The Shining Totally Predicted 2016

It goes without saying, 2016 was a rough year for just about everyone. Between heated political divides, celebrity deaths and worldwide tragedies this has been a landmark year of suckage.

But did you know that master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick perfectly conveyed the story of 2016 in his 1980 cinema classic, The Shining?

OK … so he didn’t really predict 2016, but the film did make some rather odd predictions. For more on that, check out Room 237.

But for now, 2016 in three simple gifs:

Everyone at the beginning of 2016

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Everyone in the middle of 2016

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Everyone at the end of 2016

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Let’s just hope 2017 isn’t this

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Fingers crossed! 🤞

Peace, love & tacos,

-R. 🖖

Introducing Permanently Geek

Amidst all of my books, short stories and essays, I have been working on a project that has been months in the making with countless hours of work by myself and my crew.

The culmination of all of that work (and fun) is a new YouTube network called Permanently Geek.

Permanently Geek is a channel designed by geeks, for geeks of all kinds. For myself and other geeks at Permanently Geek, geekdom or geek is not some derogatory term, but a mark of love, affection and passion for all things geek.

commentarytimeAnd that’s not limited to pop culture, but whatever you geek out about. Everyone’s got something that they truly love. You might geek out over sports or toys or comics, while someone else might geek out about books or food, makeup or pinball.

Our channel is about finding and hosting talented, creative individuals who want to share their passions with a community of like-minded geeks, and have a little fun along the way.

When I initially set out to make this channel over a year ago, it started as just a show about my friends and I playing really shitty retro games.

But as I began developing that show, I started to think about all the talented friends I’ve come to know throughout my 15 years in the entertainment business. I wanted a place where we could all gather and share our art, our comedy, our music, our stories and our ideas, with the world.

smashSo I started taking notes, coming up with a slew of show ideas for nearly everyone that I knew to deliver the kind of entertainment other geeks like me, or you, would want to watch. I pitched the shows, and one-by-one I gathered an absolutely remarkable staff of trusted entertainers, with whom I have lovingly dubbed, intertainers.

Our staff of geeks geek out about a wide variety of topics, from movies, music, games, food, art, toys, sports, clothing and style, makeup, animals – you name it. And we’re here to help build a community where other like-minded geeks can gather and discuss, share, and have plenty of laughs.

whatnotsmugsPermanently Geek is dedicated to providing high quality, humorous entertainment, and delivering that content on a daily basis – so you’ll always have someone to share in your geekdom. That is our promise to you all, and it’s a promise we plan to deliver.

Feel free to peruse our channel over the coming weeks. Our launch titles include a multitude of shows, music and comedy for you to enjoy. And there’s much more to come! If you like what you see, please subscribe on YouTube, and tell your friends. The more geeks, the better.

I truly hope you all enjoy Permanently Geek. All of us geeks are enormously excited to share our projects with you, and we can’t wait to see you again!

Permanently Geek.

Passion. Creativity. Humor. Joy. Geek.

-Randy
Intertainer and founder of Permanently Geek

Wicked Neighborhood #2: The Foot is Coming Jan. 28!

Something Wicked This Way Comes! And it’s called The Foot!

The second issue in my five-issue series, Wicked Neighborhood, will be pre-released on January 25 (my birthday), with an official release on Tuesday, January 28, 2014.

Take a look at the cover:

TheFootCover

The Foot Plot Synopsis:

Ernie Graham discovers a mysterious space rock in his backyard. The rock seemingly infects his body, forcing his foot to mutate into a deadly organism that’s out for blood. Can he stop his evil foot before it kills someone he truly loves?

For those unaware, Wicked Neighborhood is a “Goosebumps for adults”-type short story series that is loosely inspired by my very own neighborhood in northern Ohio, albeit twisted into delightfully freaky, weird, strange tales of pure macabre fiction. The Foot is the second issue in the series, following the best-selling hit, The Stray Cats.

The short stories will be split over five issues, with the possibility for future “seasons” of the series if the stories prove popular. In other words, if you like what you read, spread the word to keep this series going.

Each issue of Wicked Neighborhood will focus on one particular household seated on the seemingly quiet stretch of land known as Forest Street. The upcoming stories are connected by characters, incidents and events on the street. That said, it is not necessary that you read every single tale in the series to delight in what I have in store for you … though you will be missing quite a lot of fun. Also, as future issues appear, you are welcome to read them in any order you so desire.

On the book’s official release date, I’ll be sure to post a link, as well as a little background about this issue. Stay tuned!

***

If you haven’t already, check out my short stories and novellas. Titles include,The Horror, Vampire Zombie Claus, Does She Smile at Home? and The Stray Cats. They’re all just 99 pennies each! CLICK HERE to buy your copies today!

I love my readers, and I love my Twitter followers, too! Be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Why I’m Looking Forward to 2014!

Greetings, happy belated holidays and welcome to 2014. I hope the first few days of this new year are treating you all very well.

Sorry I haven’t been around since early December. After pouring a few hundred hours into completing my novella, Vampire Zombie Claus, I decided to take a month off from the blog to recover and re-energize … plus I had all the holiday craziness to deal with, which was genuinely delightful, if slightly stressful.

My December went remarkably well. Not only did Santa bring me pretty much all the presents I could have ever hoped to receive, but my novelette, The Horror, was reviewed over at Horror-Writers.net. They gave the story a wonderful write-up, which I am incredibly pleased with. Thank you, guys … for reading the story, liking it and sharing your thoughts with the world. So awesome!

The Horror has also reached another major milestone. The book is currently sitting on Amazon’s Top 100 Best-Selling Horror books, where it has been for more than two weeks now. That’s right, my novelette has joined the ranks of other best-selling books by the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz! As of the time I wrote this blog entry, the book was seated at #52. Check it out:

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If you haven’t read this story yet, and you like slasher horror or intense nail-biting thrillers, please do so! You can check it out on Kindle devices as well as your tablets, computers, or those fancy internet smart phones like the iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy.

***

So … onward with 2014! I’m incredibly stoked about this year. I’ve got a slew of projects coming up, from short stories, numerous blog entries and more. Here’s a rundown of what to expect.

On January 25 (my birthday), I’ll be releasing The Foot, the second installment of the Wicked Neighborhood series. I’m also currently editing the fourth installment, and finishing writing the third issue. As some of you may know, I was originally planning a seven-issue season for this series, but I have slightly altered those plans. The “first season” of Wicked Neighborhood will now end after five issues. Following the five-issue release, I’ll publish a full-length book, collecting every issue.

I’m also prepping some printed copies of my stories for sale on Amazon, and I’ll be taking Wicked Neighborhood, Vampire Zombie Claus and The Horror to a few comic cons in 2014. I’ll keep you all posted on dates and events.

Just an FYI, I may not be publishing as many short stories and novellas in 2014. I would like to focus my efforts on finding a publisher for my three full-length works, including two fiction novels and one nonfiction book. I am still dedicated to getting all five issues of Wicked Neighborhood out there in 2014, as well as one or two other short stories and novellas.

As if I wasn’t working on enough, I am currently crafting an audiobook version of The Horror. I’m looking to have this ready by late summer/early fall 2014. My good friend,and uber-talented wunderkind musician, Michael McFarland, is busy drafting a musical theme for that audiobook, while I perfect my mini recording studio to bring you the best sounding, most professional audiobook I can.

As for this blog you are reading right now (probably in the nude, you kinky devil), I’ll be discussing numerous subjects in the coming weeks, from the controversial documentary Blackfish, to the fascinating story of The Disaster Artist, the book about the making of The Room, one of the best worst movies ever made. I’ll also be adding a few book reports, movie reviews, interviews, top 10 lists, and more.

2014 is going to be a big year, folks … so stay tuned and keep on making those dreams a reality!

***

I love my readers, and I love my Twitter followers, too! Be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Get Two Short Stories on Kindle for Free!

Happy Cyber Monday!

Because of this special shop-at-home-naked event, I thought I’d offer two of my books for free. Just click on the titles or images below to get your copies! If you like the books, please add a kind review over at Amazon, Goodreads or both. Thanks and happy shopping!

Both books will be free from Cyber Monday through back-to-normal Tuesday, ending on Wednesday.

NoteYou can read the stories on any Kindle device or on your phone, computer or tablet just by downloading the Kindle app.

The illustration on this cover was drawn by my young nephew, Zach.

The illustration on this cover was drawn by my young nephew, Zach.

Does She Smile at Home?

In the midst of an existential crisis, a middle-aged man comes upon Dolores, a lowly grocery store clerk who never seems to smile. Confused and deeply haunted by this woman’s poisonous demeanor, and suspecting the riddle of her existence will somehow solve his own emotional puzzle, the man follows her to catch a glimpse of what her life is like at home. What he discovers there stirs him to his very core, and changes him forever.

This inspirational drama strays from my standard comforts in the thriller/horror/sci-fi genres and examines the nature of hope, depression, and socioeconomic woes through a philosophical lens. Rich with moody characters, brisk fall imagery and thoughtful metaphor, the story is meant for those who struggle to make ends meet, but hope for a better day.

TheStrayCatsCover

Wicked Neighborhood #1: The Stray Cats

Jennifer Riley is trying to pick up the shattered pieces of her life in the aftermath of an abusive husband. Despite her positive outlook, Jennifer feels an emptiness in her heart. That’s when Callie, an adorable tabby cat, appears on her doorstep seeking shelter. Jennifer allows the feline into her home, but soon another cat shows up at her doorstep … and another … and another … and another. What is causing this strange preponderance of cats? Is it Jennifer’s bizarre neighbors, each one seemingly weirder than the next? Is it her own selfish desire to fill her lonely days? Or is there something far more deadly at play? … something fiendish lurking within the woods surrounding Forest Street.

“The Stray Cats” is the first installment in an ongoing anthology series titled Wicked Neighborhood. The series is loosely inspired by/hyperbolized from my very own neighborhood in northern Ohio.

The short stories will be split over several issues, with the possibility for future “seasons” of the series if the stories prove popular. In other words, if you like what you read, spread the word to keep this series going.

Each issue of Wicked Neighborhood will focus on one particular household seated on the seemingly quiet stretch of land known as Forest Street. The upcoming stories are connected by characters, incidents and events on the street. That said, it is not necessary that you read every single tale in the series to delight in what I have in store for you … though you will be missing quite a lot of fun. Also, as future issues appear, you are welcome to read them in any order you desire.

***

In addition to the free book sale, my latest novella, Vampire Zombie Claus, is also on sale, marked down from $2.99 to just $0.99. That sale ends Tuesday.

VampZomClausNEW

Vampire Zombie Claus

This Christmas tale recounts the shockingly true story of the life, and death, of Kris Kringle, from how he came to become a vampire, to the man known as Santa Claus, and eventually … Vampire Zombie Claus.

Following in the great tradition of stories like The Princess Bride, A Nightmare Before Christmas, The Lord of the Rings, World War Z and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, this novella blends genres, both serious and silly, and delivers a new tale of excitement, nostalgia, humor and good old fashioned Christmas cheer.

The Horror Short Story Cover

The Horror (still just $0.99)

What if the horrors of a seemingly innocent and fun haunted house attraction were real? What if someone were inside with you, stalking you and feeding on your fear? What if every corner of the maze were deadly? What if you couldn’t get out?

The Horror tells the story of Lisa and Alan, two college teens visiting a theatrical haunted maze themed after local urban legends. Once inside it becomes clear that the macabre, grisly sights are not just smoke and mirrors, and gallons of fake blood, but the gory work of a deranged psychopath who is inside the house, hunting them.

I love my readers, and I love my Twitter followers, too! Be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Vampire Zombie Claus Available Today!

Just in time for the holidays comes Vampire Zombie Claus, an exciting genre-bending Christmas parody.

This 70-page novella will be on sale for just $.99 cents from Black Friday through Cyber Monday. After that, the story will be $2.99. So save some cash and grab you copy today by clicking here.

VampZomClausNEW

Plot Synopsis for Vampire Zombie Claus

This Christmas tale recounts the shockingly true story of the life, and death, of Kris Kringle, from how he came to become a vampire, to the man known as Santa Claus, and eventually … Vampire Zombie Claus.

Following in the great tradition of stories like The Princess Bride, A Nightmare Before Christmas, The Lord of the Rings, World War Z and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, this novella blends genres, both serious and silly, and delivers a new tale of excitement, nostalgia, humor and good old fashioned Christmas cheer.

Some Background for Vampire Zombie Claus

Each Christmas Eve, when I was young, my family would scoot us little ones upstairs while they put out Christmas presents. My grandfather would come up with us and keep us occupied with zany stories. Following in his footsteps, I decided to craft an alternative Christmas legend that explores who Santa Claus was through a more genre-satisfying lens. I sincerely hope you all enjoy this novella, and if you do, be sure to review it on Amazon and Goodreads!

Many elves died to bring us this information…

Also, if you haven’t already, check out my other stories, The Horror, Does She Smile at Home? and The Stray Cats. Each tale is only .99 cents. CLICK HERE to buy your copies today!

I love my readers, and I love my Twitter followers, too! Be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Short Story: Does She Smile at Home? out now on Amazon

This month I’ll be releasing not one, but two stories, exclusively on Amazon. The first (a short story) is titled Does She Smile at Home?

The illustration on this cover was drawn by my young nephew, Zach.

The illustration on this cover was drawn by my young nephew, Zach.

Plot Synopsis for Does She Smile at Home?

In the midst of an existential crisis, a middle-aged man comes upon Dolores, a lowly grocery store clerk who never seems to smile. Confused and haunted by this woman’s poisonous demeanor, and suspecting the riddle of her existence will somehow solve his own emotional puzzle, the man follows her home to see what her life is like. What he discovers stirs him to his very core, and changes him forever.

You can check out this short story for just .99 cents on Amazon. CLICK HERE to buy.

Note: You can read the story on any Kindle device or on your phone, computer or tablet just by downloading the Kindle app.

Some Background for Does She Smile at Home?

This powerful, inspirational drama strays from my standard comforts of the thriller/sci-fi/horror genre and explores the nature of hope, depression, and social/economic struggle through an existential lens. Rich with moody characters, brisk fall imagery and thoughtful metaphor, the story is meant for those who struggle to make ends meet, but hope for a better day.

Also, if you haven’t already, check out my thrilling short stories, The Stray Cats and The Horror. Both stories only .99 cents each. CLICK HERE to buy your copies today!

The Horror:

What if the horrors of a seemingly innocent and fun haunted house attraction were real? What if someone were inside with you, stalking you and feeding on your fear? What if every corner of the maze were deadly? What if you couldn’t get out?

The Horror tells the story of Lisa and Alan, two college teens visiting a theatrical haunted maze themed after local urban legends. Once inside it becomes clear that the macabre, grisly sights are not just smoke and mirrors, and gallons of fake blood, but the gory work of a deranged psychopath who is inside the house, hunting them.

The Stray Cats:

Jennifer Riley is trying to pick up the shattered pieces of her life in the aftermath of an abusive husband. Despite her positive outlook, Jennifer feels an emptiness in her heart. That’s when Callie, an adorable tabby cat, appears on her doorstep seeking shelter. Jennifer allows the feline into her home, but soon another cat shows up at her doorstep … and another … and another … and another. What is causing this strange preponderance of cats? Is it Jennifer’s bizarre neighbors, each one seemingly weirder than the next? Is it her own selfish desire to fill her lonely days? Or is there something far more deadly at play? … something fiendish lurking within the woods surrounding Forest Street.

***

Stay tuned for more news regarding my second short (a novelette). It’s a “to be titled” straight-faced Christmas parody, due on Black Friday. More on that story in the coming days.

I love my readers, and I love my Twitter followers, too! Be sure to follow me on Twitter.

That Time I Got Farted On At Blockbuster: In Memoriam

Welcome to Different Perspectives, an essay series designed to offer a new, more positive perspective on an entertainer, company or piece of entertainment that fans and viewers may not have considered.

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It was announced on November 6, 2013 that DISH Network Corp., had decided to pull the plug on Blockbuster’s retail outlets and DVD mailing service.

The mailing service will finish out in late December. All remaining stores will close by January 2014. This means that more than 300 locations across the United States will cease operations and roughly 2800 employees, who are barely making above minimum wage, will lose their jobs.

Merry Christmas?

Naturally, to some degree, I can understand the reasoning for closing Blockbuster. The place has slowly declined in value over the years and has struggled to come back out on top. But it still stings knowing that many good people will probably lose their jobs right after the holidays. Even worse, they may potentially be forced to close their own store down, an emotional  and physically tasking duty that is not very easy when your inventory consists of heavy wooden shelves and thousands of relatively small discs, not to mention a lot of red tape.

Even though the company hasn’t been active in my neck of the woods for several years, I am going to miss Blockbuster.

High-Res-Storefront-(1)

I grew up renting movies from my corner store. If it weren’t for Blockbuster, I might very well be someone completely different. I wouldn’t have rented EVERY single horror film they had after I saw Scream and suddenly craved more thrills and chills. I might not have fallen in love with James Bond movies, or seen Alien, The Godfather or even Gremlins … at least not during my formative years. I might not have become a writer.

And don’t even get me started on games. My love for Nintendo basically lives and dies by the almighty hand of Blockbuster. Without them, I wouldn’t have played Super Mario 2, Metroid or The Legend of Zelda (among others). When I was young, I opted for video games based on movies, so my parents would purchase titles that weren’t always of the best quality (damn you, LJN!). You can only play the shitty Back to the Future Nintendo games so long before you desire to play something else, something good. And that’s where Blockbuster came in.

In truth, I am going to miss Blockbuster so much, I wish I didn’t have the painful memory of working there.

Help-Wanted-Hiring-Sign-Store-Blockbuster

For five months, I worked at Blockbuster Video. It was the sort of job any teenager who loves movies would want. You get to talk about all kinds of films with customers. You get to point them in the right direction, to a genre or specific title they might not have seen. And you get to rent all the films and games you want … for FREE!

The only problem was, I was a 27-year-old adult, and it was the only job available in my neck of the woods. And worse, the company was already on the decline.

My experiences at Blockbuster were, for lack of better words, fucking terrible. I hated working there. It was a dysfunctional environment right from the start, with corporate constantly changing their strategies in order to find financial footing, and putting needless pressure on simple video store clerks just trying to get by. In the time I worked there, the corporate strategy changed at least four times.

At first, they offered a rather clever $10-a-month, monthly service that gave you half-price rentals, one free new release a week, and unlimited free catalog rentals. Then the service they pushed was some outrageous gimmick (I can’t even recall what it was anymore) that cost close to $30-a-month. I flat-out refused to sell this one to customers as I saw absolutely no value in the service. I was written up for my defiance, despite being the top seller of the $10-a-month service in my store.

Earns Best Buy

Then Blockbuster had the great idea to turn their stores into a tech hub (like Best Buy), complete with TVs, Blu-ray players, satellite dishes and cheap iPod knockoffs for sale. It would have been a great platform … in 1997, when people had money and cared about big box tech. But in 2008, in the midst of a hard-hitting economic recession, no one cared. And worse, Blockbuster just expected employees to be able to sell these products.

Soon, it was no longer about the movies. It was about keeping Blockbuster afloat. They even juggled their rental prices during this time, but those prices rarely went down. In one store I worked at (a rich neighborhood), a rental cost over $8! This was during an era when Redbox was starting to show up, charging only a buck for DVDs.

As Blockbuster’s sales dwindled, employee morale dropped. Hours were cut, people were laid off. There were whispers of store closings in the air. But management received constant pressures to keep things going, and going strong, even though things were getting worse by the day.

The_gout_james_gillray

I suffer from a debilitating form of tissue gout, which attacks surface skin tissue, rendering it impossible to do even the simplest of tasks when I am suffering from an attack. For anyone unaware, tissue gout troubles about 1 in 20 gout patients. Also, about 1 in 100 gout patients are lucky enough to have both kinds of gout. I have both kinds and sometimes they strike at once. Yay me! It’s an excruciating ordeal and thankfully, through pain management and several years of trail and error with various medications, it is well under control. But it was bad the year I worked at Blockbuster. Really bad.

In October 2008, I suffered the single worst gout attack of my life. Both wrists and both feet were hit hard and I could not walk, write or barely even move. I recall sitting on my couch, crying for hours because it hurt to even sit. I had to crawl myself into bed, a feat that took nearly a half-hour. I laid there and sobbed, in a pain I would not wish upon my worst enemy. It was blinding and constant, never ceasing to remind me it was there. It felt like dying. Looking back, I have no idea how I survived the ordeal without losing my mind.

In October 2008, I also worked at Blockbuster. I had to work the night I was suffering most, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to go in. I could barely sit, let alone drive a car and stand for eight hours, and the pain had kept up all night. I called my Blockbuster in the morning to tell them I wouldn’t be coming in.

“Well, I don’t know. We don’t have anybody here with you. You’re gonna have to come in.”

“But I literally can’t move,” I said, tears running down my cheeks.

“I’m not working a double shift. And there’s no one to cover you, so you have to come in.” This was my manager speaking, by the way. My superior.

Eventually, I made a few calls to other employees myself. One of them came in and worked for me, though they made me feel like the devil for asking them. Usually, Blockbuster had a “floater” system for just such an occasion. This system allowed for an on-call employee in the event someone got sick. But that system was no longer in place, not all the time anyway.

That’s not a good place to work. Every human being, as a basic right, should be allowed to take a day off if they are sick. It’s not always for that employee. It’s for the safety of everyone else.

Blockbuster-Closing

Just one week later and it was announced my store would close, the first of many closures for the rental giant that year. I figured I would be laid off, but Blockbuster still wanted me. I was, after all, a great salesman. I also knew both movies and tech. They kept trying to make me a supervisor, even though I begged them just to let me be their “on-site movie guy.” I didn’t want a career at Blockbuster, not now. I just wanted a mindless job to supplement my career as a writer and film critic.

Closing that store was one of the single-worst experiences I have ever had at a job. The corporate offices teased employment with many of the employees, basically saying “if you help us close the store, we’ll keep you on.” It was an awful way to work, and people were going mad with each passing week and no definitive answers about their jobs. Looking back, I should have left then.

During this time, I became close friends with one of the supervisors. She was a kind, thoughtful older lady who had struggled throughout her life. Someone had even tried to kill her once, as part of a gang initiation. They shot at her, point blank range. By some miracle, the bullet missed her completely … not unlike that scene from Pulp Fiction.

Her and I enjoyed talking. We discussed TV and movies. I turned her on to Firefly and Serenity. She turned me on to John Wayne movies. We also talked politics and even dove into controversial issues. She gave me some interesting perspectives to consider about the South. Her family owned a slave-free plantation that was burned to the ground by the North during the Civil War. Her family never recovered. She’s still bitter and untrusting because of it. In some ways, all these years later, that scar has become part of her character.

She worked hard at Blockbuster. She was one of the most organized employees I had ever seen. She was loyal. She cared about her fellow employees just as much as she cared about Blockbuster. But she didn’t know tech, and that’s what Blockbuster was looking for (that week). Management dangled a supervisor position over her head. She needed the money, so she stayed on and closed the store. And when she was finished, they cut her loose.

I ended up moving to a corner store just down the street from my home, though I didn’t like working for Blockbuster anymore, nor did I really want to work there now. I wasn’t a bad employee during that time, but I was certainly cynical and had very little desire to complete tasks with any efficiency. It killed me knowing I was kept on, and this diligent, great employee who truly wanted a career at Blockbuster was fired.

That’s when I got farted on.

fart

It was closing time and a young couple, no older than 25, were the only customers who remained in the store. They strolled through the aisles in search of a DVD. Annoyed by how slow they were moving, even after an announcement ten minutes earlier was made that we were closing, I approached them.

“Just to let you know, we are technically closed now,” I said.

“I don’t care,” the man said flatly. His girlfriend laughed and muttered “Kevin” as she chuckled.

This “Kevin”was pretending to be tough and it was making me nervous. “Well, was there anything in particular that you were looking for?” I asked.

“Nope,” he responded.

“Okay, well, I’ll give you a few more minutes to make a selection.”

I returned to the front counter and checked in returned discs. My fellow employee retreated to the back to finalize our daily numbers and call our district manager. Nearly fifteen minutes went by. It didn’t even seem like this couple was interested in renting a movie. They chatted and laughed as they circled the videos, never once stopping to look at a title. I started to worry that they were casing the place, or I was about to get robbed. I walked over to “Kevin” again.

“Look, I hate to do this, but I’m gonna have to ask you to make a selection, if you want. But we can’t have customers in the store after a certain time.”

That was true. Like many retail outlets, Blockbuster had a safety policy that would get me written up if someone was in the store past closing for too long. It wasn’t really to protect our customers, it was to protect me.

“Kevin” looked over at me and scoffed. He grabbed a random DVD from the shelf and made his way to the checkout counter.

I rung “Kevin” out and followed him to the exit, a standard procedure so we could lock the door behind the last customer. There was an issue with his membership (he owed late fees), but I wasn’t about to say anything and keep him there any longer, so I bypassed them. The whole process was tense, like he was ready to punch me simply for stepping on his time. I remained calm, even though I wanted to pummel this teenage jerk. I kept my hands at the ready in case he wanted to rob the place, or throw down.

As he left the building and sauntered into the glass foyer, he turned to me. “This is what I think of Blockbuster.” And then he farted, all over my blue polo.

stimpy-fart1

What came from that man’s ass was beyond foul. It’s what I imagine a rotting zombie’s gas might smell like. Its foulness was so intense, I gagged when I wrote this. The horribleness of that smell knows no time or space.

I stormed back into the store. I was coughing, sick and filled with rage. I had just been crop dusted by the unholiest of foul gasses, the devil’s brew. My fellow employee came out to see what the commotion was. He foolishly didn’t believe me about the fart. He innocently stepped into the foyer for just one moment. He returned mere seconds later and immediately rushed to the bathroom, his hands over his mouth. As I returned to my work, I could hear the echoes of my fellow employee as he vomited into the toilet.

That man’s fart was beyond awful. I wouldn’t even categorize it as a smell. No, it was … evil. It too, I would not wish upon even my worst enemy.

Needless to say, that was the last night I worked at Blockbuster. I turned in my keys and my yellow badge the very next day. And just three months later, that Blockbuster was closed, replaced by a cheeky bar and grill. I’m glad I didn’t have to close out that store.

Obviously, it wasn’t Blockbuster’s fault that I got farted on. There is no procedure for such a thing on their books. I don’t blame Blockbuster for that incident, and I want that to be clear. Honestly, I don’t hold a grudge at Blockbuster for any of the crap they put their employees through, either. It wasn’t perfect, but they just wanted to stay afloat, and they made some bad decisions along the way.

But that event, and my story, was indicative of where Blockbuster was going — down the shitter. You often hear the term, “I got shit on at work,” but never before was it so literal to me than that incident.

Now, I must say this. My blog is about the nature of positivity in entertainment, and I don’t want to trash Blockbuster while they’re down. I loved going to Blockbuster. I loved renting movies from them. They have shaped, in part, who I am today. At one point, Blockbuster was Hollywood to me. It was where movies, art and new stars found their customers, and we found them.

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That said, Blockbuster was a company that, in its twilight years, failed to evolve in the right ways. It was a sinking ship. And in their haste, they often tossed from the boat the very ideas and people who might have been able to keep them afloat.

The ship might not have sunk had they dramatically reduced their prices right at the cusp of the recession. People want their rentals cheap.

They might have survived longer had they stolen the streaming rental business models early on, and did it better. The current state of online rentals is overpriced and limited. They could have dominated that market and shown everyone the way.

They might have survived had they not gone experimental with their ideas and practices. People came to Blockbuster to rent movies, and that should have always taken precedence over any other need.

They might still be around had they kept their diligent, loyal employees.

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But I do take solace in knowing that some rental giants are still out there. After I finish writing this essay I’ll be trekking down to my local Family Video (now the largest brick and mortar rental chain) to rent a movie. And later on, in the wee hours of the morning, I will likely sit down, relax and watch a film on Netflix Instant Streaming, a service that only gets better and better each month. Blockbuster could have had both markets, but they stopped focusing on movies and started focusing solely on getting themselves out of debt, often at the customer’s expense.

I love Blockbuster. And it saddens me that they’re gone. It’s also upsetting to know that nearly 3000 people will be out of work by January. The job market has gained some traction, and I hope that everyone finds a new position, and soon.

While my memories of working at Blockbuster may only serve as a reminder to why they are no longer around, I choose to leave you with this … during their heyday, Blockbuster brought Hollywood home. And that was pretty damn great.

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***

Different Perspectives essay series:

Why Corey Feldman Deserves Your Respect

The Dark Knight Rises – A Deeply Personal Film Christopher Nolan Didn’t Want to Make

Rob Zombie’s Halloween II: The Sequel That Gets No Love

Movie 43 Isn’t That Bad

***

Shameless plug time! If you own a Kindle (or have the free Kindle app on your phone), check out my thrilling short stories, The Stray Cats and The Horror. CLICK HERE to buy your copies today! Also, my latest short story, Does She Smile At Home?, releases Nov. 12, 2013. Mark your calendars!

And lastly, be sure to follow me on Twitter for rants, raves, promos, news, essays and everything in between.

Why Corey Feldman Deserves Your Respect

Welcome to Different Perspectives, an essay series designed to offer a new, more positive perspective on an entertainer or piece of entertainment that fans and viewers may not have considered.

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It’s May 24, 2010, and I am standing in the basement of Annabell’s Cocktail Lounge in Akron, Ohio. If you haven’t been to Annabell’s, allow me to paint you a quick picture. The place is small, about the size of any corner watering hole. It’s usually filled with a colorful collection of young artists, hipsters and drunks. A Yelp user review describes the customers of Annabell’s as “Cheers meets the Star Wars cantina.” In other words, the place is a unique hangout for those who follow an alternative path.

Below the main bar is a concert venue. The walls are painted jet black, and between the noise and thumping footsteps of the patrons above, it feels as if you are in a bomb shelter during an apocalypse. The ceiling leaks, it’s hot and muggy, and it smells of booze and sweat.

This is where dreams and ideas are born. Where bar patrons become fans of performers. This is a place where people, like you or me, put their heart out on the line and share their vision of the world with others. It is a place that, in the warm summer months, feels almost like hell. But to any artist hoping to rise the ranks, this place is everything. It’s where you begin, where you celebrate, and where you return to. It’s home.

This is where I met Corey Feldman.

I’ve been a fan of Feldman, and his frequent costar Corey Haim, since I was about 6 years old. It started with movies like Gremlins, The Lost Boys and The ‘Burbs, and continued on with other hits like License to Drive, Stand By Me, Dream a Little Dream, Friday the 13th Part 4 (and 5) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Feldman voiced Donatello for two of the three live-action films).

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It’s an odd experience being a fan of two actors who are often lumped into the “Teen Beat” category and idolized by preteen girls. It put me in a strange place that made me an easy target for ridicule and bullying.

But I saw something in both actors, something that spoke to me. They were likable and relatable on many levels. They were geeks, like me. When Haim died, I was deeply crushed. It was like losing a long lost brother whom I had cared about, but never met. As a writer and filmmaker, I had hoped to one day work with “The Two Coreys.” It was a silly dream, perhaps, but they were a part of my youth, and I owed it to them.

The week Haim died, I found myself in a nasty argument on Facebook with an old friend over whether Haim had been the victim of a drug overdose. “Haim’s a drug user. That means he’s a loser,” my friend contended. His compassion was flattened by his own brute arrogance.

“We don’t know how he died,” I argued. “But if Feldman thinks he was clean, he was clean.” I pointed to the video above and went on to talk about how drug abuse was a sickness that haunted Haim. I spoke of Haim’s sexual abuse, and how that had damaged his soul. My friend simply couldn’t see that.

“Once a loser, always a loser. I’m glad he’s gone,” he told me.

My friend didn’t even apologize after the autopsy came back and revealed that Haim did not die of an overdose, but of pneumonia. Regardless, my friend and I no longer talk. There’s no reason dealing with someone that mean, that close-minded.

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I’ve long been compelled to write about Corey Feldman, but it’s a touchy, personal subject. Feldman is a polarizing figure, he even admits as much. He is a trusting man, not unlike his old idol, Michael Jackson. As such, he tends to find himself on the defensive in interviews. He adores his many fans just as much as he seemingly despises aspects of the media and the public eye. You would too, if you were attacked every time you so much as breathed on TV.

So, I am here to tell you that Corey Feldman deserves your respect.

Back to 2010.

Feldman’s band, Truth Movement, had booked Annabell’s as part of a tour to promote their newest album, Technology Analogy. Unlike so many glossy, over-produced stage productions, Feldman rocked out old school. The band was tucked into a tiny nook, but they made the space work, and the show was actually quite brilliant, complete with gonzo set pieces and some great tracks that really rocked the house. Feldman pushed himself to his limits, and probably beyond. Sweat poured from his body and you could almost see him lose weight on stage as he reached the end of his set.

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Unsurprisingly, the venue proved to be far too tiny to sustain the legions of Corey fans who flooded the small basement to watch him perform. I frowned every time someone made fun of him, though. Most did not come to mock him, to be sure, but there were some who took pleasure in destroying his art. They threw out tired movie references and pretended Feldman was some kind of trained monkey, doing tricks for our entertainment. One drunk patron kept yelling “Do Mouth from Goonies!”

But as the evening went on, the mood changed. Some might have come to make fun of Corey Feldman and his band, but by the end of the night, they were all having fun. Through hard work, tough skin, care and showmanship, Corey had won them over.

As the concert came to a close, he returned to the stage for an encore. He asked the audience what they would like to hear. Dozens of fans threw out suggestions for Michael Jackson songs and tracks like Dream a Little Dream or Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car. The drunk patron yelled “Do Mouth from Goonies!” another dozen times.

That’s where I came in. At well over six feet, I towered over most of the audience. And in that moment I met eyes with Corey. I yelled, “Cry Little Sister!” His eyes twinkled, he pointed at me and nodded. It was probably the cue he was waiting for, though he scrambled to find the lyrics and sheet music for the band.

What followed was one of the single coolest encores I have ever witnessed (you can watch him perform the song at another concert shown below). The audience exploded with cheers. They loved it. Corey had left them clapping, howling and screaming for more. It was a perfect concert. And it was also symbolic of who Corey Feldman was, and where he was going.

Annabell’s felt like a beginning, a new chapter for the actor. In the years leading up to that May 2010 concert, Corey Feldman had been hit with some tough emotional waves. In June 2009, Feldman’s friend, Michael Jackson, had passed away. A few months later, in late 2009, he got divorced, an event that has seemingly shaken his foundation of trust. And in March 2010, just months before the concert, his friend and longtime screen star, Corey Haim, had suddenly died.

Making matters worse, over the years, Feldman’s image had been painfully dragged through the mud by exploitation artists and journalists hoping to get clicks for mocking him. He had been scrutinized, ridiculed and bullied by the media. But it was time for Corey to move on to bigger and better endeavors. It was time to put it all out there once more. It was time to revive his old fans, turn some naysayers, and find a new audience all at the same time. And it worked.

It’s now 2013 and Feldman is working around the clock. He has a new solo album, Ascension Millennium. He’s got several films – both mainstream and indie – rolling out in the near future, not to mention a half-dozen other film projects in the pipe. In addition to his film appearances, he is voicing the role of Slash on the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, and recently he narrated (and appeared) in the absolutely terrific 4-hour Friday the 13th documentary, Crystal Lake Memories. He also has a new book, the cleverly titled Coreyography – a memoir about his roller-coaster private life, his tarnished public persona, and the work that made him a star.

But there is a shadow that looms over Corey’s career. There are those who still enjoy picking and prodding at him in public.

His critics point to his latest venture, Corey’s Angels, as something of a sticking point. Corey’s Angels is a modeling and talent agency of sorts, similar to how Playboy operates. And like Playboy, Corey’s Angels also happens to occasionally hold lavish lingerie parties.

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Ostensibly, Corey’s Angels may seem, to some, like a dream crafted by a man struggling to overcome a bitter divorce or a failing career. It may also look like prostitution, perversion or deviancy to others. If nothing else, a cash grab (the parties run upwards of $250). But I do not know what Corey’s Angels is, not completely anyway.

Like so many journalists, writers and critics who have made their own judgments, I have not seen one of his parties, that is, outside a few articles that seemed destined to turn the venture into a punchline.

I have not yet experienced Feldman’s new brand of entertainment. But I have written about sex and alternative lifestyles. In 2013, I completed a nonfiction narrative on the subject. In that book, I detailed strip clubs, sex dens, adult theaters and swing clubs. I saw it all and I can say this … Corey’s Angels does not appear to fall into the sexual spectrum so many critics have categorized it.

If nothing else, it falls into that same gray area explored by the likes of Victoria’s Secret, Hugh Hefner, or any Average Joe who’s eaten at a Hooters. Corey’s Angels seems to be an idea where beauty is idolized, happiness is king, and careers begin to find their footing.

To be honest, I would relish in the opportunity to experience a Corey’s Angels party at his mansion. I would love to have the full perspective. But for now, I’d prefer to any judgments at the door. Not everything is what it seems. It never is.

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Enter Coreyography.

I picked up the book along with Nick Offerman’s Paddle Your Own Canoe. Both memoirs are also available on Audible, narrated by their respective authors. If you are a Kindle owner, I suggest picking up both the book and the audiobook for maximum enjoyment. Both narrations are outstanding and add quite a lot of texture to their tales.

I had actually read very little about either book and assumed both would be a funny jaunt through history as seen through the eyes of two of my all-time favorite entertainers. What I got instead was an eye-opening experience. I planned to swap back and forth between both books, but once I sunk my teeth into Coreyography, I couldn’t put it down. In less than two days, I had read the whole book.

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It was actually strange returning to Offerman’s memoir, which serves as a complete contrast to Coreyography, from Offerman’s lighthearted upbringing to his success as an entertainer and husband. Corey was famous, but he didn’t quite have Offerman’s luck.

I liked Corey Feldman before I read Coreyography. And I respected him. I have defended his character and his work over the years, even though I sometimes chuckle at his outlandish ways. He’s a sensitive entertainer and a wildly fascinating entrepreneur. But he’s also a frustrated, peaceful human being whose perspective is often glossed over and forgotten for no good reason.

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Coreyography is as much about Feldman’s life as it is about setting the record straight. The book is a demand for his respect, and he earns it. He not only starred in some of your favorite films from the 1980s, but he’s also suffered more than a lifetime (or two) of pain, all before he was in his 40s. He and his friend, Haim, were a victims of child abuse and molestation. Together, they bonded over their success, but also over their darkest secrets. They both fell to drugs. They both made terrible decisions. They were both haunted men. But Feldman endured. He broke free of drugs. He cleaned himself up. He returned to entertaining his fans with fresh ideas and fistfuls of love. He even helped inspire his friend to do the same.

That didn’t change how some have perceived Feldman. He is still, for whatever reason, a punching bag for some media outlets. Perhaps it was his gimmicky reality TV stints, or all the self-referential cameo appearances (he admits to loathing these decisions in his book). Either way, it is not fair. After years of bullying, abuse and sexual molestation, Feldman is still getting picked on.

A friend once described her life as being on “hard mode.” That sentiment has stayed with me over the years. I think it fits well with Feldman’s persona. He’s continued on, despite his critics. And he’s found his fans. He’s active on Twitter, retweeting and commenting on nearly every tweet that’s sent his way. He’s still trusting, too. It might be considered a fault, but it is who he is, and it’s what has made him the bright, shining enigma that he is today.

On some level, his book is actually about awareness of child abuse and molestation in Hollywood. It serves as a stunning warning to those who want to enter that world. Hollywood can be a place where dreams come true, but it’s also a place of extreme darkness, and not every corner is safe. Feldman saw it first-hand, and he tries, quite passionately, to convey that message.

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Feldman is not a perfect person. None of us are. I’m not asking for people to be fans of him. If you like his work, and I know there are a lot of you, that’s great. If you don’t, that’s also fine. But that doesn’t mean you’ve earned the right to bully or publicly mock him. There’s a lot to respect about Feldman. He’s worked hard to change the face of Hollywood, to stop molestation and child abuse. His only desire, it would seem, is to keep pushing that message until something can be done. He even admits, as busy as he is, he isn’t in the public eye much anymore. So when he is, he’s a pistol, firing out passionate arguments and defending himself.

But Corey Feldman has also changed people. He’s made several genre and cult classics. Films that inspire young writers, actors and filmmakers. He’s made people laugh, cry, and howl with joy. His music speaks to his fans and helps him find peace. And his book reveals his tragic, brutal upbringing, and his ultimate redemption. He is a man who constantly puts himself out there, even with the odds stacked against him. He is always trying to achieve the dream of every man – to be remembered for one’s successes, not your faults.

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Like anyone who brushes past the negative aspects of our culture, the criticism and the destroyers of creativity, he deserves your respect for trying, and for sometimes succeeding. He deserves your respect for shaping nostalgia of the 1980s. But most of all, he deserves your respect for enduring the depths of hell and raising awareness about molestation and pedophilia.

And soon enough, like that night in Annabell’s, he will win the crowd.

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Different Perspectives essay series:

The Dark Knight Rises – A Deeply Personal Film Christopher Nolan Didn’t Want to Make

Rob Zombie’s Halloween II: The Sequel That Gets No Love

Movie 43 Isn’t That Bad

Curse of Chucky Indeed

Fright Night II: New Blood- A Deserving Sequel

***

Shameless plug time! If you own a Kindle (or have the free Kindle app on your phone), check out my thrilling short stories, The Stray Cats and The Horror. CLICK HERE to buy your copies today! Also, my latest short story, Does She Smile At Home?, releases Nov. 12, 2013. Mark your calendars!

And lastly, be sure to follow me on Twitter for rants, raves, promos, news, essays and everything in between.

New Short Story Coming November 12, 2013

This month I’ll be releasing not one, but two stories, exclusively on Amazon. The first (a short story) is a character drama titled Does She Smile At Home? The second tale (a novelette) is a “to be titled” Christmas parody, due on Black Friday. More on that story in the coming days.

Plot Synopsis for Does She Smile At Home?

In the midst of his own existential crisis, a middle-aged man comes upon Dolores, a lowly grocery store clerk who never seems to smile. Confused and haunted by this woman’s poisonous demeanor, and suspecting the riddle of her existence will somehow solve his own emotional puzzle, the man follows her home to see what her life is like. What he discovers stirs him to his very core, and changes him forever.

Some Background

Does She Smile At Home? strays from my standard comforts of the thriller/sci-fi/horror genre and explores the nature of hope, depression, and social/economic struggle through an existential lens. Rich with moody characters, brisk fall imagery and thoughtful metaphor, the story is meant for those who struggle to make ends meet, but hope for a better day.

Here is a sneak peek at the cover:

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The illustration on this cover was drawn by my young nephew, Zach.

Does She Smile At Home? will be available through Amazon Kindle on November 12, 2013. Note: You can read the story on any Kindle device or on your phone, computer or tablet just by downloading the Kindle app.

If you haven’t already, check out my thrilling short stories, The Stray Cats and The Horror. Both are now only .99 cents. CLICK HERE to buy your copies today! And be sure to follow me on Twitter.