Monday, September 01, 2014


I haven't gone on a serious backpacking trip in some time. Just overnight journeys. So I'd like to tackle a serious trip in 2015. I've been trying to narrow it down to something relatively safe and not too dangerous, since I'll be doing the trip solo.

The trip that keeps popping to the forefront is the John Muir Trail in California. I reckon I'll be sharing the trail with a fair number of other backpackers, but that's okay. I can't expect complete solitude on a trail like that in an area as scenic as the high Sierras.

I'm actually in a lot better shape than I have been in quite some time, so I'm not as worried about altitude sickness as in the past. In 2012 I really suffered from that when I was in Colorado and it took me about eight days to acclimate to high altitude. Since I've lost a lot of weight and have much better lung capacity these days, it's not quite the concern it was in the past couple of years. But I'll have to arrange for some days to acclimate before I begin the long trek (over 221 miles).

There are some other long distance trails that appeal to me, but many of them are here in the East and I've frankly just about tapped out my enthusiasm for eastern destinations. Or I could do a healthy section hike of the Pacific Crest Trail or the Continental Divide Trail...but the JMT is the one that keeps appearing in my thoughts and desires.

We'll see. Until then, I'll plan for that one.

Montana. (Absaroka Mountains.)

Colorado. (San Juan Mountains.)
California. (Cottonwood Mountains.)

Sunday, August 31, 2014


I buy a lot of books. Unless I'm really short of funds (I put a lot of money into my 401k, so I do run short of money from time to time), I only buy new books from living authors (to make sure they get royalties). And, since I am not a fan of ebooks and I don't care for the looming publishing monopoly of I tend to purchase my books in bookstores.

For many reason I prefer bookstores and real books. I like browsing the shelves and I enjoy being able to pick up a book and leaf through it, making sure that it's the kind of book that will satisfy me.

This past week I was in one of the few remaining bookstores in my area. Yes, it was a superstore, but there are only a few independent booksellers remaining in my city and I wasn't near one of those. And I like Barnes & Noble bookstores anyway. I get a charge out of just being in a bookstore like that. I can pretend that publishing is not on its last legs and that the industry is dying and that soon there won't be any bookstores.

Walking around the stacks like that I get a sense of delight. I was not alone and the place was crowded and I was not the only one in there buying books. In fact, I had to wait in line to make my purchase. The couple in front of me spent almost $200 on books. I spent $36 and my wife spent $20 and I wasn't around to see how much the people behind me were spending. It felt good. I liked seeing that there is still a place where skilled authors can appear in print and people will stand in line to buy their work. It's going to be sad to see that all come to an end.

My take at the bookstore Friday night: REDSHIRTS by John Scalzi, and THIS BOOK IS FULL OF SPIDERS by David Wong.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Cover Art!

Severed Press has commissioned new cover art for my anti-zombie zombie novel (you'll have to read it to understand what I mean), THE NEW ECOLOGY OF DEATH. Based on a comic book story that I sold to Stephen R. Bissette's TABOO horror comics anthology. I greatly expanded the concept and transformed it into a novel.

So, there will be a re-launch of the novel coming up. Here's a cover version I was emailed for critique. I think the artist did a great job of capturing the feel of the book.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Off to the Service Center!

Well, I got our Casita trailer off and away to the service center. Hopefully they can get it ready for our next camping trip (begins September 10). If not, we'll cancel our reservations and make new plans.

Got the trailer ready for transport.

Goodbye for a couple of weeks, Casita!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Day Off Tomorrow.

My feet are bleeding. Really. All of that walking...sometimes it does that. Two and a half more years and it stops, of course. But until then...shit. It's horrible. Sometimes one or another of my toenails will turn black from the pressure and fall off. Just fall the fuck off and then it takes a new one about six months to grow back. The toenail on my left big toe the foot doctor finally just destroyed to spare me from further suffering. He killed it at the root so that it will never grow back and get my fucking toe infected again. Zap.

So...tomorrow is my day off. I get to rest my bleeding feet for a bit. But I'm not completely off the hook. I have to drive out to pick up our travel trailer and take it to the folk who service it so that they can fix the leak in the water tank and put on a new awning. We reeeeeeeeeeeeeally didn't like camping without an awning. I thought we wouldn't miss it that much, but we did. We decided not to replace it with the Fiamma and have opted to get a Dometic brand awning.

Our Casita, sans awning.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

My Favorite Movie Villains

There are many villains in film and literature. Unfortunately, most of them are one-dimensional, existing only to act as an adversary and to be a foil for the protagonists, or as a tool to move the plot. There are tons of such characters in our favorite movies.

But I don't care for these flat, uninteresting characters. There's nothing about them that inspires me. I want some depth to the people who move through the movies I watch; even the villains need to be human.

For this reason, my two favorite movie villains both appeared in great movies in the same year, 2007.

And I'll list them now in the order that they impress me.

First is Daniel Plainview from the absolutely brilliant Paul Thomas Anderson film, THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Plainview is just an amazing character all around. Tough, self-sufficient, driven, manipulative, intelligent, physically imposing, and utterly evil. This is a villain a person can admire. He does not whine and he does not deviate from his mission.

Plainview, as portrayed by Daniel Day Lewis, is just one of the best character studies I have ever seen on the screen. We see his strengths and his weaknesses. Why Lewis chose to do what appears to be an imitation of the voice of John Huston (or Clint Eastwood's version of John Huston), I can't say. But it works. It was perfect.

The best villains are the ones who are human.

When the film is mentioned it usually is in the context of recounting the "I drink your milkshake" scene. But that is, to my way of thinking, one of the greatest scenes of both revenge and self-destruction I've ever witnessed in a movie.

And so, number one on my short list of movie villains is Daniel Plainview from THERE WILL BE BLOOD.

My second favorite movie villain is Anton Chigurh from the Coen Brothers' 2007 film NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.

Now...Anton is not wholly human. Since the book and the movie are basically a retelling of the Jesus story, and Chigurh stands in as Satan, you can't very well list him as a man. I prefer to think of him as Satan in human garb, and this works for me.

As with Plainview, Chigurh is a driven, single-minded, implacable character who might be nudged slightly out of the way, but who is ultimately unstoppable and who will not be denied. In addition, his resourcefulness as implied on the screen is simple and beautiful and leaves the viewer with both a sense of dread and one of admiration. Force combined with ingenuity are his major tools, and all he really needs.

A smile from something that is not human.

The supernatural aspect of Chigurh could be a drawback to enjoying the way his actions unfold on the screen, but what keeps this from growing tired is that he is everywhere at once. Where one feels that he is often returning to the scene of a crime, the fact of the matter is that he never leaves, being with each of us all of the time. It's almost like a twisted version of the Tom Joad "I'll be there" speech from THE GRAPES OF WRATH. The only person he is never with in every moment is the Jesus-figure, Llewellyn Moss. And he still dogs him to a pair of deaths and takes his prize in the end.

As with Lewis' performance, I love the way Javier Bardem chooses to portray Satan/Chigurh. His flat, implacable way of speaking and moving is hypnotic and disarming. He knows where he needs to be and what he wants to do, but is almost always genuinely confused by people and the way that they think and emote. He is a frightening individual and I can see how someone could be scared of such a version of Satan.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Some New Golden Age Comics

As I've talked about in the past, my main passion as far as collecting comics are Silver Age titles. Specifically those containing art and stories by Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby. But sometimes I'll land some Golden Age titles for my collection. Especially if the contents are of especially high quality of art and fiction.

And the quality doesn't get any higher than titles from the late EC Comics. At its head was William C. Gaines, whose mission it obviously must have been to publish the finest art in comics at that time. The names of the men and women he employed to work for him have become legend. So I look for EC books to add to my collection when I can find them at the right price.

So it was this week. The latest old comics to arrive as Casa Smith.

CRIME SUSPENSTORIES #2. Back in my youth, I had an extensive EC collection. But most of those were horror and science-fiction titles. I never had many copies of this title, and most of those were later issues.

CRIME SUSPENSTORIES #5. A great, dramatic cover from Johnny Craig.

Another image of high drama from Craig. When the Silver Age rolled around, he worked for a time at Marvel Comics, mainly as an inker.