Uncomfortable: My Love of Horror and My Inspirations Pt. 3

I generally think of myself as a rational person. In one of my stories I wrote about how the character was so tired he was seeing things darting in and out of his vision. This happened to me while finalizing a 40 page paper in college that was due at 9am. It was currently 5am. As I typed furiously on my laptop, I would see small fuzzy black shapes appear to run across the doorway in front of me, back and forth. I know that was my brain reacting to being up as long as I had been by then, in addition to how much effort I was putting in to my rushed paper.

Continue reading Making People Uncomfortable: My Love of Horror and My Inspirations Pt. 3

Making People Uncomfortable: My Love of Horror and My Inspirations Pt. 2

My parents’ current house, as I mentioned in the last entry, backed up against the woods. The house itself had been built in 1995 and only saw one previous owner. There were no mysterious deaths or anything like that, the previous owner simply moved when he was remarried. My room was to be in the basement. It had originally been a large gym area with a media room at one end, bathroom at the other. The media room was giant, and easily fit all of my furniture from my previous room which had been half the size at least. I had the entire basement to myself, and since it came with a bathroom it was basically its own apartment.

Continue reading Making People Uncomfortable: My Love of Horror and My Inspirations Pt. 2