Friday, December 30, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Mandarinquats, and a Brief Discussion About "The Exorcist 3"

    This is another hybrid fruit, as one can easily tell from the name.  It's a cross between a mandarin (which is not an orange, but a citrus fruit more like a tangerine) and a kumquat (see December 24, 2012 post for more info on this).  Also, for more detailed information about hybrids, including comical animal hybrid names, see my March 30, 2013 post.  Mandarins, scientists have discovered, are one of the "Original Four" citrus fruits, along with the pumello (see February 20, 2014 post), citron, and papeda.  All other citrus fruits are hybridized children of these.
     Essentially, the mandarinquat looks like a giant kumquat.  Kumquats are usually about the size of a large olive, while their hybrid is about 2 inches (about 5 cm.) in diameter.  This hybrid fruit's shape is roundish or oval-ish, sometimes with a "nose" at one end.  Their outer rind is orange when ripe, along with many tiny brown spots.  The inner pulp is orange as well.  Like kumquats, this fruit is unusual in that the outer rind is edible, and even palatable.  Since it is a hybrid, the fruit's history is well known.  It was developed in Indio, California, near the UCLA campus, in 1970.  So mandarinquats are nearly the same age as me.
     Like many of the foods I've discussed, and especially the fruits, there are many health benefit claims about mandarinquats.  They are touted as being effective reducers of appetite and cholesterol, and also good at calming anxiety, aiding sleep, boosting metabolism, and fighting bronchitis.  But, as I'm always forced to say, readers should know that these claims are as yet unsubstantiated by medical science.  They are certainly healthy regardless, as they have high amounts of Vitamin C and fiber, and have very little fat, etc.
     Mandarinquats are commonly made into marmalades, syrups, and preserves.  But, given my disdain for cooking and food preparation, I of course chose to eat them plain.  I found them to be slightly more tart than kumquats.  As with kumquats, the outer rind is a bit sweet and mild, and cuts the sour taste of the pulp nicely.  Overall, they were decent.  My father tried some, too, and liked them more than me.  They were somewhat pricey, running me $5.99 for 5 individual fruits.  My batch was made by Frieda's, out of Los Alamitos, California.  Evidently their availability is limited, mostly from late December through March, or basically winter in the Northern Hemisphere.  So if you're interested in trying some, the clock is ticking.
     Finally, I think the developers of this fruit were savvy in going with "mandarinquats" rather than "kumdarins."
     Switching topics, I received the new (October 2016) edition of the movie "The Exorcist 3" (1990) on Blue Ray for Christmas.  Among many special features, it's the original theatrical release version and a new Director's Cut version.  (SPOILERS AHEAD)  The new version has scenes spliced into it from old, noticeably inferior sources, Nevertheless, I thought it was an improvement.  Like many viewers, I found the final exorcism scenes at the end of the film to be hokey and overly melodramatic.  Plus, they seemed tacked on.  (Which they were--director William Peter Blatty didn't want them, but was forced by the studio to do reshoots and add them.  The studio thought a movie with this title needed an exorcism.)  Although the director's cut does have a flaw.  I liked the theatrical cut's use of Jason Miller (Father Karras in the original, and this one) combined with Brad Dourif as the mysterious psych ward patient, depending on which of the two personalities was dominant at the moment,  It's only Dourif in the Director's cut, alas.  Also, both version have an amusing barrage of celebrity cameos in them, mostly of non-actors.  Samuel L. Jackson, Larry King, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, Fabio, and former Georgetown University basketball greats John Thompson and Patrick Ewing (Ewing plays the Angel of Death!)


Friday, December 23, 2016

Underrated Horror Gems--"Society"

     "Society" was made in 1989, but had an atypical release schedule.  It opened in Europe in 1989, but not in the U.S. until 1992.  It did okay, financially and critically, in the U.K., Italy, and Spain, but here in the U.S. it was a box office dud, and received mostly negative reviews.  However, in recent years it's enjoyed a bit of a revival, as a cult film.  But I've enjoyed it since I first saw it the early/mid 1990's, and today I'd like to discuss it.  I'll start with a spoiler-free synopsis of it, followed by a marked, spoiler-ific, recap and discussion about some of its main themes.
    Bill Whitney appears to be living the perfect life.  He comes from a stable, wealthy family, and wants for nothing.  He's quite popular at his school, the Beverly Hills Academy, being both a star athlete and a leading class president candidate.  But, under the surface, something's amiss.  He's being treated by a psychiatrist, Dr. Cleveland, due to irrational fears about his family and many of the people in his social circle.  He suffers from hallucinations, which involve incestuous relationships, bizarre monsters, and murderous conspiracies.  Things go from bad to worse, as his relationship with his family, and peers, deteriorates.  Is Bill crazy? Or is something disturbingly rotten in the society in which he lives?
     (SPOILERS AHEAD UNTIL NOTED)  "Society" opens with Bill relaying a nightmare with his psychiatrist.  Dr. Cleveland assures him that his fears and feelings of alienation are relatively normal, and that everything's okay.  Then, shortly after rescuing his sister, Jenny, from an ex-boyfriend, David Blanchard, who's become stalker-y, Bill accidentally sees his sister in the shower, and she briefly appears to be a twisted monstrosity.  At the beach, Blanchard tells Bill that he's bugged the Whitneys, and plays a tape that seems to reveal an incestuous relationship between Jenny and their parents, and then many others in an orgy.  However, when Bill listens to the same tape at Dr. Cleveland's office (he gave his doctor the tape the night before) it sounds as if his family was acting normally, at a social event.  Blanchard then is in a fatal vehicular accident before he can give Bill another copy of the tape.  When Bill goes to popular student Ted Ferguson's party, Ted claims the orgy was real, and that he caused Blanchard's fatal accident.  A scuffle ensues, and Bill is led away by Ted's mysterious but beautiful girlfriend Clarisa.  She seduces him, but later he thinks he sees her lying in an anatomically impossible position.  At Blanchard's funeral, Bill and his friend Milo notice that the corpse looks artificial, and doesn't resemble Blanchard.  Bill's political opponent, Martin Petrie, asks to meet Bill later that night at a isolated canyon.  When Bill arrives, he sees Martin dead in his car of a slit throat, while an unknown person runs away.  But when Bill brings the cops to the scene, the car is different, and no body is found.  After Bill announces that Petrie is dead at a school assembly, Petrie shows up, apparently unharmed.
     Then things get more dramatic.  Bill is forcibly drugged by Dr. Cleveland, and taken to the hospital.  Milo has followed behind the ambulance, but is told by the hospital staff that Bill is dead.  Bill wakes up and meets Milo, and they see that someone has brought his Jeep to the hospital.  Milo fears a setup, and warns Bill not to go home.  Bill, though, does so anyway, and as he enters his house he's restrained.  Dr. Cleveland, his parents, and the rest of the town's rich and elite reveal that Bill's fears were entirely rational and justified.  The group, called Society, is made up of weird creatures that can distort their bodies in grotesque shapes.  The members literally feed on the poor, regular humans, to enrich their gene pool and for sustenance.  This process, called "shunting" is demonstrated on the body of the still alive Blanchard.  They suck on and meld into his body, while their bodies twist and mutate into surreal shapes.  Clarisa is revealed to be part of Society, but she shows obvious signs of regret, and seems to care for Bill.  Finally, Bill taunts Ted into a one on one duel.  Ted beats Bill badly, and starts to shunt him, but at the last moment Bill literally reaches inside him and turns him inside out.  Milo, who's infiltrated the party, and Clarisa lead Bill out,while the group looks on.
     Clearly the main them of "Society" is the conflict between rich and poor.  It's not exactly subtle, as the rich and powerful monster Society Members kill and eat the poor directly.  Director Brian Yuzna was obviously influenced by the political situation of the late 1980's, but as he said in a later interview, this same idea can also apply to many other eras.  But even if it's obvious, and a bit "on the nose," it doesn't mean it's not compelling.  Bill, and the few other non-Society members are in a bad spot.  The Society folks clearly run the entire show.  They run (or at least have giant influence on) the schools, the hospital, the police, and the legal system.  How much so is apparent by their reaction when Bill and his friends escape at the end.  The members of the group could have easily swarmed and killed them, but they basically let them go.  And why not?  The escapees can't really hurt the group.  I suppose Clarisa could have demonstrated her bodily weirdness capabilities, but the Society folks can clearly pretend to be normal.  Who would believe such a weird story?  There's even a hint of anti-Semitism shown.  At Blanchard's "funeral," we see it takes place in a synagogue.  Evidently the Society members are "good" Christians.
     Another major theme is traditional teen angst.  Probably everyone has felt different at some point in their lives, whether it's from schoolmates, powerful adults, or even their own families.  Teens are going through monumental physical changes, accompanied by sexual feelings that they don't fully understand.  They're unsure of their status, and apprehensive about becoming an adult, maturing into someone with a career, spouse, children, etc.  This movie exploits these common fears, and takes them to ridiculous extremes. Bill feels alienated because he really is--he's the adopted human of a bunch of human-like monsters, who are raising him only for the purpose of eventually devouring him.  (They were humans at one point, though.  They deny being aliens, at a point when they have no reason to lie.  Yuzna stated in a later conversation that he envisioned them as being humans that were invaded by parasites centuries ago.)  Effective horror movies mine the fears that many/most people experience--fear of the dark, the unknown, death, etc., and use them in an exaggerated way to scare us anew.
     I was watching an interview with Yuzna that appears on a new special edition DVD that I just received, and he admitted straight out that the incest plot line was an intentional exploitation of another common fear/taboo.  And it is disturbing.  Bill's adoptive parents look younger, and more attractive that most middle aged parents.  His adopted sister is also very attractive.  So the scenes where they're acting a little too friendly and familiar with each other makes the viewer uncomfortable and queasy.  When they distort themselves into strange, impossible shapes and combine with each other this just reinforces the horror of the taboo.  Also, staying on disturbing sexual imagery, the shunting process is both a devouring, and a kind of rape.  All the bodies involved are naked, glistening, and both penetrating and eating their victim in a nasty violation.
     As with many horror movies, for much of it we're not sure if what's shown is real, or if the main character is insane.  "Society" toys with us for quite a while.  Bill sees and hears things that seem weird and awful, but then everything appears to return to normal and safe, very quickly.  Some films, of course, never fully tip their hand, and leave it up to the viewer to decide what the truth really is.  "Society" eventually comes down firmly on the interpretation that Bill is not crazy--there is a conspiracy at hand, hatched by powerful monsters.  But it's still well played while it lasts, I thought, and adds to the unsettling tone of the movie.  The co-author of the script, Woody Keith, might have had some issues, according to Yuzna.  The basic story was supposedly based on his life, growing up wealthy and disaffected in the Beverly Hills area.  Write what you know, I guess.  (Hopefully he wasn't really raised by sick cultists, or murdering monsters.)
     Finally, no discussion of "Society" would be complete without getting into its extreme weirdness.  Most obviously, the bodily forms that the group members take are wonderfully imaginative and bizarre.  Faces distorted into elongated snouts, bodies twisted like pretzels, people melded into each other, a man grows his head out of his butt, and another becomes a figure with a giant hand for a head.  During the shunting scenes, everyone's naked, covered in goo, and simultaneously having sex and consuming each other.  But there are other odd touches, too.  Clarisa acts strangely much of the time, including her rather unusual and disgusting offer to add a bodily fluid to Bill's beverage.  Her mother, who's apparently a Society member, doesn't ever seem to be normal.  She's mute, dresses oddly, appears to be mentally handicapped, and shows a tendency to enjoy ripping out and consuming people's hair.  The special effects person for this movie, Screaming Mad George, really did a great job. The effects are wonderfully gross and unique--some remind me of Rob Bottin and Stan Winstons' creations for the 1982 remake of "The Thing."  Evidently Screaming Mad George and Brian Yuzna drew direct inspiration from a 1930's movie "Doctor X," and several of Salvador Dali's stranger paintings.
     (END SPOILERS--SAFE FOR ALL READERS)  Of those involved in the production of "Society" I think it's safe to say that director Brian Yuzna is the most known.  Yuzna produced "Re-Animator" (1985), "From Beyond" (1986), "Warlock" (1989), and "Dagon" (2001), among others.  Aside from "Society" he directed such films as "Bride of Re-Animator" (1990), "Return of the Living Dead Part 3"(1993), "The Dentist" (1996), "Beyond Re-Animator" (2003), and "Amphibius" (2010).  He also co-wrote the original story behind "Honey I Shrunk the Kids."  Star Billy Warlock (son of famous stuntman Dick Warlock) has had a busy acting career, but mostly in television soap operas and "Baywatch."  He was in "Halloween 2" (1981) and "The Thing Below" (2004) in addition.  Evan Richard, who portrayed Milo,appeared in such movies as "Altered States"(1980), "Twilight Zone: The Movie"(1983) "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" (1986) and "Mute Witness" (1995).  Devin DeVasquez (Clarisa) is probably best known for being a Playboy Playmate, and also appeared in "Can't Buy Me Love" (1987) and the fourth "Toxic Avenger" film (2000).  Ben Myerson, who played Ted Ferguson, also acted in Speed 2: Cruise Control" (1997), "Knocked Up" (2007), and "Funny People" (2009).  Charles Lucia (Bill's dad Jim Whitney), Ben Slack (Dr. Cleveland) and David Wells (Sergeant Burt) all had over 70 acting credits, mostly in television roles.  Finally, Brian Bremer (Martin Petrie) appeared in another movie I discussed on this blog, 1988's "Pumpkinhead" (See July 13, 2016 post) as Bunt.  Special effects guru Screaming Mad George worked on such films as "Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors" (1987) "Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master" (1988), "Predator" (1987), "Freaked" (1993), and "Beyond Re-Animator" (2003).  So essentially, many of the actors and crew have had eventful careers, but I wouldn't classify any of them as being household names (unless you're in a household made up of obsessive horror fans, I guess).
     Therefore, in conclusion, I don't know why "Society" did relatively poorly, at least in some areas of the world.  The story is innovative, and the film blurs genres effectively.  There's a nice creepy tone to it, punctuated by spectacular, disturbing and disgusting special effects, especially at the end.  There's even some darkly humorous moments.  All in all, in my opinion, it's a fun, bizarre, and horrific movie.  Yuzna stated in the past few years that a sequel might be in the works.  Or, knowing Hollywood, perhaps a reboot.  Hopefully either of these resist the urge to try to top Screaming Mad George's efforts with a bunch of unconvincing CGI effects.


Friday, December 16, 2016

"The Prison Compendium" is Out!

          A new anthology is currently available.  Namely, "The Prison Compendium," which is another publication from EMP Publishing.  You can pick this up on EMP's website ( or on Amazon (  Below you'll find a list of what stories are featured, as well as the front cover, and the back cover blurb.  I'd like to thank Editor/Publisher Jennifer Word, editor Kimberly King, cover artist Fatlind Colaku, and the rest of the EMP folks, as well as my fellow authors.  Enjoy!

TOC (story ordering not set)
  1.  "A Ray of Hope" by Paul Stansfield
  2.  "The Joint" (a poetry collection) by Randy D. Rubin
  3.  "Finding the Answer" by Travis Richardson
  4.  "It's a Kinda Magic" by Jeremy Mays
  5.  "Swing a Sparrow on a String" by Ken Goldman
  6.  "The Life and Multiple Deaths of Virgil Eugene" by Jennifer Word
  7.  "Jeremy Knox" by Jeffrey K. Blevins
  8.  "Responsibility" by A. R. Shannon
  9.  "The Will to Lose" by Laird Long
  10. "Parole Violator" by Laird Long
  11.  "Solitary Man" by Adrian Ludens
  12.  "End a Days" by Kristin Dearborn
​  13.  "Just a Spoonful of Horror" by Gary Ives
  14.  "Penalty for Misuse - $20" by J. J. Steinfeld
  15.  "The True Vocation of Sandy Brylirn" by J. J. Steinfeld
  16.  "A Rose is a Rose?" by Larry Lefkowitz
  17.  "Mistress of Light and Dark" by Catherine MacKenzie
  18.  "Unlife Sentence" by Eric J. Juneau
  19.  "The Flea Jar" by Layla Cummins
  20.  "The Side Job" by Joseph B. Cleary
  21.  "In the Jailhouse" by Bruce Harris
  22.  "Impala" by Timothy O'Leary
  23.  "Second Chance" by Tom Larsen
  24.  "Return to Death Row" by Fredrick Obermeyer
  25.  "Smaller" by James A. Miller
  26.  "A Farewell to Apotheosis" by Gregory L. Norris
  27.  "Brooms" by Jon Michael Kelley
  28.  "Seven Conversations in Locked Rooms" by Alex Shvartsman
  29.  "Prisoner Reincarnated" by Calvin Demmer
​  30.  "Innocence USA" by David Rachels
  31.  "Misconceptions" by Bryan Grafton
  32.  "Redemption" by Lee Duffy
  33.  "Monroe and Warner" by Morgen Knight

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Title-less Hall of Fame NFL Quarterbacks

     First off, I'll have writing news very soon.  Check back in two days (Friday, Dec. 16th) for more info on a newly published anthology which will feature one of my stories.
     Back on February 10, 2016 I devoted a post to discussing which quarterbacks won NFL/AFL/AAFC titles, and then who won the most, all time.  So I got to thinking about otherwise great quarterbacks who never won a title.  So I looked up all the quarterbacks who are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and checked over their careers.
     Oh, and bear in mind the following info about pro football playoffs and title winners.  From 1920-32 the NFL champion was determined by the best won-loss record (and they didn't count ties as anything, which was eventually changed).  (In 1932 the top two teams did play a final game for the title, but this wasn't an official NFL Championship Game--it's complicated.)  From 1933 to 1965 the NFL (title) Championship Game was played between the two conference champions.  The All American Football Conference (AAFC) played from 1946-49.  Their two conference champs also met in a final title game to determine their top team.  Three of these AAFC teams were absorbed in the NFL starting in the 1950 season.  Then, the American Football League (the AFL) played from 1960-69.  From 1960 to 1965 their top two teams played in an AFL title game.  Then, from 1966-69, the top AFL team played the top NFL team to determine the ultimate champ, in a game later called the Super Bowl.  Then in 1970 the AFL was absorbed into the NFL, and became the American Football Conference (AFC) along with 3 former NFL teams.  The rest of the league is the National Football Conference, or NFC.  The NFC champ plays the AFC champ in the Super Bowl at the end of each season for the ultimate NFL title.  The number of playoff teams has steadily increased, too, up to 8 total in 1970, and up to the current 12 (6 per conference), so modern quarterbacks have more opportunities to make the playoffs than their older kin.
     Anyway, the following Hall of Fame quarterbacks won no titles.

      1) Dan Fouts, San Diego Chargers, 1973-87.  Highlights of his career include 43,040 passing yards, 254 touchdown passes, 6 Pro Bowls, and being the MVP in 1982.  Dan had a playoff (starting) record of 3-4.  He did make two AFC Championship Games, for the 1980 and 1981 seasons, but lost both.

     2) Benny Friedman, who played for various teams, including the Cleveland Bulldogs, Detroit Wolverines, New York Giants, and Brooklyn Dodgers from 1927-34 (yes, these were all official NFL teams in the early days).  Credited with being the NFL's first standout passer.  He led the NFL in touchdown passes in his first 4 years, and threw a then record 20 touchdown passes in 1929.  He won no titles. He was not on the team with the best record through 1932, and then not on a team that even played in the Championship Game his final two seasons.

    3) Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills, 1986-96 (he also played for a few seasons in the USFL prior to his NFL career).  Finished with 5 Pro Bowl appearances, 35,467 passing yards, and 237 touchdown passes.  Had a 9-8 playoff record, including four straight, frustrating Super Bowl losses from 1990-93 (Super Bowls 25-28).

   4) Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins, 1983-99.  Played in 9 Pro Bowls, and set the then records of 61,361 passing yards and 420 touchdown passes.  Accumulated a 8-10 playoff record, including a loss in Super Bowl 19 against the 49ers.

  5) Warren Moon, Houston Oilers, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, and Kansas City Chiefs, 1984-2000.  He also played for several years in the Canadian Football League before his NFL career began.  Highlights include 49,325 passing yards, 291 touchdown passes, and 9 Pro Bowls.  In the playoffs, though, he went 3-7, and never reached either a Super Bowl or conference championship game.

  6) Clarence "Ace" Parker, Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Yanks (yes, that was a real team--weird!) with the NFL, and with the New York Yankees in the AAFC, 1937-41, 1945-46.  Was named all NFL twice, and was the league MVP in 1940.  Never made an NFL Championship Game appearance, and appeared in relief in a loss in the 1946 AAFC title game.

  7) Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants, 1961-78.  When he retired he held the NFL records for most passing yards (47,003) and touchdown passes (342), since broken.  Also renowned as one of the earliest effective rushers, or "scrambling" quarterbacks.  His career playoff record was 6-5, including appearances in Super Bowls 8,9, and 11, all losses, obviously.

 8) Y.A. Tittle, Baltimore Colts (AAFC and NFL), San Francisco 49ers, and New York Giants, 1948-64.  Threw for 33,070 passing yards and 242 touchdown passes.  Named to 7 Pro Bowls, and was League MVP twice.  However, in the playoffs he went 0-5 (0-4 as a starter), losing one AAFC Championship Game and 3 straight NFL Championship Games (1961-63).

     The following quarterbacks sort of qualify for this list, for reasons explained below.

  9) George Blanda, Chicago Bears, Baltimore Colts, Houston Oilers, and Oakland Raiders, 1949-58, 1960-75.  Played in a record 26 seasons, until he was 48!  Also played as a kicker, and held the total points record (2002) for decades.  Anyway, he won two AFL titles with the Oilers, in 1960 and 1961.  (Amazingly he threw 5 interceptions in winning the 1961 game!)  Also played for the Raiders in their loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl 2, as a kicker, not as a quarterback.

  10) Paddy Driscoll, Hammond Pros, Decatur Staleys, Chicago Cardinals, and Chicago Bears, 1919-29.  As you can see from the team names, and the years, he played in the NFL's earliest days.  As I discuss in greater detail in the Feb. 10, 2016 post, statistics for the NFL in the 1920's are very limited.  So while Driscoll is listed as a quarterback, it's difficult to determine if he was the "real" quarterback throughout much of his career.  For example, in the Cardinals 1925 season, for which they were the NFL champs, Red Dunn is credited with throwing all the Cardinals touchdown passes.  So while Driscoll certainly was on a title-wining team, he might not have been the true quarterback during that season.

 11) Sonny Jurgensen, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, 1957-74.  Threw for 32,224 passing yards, 255 touchdown passes, and had an enormous for the time lifetime passer rating of 82.63.  No playoff starts, though, and of the four games he played in he only threw a pass in one.  However, he did play in the 1960 NFL Championship Game with the victorious Eagles, so he won a title game, just not as a starter.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Icelandic Dairy Product

     I was a bit excited when I saw a product in the yogurt aisle recently (at Wegman's again, as I recall).  Since Iceland is so small and isolated, finding its native cuisine is quite a challenge.  Earlier this year (April 20, 2016) I discussed several Icelandic beers and liquors in a post, and now I can add something else.
     Skyr (pronounced "skeer") is a traditional Icelandic dairy product.  NOT a yogurt, as the container and website both emphasized.  It's made slightly differently, and is produced using different strains of bacteria cultures.  To make it a small portion (from previous batches) is added to warm milk to introduce the correct bacteria cultures.  Rennet is sometimes added, too.  The result is left to coagulate, and then is strained through fabric to remove the whey.  Modern makers also sometimes add flavoring, mostly in the form of berries.  Skyr was originally a Norwegian tradition.  About 1100 years ago it was introduced to Iceland, and since it's become a traditional, popular cuisine.  Oddly, according to the sources I read, the Norwegians themselves evidently weren't as keen about it, and mostly allowed this food tradition to go extinct.  Although evidently the Norwegians reacquired their taste for it, as Iceland now exports skyr to Norway, as well as Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Ireland, The Netherlands, Germany, the U.K., the U.S., Latvia, and Lithuania.
     The most common method of consuming it is cold, with milk and sugar.  However, there are some varients.  "Hraeringur" is a mixture of skyr and porridge.  Sometimes it's eaten as a dessert--mixed with jams or fruit, or put atop cheesecake.  It's also occasionally mixed with fish at dinner, or combined with cereal at breakfast.  Skyr is high in protein and calcium, and low in fat.  Additionally, the website for Icelandic Provisions, who made the skyr I tried, noted that their product is gluten free, artificial flavor free, and contains no GMO's or preservatives.
     I should also mention that while the website acknowledges a certain similarity to Greek style yogurt, they want you to know it's definitely different.
     I got the blueberry with bilberry flavor, as that was the only option.  Other kinds made by the company are one with cloudberries (which are evidently somewhat scarce, and taste like baked apples), one with lingonberries (see my September 23, 2013 post for more info about this fruit), and some with more common fruits like raspberries, strawberries, and peaches, sometimes combined together.  Also a coconut and vanilla kind.  Bilberries are touted as being more intense than their blueberry kin, but they seem pretty similar, both in their appearance and taste.  It seems that bilberries are essentially the European version of blueberries.  (So mixing them both together appears a bit boring and tame, now that I think of it.)  Bilberries have long been alleged to help with various medical ailments, such as blood pressure problems, hemorrhoids, diabetes, kidney disease, UTis, etc.  Also they're thought to particularly help improve peoples' eyesight.  During World War 2 RAF pilots ate them for this effect.  Well, I have to resort to one of my cliches once more.  The evidence for bilberries being a cure-all, or even treatment-all, is lacking.  For example, a study about the eyesight benefits from consuming them concluded that they probably didn't make a difference.  So eating bilberries is healthy, but in the normal fruit way, and almost certainly not as an effective treatment for your elephantiasis, or your drug-resistant TB, or whatever.
     Anyway, I found the blueberry/bilberry skyr to be pretty good.  The berry flavor was detectable, and decent.  I thought it was slightly thicker than regular yogurt.  But, I think it tasted pretty much like regular yogurt.  I know the makers would probably be irritated with this opinion, but there it is.  I don't think I could have distinguished between the two in a blind taste test, for example.  This isn't a criticism of skyr--I like yogurt just fine, and I would buy this kind of skyr again, and/or its other flavors if given the opportunity.  But I have to admit that I was kind of hoping it would be more different from regular yogurt, something dramatically unique and special.  Alas, I guess.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Indonesian Candy/Taiwanese Crackers

     Since I had only one example for each of these areas, I decided to combine them.  Today I'll be talking about about a type of ginger candy from Indonesia, and a wheat cracker made in Taiwan.  Both were from Wegman's supermarket, although from different actual stores, as I recall.
     The Indonesian company is called Paberik Kembang Gula Pasuruan Sina.  I think.  Due to some language barrier issues, I'm not entirely sure what the company's actual title is.  A stamp on the bag read the long name I just listed, but on the website it referred to the manufacturer as being "P T Sin A" or just "Sin A."  So apologies if I'm messing up their name.  I had some problems with their website, too.  The Google English translation of it seemed a bit rough, in the areas of grammar and usage.  What I took away from it was that Sin A is ginger-mad.  The products I saw advertised were all made with this item--ginger chews made with peanut butter, mango, orange, and peppermint flavors.  Another page mentioned how ginger is able (allegedly) to cure or treat seemingly every disease or chronic condition, such as asthma, nausea, digestion disorders, and migraines.  Their "tips" page also had some curious healthy living advice, under the categories "sign wind," "drunk trip," "maintaining stamina," and "adding morale," all supposedly accomplished by various ginger concoctions.  Again, this advice might have been poorly translated, or simply a cultural difference, but I did find it entertaining.  (To be fair, I usually enjoy ginger as an additive or flavoring--I'm just skeptical that it's some magic cure-all for all the world's woes.)  I tried the Ting Ting Jahe variety.  As some trivia, this product was mentioned in a complimentary way by characters in William Gibson's classic sci-fi cyberpunk novel "Neuromancer" (1984).
     The company that made the crackers was Wei Lih.  I bought the BBQ (barbecue) Cube flavor of the GGE wheat cracker line.  Other offered flavors include Mexican spicy, soy sauce, seaweed, and original ramen noodle.  While reading up on this I stumbled across a website called "The Ramen Rater."  It's tagline is, "Thousands of instant noodle reviews since 2002."  I find it amusing that a person has an entire website devoted to this limited type of food.  The Rater is self-aware, though--one of the queries on the FAQ section is, "What's your deal?  Why ramen noodles?"  (For the record, the Ramen Rater also reports that he's interested in sci-fi, MLB's San Francisco Giants, and calculators.)
     The Sin A Ting Ting Jahe chews were individually wrapped.  They were honey colored, with a white powder dusting.  They were soft, chewy, and slightly sticky.  The taste was alright.  Slightly ginger-y, but not overpowering.  However, the packaging was terrible--really tough to open.  I had to use scissors to do so.  I'd be willing to try the other flavors, though, especially the peanut butter kind.
     The GGE BBQ Cube crackers were small discs, less than one inch (or about 2.5 cm.) in diameter.  They were made up small pieces of wheat/potato/oils/spices compressed together.  Visually they reminded me of stuck together orange maggots, to use a probably unappetizing comparison.  At first I thought they were okay, but nothing more.  But as I ate more, they really grew on me.  They had a nice BBQ zing to them.  I finished the entire bag, and would readily buy these again, or try the other kinds.
    I'll end this with some personal trivia.  Despite my (middle) age, and after having been an undergrad college student to boot, I've never had ramen noodles.  Maybe it's time to give them a try.  And now I know a website that can give me advanced reviews on pretty much every kind in the world, I expect.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Unusual Spreads/Butters

     Back in my July 25,2015 post, I discussed some odd jams and preserves I'd tried.  Recently, in the Southeast Virginia Kroger, I saw some more odd ones, and couldn't resist.  To be technical these were a spread (rose hip), and a butter (plum).
     I'd heard the term "rose hip" before, but in the context of an ingredient in vitamins or nutritional supplements.  But I wasn't exactly sure what a rose hip was.  It turns out that they're the fruit of the rose plant.  And they are used for many different culinary creations.  They're in herbal teas, syrup, breads, mead, and wine, in addition to the jams/jellies/spreads.  The Hungarians made a rose hip flavored brandy, called "palinka," and the Slovenians have a rose hip flavored soft drink called (awkwardly enough, for English speakers), "cockta."  Nutritionally they're good sources of Vitamin C (explaining why they're often in vitamin supplements) and also contain beta-carotene.  But rose hips have an interesting drawback, too.  They contain hairs which are very irritating.  So much so that novelty itching powders often use them.
     I discussed plums a bit in my hybrid fruit post on May 22, 2015.  As a review, their form is incredibly diverse.  Their outer skin can be red, purple, amber, green, yellow, or blue-black.  Their interior pulp can be orange, pink, green, or yellow.  Like rose hips, they're quite nutritious.  They contain decent amounts of Vitamins K and C, and also fiber, potassium, and copper.  Also, like rose hips, they sometimes used in alcoholic beverages.  Serbians make a traditional plum brandy called slivovitz.
     But I was most amused by one of the plum's nomenclatures, and why it's changed.  The typical name for a dried plum has been "prune" for a long time.  However, plum sellers grew concerned that this name had negative connotations.  Specifically, prunes are seen as synonymous with wrinkles, old age, and constipation (they combat this condition very effectively).  So the preferred term is now "dried plums," and not prunes.  So adjust all your conversations and correspondence about this dried fruit accordingly, lest Big Plum find out and set you straight.
     Anyway, back to the actual food.  Both were made by Maintal, a German company.  Each was sold in a 12 ounce jar, and cost about $3-4.  The plum one was a reddish-purple in color.  And it wasn't very sweet.  It was alright, but not as good as most jams/jellies/butters/spreads.  Not really tasty, nor dramatically terrible.  Just kind of "meh," as the expression goes.  Sadly the rose hip one was fairly similar.  It was reddish in color.  It also was not very sweet, and not that interesting or exciting, in a positive or negative way.  I could basically take it or leave it.  Some of my friends at work expressed interest, so I gave them the remaining six ounces or so of both jars.
    So for both, I like the fact that the manufacturers tried some different fruits for the flavoring, but the end result was drably mediocre.  In a way I almost wish that they were utterly putrid--at least I would have felt some passion for them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Hemp Bars

     I was a little surprised when I saw hemp snack bars for sale at Wegman's a while back.  Obviously, marijuana laws have been changing rapidly in the U.S. lately.  As far as I could tell (various sources had conflicting information) currently 20 states allow it for medical use, and 8 allow it for medical use and recreational purposes.  Also, I've heard about hemp clothing being sold in America for some time--I think actor Woody Harrelson has been touting these for over a decade.  But I was unaware that foods made with hemp were legal.
     The manufacturer of the hemp bars I tried, Manitoba Harvest, has an informative website.  In addition to showing all their products, and talking about their company's history, they also include a brief history of hemp in the U.S. and Canada (as you can guess from their name, they are a Canadian company).  For example, evidently Louis Herbert (a French botonist) was the first to grow hemp, in what is now Nova Scotia way back in 1606 (in Port Royal).  Moving on, America's first three Presidents (Washington, Adams, and Jefferson) all grew it, and the Declaration of Independence was drafted on paper made from hemp.  During World War II, with rope supplies desperately needed, a campaign was set up to encourage folks to grow all they could.  It was called "Hemp For Victory."  On the negative side, here in the U.S. it's currently illegal to grow hemp except for research purposes, although it is legal to sell it.  Our neighbors to the North made it legal to grow for industrial purposes in 1998, and Manitoba Harvest quickly formed to take advantage.
     The website also discussed hemp's nutritional benefits, and cleared up some misconceptions.  For the former, hemp seeds are apparently high in protein, and omegas, and also are significant sources of magnesium, fiber, zinc, phosphorus, and iron.  For the latter, the hemp used in their food contains less than .003% THC (Tetrahydrocannibinol), the psychoactive substance in marijuana, so it won't get you high, even if you eat huge quantities of it.  They also report that their products won't cause consumers to fail drug tests.
     In addition to the three types of hemp bars (chocolate, vanilla, and apple cinnamon), Manitoba makes Hemp Hearts (raw shelled hemp seed), Hemp Heart Toppers (for ice cream, etc.), Hemp Protein Powder, Hemp Protein Smoothies, and Hemp Oil.  The bars themselves are made from hemp seeds, organic coconut palm sugar, organic brown rice syrup, organic flavors, sea salt, pectin, organic sunflower oil, and spice extracts.
     I bought the two that I saw offered, a chocolate and the vanilla.  The chocolate was shiny and dark brown, with visible embedded hemp seeds.  And it was....atrocious.  Weird, sweetish, and utterly nasty.  I couldn't finish it.  A complete disaster.  The vanilla one was whitish, and also with visible seeds.  It was just okay in taste.  Definitely vanilla-y.  Decent, but not great.  I could finish it, but I don't think I'll buy it again.  I might try the apple cinnamon kind, but it'll probably depend on how I feel that day.  Their other products don't seem appetizing, either.  As with the Hi-Chew Japanese candies of two weeks ago, the folks who run the company seem like good, well-meaning people, and the website was cool, but their actual products were mediocre to terrible.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--English Barley Waters

     When I beheld the barley waters in the local Kroger down here in Southeast Virginia, I was puzzled.  A beverage made from barley?  The only one of these that I'd heard of was most kinds of beer.  A type of beer is called "barley wine," but those two were the only ones I'd heard of.
     But it turns out that there are indeed barley water soft drinks, of course, and furthermore, they are actually not uncommon throughout the world.  The English and Greeks both make versions, as do certain areas in India, and various parts of Eastern and Southeast Asian nations.  Some folks serve them hot, some cold, some strain out the barley from the liquid, while others don't.  Fruit juices are a common additive, for flavor.
    There were two types for sale, and I got them both.  Both were made by Robinsons, an English company which was bought up by the huge Britvic Soft Drink company in 1995.  Britvic is currently the #2 soft drink producer in the U.K., and among other products they sell (some as franchises of other companies) are Canada Dry soft drinks, Corona beer, 7 Up, and Pepsi.  Robinsons might be best known for making Fruit Shoot, a beverage designed for children.  They're also a sponsor of Wimbledon, the major tennis open tournament.
    Anyway, the two kinds I got were lemon and orange.  Oddly, even though they were both the same size (28.7 ounces, or 850 ml.), the orange one was close to a dollar more in price.  The orange was a bit disappointing.  It certainly does taste orange-y (it should--both types contain 17% or their respective juice) but it was rather bland.  It was orange in color, and had a peculiar mouthfeel to it--it was rather thick.  I guess from the barley flour which makes up 2.5% of its total.  It wasn't bad, exactly, just a bit dull.  And way overpriced at about $6.50 per bottle.
     Happily, the lemon flavored one was quite different.  The mouthfeel/texture was similar, much more substantial than a typical soft drink, and quite cloudy, almost milky.  But the taste was the opposite of its sibling--very strong.  I enjoy tart and sour flavors usually, and this pushed this to the limit.  Way more fully tart than any other lemon-flavored soft drink or lemonade that I've had, without being overly, unpleasantly so.  I really enjoyed this one.  Even at the very high price of about $5.50, I might pick up another or two before I leave this area.
     A closer inspection of the bottles revealed something interesting, and a little embarrassing.  These Robinsons are concentrated drinks--you're supposed to cut them with water.  1 part Robinsons to 4 parts water.  Which may explain why the lemon one tasted so strong!  In my defense, I didn't read the directions on the bottles before I had them because who does that?  Unless you have a special medical condition or food allergy, just about every drink is served by opening the can or bottle and drinking it, or pouring it into a glass.  In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't dilute the Robinsons with water.  The lemon was powerful and strong, and thereby compelling and tasty.  And the orange one was already a bit insufficient in taste--adding water would have made a barely adequate drink incredibly weaker and tasteless, like a light beer.
     So, although I really liked only one out of two, I'll be looking for other types of barley waters.  Certainly the drink shows the possibility of being a worthy beverage.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Japanese Chewy Candies

     I have Wegman's supermarket yet again, and a local one in Virginia, Kroger, to thank for these.  Both have decent (Kroger) to great (Wegman's) foreign/ethnic food aisles, so I was able to snag a good selection.  Specifically, today I'll be discussing four types of Hi-Chew, made by Morinaga & Company, and a gummy candy from Kasugai.  The Hi-Chews were technically made in Taiwan, but it's a Japanese candy, licensed by a Japanese company.  The Kasugai offering was made in Japan.
    The website for Hi-Chew was quite good, I thought--easy to navigate, and with a surprisingly detailed company and founder history.  I'll pass along a shortened version.  Taichiro Morinaga was born in Japan in 1865, to a poor family.  After moving to the United States in 1888, to California, two eventful things happened to him.  First, he converted to Christianity.  Secondly, an unknown person gave him his first piece of candy.  Morinaga was so wowed by this second experience that he decided to make candy himself.  He set out to learn the trade of manufacturing and selling candy.  Alas, he wasn't able to get an apprenticeship, or even a particularly useful job at any of the candy factories due to racism.  The only employment he could get was as a janitor at a candy factory.  However, Morinaga was nonetheless able to pick up at least some information, and he returned to Japan in 1899.  After success at making and selling his own candy via a cart, he graduated to a store, and finally, his own company in 1918.  Research told him that Japanese customers particularly enjoyed marshmallow candies, but Japan's relatively hotter climate caused these to melt too easily.  So Morinaga concentrated on other products, such as chocolate, and then in 1956, an early version of Hi-Chew called Chew-lets.  In 1975 Chew-lets were updated to Hi-Chew, and they took off in popularity.  Over the years they've sold over 170 different flavors!  Additionally, the company campaigned to celebrate Mother's Day in Japan starting in 1937, and they teamed up with the Army Medical School to produce Japan's first penicillin in 1944.  The company also owns restaurants, coffee shops, dairies, and golf courses.  And in 2015 Hi-Chew was approved as food for astronauts by JAXA, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.
     In contrast, I wasn't able to find out much about the Kasugai company.  They started in 1927, selling nuts and dried fruit.  In addition to the peach kind I had, they also sell kiwi, lychee, muscat (a type of grape), mango, strawberry, and yuzu (a local hybrid citrus fruit) flavored gummy candies.
     The four kinds of Hi-Chew I tried were the mango, green apple, strawberry, and grape.  All were packs containing small (about 1 cm. by 2 cm., or about .5 inch by 1 inch) rectangular, individually wrapped pieces.  All were whitish on the outside, with interiors the color of their flavor (purple for grape, yellow for the mango, etc.).  All did indeed exhibit their flavor as advertised.  But all were extremely disappointing.  They had a chewy, taffy-like texture.  But the taste was all off.  They were all sort of weird, and unpleasant.  It's rare that I have the same exact reaction to this many flavors of a food or drink type, but that's what happened.  I had a few of each kind and disliked them all.  And since a good sample size was consistently negative, I won't try any of the other flavors, like banana or cherry, or their sour kind.  I found their website to be fun, and their founder's biography to be inspiring, but the actual product was bad.  I didn't finish them.
     Kasugai's peach gummy candy, on the other hand, was pretty good.  These were small (nearly an inch in diameter, or about 2.5 cm.) pinkish-orange squat discs.  They were a more familiar texture, being similar to other gummy candies I've had, like gummy worms/bears, spearmint leaves, gum drops, or Chuckles.  They were slightly more fruity than the types I mentioned, and less sugary.  I prefer the American gummy varieties, but the Kasugai peach ones were definitely solid.  I would get these again, or try other flavors.  They also had an especially nice odor--a pleasantly strong peach smell.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Another Anthology is Out!

     I've been talking about this one for quite a while, and the book's out (for two days--I'm a bit late).  That book is "Cranial Leakage:  Tales From the Grinning Skull Volume 2", from Grinning Skull Press, edited by Michael J. Evans.  The Kindle edition is available on Amazon, for a price of $2.99.  The address is:
     Here's a set of one sentence story blurbs for some of the tales inside it:

A religious order believing themselves to be entrusted by God with certain secrets, will stop at nothing to keep those secret safe.

A haunted movie theater holds the key to a famous Scream Queen's return to life.

In an attempt to recapture his glory days at the height of the apocalypse, a bitter, insecure security guard commits a desperate act.

There is no art without sacrifice, as an aspiring poet is about to discover.

A random act of kindness turns out to be a nightmare for one family.

A demon goes out of his way to do good deeds, much to the confusion of his trainee.

Three detectives receive an assignment that lands them in an evolutionary nightmare.

A night auction that deals in human suffering attracts a clientele out of our worst nightmares.

     And here's a list of the featured authors and their story titles:

1) The Alchemist's Brotherhood by Sasha Abernathy
2) Empress of the Zombies by Mark McLaughlin
3) Post Apocalypse by R.T. Tandy
4) Snow Bound by Damir Salkovic
5) For Art by Ben Pienaar
6) Another Mouth to Feed by Adrian Ludens
7) Meet the Wife by Ken Goldman
8) The Ifrit by Deedee Davies
9) 9-1-1 by Alan Murdock
10) Slashes of Joy by Chris Phillips
11) Polythene Bags by V. Sparrow
12) The Anteater by Robert Stava
13) Sweeter Porridge by Kevin Bampton
14) The Legend of Thaddeus Bilodeau by Michael J. Labbe
15) Urban Legends by Lyn McConchie
16) A Night to Remember by Alex Liakos
17) Teddy's Bear Picnic by Joshua Dodson
18) Night of Twenty-Four Cats by Seaton Kay-Smith
19) Darwin's Revens by Jonah Buck
20) The Night Auction by Catherine Grant

     My story is "Cruel to be Kind."  And finally, here's the cover:

Friday, October 28, 2016

Article on Loren Rhoads' Blog

     Today one of my former editors, Loren Rhoads, reprinted one of my non-fiction pieces on her blog.  As you can tell from the address, it's "Exhuming Corpses For Fun and Profit," about my experiences digging up graves for my job as an archaeologist.  The address is:
      This article was originally in Loren's magazine, "Morbid Curiosity," which ran in the late 1990's and early 2000's.  Again, as you can figure out from the name, this blog is about cemeteries, so if you're into that topic, you'll find plenty of other posts to read, too.  Plus Loren also writes fiction, and her blog provides information about her books as well.
     So stop on by!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Unlikely Home Run Hitters in the World Series

     That other October tradition, Major League Baseball's World Series, is upon us, so I thought I'd discuss that a little.  And for those readers who prefer my posts about weird and repugnant foods, don't fret, next week I'll return to those.
     To baseball fans, one of the neat things about the World Series is that it's a short series (best of 7 games, and a few in the distant past that were best of 9), so sometimes odd, unpredictable events happen.  A star hurler might pitch poorly, or a terrible hitter might inexplicably do very well.  Hitting a home run is a good example of this.  No one's that surprised when Babe Ruth goes yard in a World Series game, but plenty of people are when Tito Landrum does (even, probably, Tito Landrum).  Last night, in Game 1 of the current Series between the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs, Indian catcher Roberto Perez hit two home runs, even though he only hit a total of three in the entire regular season.  I got to thinking, who were the most unlikely Series home run hitters?  Therefore, I went back through the records, and looked at every player who hit at least one.  Then I looked at their lifetime accumulation of home runs in their regular season careers.  I broke ties by going by number of at bats.  Obviously, pitchers tend to be much worse hitters than position players, so they are well represented in this category.  Since I was interested in poor position players, too, I'm including two lists--one including pitchers, and one with just position players.  I'll list the information for each players as follows:

Player name, position, team and year they hit their World Series home run(s), lifetime regular season home runs, lifetime at bats, lifetime batting average/on base percentage/slugging average, and lifetime adjusted OPS (on base percentage plus slugging average, adjusted for playing era, ballpark, etc., with 100 being average, abbreviated OPS+).  Also, note that the years from about 1900-1920 are known as the Dead Ball Era.  During this time, due to a variety of factors, home runs were hard to come by--sometimes the season leader might be less than 10.  So I'll note those players who played solely or mostly during this time, with this limiting factor, with a DB abbreviation.
    Here's the position abbreviations: P= pitcher,  1B= first baseman, 2B=second baseman, 3B= third baseman, SS= shortstop, C= catcher, OF= outfielder  PR= pinch runner  PH= pinch hitter INF= infielder
     So here's the list with pitchers included:

1) Mickey Lolich, P, Detroit Tigers, 1968.  0 home runs.  821 at bats, .110/.215/.121  OPS+ (-2)
2) Joe Blanton, P, Philadelphia Phillies, 2008. 0 home runs, 216 at bats, .106/.153/.106  OPS+ (-29)
3) Rosy Ryan, P New York Giants, 1924. 1 home run, 268 at bats, .190/.249/.231 OPS+ 28
4) Jose Santiago, P Boston Red Sox, 1967. 1 home run, 162 at bats, .173/.211/.228 OPS+ 24
5) Tom Thevenow, SS,2B,3B, St. Louis Cardinals, 1926. 2 home runs, 4164 at bats, .247/.285/.294 OPS+ 51 (Also, all 3 or his lifetime home runs were inside the park ones.)
6) Jim Bagby, P Cleveland Indiatns, 1920. 2 home runs, 660 at bats, .218/.256/.298 OPS+ 52 DB
7) Ken Holtzman, P Oakland Athletics, 1974. 2 home runs, 607 at bats, .163/.186/.208 OPS+ 8
8) Tom Lawless, 2B, 3B, PR, St.Louis Cardinals, 1987. 2 home runs, 531 at bats, .207/.263/.258 OPS+ 47
9) Jesse Haines, P, St. Louis Cardinals, 1926. 3 home runs, 1124 at bats, .186/.208/.218 OPS+ 12
10) Chick Fewster, 2B, SS, OF, New York Yankees, 1921. 6 home runs, 1963 at bats, .258/.346/.326 OPS+ 77 DB
11) Jimmy Sebring, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1903. 6 home runs, 1411 at bats, .261/.308/.355 OPS+ 94 DB
12) Mudcat Grant, P, Minnesota Twins, 1965. 6 home runs, 759 at bats, .178/.216/.240 OPS+ 27
13) Charlie Culberson, INF, Los Angeles Dodgers, 2017. 6 home runs, 411 at bats, .231/.272/.324 OPS+ 57

Now here's the  list excluding full time pitchers:

1) Tom Lawless, 2 home runs, see above for other stats
2) Tom Thevenow, 2 home runs, see above
3) Chick Fewster, 6 home runs, see above
4) Jimmy Sebring, 6 home runs, see above
5) Charlie Culberson, 6 home runs, see above. (Culberson is 28 and an active players as of October 2017, so he may well hit more, assuming his career continues, obviously.)
6) Al Weis, 2B, SS,3B, New York Mets, 1969. 7 home runs, 1578 at bats, .219/.278/.275 OPS+ 59
7) Jack Bentley, P, 3B, PH, New York Giants, 1924. 7 home runs, 584 at bats, .291/.316/.406 OPS+ 90 DB
8) Marty Castillo, 3B, C, Detroit Tigers, 1984. 8 home runs, 352 at bats, .190/.231/.301 OPS+ 47
9) Bill Bathe, C, PH, San Francisco Giants, 1989. 8 home runs, 183 at bats, .213/.251/.377 OPS+ 75
10) Bucky Harris, 2B, Washington Senators, 1924. 9 home runs, 4736 at bats, .274/.352/.354 OPS+86
11) Davy Jones, OF, Detroit Tigers, 1909. 9 home runs, 3774 at bats, .270/.356/.325 OPS+ 103 DB
12) Phil Linz, 2B, SS, 3B, New York Yankees, 1964. 11 home runs, 1372 at bats, .235/.295/.311 OPS+ 72
13) Eric Bruntlett, SS, 2B, OF, Philadelphia Phillies, 2008. 11 home runs, 789 at bats, .231/.303/.330 OPS + 65
 (Update--Roberto Perez of the Cleveland Indians used to be on this list, but he hit 8 more homers in 2017, bringing his lifetime total up to 19, and presumably counting.  Joe Blanton is still active, too, but since he's now a relief pitcher, and a monumentally bad hitter, I seriously doubt he'll ever hit a regular season home run.)

     And if you're curious, Bucky Harris and pitcher Dave McNally (Baltimore Orioles, 1969 and 1970) are the players with the fewest lifetime home runs (9) to hit 2 in World Series competition, followed by Phil Linz (11).
     Finally, going the other way, here are the players with the most lifetime regular season home runs who hit 0 in the World Series.

1) Willie Mays, 660 home runs (5th on the all time list), none in Series play, 71 at bats with the New York Giants (1951, 1954), San Francisco Giants (1962), and New York Mets (1972).
2) Ken Griffey, Jr., 630 home runs, (6th all time) none in Series play, no World Series appearances.)
3) Sammy Sosa, 609 home run, (8th all time), none in Series play, no World Series appearances.
4) Rafael Palmeiro, 569 home runs (13th all time), none in Series play, no World Series appearances.
5) Frank Thomas, 521 home runs (tied for 20th all time), none in Series play, no World Series appearances.
5) Ted Williams, 521 home runs (tied for 20th all time), none in Series play, 25 at bats in 1946 World Series with the Boston Red Sox.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Halloween Haunts Schedule From October 23rd to October 29th

     Here's the upcoming week for the Halloween Haunts event on the Horror Writers Association blog.  Once again, the address is:

October 23: Cheapers, Creepers by Sumiko Saulson

October 24: Meet Joe Pipe by Pete Mesling

October 25: It Was a Different Time by JG Faherty

October 26: It's Not a Season, It's a Lifestyle by Greg Chapman

October 27: The Real Creepy, or How to Create Horror Non-Fiction Shorts by Lisa Morton

October 28: Exorcism For Fun and Profit by Loren Rhoads

October 29: Emotional Realism in Extreme Horror Fiction by Nicole Cushing

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Really Difficult, Obscure Trivia Questions About the "Halloween" Movie

     I recently rewatched John Carpenter's classic 1978 film, "Halloween," and paid close attention to some of the film's minor details.  I thought it might be fun to ask some really challenging questions about the movie for its diehard fans.  As before, feel free to post your guesses in the comments, and I'll post the answers in the same place in a few weeks.  Also, all of this trivia is taken from the film itself, and not from any of the sequels, the novelization of the movie, the comic books, etc.  (Which is incredibly detailed--I was amused to see that one of the comics included Linda's boyfriend Bob's social security number!)

1) Most of the music in the movie was original, largely composed by John Carpenter himself.  What is the one non-original, popular rock song heard in the movie?

2) Michael Myers is seen killing five living things in the movie.  But it is heavily implied that he killed two others.  Name them.

3) What two clues does Michael leave at the crime scene involving the truck about halfway between the Smith's Grove Warren County Sanitarium and Haddonfield?

4) Staying on this scene, what is the name of the garage that's printed on said truck?

5) When Michael is driving around, following Laurie and her friends during the day, what person is he mistaken for?

6) Laurie has a print of a famous painting in her room.  Name the artist.

7) During the cemetery scene, the sexton mentions another infamous murderer in the neighboring town of Russelville.  Who was it?

8) In the scene where we learn that Laurie likes Ben Tramer, Annie first offers to set Laurie up with another boy.  Who is it?

9) What are the three (fictitious) comics books that Tommy Doyle wants Laurie to read to him?

10) What brand of popcorn is seen being eaten?

11) Staying on brands, what (real) brand of beer do Lynda and Bob drink?

12) What's the name of the Wallace's family dog, who runs afoul of Michael?

13) What's the name of the tavern/nightclub printed on the matchbook that Nurse Chambers has in the Sanitarium scene?

14) According to Dr. Wynn, about how many miles is it from Smith's Grove Sanitarium to Haddonfield?

15) What two movies are seen being shown on "Dr. Dementia's" special Halloween night show?

16) What is the name of Annie's boyfriend?  (He isn't shown, but we do hear him on the phone.)

17) What are the names of the three bullies who torment Tommy Doyle?  (Dr. Loomis yells at one of them when they're approaching the old Myers house.)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Halloween Haunts Schedule for 10/16 through 10/22

     For the past couple of weeks, I've been talking about the Horror Writers Association's Horror Haunts blog event, which runs all of October.  Here's the next week's schedule.

October 16:  Your Story Idea is Stupid by David B. Riley

October 17: The Power of a Mask by George Wilhite

October 18: How to Plan a Hallowedding by Joanna Parypinski

October 19: Hallowe'en in a Suburb and in a Library by Kevin Whitmore, Jr.

October 20: The Killer Pumpkins by Naching Nehis Kasa

October 20: The Last Haunted House/Remember by Kristina Stancil

October 21: Halloween: A Becoming by Lou Rera

October 22: Mr. Moose by Walter Jarvis

     My post about Halloween costumes is featured on it today.  And the address once more is:

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Writing Updates and Some Horror Trivia

     Just recently heard from the publishers of two horror anthologies that will include my stories.  First off, the editor from Grinning Skull Press informed me that "Cranial Leakage Volume 2" is due out very soon.  Secondly, I finished the edits for my contribution to EMP Publishing's "The Prison Compendium."  That one has a release date of December 13th of this year. I'll include more information about both as soon as I get it.

     Once again, in memory of the Coffin Hop blog hop that ran during late October from 2012-14, I'd like to throw out more horror trivia questions, mostly about movies.  Feel free to put your guesses in the Comments section.  I'll check back in a few weeks and put the answers in the Comments section as well.

1) The famous Broadway musical "Brigadoon" was the (loose) basis for what (in)famous splatter movie?

2) Lucio Fulci's classic film "The Beyond" (aka as "The 7 Doors of Death") features what forbidden book of the so-called "Cthulhu Mythos"?

3) What controversial 1980's horror film is credited with being the first "found footage" movie?

4) Before he played the teenaged/young adult Anakin Skywalker in two of the "Star Wars" prequels, Hayden Christensen made his debut in a 90's horror movie made by a famous director.  Name it.

5) What real life town, stricken and basically destroyed by a human-made accident, was the inspiration for the town in the "Silent Hill" movie?  (Not for the original video game.)

6) The underrated 1987 movie "The Stepfather" is loosely based on what real life multiple murderer?

7) The Australian movie "Wolf Creek" (2006) (and its sequel) was inspired by what two, separate real life convicted killers?

8) H.P. Lovecraft ghostwrote an Egyptian-themed horror tale for a famous American entertainer in the 1920's.  Name them.

9) What "Game of Thrones" co-star had a major role in the 2002 werewolf movie "Dog Soldiers"?

10) The events in the original, 1973 version of "The Wicker Man" take place on what (fictitious) Hebrides Island, off the coast of Scotland?   (For people who only know of the terrible 2006 remake of this movie, perhaps from the "Nicolas Cage being menaced by BEES!" internet meme, the original film is actually very good, and quite interesting.  You might want to check it out.)

     Also, just as a reminder, the Horror Writers Association's Horror Haunts blog event is still going on.  The address is:   My article on Halloween costumes will be featured on Saturday, Oct. 15th.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Further Information about Halloween Haunts 2016

     As I've been mentioning for the past couple of weeks, the Halloween Haunts event is currently going on at the HWA's (Horror Writers Association) blog.  Here is the next week's schedule in advance.  As you'll notice, some days have 2 posts.  And that address again is:

October 8: A Dia de Muertos Primer by Vanta M. Black

October 9: Be a Better Writer with "Jaws" by Tom Leveen

October 10: Edinburgh Terror by Denise A. Agnew

October 11: Honoring the Dead by Heddy Johanneson

October 12: Never a Night Off by Lincoln Cole

October 13: Masks by Micky Neilson

October 13: Tricks, Treats, and Terrors by Christopher Clark

October 14: Nightmare on My Street by Ed Cardillo

October 15: Halloween Costumes by Paul Stansfield

  Also, forget to include this before, but obviously if you're considering joining the HWA, you can find the most information about it on the HWA website.  That address is:

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--German and Pennsylvania German Breads/Dessert

     Recently I was working in the Southeast Pennsylvania area, which is home to a significant population of Amish and Mennonites.  They are often referred to as the "Pennsylvania Dutch," which is a confusing term:  Their heritage is actually German, not Dutch.  "Dutch" in this case is a corruption of "Deutsch," which means "German" in their language.  The foods I picked up were two breads and a dessert--muesli bread, sunflower seed bread, and shoo-fly pie.  One of the breads was from a NJ Wegman's, one from a PA one, and the dessert came from a PA Weis supermarket.
     As you can see from my photos on this blog, I have quite pronounced "mutton chop" sideburns.  Because of this, friends have frequently joked that I look Amish.  Back during the times when we archaeologists worked with school children for the day as part of a public outreach, I was asked if I was Amish several times.  (The children's other most frequent question was mercenary and practical--wondering what our salaries were.)  During previous projects on Amish and Mennonite farms, my coworkers and I noticed something funny.  When the farmer, or other family members approached us, they always seemed to talk to me first.  Did they think I was a recent runaway from their group?  (It could have been a coincidence, of course.)  I also recall a female boss remarking that she was impressed by her dealings with the male Mennonite farmers.  She said they were unfailingly polite, and paid close attention to her while she was speaking, but not in a creepy way.
     Both breads were from Mestemacher.  As you can probably tell from the name, it's a German company.  The sunflower seed bread, aside from its title ingredient, contained organic whole kernel rye, whole rye flour, sea salt, and yeast.  It was a thick, dense bread, with a dark brown color.  It looked a lot like pumpernickel bread.  Its size was slightly unusual--the slices were long, about 6 inches (15 cm.), but rather thin, about 3-4 inches (7-10 cm.) wide.  I had some plain, some with butter, and some as a cheese sandwich.  It was good--dense and grainy.  Way more flavorful than a boring slice of white bread.
     The origin of the main ingredient in the other bread, muesli, is well known.  Muesli was invented by a Swiss doctor, Maxmilian Bircher-Benner, in 1900.  He was looking for a healthier food to serve to the patients at his hospital.  He claimed to have been inspired by a dish served in the Swiss Alps.  Muesli, which means "mashup" or "puree" in German, can be made in different ways.  But it consists of a rolled grain (usually oats, corn flakes, wheat flour, or rye flour) mixed with dried fruit (apples, berries, grapes, and banana being typical) along with nuts and seeds.  My example was made from whole meal rye, whole rye flour, sultanas, flax seed, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds, oat flakes, raw cane sugar, salt, sesame, and yeast.  Like the sunflower seed bread, it was dense, dark brown, and reminiscent of pumpernickel bread.  As before I tried it as a cheese sandwich, with butter, and plain.  My opinion was also pretty much the same.  Tasty, and interesting.  You could pick out the occasional bit of nut or other large ingredient pieces.  I liked the sunflower bread a little bit more, but the muesli kind was also respectable and good.
     I'd actually had shoo-fly pie as a child, so this recent time was a reminder.  The name is just as you'd probably think--shoo-fly pie's major ingredient is molasses, necessitating the need for the maker to discourage the flying pests that the sweetness will attract.  It comes in both a dry and wet bottom variety.  This most recent time I had the wet.  Aside from the molasses the pie contains flour, sugar, vegetable shortening, leavening, and possibly milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts (I  think the last part of this list is for legal reasons, for people with severe allergies).  Shoo-fly pie is very good.  The store-bought kind was good, but, not shockingly, I've found home-made to be superior.  If you like pies and sweet flavors, you'll probably enjoy this.  It's probably not very healthy to eat frequently, but it has a pleasing taste.  "Diabetes in a pie shell," I guess.  Given their love of overly-sweetened things like Sweet Tea, I'm a little surprised that shoo-fly pie isn't consumed more in the American South.
     Finally, getting back to the Pennsylvania "Dutch," I thought the movie, "The Devil's Playground" (2002) was a worthwhile documentary.  It's about rumspringa, the period during the late teen years when Amish and Mennonite kids go out and experience the world outside their communities, before deciding whether to stay with their community, or leave forever.  You see these kids having wild drinking parties, doing drugs, and in general going crazy, sometimes while still wearing their traditional garb.  It was very illuminating.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Halloween Haunts 2016

     A few days ago I talked a little about Halloween Haunts, the blog event that the Horror Writers Association is putting on this October.  Since I've learned more about it.  Every day in October will see a new Halloween/horror themed post by an HWA member.  Most of these will also include an excerpt from one of that author's books or stories.  Many of these daily posts will further include a contest to win a free copy of the author's work.  Finally, at the conclusion of the Haunt one lucky winner will take away a free Kindle Fire HD 6 from the HWA.  Directions on how to enter these contests will be in the posts.  Below I'll list the first eight posts and their authors.

October 1:  Four-Color Frights by James Chambers

October 2: Satansville--Collecting Ghost Stories by T Fox Dunham

October 3: Dirty Ghosts by David Ghilardi

October 4: Do People Still Bob for Apples? by Peter Sutton

October 5: A Scream on Burke's Circle by Marlena Frank

October 6: Hanging on to Halloween by Chad Lutzke

October 7: Staying at the Monster House by John Palisano

October 8: A Guide to Finding Horror in Star Trek by Kevin David Anderson

     I'll update this list weekly.  My contribution, "Halloween Costumes," will be posted on October 15th.  The address for Halloween Haunts is:


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Energy Meat Bars, and Some Info About an Upcoming HWA Event

     A trend has started that I wasn't really aware of.  Both various types of meat jerky (usually beef, but sometimes others) and granola-type, fruit/grain/nut bars have been popular for quite a while, and will presumably continue to be.  But, some folks have evidently been clamoring for a combination of the two.  Something that contains the high protein of animal flesh with the carbs of a grain, constrained in a convenient, easy to carry and eat bar.  These meat energy bars are avidly consumed by both athletes and paleo dieters (see December 13, 2015 post for more information on this phenomenon).
     While shopping at the sublime Wegman's supermarket recently, I came upon some of these.  Alas, I was only able to get meat bars from one company--Epic, out of Texas.  Fortunately, though, at least they had several varieties--I ended up with four different kinds.  I had somewhat mixed feelings buying these,  On the one hand, my preferred breakfast and lunch while at work in the field is some kind of granola/cereal/fruit bar--they require no preparation, no utensils or plates, and are so portable I can stick them in a pocket and carry them around with ease.  On the other hand, I'm not a huge fan of preserved, jerkied, meats.  Some are okay, but many aren't.  Quite often they remind me unpleasantly of chewing on shoe leather which has had a ton of pepper dumped on it.  (One notable exception is Perky Jerky, which is made from turkey (and now a new beef variant that I haven't tried yet) and is somehow still enjoyably moist and not overly chewy.)
     Anyway, here's what I thought.  All of these Epic bars were 1.5 ounces (43 grams), and were billed as being 100% natural, whatever meat that was used.  Also gluten-free.  I'm using the usual U.S. scholastic system of rating--"A" for excellent, "B" for good, "C" for average, "D" for unsatisfactory but barely passing, "F" for failing, with pluses and minuses as necessary.

Epic turkey/almond/cranberry bar.  150 calories, 6 g. fat, 14 g. protein, some calcium and iron: B.  Looks like a granola bar made out of meat.  Wet, greasy texture.  Mostly taste the turkey flavor, with lumps (the cranberries?) noticeable too.  Good.

Epic beef/habanero/cherry bar.  190 calories, 11 g. fat, 13 g. protein, some "B" vitamins: B-.  Darker in color than turkey kind.  Not as tasty.  Despite having hot peppers, wasn't that spicy.  Still pretty good, though.

Epic bison/bacon/cranberry bar.  200 calories, 12 g. fat, 11 g. protein, some iron and "B" vitamins: B+.  More of a sweeter taste (from the cranberries, presumably), which works for it somehow.  Perhaps the bacon is improving the flavor, too.

Epic chicken/sriracha bar.  100 calories, 4 g. fat, 15 g. protein, some calcium, iron, Vitamin B-12: A.  My favorite of the bunch--pleasant but not too much spice bite, chicken really nice.  Also the one with the lowest calories and fat yet highest protein of the four types.

     So, as you can see, I rather liked these.  Even the worst one was still pretty decent.  If you like jerky in general, you'll probably enjoy these as well.  One down side--they're pretty expensive, being $3-4 per bar.  But aside from that I do recommend them.

     Switching topics, the Horror Writers Association, to which I've belonged for nearly a year, is holding a Halloween-themed blog event during all of October. It's called Halloween Haunts, and consists of a special blog post every day of the month.  As with the Coffin Blog Hops I participated in from 2012-14, these posts will include information about the author's creative works, and will have some contests where readers can win books, etc.  One of my posts might be appearing on it (they haven't announced the full lineup yet).  I'll provide more detail in a few day.  Stay tuned.