Monday, December 30, 2019

2 0 1 9

I didn't live up to my self-designated theme song for 2019, "Wig in a Box" from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, but I initially tried.  Releasing VISION BENT (half-blind poems) was the best way that I've found to be the best you've ever seen.  Then being interviewed by a fellow blogger was like tasting a hint of fame or, at least, notoriety.  ( To experience my 15 minutes...http://www.mygayopinion.com/3178/john-l-harmons-vision-bent/ )   

I faltered through the remainder of the year.  I could blame life, but I throw the responsibility onto my own shoulders.  I allowed a negative perception of myself and my surroundings to eat away at me and what I accomplished early on this year.  It was a deep rabbit hole that I'm still crawling out of. 


Guess that's why I feel "The Jig is Up" by Jill Sobule is the song that ultimately sums up my year.  Especially the lyric...Maybe I'm just in a bad mood and I need to change my attitude.  The final lyric also speaks to me...The story needs another twist and I have had enough of this.  Hopefully any twists in 2020 will be positive or at least I will hopefully be able to find the elusive silver lining.

I'm not going to make a ginormous, insurmountable New Year's resolution for 2020.  I just want to go for more walks, listen to more e-books and focus more on writing, with concentrated effort on this blog and A STUDY IN ORANGE.  

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 

I will see you next year...so to speak. 

Freak Out, 
John L. Harmon 

P.S. A post from this year that I'm kind of proud of because my words may have changed the minds of a few people...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
My books & blogs...

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

freakboy muses music: HAVE YOURSELF A SCARY LITTLE CHRISTMAS (Tales from the Crypt)

'Twas the fright before Christmas 
And all through the crypt 
Not a creature was stirring 
'Cept those being whipped 

('Twas the Fright Before Christmas) 

1994 
              (The Right Stuff Records}

For someone who doesn't really celebrate Christmas in a traditional way, I seem to have lots of Christmas traditions involving films, television and music.  Being a fan of E.C. Comics (even though I can no longer read them), who also enjoys potentially offensive festive offerings, this Christmas album was destined to be in my life.

The Crypt-Keeper 
a self-promoting cadaverous whore after my own decaying heart.

TALES FROM THE CRYPT was a notorious 1950's horror comic book that would, several decades later, be turned into an HBO anthology television series.  The Crypt-Keeper, literally a decaying corpse, would bookend each episode with morbid puns and ghoulish fun.  In hindsight, it's no stretch of the imagination that a sly, clever, gruesome Christmas album would happen.  

          Lizzie Borden lost her folks 
          Gave'em 40 whacks 
          She wants a brand new mom and pop 
          And, of course, an axe 

          (Christmas Rap) 

HAVE YOURSELF A SCARY LITTLE CHRISTMAS finds The Crypt-Keeper singing festive, ghoul-tide ditties to lift your holiday spirits from the dead.  That old bag of bones charms us with songs about decorating with body parts, poisoning his family, a horror-filled wish list and a New Year's Eve party for the recently and long-ago deceased, to name a few cheerful tuneful topics.  It's a heartwarming album for the entire Manson family and yours, if you're not part of the P.C. Police.  

Stockings stuffed with ears and fingers 
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la-la-la 
           Chopped from all those caroling singers 
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la-la-la 

(Deck the Halls with Parts of Charlie) 

This album is not for overly sensitive 21st Century ears.  Consider this your five-alarm trigger-happy warning.  With a few Santa fat jokes and one sly cross-dressing jab at J. Edgar Hoover, there is plenty of material for internet bots to be outraged over.  I could get on my soapbox in the town square to rant about how the human race is censoring itself into oblivion, but it's cold outside.

Anyhoo, before I bury my blog six feet under....Have a Merry Cryptmas and Horrific New Year!  


The champagne flows 
And bubbles pop 
Capote hugs Babe Ruth 
While Lincoln does the bunny hop 
With actor John Wilkes Booth 

(Should Old Cadavers Be Forgot) 

Thank you for reading or listening to my potentially offensive half-blind words.

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S. Ho Ho Ho...

~~~~~~~~~~
DARK EXCURSIONS 
(a modern take on gothic romance) 

The perfect gift for the soap nut in your life! ๐ŸŽ๐Ÿ˜‰ 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Dystopian Future Paranoia (or how The Handmaid's Tale made me the town nutter)


I broke down and purchased a cell phone in June because I needed to be able to stay in touch while dog-sitting in July.  I decided to go with VERIZON because the store is near my home.  I chose the cheapest phone, which was still expensive in my opinion, and the cheapest pre-paid plan, $30, which seemed reasonable.  

The cheapest phone meant limited storage, so I could only choose one extra app and the winner (or loser) was Twitter.  The cheapest pre-paid plan meant limited mobile data, which has been sufficient until this month.  My plan is due on the 14th and I was tweeting a lot over Thanksgiving weekend.  So, I've been rationing out my remaining mobile data over this week.  

Since its December, the month where we celebrate the beloved birth of consumerism, I decided to give myself a gift.  I was going to upgrade my phone plan to the next tier, which is only $5 more, so I'd gain more mobile data.  In my deranged mind, I rationalized it as a business investment.  If I tweet more about my books, maybe I'll consistently find new readers.  Well, it sounded plausible in my head. 

The morning that I walked a few blocks to the VERIZON store, I had finished listening to THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood.  It's a brilliantly stark, bleak novel that makes the Hulu series seem melodramatic and overly satirical with its goofy music choices.  Anyhoo, the novel really made me reflect on how we are inching closer to some version of a dystopian future.  This was fresh in my mind as I entered the store.

I sat down at the counter and inquired if there would be additional charges if I changed my plan to the next  tier.  The woman behind the counter informed me of the obvious, because I must look like a complete moron, that my monthly payment would increase.  I told her that I knew that, but I wanted to make sure there were no extra fees.  She said there wasn't, so I asked for my plan to be upgraded to the $35 tier.  

She then informed me that the $35 tier was only for customers who have an automatic payment system set up.  The next tier for someone who comes into the store to pay would be $40.  I declined to upgrade and then stated that it's crappy to punish people who pay cash.  That's how I was paying and the clerk knew it because she was there last month and had, at that time, off-handedly stated how she has all of her bills set for automatic withdrawal.  Now she responded with how it's difficult for them to do cash transactions because that means they have to go to the bank and worry about counterfeit bills.  

"I guess The Handmaid's Tale is really going to happen." 

The potentially crazy, conspiracy theory words fell out of my mouth before I could stop them.  She made a confused noise and this inspired my lack of self-censoring to continue. I said that's how it begins.  Forcing us into a cashless society so they can control access to bank accounts on a whim.  

The clerk didn't respond further to my potential crazy.  So, I paid my usual amount and left feeling like a nutter.  This didn't stop me from imagining the clerk as a future Aunt Lydia, believing she knows what's best for everyone.  She would work in a brainwashing center, extolling the virtues of her personal automatic payment beliefs onto the perceived moronic masses.  

As of writing this post, I'm listening to the sequel, THE TESTAMENTS, also by Margaret Atwood.  I probably should have taken a break in between because I slipped down a paranoid rabbit hole when telling my sister about this recent experience...and she didn't disagree and added her own views.  We carried on about our nearing dystopian future, where we will be forced to go cashless and then we will be maneuvered into a single government or corporation banking system.  How would this happen?  It's already started.  

AMAZON is currently silencing the voices of low income individuals.  Customers can no longer leave reviews unless they spend a predetermined amount per month or year with a credit or debit card.  While you can still use AMAZON gift cards, they don't count towards the predetermined amount.  Much like my cell provider, this is how it's going to be accomplished.   Punish the consumer in small, legal ways until we are forced to fall in line.  In a cashless society, stores and sites could start adding surcharges or placing limitations if you're not paying through this bank or that system.  The excuse will be that the stores and sites are protecting our accounts and making payments through a single banking entity would be more convenient for all of us.  We will comply because there will be no choice, having, over time, systematically and freely given up our little freedoms and control to the big corporations.

Crazy talk, right...or is it?  Maybe my concerns are based on a burgeoning reality.  Maybe we are careening towards The Handmaid's Tale future.  Maybe I'm turning into a conspiracy theorist.  Maybe I need to listen to a light, fun e-book.

In conclusion...
I know we can't go back, but we should be more aware going forward. 

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.  If I fall silent after this post, you will probably find me on the Wall for either being a gender-traitor or a payment-traitor.  Just sayin'. 

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S.  This is not my first future paranoia post...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
My books (which are hypocritically available through AMAZON) & blogs (which are through GOOGLE)...

Friday, December 6, 2019

NIGHT BIRD (a poem)

Night bird descend 
With a beginning 
And an end

Night bird call 
A summer's love 
And bitter fall 

Night bird cry 
A faded laugh 
And tears run dry

Night bird sing 
A winter's death 
And diminished spring

Night bird depart 
With broken eyes 
And a shattered heart 

________________
Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S. A poem about a last time...
~~~~~~~~~
It was three years ago this month when I lost a chunk of my vision.

Perhaps it's time for you to see what I can no longer perceive.

VISION BENT
an inspiring journey that won't make you puke.

Book 

e-book 


(The perfect gift for that weird friend who actually enjoys poetry)

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Edge

The following very short story is connected to a short story I wrote in November 2016, a month before losing a chunk of my vision...



    He stands alone on the edge of the world.  He had traveled through the fog, losing more than his companion along the way.  Externally battered and bruised from the journey, he collapses onto the barren ground.  Internally drained of hope and desire, he whispers into the emptiness surrounding him. 

    "Where does one go when there is nowhere left to go?"  

    The question drifts through the hollow air, fading away into nothing. 



Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.

Freak Out, 
JLH

P.S.  A different very short story... 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A Post-Modern Gothic Romance...

DARK EXCURSIONS

The Internationally-known* Bestseller** is still available to amuse, intrigue and shock!


*by some Americans & a few Europeans 
**compared to my other titles

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

How to Suck at Real Life: Soup & Sandwich Supposition

I was attending a Veterans Day soup and sandwich fundraiser with my sister and our dad when I got noticed.  This unexpected moment of recognition left me thinking, contemplating, examining and trying to understand myself.  I hate when this happens because it's typically a futile mental exercise without satisfactory conclusions. 

I was in line behind my sister and our dad.  The ham sandwich was already on the red tray gripped in my hands when I stepped up to the soup area.  One of the men dipping up the soups inquired if I wanted chicken noodle or chili, which wouldn't have given me pause but he called me by name.  This is hardly the first time a seeming stranger called me by name, but it's usually uttered by someone my dad's age, so I just assume it's one of his obnoxious cronies.  This man, from what my half-blind eyes could see, was in and around my age. 

I obviously had a perplexed look on my face because he mentioned he remembered me from school.  His voice was unfamiliar so I asked who he was.  My mind went into overdrive upon hearing this man's name, flipping through old mental files, but it was all in vain.  His name didn't register at all. 

I confessed that I didn't remember him.  He said it was okay and then explained he was behind me in grades at school.  I apologized for not remembering and he reiterated it was okay.  I then wandered on to the drinks and desserts area.  I didn't want to hold up the line, and, with my mind reeling, I wanted to find a seat and mentally calm down. 

As I sat there eating my soup and sandwich, and for the rest of the evening, I pondered this experience.  How could someone remember me?  Me?  I'm easily the least interesting and most forgettable person one could encounter in this life.  I don't say this in an "oh whoa is me" fashion.  I state it as cold, stoic belief.  Especially back in the hell of my public school days where I learned I was nothing and was rarely allowed to forget it.  

Then I berated myself for being so awkward during the brief exchange over the cooker of chili.  I played the most dangerous game of "Why didn't I...?"  Why didn't I say something nice or clever?"  I could've said, "Well it's nice to finally meet you."  The answer to this is simple.  I have serious trust issues with the residents of my town.  History has shown me how I don't fit in here and how more often than not, conversations end up being negative, so that's why I don't try anymore.  

I deliver papers with my sister, so I rarely interact with others, if I can avoid it.  I see my dad every so often and I occasionally briefly visit with the librarians, but that's about it on a semi-regular basis.  Most of my interactions, including others I know in real life, are of an online nature.  Tiny digital increments of human companionship to simulate life.  The 21st Century was built for maladjusted folk like me. 

So, in conclusion, this momentary spotlight made me question why I shelter in place, so to speak.  Though, ultimately, it doesn't matter because it's not going to change because I doubt I will change.  I'm hardwired to expect the worst from real life interactions within my small town and I don't know how to reprogram myself.

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.

Freak Out, 
JLH 


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

freakboy on film: SCREAM 4 (2011)

"Well, sick is the new sane." - Jill Roberts 

                        2011
      written by Kevin Williamson 
          directed by Wes Craven 

~SPOILERS AHEAD~

I originally planned a 4 in 1 SCREAM franchise post.  I would have praised the brilliance of SCREAM (1996) where Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) & friends are being hunted by a masked killer as they dissect the intricacies of horror films.  I would have went on to say that SCREAM 2 (1997) has some good moments, despite pacing problems and one too many familiar faces.  I would then have to admit SCREAM 3 (2000) is a bit of a mess, but how I enjoy Parker Posey and a clever cameo from Carrie Fisher so much that I forgive a lot of its deficiencies.  Finally, to top it all off, I would have complained about SCREAM 4.  Instead, I decided to devote a whole post to this final misfire, not that it really deserves it. 

I was stoked to see SCREAM 4.  Everything I read sounded promising.  Wes Craven was once again directing and Kevin Williamson was back as the screenplay writer.  The latter was noticeably absent for the third installment.  If my memory serves me well, I read that SCREAM 4 was going to kick off a new trilogy, and maybe that's why I get so irritated with it.  

SCREAM 4 had so much potential to be nearly as brilliant as the first SCREAM, but there are very specific aspects that keep it from achieving all that it could have been.  To keep my emotional filmic mind in order, I could go on long-winded tangents, I am going to attempt to focus on the three reasons why SCREAM 4 is so frustrating to me..

1.) The Gay Rule...
In SCREAM, a film geek named Randy gave us the rules to successfully survive a horror film.  They were clever, funny and made sense when looking back at the genre, especially slasher flicks.  In SCREAM 4, two film geeks (Erik Knudsen & Rory Culkin) give us a new rule for a new decade.  The only way to survive a modern horror film is to be gay.  Maybe this would be clever or amusing if there was more of a history of openly gay characters in horror films.  Much like black characters surviving the killer, gay characters are a rare commodity in the genre.  So, the rule comes off as a joke that might have been cool and edgy in the 1990's but is just backwards in the 21st Century.  Even more so when one of the film geeks claims to be gay, if it helps, before being killed.  That ill-timed jokey moment emphasizes my next reason for frustration... 

Please kill them, Ghostface, they don't deserve to be in any future reboots! 

2.) Bruce Willis...
I recall watching an interview with Wes Craven, many years before SCREAM 4, about the challenges of balancing humor and horror.  He explained you have to keep the two opposing components separate or risk becoming a parody.  In other words, you can make a joke before or after a killing, but never during a character's death.  After two police officers discuss the only way for a cop to survive in the movies is to be Bruce Willis, both officers are killed, but it's one that annoys me.  The killer has stabbed one cop (Anthony Anderson) in the head.  In a disturbing scene, with a perfectly ominous music score, the killer simply watches the cop slowly die...but...the horror is ruined by a joke.  Right before his last breath, the officer says, "F*** Bruce Willis."  So, at this point SCREAM 4 becomes part of the SCARY MOVIE parody franchise.

No joke.

3.) The Ending...
Maybe, just maybe, I could forgive those two grievances if the ending had ended differently.  Don't get me wrong, I love-love-love the main killer is revealed  to be Sidney Prescott's cousin Jill (a brilliant Emma Roberts).  I also love her motive.  Jill grew up in the shadow of Sidney's notoriety of surviving three rounds of serial killings and now she wants the spotlight.  In this era of becoming internet famous without really doing anything, it's a wickedly clever twist.  Jill has killed her accomplice, her friends and her own mother, and it appears she has killed Sidney.  Oh, but no.  Sidney is alive and she, along with Dewey (David Arquette) and Gale (Courteney Cox), once again stops the killer dead.  I recall leaving the theater thinking how I had already seen this film three times before.  If Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson had really wanted to reboot this franchise for another trilogy, SCREAM 4 should've ended with Jill killing Sidney, therefore successfully becoming the survivor girl by being the killer.  This would have set up a fresh scenario for the next installment and made the final line of the film that much more profound.  

"An American hero, right out of the movies." - a news reporter waxes poetic about Jill, unaware she was the killer and that Sidney & friends have killed her and the film franchise. 

They call me Jill. 
 Ms. Ghostface, if you’re psycho.

In conclusion, I don't completely hate SCREAM 4.  I just wish it would've truly had the guts to go beyond what audiences had seen in the first three films.

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 

Freak Out,
JLH 

P.S. An old post where I take a trip through a different horror franchise...

Friday, October 25, 2019

freakboy on film: CHILD'S PLAY (2019)

"If they don't let us play, they all go away." - Chucky 

                      2019 
screenplay by Tyler Burton Smith 
directed by Lars Klevberg
Any horror film fan knows Chucky, the possessed killer  doll who is hell bent on transferring his soul into a young boy named Andy.  Well, that is the plot of the first three CHILD'S PLAY films.  A 7th film in the series was released not so long ago.  Being a fan of this crazy, stylistic franchise, I was skeptical about a remake.  Hearing Mark Hamill would be the voice of Chucky and then seeing the intriguingly intense trailer changed my mind.  I became eager to see the film. 


Irritatingly, I missed it in the theater.  So, sight unseen, I purchased the DVD.  This is something I rarely do and the last time I did, I was painfully disappointed. (I'm still regretting you, THE BABADOOK)  Besides, my undiagnosed filmic OCD compelled me to complete my CHILD'S PLAY collection. 

My copy 

I removed the plastic wrap and opened the case.  Holding my breath, I popped in the disc and clicked play.  Even with my eagerness, I was still expecting an utterly tired, boring and derivative remake, like so many others. (I'm thinking of you, Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN)  What I watched was an entertaining, emotionally challenging and thought-provoking horror film. 

Andy (Gabriel Bateman) just wants a buddy.

Entertaining...because CHILD'S PLAY 2019 does what any good remake should do.  It pays homage to the original film while doing its own thing.  Other than the trailer & Mark Hamill, I went media dark with the remake, so I was truly surprised by how similar, yet how radically different the plot was to the 1988 original.  Chucky, in the remake, is not a possessed doll wanting to transfer his soul into Andy.  He's an A.I. with a hardcore definition of what being a friend to Andy means.  Maybe my lack of knowledge added to the entertainment, so I apologize for the spoiler.

Andy's mom (Aubrey Plaza) has horrible gift-giving skills. 

Emotionally challenging...at least for me, because this film forced me to deal with one of my neurotic filmic  issues.  Ever since I was a kid, I have hated it when an animal is killed in a film.  Usually it's not vital to the plot and more often than not the animal's death is treated like a joke. (I'm giving you a cold, hard stare, THE BROTHERS GRIMM)  Andy has a cat and I knew it would die because, except for ALIEN and CRITTERS, the cat always dies in this kind of film.  Thankfully, the death is offscreen and is not treated like a joke.  After a second viewing, I concluded it was necessary to the plot.  Believe me, I don't say that lightly.  And yes, I'm a total hypocrite because human deaths are often treated like a joke in these films.  Plus, I enjoy John Waters' PINK FLAMINGOES.  

Chucky and Andy at play.

Thought-provoking...because CHILD'S PLAY 2019 has a lot to say about abusive relationships, our reliance on technology and our careless, flippant, violent ways.  The relationship between Andy and Chucky plays out as Chucky as the abuser and Andy, who was feeling lonely until he connected with Chucky, as the abused.  He covers up and makes excuses for the doll's behavior.  To make matters worse, Chucky can connect to other household appliances and use them.  The doll has a lot of access and opportunity to control Andy's life.  Plus, Chucky is learning from Andy by seriously watching and listening to him.  Everything Andy says and does is taken very literally by the doll.  It's a fascinating comment on how an outsider might view the human race.  

In conclusion, a remake of a classic 1980's horror flick should not be this good, but it really is.  So, manually switch on your TV or device, sit back and enjoy CHILD'S PLAY.

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.

Freak Out, 
JLH

P.S.  A different horror film that may make you think... 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 
๐ŸŽƒ'Tis the season to be eerie...๐ŸŽƒ
A modern take on 1950's sci-fi/horror films...

DARKENING STURGEONS 
is available to read as...

a Kindle e-book

or

a blog serial

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

freakboy on film: A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951)

~~~~~~~~~~~~
This is my contribution to THE SHELLEY WINTERS BLOGATHON. 
Thank you to this blogathon's hosts...
Erica D. of Poppity Talks Classic Film 
and
Gill J. of Realweegiemidget Reviews.
~~~~~~~~~~~~

"If you're an Eastman, you're not in the same boat with anyone."  - Alice Tripp
1951
screenplay by...
Michael Wilson & Harry Brown 
directed by...
George Stevens 

I could blog about how this film transformed me into an instant Montgomery Clift fan.  Seriously, I sat through a John Wayne film (Red River) just for Clift...and he was totally worth it! 

I could blog about how this film slowly, and sometimes painfully caused Theodore Dreiser to become one of my favorite dead authors.  His 1925 literary masterpiece An American Tragedy is the source material for this cinematic masterpiece. 

Perhaps another time, for I am here to blog about Shelley Winters.  If all you know about Miss Winters is her terrific and heartbreaking role in The Poseidon Adventure, then pull up a chair and allow me to introduce you to Alice Tripp. 

Alice Tripp is a sweet, young factory worker.  She spends her days folding and boxing garments on an assembly line. She spends her nights alone in a room she is renting from a conservative landlady.  Her routine life is given a jolt when her employer's nephew arrives on the scene.  


Alice is attracted to George Eastman, and he seems to return her feelings.  Going against company policy, they begin seeing each other outside of work.  This attraction grows until George and Alice succumb to their physical desire. 


This desire leads Alice to discover she is pregnant.  The shocking news throws a wrench in George's social-climbing as he simultaneously woos a young socialite by the name of Angela Vickers.  There are decisions to be made.  Being an unwed pregnant woman in the 1950's, Alice has limited options.  Unfortunately for Alice, George Eastman is beginning to see her as an obstacle to his place in the sun.   


A PLACE IN THE SUN is an emotionally complicated film.  It's easy to root for Alice and George in the beginning, but it's even easier to get swept up in the romance between George and Angela.  Elizabeth Taylor as the perpetual breath of fresh air Angela Vickers, who knows nothing of Alice, makes that romance innocently beautiful and painfully tragic.  Montgomery Clift somehow makes George sympathetic despite the character being such a hot mess.  The pretty boys usually are. 


Shelley Winters, who was not an ordinary woman, had the monumental task of portraying a lonely, plain, naive, ordinary young woman.  Alice could even be seen as dull and withdrawn, at least compared to Angela.  Through her mesmerizing talent, Ms. Winters manages to make Alice Tripp a complex and sympathetic character.  It's utterly heartbreaking to watch Alice developing feelings for George while simultaneously losing him, and that heartbreak is because of Shelley Winters' nuanced performance. 

So sit back, imagine a loon calling in the distance and enjoy the incomparable Shelly Winters in A PLACE IN THE SUN.

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.

Freak Out, 
JLH

P.S.  A post from the last blogathon I participated in...