Phantasmagorical Goo

white-woman-ghostsWhat makes a ghost a ghost?

What exactly are they made of? When that chilly hand settles on your shoulder and squeezes, what is it? A memory? A telekinetic process sent from the Other Side? The hunt for answers has been an ongoing one since, I’m guessing, that time a Neanderthal heard footsteps in his cave, but upon investigation found the place deserted. Today’s world makes the search even easier to document. There are websites devoted to the paranormal. There are movies, both fiction and nonfiction books, and videos on YouTube and elsewhere.

For me, it’s a feeling. Years ago, as a reporter for the Williams-Grand Canyon News, I wrote about a great little restaurant on Route 66 called Twisters. I ate there often and still have fond memories of the place. This particular story, I recall, was of a darker nature. The owner’s security camera picked up something strange during the night and he called me in to check it out. When I arrived the next day we sat in the back room and watched the video. In the middle of the night, when Route 66 was deserted and after the place had long since closed for the day, a foggy humanoid shape came to visit the restaurant’s gift shop.  It moved with a particular gait, as if it were walking, right into the bathroom.  That’s when I got the feeling. A cold chill washed up my spine, which told me I was witness to something very odd. I was later told the restaurant was once a gas station and that the owner had committed suicide. The restaurant owner wondered if that ghostly form walking across his floor could be that man. I had no answer, but was happy to post the video to the News website.

Read about it here.

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Whether one believes or not, ghosts are a part of life. They’re talked about by believers and nonbelievers alike, which makes them real in a way. Logically, the idea makes little sense. They can pass through walls, but also move things on a shelf, so which one is it? Why are they clothed, others ask? There are answers to every question if you’re a believer. It could be they’re not a real remnant of a soul at all, but a telekinetic leftover (akin to a projected image) that repeats the memory of an event over and over again. It could be some of us are like spiritual magnets, while others just don’t have the eyes for it. Some of us are cooler than others it seems.

Check out this great Live Science article on the topic.

A more recent theory is that ghosts are made up of dark energy, not dark in the sinister sense (though that sounds fun), but dark in that it is a form of energy that cannot be seen. Much like the dark matter discussed in a cosmic way by scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson, this dark energy may explain why we can’t (yet) explain it. It also makes sense when it comes to that chilly unseen hand resting on your shoulder. It can move things we can see, like your skin or the fabric of your shirt, but we cannot see what made it move.

Look here for NPR’s description of the idea.

Have you ever felt a chilly hand on your shoulder? What do you believe?

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It may be dirty, but the free press is our best defense

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Journalism is meant, on its best day, to provide checks and balances for those in power. Those who make decisions that ripple through our jobs, our welfare, and our checkbooks have to be held accountable for their decisions. If it weren’t for watchdogs, Americans would drown under the rule of those who care little for anything and anyone beyond their own interests. We would be manipulated, lied to, and used as cogs in a machine –necessary but ultimately forgettable. In a free society, the news is intended to provide all Americans with the information needed to make an intellectual decision. It’s not intended to convince you how to think on a particular subject, or even on a particular candidate, but it will furnish the tools we need to make a smart decision on the matter.

It’s not always perfect and it can be downright dirty. Ratings factor into the equation, as they do for most print and television offerings. Advertisers factor into the equation as well; news outlets are businesses at the end of the day. They have to make money to survive, but their mission has never been more clear. You’re simply not going to get all the facts, all the angles, nor the whole truth from those elected to positions of power. There are people in this country afraid of an informed population. Some news may sensationalize, some may muddy the line between editorializing and journalism, but more than anywhere else, the news media is there to inform. Their job is to ferret out the mischief and replace the tall tales with a sobering dose of reality.

This may seem like pie in the sky idealism, but as a former journalist, I know there is truth in reporting. Our reporters, covering beats from crime to education, are American citizens like the rest of us. They go home to families and watch football on the weekends. They vote, pay taxes, buy groceries, and carry degrees that instilled in them a belief that journalists should be a voice for the voiceless. Without journalists, the voiceless would be all but dead.

Recent attacks on the media are terrifying in that they are seeking to suppress the search for truth by lobbing derogatory labels like hand grenades, including the effort to label journalists as the “enemy of the people,” which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Journalists ARE the people. Their job is to present the facts, while ours is to understand and use it however we see fit.

I stand with the Boston Globe as they, and more than one hundred other newspapers across the country, defend their voices from those who seek to silence them. On August 16th, these news organizations will publish editorials warning of the dangers of anti-press rhetoric. And don’t be fooled, the press is under attack, and an America without them would indeed be a country on fire.

Read more on the Boston Globe’s effort here.

 

 

REVIEW: The Outlaw’s Ransom Enchants the English Countryside

Ransom
The Outlaw’s Ransom: The Folville Chronicles by Jennifer Ash, LIttwitz Press, 2018

The Outlaw’s Ransom by Jennifer Ash is the first in a series of books written under the Folville Chronicles umbrella and it doesn’t disappoint.

This hot, galloping tale follows the travails of young Mathilda, daughter of a local potter who lives in the English countryside, as she is yanked from a loving family and thrown to a clan of thieves and so-called villains to ensure her father pays off his debts. But are the Folvilles all that bad? Mathilda’s a bright young girl, in some ways too bright for her own britches– a quality that causes some consternation, but also proves attractive to the Folville family – especially to the handsome Robert Folville. This is a family well known for living by the code of Robyn Hode (Robin Hood to most of us) and Mathilda believes she can find a way to free both herself and her father’s debts by helping the honorable family of tough guys.

Ash, whose background is in history and archaeology, has a lifelong passion for Robin Hood mythology. This devotion is clear when you read her charming tale of betrayal, family angst, and young love.  In The Outlaw’s Ransom, Mathilda is a pawn who becomes smarter and wiser by the day in order to stay alive. The second book in the series, The Winter’s Outlaw, is out now. A third is slated for late 2018, affording her fans something to look forward to –  both those in the United Kingdom and here in the States.

Fans of Robin Hood in all his various incarnations, whether the adventures with his Merry Men or as a sly animated fox with a red feather in his cap, will enjoy this fresh take on the legend and how it affected real-life families living in Medieval England. It’s also a timely read thanks to the updated Lionsgate film set to hit U.S. theaters this November.

Learn more about Jennifer Ash and the Folville Chronicles here.

Buy the book here.

Chihuahua Nebula Character Guide

CHI-1CHARLTON

UNIVERSE

Chihuahua Nebula

OTHER ALIASES

Chi-Town, Handsome Man, Charlie-Town

PLACE OF ORIGIN

Dignity’s Quiet Pond of Austere Reflection

IDENTITY

Sealed until the next millenium

KNOWN RELATIVES

Izzy, Francis Pants, Dulce, Lucy (deceased), mom, dad

BIOGRAPHY

Trapped in a cage, brought to a strange land of heat and pink jeeps, Charlton’s murky past is one of survival and grit. Rumors abound of his imprisonment and courageous fight for a family of his own. In the heat of Arizona, his exploits were barked about, though sadly never translated to English, leaving his first year of life a riddle the world may never solve. Charlton himself speaks little of his time behind bars at the Humane Society and what led him, a strapping specimen prone to battling mail carriers, there in the first place.

More recently, however, Charlton has grown accustomed to the powers he harnessed while on the “forever home” cell block. With a raised paw and sad eyes, Charlton (ALSO KNOWN AS HANDSOME MAN) can mentally project the song “Through the Eyes of an Angel” at will. He can speak the word treat in four languages and has super hearing, which enables him to hear both a wrapper opening in the kitchen and the mailman two blocks away at the same time.



CHI-4DULCE

UNIVERSE

Chihuahua Nebula

OTHER ALIASES

Doolsay, Dulce Hammer, Hammer Time, Pretty

PLACE OF ORIGIN

The Frankenstein Wind

IDENTITY

Unintelligable

KNOWN RELATIVES

Izzy, Francis Pants, Charlton Chi-Town, Lucy (deceased), mom, dad

BIOGRAPHY

Never has a canine of her stature been able to blur reality with only a gentle breeze to egg her on, but this and other abilities have earned her the enduring respect of her peers. The largest of the pack inhabiting the Chihuahua Nebula (but still rated small in the dog scale), Dulce developed early on the preternatural ability to move through the fabric of time itself, running with such speed that she can appear in two places at once. While her swiftness has never been measured, she’s been heard one moment on the kitchen counter and, within the blink of an eye, found to be staring innocently from her bed two rooms away with only the dust of potato chips on her chin as proof an infraction of time and space occurred.

Dulce is the youngest of the pack, but being born of the Frankenstein Wind, she quickly asserted dominance over the pack, save the Throne Couch inhabited by her sister, Izzy (SEE KNOWN RELATIVES), and uses her wild corgi, Chihuahua, and rat terrier abilities to regularly patrol her domain and ensure her reign as the Nebula’s premier queen.



CHI-3FRANCIS

UNIVERSE

Chihuahua Nebula

OTHER ALIASES

Pants, Mister Pants, Cutie Patootie

PLACE OF ORIGIN

The gates of the Aztec Empire

IDENTITY

Faw-RAN-shiss

KNOWN RELATIVES

Dulce Hammer, Izzy Scareda, Charlton Chi-Town, mom, dad

BIOGRAPHY

Francis was born from mystery. His whereabouts prior to his appearance at the SPCA in Monterey will forever be regarded as one the universe’s most baffling puzzles. While he’s hinted at such things as prior knowledge of a dog door, his understanding of play is severely limited, leaving little for historians to glean. When brought to live with his relatives in the Nebula, Francis showed remarkable peace-keeping abilities. His affection for all three of his siblings (SEE KNOWN RELATIVES) has made him one of the strongest members of the pack.

While on a recent scouting mission in the backyard region of the nebula, Francis proved his worth as a protector of the pack when he chased two pigeons from the area by running nearly fifteen feet without stopping.



CHI-2IZZY

UNIVERSE

Chihuahua Nebula

OTHER ALIASES

Iz, Izzy Izzy Izzy, Scarlett, Izzy Scareda

PLACE OF ORIGIN

The Great Iron Forge

IDENTITY

Izquerda Frida Kahlo la’Beau

KNOWN RELATIVES

Dulce Hammer, Francis Pants, Charlton Chi-Town, mom, dad

BIOGRAPHY

Izzy may well be the oldest member of the Chihuahua Nebula pack, but as a three-legged teacup Chihuahua, she is also the smallest. She first appeared, as if from a bolt of indignant lighting, at the border of the Monterey and Pacific Grove Empires. There tales were told of her heroic leap from a point high as Heaven itself, a feat that ultimately cost her leg, but gained her much more in return. For Izzy is never without her miniature collection of dolls, her mighty igloo home, her entourage of trusted blankets, and the mysterious twin stairs that bookend either side of her throne (AKA COUCH).

Her dominance over the pack has never been in question, as she is both the unspoken and unheard ruler in her opinion. As others have learned the hard way, cross her and unleash her terrible motor growl- a sound like a zipper being pulled really fast-at your peril!



 

San Francisco Comic Con Top 10

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It’s a geek’s fantasy realized. A nerd’s dreams turned flesh and blood. A dad’s headache from the noise, but worth it. I’m all of that and a grumpy bag of chips. But, as most of my friends know, I’m a sucker for heroes and stories. Being a father to a younger comics/pop culture aficionado, the 2018 San Francisco Comic Con was the place to hang our invisible fedoras. Before I get into what was (nice about it) killer, let me tack on a couple of bitches. It’s what I do. First off, consider larger conference rooms for some of the workshops. We missed Starlin (Starlin! The guy who devised the Infinity War storyline!) because it was too full, which got me pissy for a hot minute. Parking was also gnarly, but when isn’t it?

On to what was super:

People
Staff was on it. They were all over it. Staff nailed it.

10. Comic Con staff

A friend of one of the con’s founders, and I never got her name (a theme for me on this trip), was one of the first people my son and I encountered in the hotel elevator. She went above and beyond in helping us navigate what could have been, for a dense man like me, a confusing morning of con registration. Instead she got us hooked up the night before with our wrist bands and gave us the rundown on what to expect once the pop culture adventure exploded in our faces. You can’t beat that kind of customer service with a barbed-wire baseball bat.

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The view from our sweet suite.

9. Oakland Marriott

Who knew the Marriott was actually connected to the Convention Center where the San Francisco Comic Con was held? Not this doofus. It was a sweet surprise when we realized we wouldn’t have to leave the building. Riding the elevator from our posh room (with paper-thin walls, however, which I discovered thanks to a lusty romantic couple next door); we were deposited right into a throng of Deadpools, Darths, and Who Police Boxes. It was the best ever. Great place, great views, great that Netflix connected to the huuuge flat screen, and great staff.

Warriors
A man sweeps the streets of Oakland, while another jumps a human ramp, to celebrate the Golden State Warriors victory over the Cavs.

8. Golden State Sweep

Not that it has anything to do with the con, but crazy as Hell that our trip to Oakland coincided like a train wreck with the Warrior Playoff sweep over the Cavs and LeBron James! When we got there, people were just taking to the streets downtown to celebrate, chanting “Warriors!” from the windows down to the subway. Some were even holding brooms from three stories above ground, sweeping the air, because why not? So it was a good kind of train wreck. Insanity save for valet parking. Warriors!

Walking Dead
Ben getting a signed first issue, number one, collector’s edition, etc.

7. The Walking Dead Guy

I may be a newbie to the Walking Dead pop culture machine (on season four, so much blood), but my son isn’t. He’s the guy who got me hooked on it, so for him to meet one of the guys who made the dead walk in the pages of the original Image comic book was incredible. Dude was super nice too (isn’t it always a good idea to mention if someone is approachable? If it is, then everyone there was just that). The worst part? Not sure of his name…

Ginny
Nerding with every flavored bean breath with Bonnie Wright.

6. Ginny Weasley

Her real name is Bonnie Wright, but for most of us in line to meet her, she was Ginny – beloved wife to the wizard we all know and root for: Harry Potter (HP to us cool kids). I can’t even write the name without saying it with an English accent in my head. My son and I, besides grabbing a pic with her, heard her talk about her work in directing and with environmental organizations like Greenpeace. As HP nerds, just getting to meet her was… magical (ugh).

Frakes
William T. Riker is in the hizzay!

5. Number One (at number five)

Genres of all kinds appeal to me. As a teen, none grabbed me more than Star Trek: The Next Generation when it came to weekly television. I was reading horror, flipping through Heavy Metal and Flaming Carrot Comics, but I never missed a single TNG episode. Not a single one. Jonathan Frakes is a polite, friendly guy in person – though to be fair meeting him was uber brief. But hey, being in the presence of Number One, the guy who gave us Star Trek First Contact, one of the reasons The Orville rocks, was enough to excite this fan boy.

gerry.jpg
Me and Gerry Conway, down by the school yard. Or hanging at a con and talking about Punisher stuff.

4. Gerry Conway

You know meeting a Marvel Comics icon would make my list. I counted myself a True Believer during the days Lou Ferrigno got himself painted green every week. I was one of the only kids on my block who knew the word, “Excelsior!” And even back then, I knew about the Punisher. Gerry Conway is one of the co-creators of the character, which he introduced in Amazing Spider-Man No. 129. He’s also the writer who (gasp) killed off Gwen Stacy back in the day. I gushed on him at the con, but he was cool with it.

Afterburner-1
Issue 2 is a keeper.

3. Afterburner Comics

What’s better than going to a gigantic comic con in Oakland (yes, it’s called the San Francisco Comic Con, and yes, I know San Diego’s is bigger, but does size matter?) and straying from your preplanned itinerary into uncharted territory (yes, I make itineraries). I found something pretty damn cool in Afterburner Comics and came away with a treat I wasn’t expecting. I found a new underground comic to sink my intellectual teeth into, one full of black and white noir and adults-only pizzazz. If you haven’t come across the brilliant Robert Stewart and Afterburner Comics, you’re missing out.

Gray
Making the time to hang! Thanks, Claudia!

2. Claudia Gray

Claudia Gray is an author everyone should read. Many of us have in fact. She’s also a joy to meet in person. Her work has been made a part of the Star Wars universe, which tells you something about her prose. Whether it’s canon, not canon, I can never keep up, so I don’t know. I’m not one to let it bug me anyway. She’s a good writer and meeting her amidst the buzz and bang of the convention was a personal highlight.

 

 

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1.  The Cosplay

You hear about it in secret. You read about it on the dark web. You think you’re prepared. But then you walk into a man inside an inflated Pikachu. You see cosplayers in real life and you take a gut punch in the “I’m geeked out and really amazed” region. These people are incredible. The detail, the love and giddy excitement, are evident in what they do. Without the thrill of the cosplayers, conventions like the San Francisco Comic Con wouldn’t be the blinding, shining beacon of hip absurdity this world needs. They make these things what they are.