3 Texas Writers Horror Fans Should Be Reading

Categories: Random Ephemera

Art by Fergal Fitzpatrick
Through Dark Angles by Don Webb
Most Texans are well aware of our solid history in horror and alternative films, from Texas Chainsaw Massacre to the more recent works of Robert Rodriguez. Slightly less known is the important role our state has played in the development of many horror writers.

Texas has long attracted notable writers of the science fiction, horror, and fantasy genres, going back to at least the late '20s when a young man named Robert Ervin Howard, living in Cross Plains, began writing adventure stories for the seminal pulp magazine Weird Tales.

Howard would go on to create the ultimate barbarian hero, Conan, pioneering the "Sword and Sorcery" genre of fantasy with that character and others. He also was friends with H.P. Lovecraft and penned several still-frightening horror stories, before his death in 1936 at the age of 30.

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5 Life Lessons I Learned Playing Candy Crush Saga

Photo by m01229
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here...
It seems like half the people I know play Candy Crush Saga. I base this on the insane number of Facebook invites I've gotten and the look of manic glee in their eyes when the addictive candy-based puzzle game comes up in conversation. It's a fun little puzzle game, for sure, but it has also unexpectedly taught me several life lessons.

5. Addiction takes many forms.

One of those forms manifests in the relentless candy matching game play of Candy Crush. Forget the schmaltzy music that accompanies this game; the soundtrack should be a continuous loop of "Sister Morphine" or "Waiting on the Man," because the dead look in your eyes a few weeks after Candy Crush gets its hooks in you is one more often associated with serious drug addiction. It starts off innocently enough. You download the game for free, and its cute but fun gameplay goes along well for maybe ten or 15 levels before you hit the first difficult one. Maybe you have to replay it a time or two, and then you move on, happy to have bested the challenge.

Soon, though, those challenging levels often turn into what I think of as "Total Bastard" levels where a person might get stuck for days at a time. That's when you suddenly realize that you're addicted to this sinister candy game, because like a drug pusher, it offers to buy more lives and more time (with real money, of course) or to buy game bonuses that will help you finish the Bastard levels and move further along the game. I get it; game companies need to make money, but this type of luring a person along reminds me of the Junior High warnings of drug dealers that would give a kid a few pills for free, the first time.

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Wreck-It Ralph Is a Class Warfare Analogy

Categories: Random Ephemera

Welcome once again to Jef Overthinks Disney Films WAY Too Much Theatre

The Kid With One F was sick this weekend, which means I spent a lot of time sitting on the couch with her watching streaming video in order to keep her resting and healing. In the course of that I watched Wreck-It Ralph five times in 48 hours. It's one of my favorite animated films, so it was no hassle, but after sitting through so many viewings I realized the whole thing is an analogy for the broken version of capitalism in America.

Yes, seriously.

Let's look at Ralph. Ralph is a full-time worker. He has a job that he goes to every day, just like everyone else in the arcade. Yet, even though what he does is essential, and he performs his duty flawlessly, he is continuously punished by other citizens of Niceland.

I'm not talking about being thrown off the building once Felix fixes his rampage. That's just part of his job and he doesn't seem to regard it as any worse than any other aspect. What really gets Ralph down is his lack of regard or reward for being a primary part of the enterprise.

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5 Signs You're Actually in an Angry Mob

Categories: Random Ephemera

The other night I sat down and read a bedtime story to my daughter. It was The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles and George Ford. The book details the life of a young black girl in 1960 who was ordered by a judge to be the first black child to attend William Frantz Elementary in New Orleans.

In the book, Ruby braves a mob of angry protesters every single day and ends up being taught in an empty classroom because other parents don't want their children to go to school with her. Also every day, Ruby prays for the protestors, telling God they don't know what they're doing. Eventually, everyone gets the hell over themselves and boom, integration.

My daughter asked if it was like what she saw while we were watching the news. All those kids being shouted at down at the border. I told her that it wasn't exactly like that, but yeah, it was pretty close. When she asked me why, I said the same thing that Ruby said to God; they don't know what they are doing.

So if you're bedazzling a misspelled sign and getting ready to go out and First Amendment all over someone, here's five things you should ask yourself to see if you are in fact an angry mob instead of an activist.

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Places in and Around Houston That Feel Like You've Stepped Back in Time

Photo by Eric Mueller
A car would help to visit these places, but it doesn't have to be a DeLorean.
Sometimes the pace of modern life can get to anyone, and we long for a simpler time. Unless you have a time-traveling DeLorean, your only option for really reaching back in time is to find places that keep elements of the past alive.

Fortunately for us would-be time bandits (okay, if you can travel back in time, I don't condone stealing anything), there are a few places in and around Houston that will give us a taste of a bygone era without the need for an expensive time-traveling 1980s sports car to get there. Places like...

1. Yale Street Grill & Gifts, 2100 Yale

This Heights diner is one of the oldest left in Houston, occupying a space in what originally was the Yale Pharmacy. The diner area is exactly what one would expect from an old-fashioned malt shop, and the food and drinks are excellent diner fare. The area that used to be the pharmacy is now an antiques mall, so there's cool stuff to browse through if that's your thing. I'll be there for an old-fashioned burger and milkshake. The atmosphere is pleasantly anachronistic, and worth the lines that form on weekends.

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10 Grocery Store Customers Who Must be Stopped

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photo by Jef Rouner
The battleground

I go to the grocery store every single day because I grew up with people who went once a week and ended up with a tin can Narnia in the pantry because of it. In doing so, I meet many lovely people just out purchasing their various foodstuffs like normal people.

And then there's...

People Who Don't Automatically Put the Bar Up Behind Their Groceries
Once you have loaded all of your cat food, mayonnaise and whip polish onto the conveyor belt, it behooves you to take the little plastic bar and close off your load with a tiny little border that you might imagine being manned by tiny little rednecks with itty-bitty guns and microscopic misspelled signs. Without that bar, the person behind you can't start unloading his or her own groceries and just has to stand there like an unhelpful lemon tonic water bottle in a vending machine. So quit it.

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Does Houston Really Need Any More People?

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photos by Yuri Peña
When your city is this pretty, plenty of people will want to make it home.
Last week, yet another list was released noting all of the amazing things Houston has to offer. This time around the list was released by Business Insider, an online publication widely read in the business community, entitled 18 Facts That Make Houston The Best City in America. Yeah, no joke; H-Town is being called the "best city" in the entire country - evidently backed up by facts.

On this blog, I've grabbed several of these lists to either applaud or dump on, but the real "fact" of the matter is that Houston keeps showing up on them. Like it or not, this city has become a force to be reckon with. (And we even use the word "reckon" in daily conversation.)

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Six Quirky Locations to Take a Date in Houston

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photos by Yuri Peña
There are more than just beautiful bridges to cross near Buffalo Bayou.
Houston is filled with strange places to visit. While some of the more quirky attractions to see are well known, many are not. Whether you're trying to impress a date with a taste for the strange or unusual, or just want to experience those things for yourself, there are lots of weird and fun places to visit in H-Town.

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Watership Down and Why I've Given Up on Gun Control

You win.

All you guys in Open Carry Texas and everyone else who feels like even the slightest infringement on the types of armaments you can own and where you can take them? You win. I officially surrender, and the reason is Watership Down.

Yes, the book about rabbits, a beloved classic by Richard Adams that is usually assigned in school.

If you've never read the book somehow, the story follows a group of rabbits that flee their warren because one of them named Fiver has a prophetic vision of the warren's destruction by men. All in all a group of 20 rabbits or so leave with Fiver in a quest for a new home.

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Here's Your Chance to See if Your Average Dog Can Be a Star

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photos courtesy of the Houston World Series of Dog Shows
You want me to do what?
Ever tried to get your dog to do something impressive at a dog park? Stood by in wonder as other people and their dogs whip through an agility course with verve and grace?

The 37th annual Houston World Series of Dog Shows had you in mind when it decided to bring back AKC®'s My Dog Can Do That! even in which the "average family dog" gets to show off what it can (or can't) do, aided by trained instructors.

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