The Super Bowl and me

So, the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV.

A few readers asked me for predictions in advance of the event. I demurred—largely because I didn’t know until yesterday exactly which teams were participating in the big game.

I am lukewarm where spectator sports are concerned. I don’t hate them—but I don’t exactly love them, either.

For me, the big stumbling block with spectator sports is the amount of time they consume. If I’m going to sit in front of the television for two hours at a stretch, I would much prefer a good movie.

I can understand parents’ enthusiasm over games that their children are participating in. But so far as I am concerned, football, baseball, etc, are ultimately games for children and adolescents. Why would I want to spend two hours watching grown men (whom I don’t even know) play football?

But that’s me; and I’ll readily admit that my position on this is a bit contrarian. If you’re an NFL fan, well, I hope you enjoyed the Super Bowl.

Stephen King quits Facebook

Stephen King has quit Facebook. He deleted his personal account and his author page. In a statement on Twitter he said:

“Not comfortable with the flood of false information that’s allowed in its political advertising, nor am I confident in its ability to protect its users’ privacy. Follow me (and Molly, aka The Thing of Evil) on Twitter, if you like.”

Stephen King

(Molly is King’s Corgi, in case you didn’t know.)

Stephen King is one of the world’s most creative and successful authors of commercial fiction. He is also another limousine liberal who is prone to gaffes when he attempts to talk politics. (A few years ago, he implied that the U.S. military was a haven for illiterates, a position that he was forced to walk back.) King, like a lot of left-leaning celebrities, has a nearly pathological obsession with Donald Trump.

Ergo, King probably buys into conspiracy theories about Facebook and Russian bots putting Trump in the White House. Whatever.

I’ve had my differences with Stephen King, but I’m willing to provisionally support any prominent figure who contributes to the downfall of social media, which I absolutely loathe.

My only question for Mr. King is: When are you going to quit Twitter, too?

Bernie Sanders and the “c-word”

In a sit-down with Sean Hannity on Super Bowl Sunday, President Trump called Democratic Party frontrunner Bernie Sanders “a communist”.

That would, in light of Bernie’s record, be far more accurate than calling him a “Democrat”. (Sanders only became a Democrat when he decided that he wanted to run for president.)

Sanders’s words, on video since at least the 1980s, speak for themselves. Not only did he honeymoon in the Soviet Union. He also spoke glowingly of the bloody communist revolution in Cuba.

Bernie Sanders is a Marxist. If you want to split hairs between “communist” and “socialist”, well…whatever. But there is no real question about his beliefs.

Bernie Sanders, whatever his faults and delusions, has always been very upfront about his intentions, and what he believes.

For those studying Japanese

I’m creating an online, ad-supported version of my text, Modern Japanese Vocabulary: a Guide for 21st Century Students, 2nd edition.

I’ll be adding a few chapters each day until I get the entire text up. This will be a (probably permanent) online resource here at Edward Trimnell Books.

Of course, you can still get a dirt-cheap, ad-free version of the book in either Kindle or paperback on Amazon. 

Taylor Swift’s retroactive political regrets

Despite her staggering fortune of over $400 million, Taylor Swift came out in the midterm elections of 2018 in support of the party of….Bernie Sanders.

She now states that she regrets not opposing Donald Trump in 2016. She vows to be more politically active in 2020. We can hardly wait. 

If the Democratic Party does indeed nominate the 78-year-old socialist Sanders as its standard-bearer, will Swift give up her hundreds of millions?  Will she put her money where her mouth is?

Or is she yet one more limousine liberal—all talk?

A fortune of $400 million could fund a lot of Democratic Party projects. Swift could give $399 million away, and still be a millionaire.

Taylor Swift, after all, is the ultimate 1-percenter. She may be able to sing; but she obviously isn’t astute enough to grasp the contradictory nature of her political activism.

Iranian students denied entry to the US?

CNN reports that in the wake of fresh tensions between the Iranian government and the United States—including an Iranian missile launch at US positions in Iraq—some Iranian university students have had difficulty gaining entry to the U.S.

Cry me a river. 

Let’s cut the B.S. for a moment here. For the last 40 years, the U.S. and Iran have been in a state of undeclared war. The present Islamic Revolutionary government opened the hostilities, when the Ayatollah Khomeini’s minions overran our embassy in Tehran in 1979, and took 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days.

Since then, Iran’s behavior has been consistently provocative. Iran has carried out terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East, and was behind a devastating car bomb attack on US Marines in Beirut in 1983.

It is, frankly, astounding that a.) Iranian youth want to study in the heart of the Great Satan in the first place, and that b.) we admit individuals associated with a government that so openly wishes for our destruction, and that backs up those intentions with actions.

There are universities in Iran for these young people to attend. And that has long been the case. Iranian university students were a major force behind Khomeini’s rise to power in 1979.

A female Willy Wonka?

In an upcoming reimagining of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Warner Brothers is considering a gender change for Gene Wilder’s iconic role

Changing the gender of characters of old favorites from the 20th century is all the rage, of course. But these don’t always go over so well with audiences.

Need I remind the reader of the backlash against the all-female Ghostbusters of 2016?

Sometimes these gender-change reimaginings do work. I’ve said several times on this blog that I like the Perdita Weeks version of Higgins on Magnum P.I.

Most of the time, though, this looks like a cynical sop to identity politics.   

Many creators—and viewers/readers—want to see more diverse characters on the screen and page. I get it. Fine.

The way to do that, though, is to create something entirely new. Don’t arbitrarily change the gender, race, or sexual identity of a long-existing character. Create a new character, and a new story, and let that new creation succeed in the marketplace. Or not.

Look at the examples from the past. Back in the 1940s, the comics industry wanted a female compliment to Superman. They didn’t arbitrarily make Superman a woman. They created Wonderwoman, a brand-new character.

When you do that, you have a chance of succeeding. But when you alter an existing character for what is an obviously ideological set of motives, you’re going to get a backlash—or the odds of a backlash will be high. 

iPhone 11: battery hacks

I woke up one morning and found that the battery on my 6-month-old iPhone 11 had drained down to 34% overnight. 

I knew that something was wrong, but the diagnostics showed that the battery was okay.

So watched the above video: It turns out that there are numerous default settings on the iPhone 11 that drain power in the background.

Shut them off, and you’ll see a dramatic increase in battery life. (For example: Do you really need that stock market update widget?)

I implemented the suggestions in this video, and my battery’s performance has improved by about 80%.

If you’re an iPhone person, this is worth watching—all 15 minutes of it. I do not know these guys. (I’d never even heard of them before.) But they know their stuff. 

Ball State and professorial overreaction

And now this, from Ball State: When an African American student in Shaheen Borna’s marketing class refused to change seats during the middle of a lecture, the professor called campus police on the student

Because the student is black, the racial implications of this are being examined. (Ball State students have already staged organized protests, calling for Borna’s ouster.)

Without knowing more about Shaheen Borna (who doesn’t seem to be native to the U.S.), I can’t say for certain if he would have taken similar actions against a white student. 

In any event, though, this looks like a case of professorial overreaction and arrogance at its worst. The student, Sultan Benson, wasn’t disrupting the class. He was in the seat where the professor put him early in the class, and he didn’t want to move because he was charging his laptop.

A cause for genuine disagreement? Perhaps. But not men with guns. 

Whatever his knowledge of marketing, Borna’s call to the campus police in a situation like this demonstrates that he exercises poor judgment when dealing with his students. I’m fifty-one years old and it’s been a long time since I’ve been a university undergraduate; but I know how I would have felt about this at that age. 

68 Whiskey: M*A*S*H for the War on Terror?

68 Whiskey, a new show on the Paramount Network, is a comedy-drama about American military personnel serving at a mobile medical outpost in a combat zone.

Sound familiar? If you think this sounds a lot like M*A*S*H (1972 – 1983), you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. But 68 Whiskey is set in the present day in Afghanistan, and the overall vibe is different from that old favorite of the 1970s and early 1980s.

The tone of 68 Whiskey is a lot like The Sopranos (1999-2007), in that it injects black humor into what would ordinarily be serious subject matter. Like The Sopranos, 68 Whiskey features a moderately suspenseful, ongoing storyline, alongside deadpan deliveries of dialogue and situations that are intended to make the viewer chuckle.

How else does 68 Whiskey compare to M*A*S*H, that long-running comedy-drama about the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Korea?

First of all, the creators of M*A*S*H had the discretion, when dealing with the touchy balancing act of satirizing war, to put some distance between the present and their subject matter. M*A*S*H debuted in 1972, just as America’s war in Vietnam was winding down. M*A*S*H definitely tapped into the pessimistic  zeitgeist of the Nixon years, when many Americans were cynical about our institutions.

But M*A*S*H was set in the Korean War—then twenty years in the past. 68 Whiskey, by contrast, deals with a conflict that is still very much a present and going concern.

It was one thing to laugh at the antics Hawkeye and Trapper John when the veterans of the Korean War were all in their forties or fifties. It’s another thing to laugh at a war which still produces some American casualties, and produced quite a lot just a few short years ago.

As with M*A*S*H, 68 Whiskey presents a generally unflattering view of the military. Officers are depicted as venal and buffoonish. Personnel of the lower ranks are more concerned with scams and hedonism than with their jobs.

This is what satire is all about, of course. But the question is: How well will such satire go over? I would expect that some recent military veterans will take exception to the portrayals of them and their comrades in this show.

Also, the sex in the show is overdone. The first episode opens with a scene of two soldiers (a man and a woman) copulating atop an empty shelf in a storage room. Sex was certainly implied in M*A*S*H, but this was borderline softcore porn. 

I’m now in my fifties, and there isn’t much that shocks me at this stage in life. But I know from experience that an over-reliance on sexual titillation (unless it is an actual porn film) is usually a sign of lazy screenwriting. This aspect of the show struck me as self-indulgent. Or—to put it another way: Just because you can say words like “dick” and “clit” on cable TV, that doesn’t mean that you actually should.

Despite its flaws, 68 Whiskey is entertaining. The characters (even if they aren’t complimentary representations of Americans in uniform) are distinctive and likable. The action sequences contain enough humor to keep things light, but not so much humor that you lose your ability to suspend your disbelief. I’ve finished watching the first episode, and I’m eager to see episode #2.

Mainstream churches are dying

Grove United Methodist Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, has been accused of actively trying to oust its older members in order to attract young blood. The leaders of the church don’t want to put it that way; but they admit that they have a “youth problem”: the average age in the congregation is around 70.

All mainstream denominations are facing a similar pressure at the moment. It isn’t that young people have all turned atheist. (The aggressive, absolutist form of atheism known as New Atheism has largely been a bust.)

But many Millennials and Zoomers are “spiritual but not religious”. Those who do opt for Christianity are typically drawn to the more entrepreneurial non-denominational churches.

The future of Methodism is uncertain. But so is the future of the Southern Baptist movement, Episcopalianism, and Roman Catholicism—at least in the United States.

Justin Trudeau’s doughnuts

In case you want a break from the impeachment charade in the United States: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau aroused the ire of his electorate when he purchased expensive pastries at an independent bakery in Winnipeg called Oh Doughnuts

Many folks on Twitter argued that Trudeau could have bought doughnuts from the cheaper Canadian favorite, Tim Hortons.

Is the Justin Trudeau mystique finally starting to fade? First the guy said nice things about Fidel Castro upon his death in 2016. Then he appeared in brown face in an old photograph. There have also been reports about him being free and easy with his hands.

I don’t think Trudeau is a bad person. On the contrary, he seems like a nice guy. But let’s get real here: Justin Trudeau is an affable, good-looking nitwit who is only where he is because his father was the great Pierre Trudeau.

This is nepotism at a national scale. If Justin Trudeau’s father had been anyone else, Trudeau would probably still be a schoolteacher. 

‘Skyline’: quick review

I watched Skyline (2010) last night. Yet another alien invasion film. 

Overall, not a bad movie. There were several scenes that seemed to be direct borrows from the 2005 interpretation of War of the Worlds, starring Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning. (And since they were only five years apart, it might be fair to compare the two films.)

I preferred War of the Worlds. The characters in Skyline were only marginally likable. (When are screenwriters and directors in the horror/apocalyptic fields going to learn that moviegoers don’t become invested in unlikable characters?)

Nevertheless, Skyline has a few scenes that are genuinely suspenseful—including at least one that is unmistakably borrowed from War of the Worlds

I would give Skyline 2.9 out of 5 stars. 

Christopher Tolkien 1924-2020

Christopher Tolkien, son of the late JRR Tolkien, has passed away. 

He was JRR Tolkien’s third son. As a child, Christopher Tolkien was the first reader of The Hobbit. After the death of JRR Tolkien in 1973, he assumed the management of his father’s literary estate. 

In 1977 Tolkien compiled and published his father’s unfinished novel, The Silmarillion. For decades, he continued to publish various works from his father’s massive collection of papers.

Tolkien stepped down from this capacity in 2017, citing his age and declining health.

Christopher Tolkien was not a fan of Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of the Tolkien universe. In a 2012 interview with the French newspaper Le Monde, Tolkien said, “They eviscerated the book, making it an action movie for 15-25 year-olds.”

(Make of that what you will. Personally, I enjoyed the Peter Jackson films….but no, the films couldn’t take the place of the books.)

Christopher Tolkien, age 95. R.I.P.

The Walking Dead: World Beyond

Yet another series in The Walking Dead franchise will debut in April. This series, World Beyond, will be about the generation born during the zombie apocalypse.

I’ll be honest with you all here: I’m skeptical. I absolutely loved The Walking Dead for the first few seasons. Then it started to repeat itself. And then it started to grind down.

Likewise, the first spinoff series, Fear the Walking Dead, started off weak, and never got much better.

The first episode of the original TWD debuted on October 31, 2010. Almost a decade ago.

At the time, The Walking Dead was something fresh, and highly original. Even though George A. Romero and others had done zombies before, this was the first show to take them seriously, and the first show (or movie) to fill them with interesting subplots and sympathetic characters. (Most of Romero’s characters were so bad, you rooted for the zombies.)

But after nearly a decade, this is starting to seem like a cynical money grab, an attempt to squeeze yet one more drop of milk from a very tired cash cow. It’s like the 17th Star Wars film, or the many, many iterations of various superheroes who first appeared in the mid-twentieth century.

There is a time to let every story be done, and move on to the next one. Create something new.

That point has long since passed for The Walking Dead

Horror from the 1980s

Or…why I chose to set 12 Hours of Halloween in the year 1980.

A reader recently asked me via email why I chose to set 12 Hours of Halloween, my coming-of-age horror novel about three friends who battle supernatural forces on Halloween Night, in 1980 instead of the present day.

Good question.

There are two reasons behind this choice.

First of all: there’s the generational factor.

What I mean by this is: I know my limits.

Although 12 Hours of Halloween is a supernatural tale, it is also a coming-of-age story. This means that it involves getting into the “head space” of the story’s adolescent protagonists.

Some aspects of adolescence are universal. But others are heavily dependent on changing generational factors.

I’m a member of Generation X (born in 1968). This generation reached the early teen years of adolescence around 1980—the year in which 12 Hours of Halloween is set.

I figured that I could depict the adolescent experience in 1980 most accurately, because I actually lived it. (I turned 12 in 1980.)  I’ve written before about the perils of middle-age adults writing about the present-day teen experience: During the 1980s, most of the teen films were written by Baby Boomers; and certain aspects of these movies seemed anachronistic, because the scriptwriters were actually writing about the teen experience of the 1950s and 1960s—even though they thought they were writing about the 1980s.

Another reason I chose to set 12 Hours of Halloween in 1980 is: The past is haunted.

The year 1980 is now 40 years in the past. (1980 was 35 years in the past when I published 12 Hours of Halloween in 2015.)

That is recent enough to be accessible to most readers, but distant enough to be surrounded by a certain haziness.

That year is  not quite like our own. After all, in 1980, there was no Internet, and no cell phones. We had television, but cable TV was still a “new” thing.

It isn’t difficult to believe that in 1980, wayward spirits and vengeful supernatural creatures walked the earth in one Ohio suburb—just like in the book.

***

Want to read 12 Hours of Halloween? You can preview the book here on this site, or get it on Amazon (available in multiple formats.)

Rush: You either got them or you didn’t

Given the passing of Neil Peart last week, I’ll probably have a few Rush-related posts in the upcoming days.

The above video contains a particularly insightful interview from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Topics covered include: Neil Peart’s drumming, and (of particular interest to me) his song-writing.

The man interviewed is, like me, a lifelong Rush fan in his fifties. Unlike me, he’s also a musician.

At the 2:20 mark, he says that Rush was one of those bands that, “You either  got them or you didn’t; and if you did ‘get them’, you became a lifelong fan.”

Well put. I couldn’t agree more. 

The Iran I remember

My memories of US-Iran relations

The Islamic Republic of Iran is back in the news again—and not in a good way. 

Same old same old.

I’ve lived long enough to see American attitudes shift in regard to various countries. Seldom, over the course of a lifetime, does the image of any one nation remain exactly the same.

But one country—Iran—breaks the mold.

Russia and China

Throughout most of my childhood, Russia was the USSR, the Evil Empire. Then for a while in my early adulthood, there was a widely held hope that post-Soviet Russia would become a normal country. Now Russia is an Evil Empire again—-but this time, a czarist one.

Likewise, China. In 1979, when Deng Xiaoping had first come to power, most Americans believed that China was on the verge of becoming our new best friend in Asia. Those hopes have since been dashed. But at least we had that hopeful phase.

Iran: nothing but bad news since 1979

Not so with Iran. Throughout my living memory, Iran has always been a thorn in America’s side. No matter how calm other international matters were going, you could always be certain that the Islamic Republic of Iran was up to no good.

I was in the sixth grade in November 1979, when radical Iranian students overran the US embassy in Tehran and took fifty-two American diplomats hostage. That sorry drama continued for 444 days. They did not return home until January 1981. 

Anyone who was alive then, who remembers the Tehran hostage crisis, will tell you that it dominated the news and public debate. President Jimmy Carter tried, without success, to win the hostages’ freedom through diplomatic measures. Then, in early 1980, he tried—-and failed—to win their release with a military operation. The now mostly forgotten Operation Eagle Claw, in which American aircraft and personnel burned in the Iranian desert, remains one of our country’s most humiliating defeats. 

The Iranian radicals, from Khomeini on down, always bore a particular grudge against Jimmy Carter. They did not let the hostages leave Iran until Carter’s replacement, Ronald Reagan, had been sworn in. 

The Iranians played a pivotal role in ending Carter’s presidency, too. Many factors plagued Jimmy Carter during his single term in office: an energy crisis, a bad economy, a Soviet resurgence. The Iran hostage crisis, however, was possibly the one that hammered the final nail in the coffin of his presidency. Carter lost the White House in a landslide on Election Day 1980.

Anti-Iran memes of 1980

The early 1980s were less politically correct times. Multiculturalism as we know it today was but a glint in the eye of a few Ivy League professors. Throughout the Iran hostage crisis, it was perfectly okay to despise Iran.

No one referred to “memes” in that pre-Internet era. But there were memes nonetheless. One meme of the Iran hostage crisis was the image of Mickey Mouse flipping the bird, with the words “Hey Iran!” inscribed beneath.

And then there was the song “Bomb Iran”, by Vince Vance & the Valiants. Sung to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann”, “Bomb Iran” got a lot of airplay in 1980. (The tune enjoyed a brief resurgence more than a quarter-century later, when John McCain was running for the White House.) 

A future for Iran?

I’ve known exactly four people from Iran. One of them I didn’t like. Three of them I was quite fond of. None of them, though, struck me as fundamentally flawed or insane. 

Iran does not need to be the international pariah it has become. On the contrary, before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran was a steadily improving country. Some wags called it “the Japan of the Middle East”. 

Pre-revolutionary Iran was also a stalwart ally of the United States—and Israel. While never exactly filled with Americans, there was a civilian American presence in Iran during the 1970s.

Americans in pre-revolutionary Iran

One of my former coworkers was employed by Bell Helicopter. His company stationed him in Tehran from 1976 through 1978. When I discovered that he had been stationed in Iran, I buttonholed him and picked his brain. You don’t meet many Americans with firsthand experiences of that country.

My coworker loved the Iran that existed before the mullahs took over. He married an Iranian woman, who turned out to be a shrew (in his opinion, anyway). But she was no Islamic fanatic. 

Much of Iran, in fact, was quite modern and liberal during the 1970s. This suggests that Islam and fanaticism are not inextricable and inevitable companions. 

State-sponsored terrorism of all kinds

But there is something rotten about the current regime. Throughout the 1980s, Iran was the leading perpetrator of state-sponsored terrorism, often carried out against America and its allies. 

The individual incidents are too many to list here, but the one that most sticks out in my memory is the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. Iran funded and trained the suicide bombers who blew up the barracks, as Iran has funded and trained suicide bombers throughout the Middle East over the past 40 years. 

Iran has been no friend of literature, either. In 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini decided that Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses, were blasphemous. Khomeini didn’t simply pan the book, or ban it in Iran. He issued a fatwa against the author, declaring that all faithful Muslims had an obligation to at least attempt his murder.

Some Muslims in Europe took the fatwa seriously. In 1989, two floors of a London hotel were destroyed when a bomb meant for Rushdie exploded prematurely, killing the would-be bomber. Bookstores throughout Europe were looted and burned, and the book’s Japanese translator was killed.

***

After seeing the present government of Iran misbehave so badly, for so many years, I’d like to live to see regime change in that country. I hope it doesn’t take another 40 years. 

An end to the Islamic Republic of Iran—its replacement with something freer and more benevolent—would be good for the world. 

But most of all, it would be a blessing for the 82 million people of Iran. They have endured four decades in the long, bloody shadow of Khomeini. They have suffered tyranny under his mullahs. The people of Iran deserve much better. 

How New Year’s Eve 1986 made me swear off alcohol

Another New Year’s Eve has arrived. I know that many of you will be consuming large quantities of alcoholic beverages tonight.

Not me, though. I haven’t consumed alcoholic beverages very much at all since New Year’s Eve 1986. But that night I did consume a lot of wine, beer, vodka, and other spirits.

For the last time.

I was eighteen years old on 1/31/86. The drinking age in Ohio had just been raised from 18 to 21. But what did I care? In fact, I hadn’t cared much about such niceties since 1981, when I’d begun experimenting with alcohol at the age of 13.

Hey—it was the Eighties! There was no helicopter parenting back then. Moreover, in those freewheeling times, shopkeepers could sometimes be persuaded to sell beer or wine to underage teens who looked mature. I started shaving at the age of 14.

And as for the hard stuff….well, let’s just say that not all parents minded their liquor cabinets, let alone installed locks on them.

Between the 8th grade and my high school graduation, I did my share of drinking. I wasn’t a lush, mind you, but I managed to try everything from beer to bourbon. (Rum was the only drink that I never tried, and I’d always wanted to shout, “Yo, ho, ho, and a bottle o’ rum!” with a pirate’s inflection, while holding a bottle of Bacardi or Captain Morgan.)

I quickly learned an unpleasant truth about drinking and me: I didn’t like hangovers.

Hangovers manifest themselves differently for everyone. For me, a hangover invariably entailed projectile vomiting, extreme fatigue, and the sense that my head had just been used to ring a church bell. A hangover left me feeling really bad—for at least one day, and probably two.

By New Year’s Eve 1986 I already knew that alcohol affected me this way. But I was eighteen years old. Since when have eighteen year-olds been fast learners? I had graduated from high school the previous spring, and a girl from my class (one I sort of liked) had invited me to a New Year’s Party. I therefore had to attend. And being a typical teenage herd animal, I had to drink—because that’s what everyone else would be doing.

I don’t know exactly how many drinks I had that night. I got drunk enough, however, that the operation of a motor vehicle would have been out of the question. (I had arranged for a ride that night, so no—I wasn’t drinking and driving; nor did I ever do that.)

The next morning, 1/1/87, my first thought upon waking up was that eighteen years was plenty long enough for any one person to live. I should just die now, and be done with it.

I had a bad hangover—my worst one to date.

I got out of bed and went for a run in the frigid morning air. This helped—to a point. I felt decent as long as I kept running. The thing about running, though, is that you eventually have to stop. Within a few minutes of completing my run, I was feeling just as lousy as I had upon waking up.

I still lived with my parents at the time. They decided to celebrate the New Year by going out for breakfast. And of course—I readily agreed to tag along when they invited me to join them. (Like I said, most 18 year-olds are not quick on the uptake.)

As soon as we were seated in our booth, I wanted to leave. I realized that I wasn’t up to eating anything. My parents, though, wanted their breakfasts. My mother insisted on ordering a breakfast consisting of eggs, hash browns, sausage, and gravy. If your stomach is up to snuff, that might be a delicious combination. But what if you have a hangover, and you can barely keep a glass of water down? In that case, the aroma of a typical “country breakfast” platter is a barf-inducing olfactory concoction.

My parents, being no fools, saw what was up. So did our sixty-something waitress, who poked fun at my misery while I sat there without breakfast.

When I arrived back home that morning, I had an epiphany: I’d been an idiot. Binge drinking was nothing more than self-induced misery.

And no, it wasn’t “cool”. What is so cool about projectile vomiting?

I clearly remember the moment—on January 1st, 1987, in which I said, “never again”.

I made a vow never to put myself through that again. More than thirty years later, I still haven’t. I’ve never consumed alcoholic to excess since that night.

I have had the occasional glass of wine or bottle of beer. But even these are rare. (My most recent tipple was a beer at a trade show in 2002.) Alcoholic beverages and me just don’t mix. I haven’t missed them.

And besides—now that I’m more than old enough to drink legally, what’s the point?

Star Wars cards, circa 1977

I was a member of the original Star Wars generation. I remember sitting in the cinema with my dad, in the summer of 1977, watching that opening text crawl:

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”

I was instantly hooked. There was something special about being a kid in 1977, when Star Wars was brand new, and there was one movie, instead of a gazillion of them.

I also became one of the millions of child consumers who fueled the Star Wars licensing boom.

Collecting action figures would be an extremely nerdy activity for me today (pathetic, actually—I’m in my fifties); but at age nine I was just fine with that. I had many of the Star Wars action figures.

But I especially liked the Star Wars trading cards.

I had always felt left out of the baseball card trading craze of the 1970s. (I never minded spectator sports, but to this day I’m not crazy about them.)

But Star Wars cards, yes, I loved those.

Each card featured an iconic scene from the movie. Also, each pack of Star Wars cards contained a sticker (very useful for adorning my looseleaf binder in the fourth grade).

Oh, and a stick of gum—just like the baseball cards.

I doubt that kids bother with any sort of trading cards anymore. It’s all about i-this and i-that nowadays.

But forty-odd years ago, if you were a kid who was crazy about Star Wars, it was a lot of fun to collect those cards.

‘Revolutionary Ghosts’ $0.99 for a limited time!

If you haven’t read Revolutionary Ghosts yet, here is your chance to get it on Amazon Kindle for less than a buck.

Revolutionary Ghosts is a coming-of-age horror tale set in 1976…

Revolutionary Ghosts

The year is 1976, and the Headless Horseman rides again. A dark fantasy horror thriller filled with wayward spirits, historical figures, and a cool 1970s vibe.

Get it on Amazon Kindle for just $0.99 for the next three days!

Winter in Ohio…in November

It was barely a month ago that I was complaining about the blistering heat in October.

Well, now November is here, and suddenly we’ve got January weather in Southern Ohio. Tonight the mercury will dip all the way down to 13 degrees Fahrenheit in Cincinnati.

This is part of a larger cold front. Most of the eastern half of the United States is experiencing unseasonably frigid temperatures both today and tomorrow.

The good news: the weather is supposed to moderate later in the week!

Apple Store complaints: I’m not the only one

Perhaps you read my recent critique of the Apple Store concept and thought that I might be a complainer.

Well, a writer at ZD Net had a similar experience: I went to an Apple store to buy an iPhone 11, but no one would talk to me

The article describes “a little chaos in Apple retail right now”.

Based on my visit last week, I would describe that assessment as a very polite understatement.