Political narratives, and the politics of mask-wearing

John Scalzi is a blogger and science fiction author who lives here in the Buckeye State. He is also West Coast liberal who was transplanted to Ohio several decades ago by (so far as one can tell) the circumstances of his marriage. He lives in Darke County, which is near Dayton, but very much out in the country.

Scalzi is a snide elitist who has spent much of the past four years declaring how backward, stupid, racist, and (fill in your favorite cliché) Trump voters are. Since Darke County voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, this includes an occasional jab at his rural neighbors, who clearly fail to meet his expectations in many ways. At every opportunity, Scalzi will remind his readers that his neighbors are a.) white, and b.) overwhelmingly Republican.

(Yes, John Scalzi is also very white. But like many white leftwingers, he signals his virtue by using the word “white” as an epithet.) Continue reading “Political narratives, and the politics of mask-wearing”

The value of old friends

I have many things to be thankful for. Among these is the longevity of certain friendships. I am 52 years old, and I still have friends from literally the first grade. These are people whom I met for the first time in the now antediluvian year of 1974.

This past Thursday night, one of those old friends planned a get-together at a little restaurant/bar here in Clermont County, Ohio. We had a good time catching up.

As the photo implies, I had coffee rather than an alcoholic beverage. I’m a teetotaler, more or less; but that’s another story for another time.

Irish on YouTube

Like a lot of Americans, I have Irish ancestry. My grandmother’s people came from County Cork around the turn of the 20th century.

I’m also fascinated by foreign languages. (I’m always reading at least one book in Japanese, and another in Spanish.) It is only natural, then, that I should be drawn to the Irish language.

One of my great-great grandmothers came to the US by herself as a young woman. (This was actually a common pattern with Irish immigration.) She died about ten years before I was born, so I never met her. I’ve been told, though, that she spoke English with a heavy brogue. But she spoke no Irish. Continue reading “Irish on YouTube”

The Headless Horseman returns

How I wrote a horror novel called Revolutionary Ghosts

Or…

Can an ordinary teenager defeat the Headless Horseman, and a host of other vengeful spirits from America’s revolutionary past?

The big idea

I love history, and I love supernatural horror tales.  “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was therefore always one of my favorite short stories. This classic tale by Washington Irving describes how a Hessian artillery officer terrorized the young American republic several decades after his death.

The Hessian was decapitated by a Continental Army cannonball at the Battle of White Plains, New York, on October 28, 1776. According to some historical accounts, a Hessian artillery officer really did meet such an end at the Battle of White Plains. I’ve read several books about warfare in the 1700s and through the Age of Napoleon. Armies in those days obviously did not have access to machine guns, flamethrowers, and the like. But those 18th-century cannons could inflict some horrific forms of death, decapitation among them. Continue reading “The Headless Horseman returns”

Ayn Rand and me

I had a brief flirtation with Ayn Rand the year I turned twenty. The most torrid part of the relationship lasted only about as long as some of Dagny Taggart’s warm-up love affairs in Atlas Shrugged. Officially, I broke off the romance; but it remains a memorable phase in my formative years.

Twenty is probably the perfect age to have a fling with Ayn Rand. In the enclosed terrarium of your teenage years, it is easy to hold any hifalutin concept of yourself that you can imagine. When you are twenty, though, things begin to change. The adult world looms large in the windshield. You realize that you aren’t quite as special, quite as brilliant, or quite as destined for spectacular success as you fancied yourself to be, only a few short years ago.

Ayn Rand, with hyper-individualist titles like Anthem and The Virtue of Selfishness, is the perfect salve for the twenty-year-old who suddenly fears that he might turn out to be quite ordinary, after all. The twenty-year-old’s brief burst of Ayn Randian egoism is a final cry of rebellion for the self-important teenager that is slipping away.

I first heard of Ayn Rand around 1983, when I was in high school. My favorite rock band was Rush. Neil Peart, Rush’s drummer and main lyricist, wrote at least two songs based on Rand’s novels and philosophical tracts. Continue reading “Ayn Rand and me”

Cincinnati in TV and the movies

My hometown of Cincinnati isn’t exactly Paris or New York. It is therefore somewhat understandable, I suppose, that our local news media is making a big deal of the episode of The Brady Bunch that was filmed here nearly a half-century ago:

47 years ago, The Brady Bunch visited Kings Island

While I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, going to Kings Island—Cincinnati’s only real amusement park—was a “big deal”. Much of the scenery in the above clip from The Brady Bunch therefore looks familiar. 

Kings Island is still there, by the way. But it’s changed a lot since 1973.

***

A few feature-length films were shot in Cincinnati in the 1980s. Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, comes immediately to mind. This movie was filmed in various locations in and around Cincinnati.

I’ve had lunch in the Italian restaurant Pompilio’s, in Northern Kentucky, where Rain Man‘s iconic “toothpick scene” takes place. Continue reading “Cincinnati in TV and the movies”

Remembering ‘Red Dawn’

80sThen80s now is one of the few accounts I follow on Twitter, because, well…I’m nostalgic for the 1980s.

Today the account tweeted this post about the movie Red Dawn (1984). In response to the poll, I gave the movie a 9. 

Red Dawn wouldn’t necessarily be a 9 if it were released today, mind you. But you have to evaluate a movie by the filmmaking standards of its era. A lot of movies in the early 1980s were pretty rough, compared to the slick, CGI-enhanced productions of today. And so it is with Red Dawn. Continue reading “Remembering ‘Red Dawn’”

52 years old

Today I turn 52 years old. I am not making a big deal of the day in my real life, because well, when you’re this old, what’s another birthday but a step closer to the grave? (We’ll get to that matter shortly.)

Due to a misspelling on my Ohio driver’s license, I recently had to order a copy of my official birth certificate from the State of Wisconsin. My Certificate of Live Birth lists my parents’ ages as 22. It is difficult for me to imagine either of them as twenty-two today. For that matter, it’s not so easy to imagine myself as twenty-two.

Not that I have much to complain about, mind you. During my teen years, I developed a habit of moderate diet and daily exercise, and I’ve stuck with it. I’m not going to say that I feel like a 19-year-old. I don’t. But I don’t feel much different than I did  when I was in my thirties. That’s something. Continue reading “52 years old”

McDonald’s Arctic Orange Shakes

My coming-of-age supernatural thriller, Revolutionary Ghosts, is set in 1976.  The tale’s hero, an Ohio teenager named Steve Wagner, has a summer job at McDonald’s. 

One of the recurring jokes in the book surrounds the Arctic Orange Shake, which McDonald’s did indeed introduce in the summer of 1976. Continue reading “McDonald’s Arctic Orange Shakes”

Walking and your brain

I’ve been systematically walking and running for going on 40 years now. 

I mostly do this for the fitness benefits. I’ve long noticed, however, that I seem to get some of my best ideas while I’m out and about, on my feet.

I’ve also noticed that when I’m perplexed or upset about a problem, a long walk often makes me feel better about it. Continue reading “Walking and your brain”

‘The Stand’: rereading update

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have recently started rereading The Stand, Stephen King’s post-apocalyptic novel of the “superflu” or “Captain Trips”. 

I also mentioned that I read the book for the first time back in the mid-1980s, when I was a high school student. (I believe I read it in the fall of my junior year, which would have been October~November 1984, more or less.) Continue reading “‘The Stand’: rereading update”

‘Greyhound’: Tom Hanks’s next WWII movie

I grew up on stories of World War II–real ones. My maternal grandfather served in the US Navy, mostly in the North Atlantic. He made numerous runs between the US and the United Kingdom. And he told me many tales of dodging Messerschmidts and “wolf pack” U-boats. 

There was never really a modern movie done about his war, though. There have been lots of movies about combat in the South Pacific and in the Middle East. There have been many, many films about D-Day. Not so many about the perilous North Atlantic runs between the United States and England.

That’s why I’m especially looking forward to seeing the next World War II movie from Tom Hanks, Greyhound, which is all about my grandfather’s war—naval combat in the North Atlantic. Continue reading “‘Greyhound’: Tom Hanks’s next WWII movie”

The cicadas are coming!

“Millions of cicadas are expected to emerge after 17 years underground because, of course, it’s 2020”

I was here for the Great Cicada Deluge of 1987. In Cincinnati, at least, this was a truly epic event. There have been several minor outbreaks since then, but nothing like ’87.

For a few weeks during that summer, cicadas were everywhere. And then their bodies were everywhere. (They don’t live long—just long enough to breed.) Continue reading “The cicadas are coming!”

‘The Empire Strikes Back’ +40

The Empire Strikes Back debuted in theaters on May 21, 1980.

I might not have been there on 5/21/80, but I was certainly there no later than mid-June of 1980.

I was part of the original Star Wars generation. I also recall seeing the first one with my dad in the summer of ’77.

In May 1980 I was a little shy of 12 years old. I was starting to become an adolescent, with preteen interests (playing sports, girls). But I was nevertheless captivated for two full hours by The Empire Strikes Back. Continue reading “‘The Empire Strikes Back’ +40”