S.G. Browne

U is for Ubik

From everything I’ve heard and from the lists of the Greatest Novels of All Time I’ve read, U should be for Ulysses by James Joyce. But since that book still remains on my TBR list (and on my To Get A Copy To Be Read list), then that leaves me with just two novels I’ve read that begin with the letter U. And although I thought Usher’s Passing by Robert McCammon was okay, I wouldn’t put it in my top three McCammon novels, so it’s not making this list.

That leaves me with only one title that starts with U worth recommending as one of my favorite reads:

The Cheese Stands Alone
Ubik, Philip K. Dick
Joe Chip works for Glen Runciter, who has just died in an explosion that was deliberately set by Runciter’s business competitors. Except Joe and the other agents who survived the explosion keep getting messages from their dead employer on the television. If that’s not weird enough, other survivors of the explosion keep turning up dead.

Reality gets a makeover in this dark, twisted, existential comedy filled with telepaths, precogs, suspended animation, reincarnation, time travel, and an aerosol spray that offers salvation.

Ubik was named one of the 100 Best English Language Novels by TIME magazine.

Filed under: Movies and Books — Tags: , — S.G. Browne @ 1:07 pm

Creepy Owl Movies and a New Man Crush

I’ve always found owls to be a little spooky and disconcerting. Never mind that they can go all Linda Blair with the head spinning around (minus the projectile vomiting of pea soup), but they’re kind of creepy, sitting there and staring, asking their incessant question, looking like a creature from another planet.

It didn’t help when I saw the previews for the alien abduction film The Fourth Kind, which I never saw but which is enough to convince me that owls are plotting their next human anal probe.

Now there’s the animated film Legend of the Guardians, which I find completely disturbing on an entirely new level, since these owls are actually talking and plotting and thinking. I don’t want owls to be thinking. I already know what they’re thinking. And it’s not in my best interests. I mean, look at these three. Do they look like they’re up to any good?

Oh, and we can’t forget about Bubo, the golden, mechanical owl from the original Clash of the Titans. I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t look like a mentally stable robot owl to me.

So when it comes to mechanical, animated, anthropomorphic, alien abducting owls, count me out.

But if you’re talking about crime films set in Boston, MA, and starring a talented actor, writer, and director, then count me in. Yes, there’s a new man crush in town (sorry Bradley Cooper) and his name is Ben Affleck.

Okay, I realize Ben’s been around a while. I first saw him in Chasing Amy and later in Dazed and Confused (even though Dazed had come out a few years earlier). And then came Good Will Hunting and Dogma, which I absolutely loved – both the films and his roles in them.

But beginning in 1999, there came a run of films that I found, well, less than memorable:

Reindeer Games. Bounce. Pearl Harbor.
Jersey Girl. Paycheck. Daredevil.


But then came his portrayal of George Reeves in Hollywoodland (2006) and everything he’s been in since then has been man-crush worthy – if not the films themselves, most definitely his parts in them.

Supporting roles in Smokin’ Aces, Extract, and He’s Just Not That Into You were solid, along with a leading role in State of Play. In 2007, he made his directorial debut with (and co-wrote) the excellent Gone Baby Gone. And now, not only the leading role in The Town, but also co-writer for the adapted screenplay as well as director.

From the acting to the writing to the story to the directing, The Town was one of the best films I’ve seen this year. And more than that, you can now count Ben Affleck as one of the handful of directors whose films I will go see simply because he’s the one behind the camera.

Filed under: Movies and Books — S.G. Browne @ 8:51 am

Haunted Mansion Post Game Wrap-Up

So I’m back home after spending four days with a dozen writers (and three ghost hunters) at the Haunted Mansion Writers Retreat and the first thing I notice is that someone forgot to ring the bell for breakfast this morning. And no one made me any homemade peach scones or banana nut muffins. I think I preferred being served three meals a day to foraging for my own sustenance in my kitchen cabinets.

But I have my memories and photos of a wonderful and spooky and intimate weekend with friends new and old. While I admittedly didn’t get much writing done other than my blog posts (1000 words on the next book), I figure I can always find time to write. But how often do I get to hang out in a room with soft couches and feather pillows and enjoy the energy and witty banter of ten other writers all day long?

Or go wandering through the house with a couple of witnesses and an EMF meter to see if you can commune with ghosts?

Or wander down to the creepy pond? Or mock the ritualistic sacrificial table? Or play croquet with Eunice and Dan and get all Heathers on each other?

Although the last night didn’t provide the supernatural excitement of the first evening, there were still enough spooky occurrences to provide several of us with goosebumps. But the atmosphere, the location, the house, and especially the people, made for one of the most memorable weekends I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. And, of course, I can’t forget to mention the unparalleled quality of the food.

By the way, our last meal (lunch on Sunday) consisted of pesto pasta with roasted vegetables and Italian sausage, homemade potato fennel bread, mixed green salad with red pepper balsamic vinaigrette dressing, and homemade chocolate mint cookies for dessert.

Now I need to go scrounge up a breakfast of corn flakes and rice milk and whole wheat toast with peanut butter. Yum.

Filed under: Haunted Mansion — S.G. Browne @ 9:38 am

Stupid Movie People and the Writers Who Mock Them

So you know those stupid people in the horror movies who go walking into the woods at night, faking ritual sacrifices, and picking their way with flashlights along the path that leads to a pool where two people drowned?

Yeah, well, guess what we just did?

While the three paranormal investigators from Ghost Girls were busy setting up equipment in the house, using infrared cameras and trip wires and recording devices to find the supernatural hot spots (apparently, my bed is haunted). Wait? Where was I? Oh right. Starring in our own horror movie.

So while the three ghost chasers did their thing, five of us (Dan, Eunice, Kim. Sephera, and I) decided to take a walk down to the pond behind the haunted mansion. In the dark. With two flashlights. But first, we had to stop at the meditation area and mock it as a ritualistic sacrificial table while pretending to be dead. Which, by the way, is Haunted Mansion Rule #2:

Don’t lay down on the ritualistic sacrificial table and pretend to be dead.

And Haunted Mansion Rule #1?

Don’t touch the Blair With Project totem hanging from the tree.

I did that yesterday, out behind the pond where two people drowned. The pond to which we decided to wander down to at night with two flashlights. That pond.

The entire way down, we talked about how we were doing exactly what we hated in B horror movies and figuring out who would disappear first and which one of us would be most likely to end up ritualistically sacrificed.

You know, tempting fate.

So when we all ended up safely at the pond, we decided it was probably best not to push our luck and walk along the narrow path around the pond to the Blair Witch totem on the creepy tree. But instead of going back the way we’d come, which was the known and safest way back, we took the path that led around the other side of the house. The narrow path with the steep drop off the left side. The path with all the rocks and sticks and weeds growing up in the middle of it. That path.

Which brings us to Haunted Mansion Rule #3:

Don’t go walking into the woods at night to the pond where two people drowned.

As you can see, we’re not doing real well at paying attention to the rules.

Oh, and by the way, after we got back to the mansion, several of us (Wes, Sephera, Dan, the three ghost chasers, and I) went back out to the pond and walked around it to check out the Blair Witch totem.

I can’t wait to go sleep in my haunted bed.

Filed under: Haunted Mansion — S.G. Browne @ 10:14 pm

So A Funny Thing Happened At 5AM…

Okay. Maybe not so funny. When you sit up in bed at 5am and say “Mother f@#ker,” ha ha ha isn’t really the first thing that comes to mind.

So, to explain:

I, along with Eunice, happen to be sleeping in the room in which Sephera and Wes took the K2 EMF (electromagnetic field) meter and had the experience where the meter went to red. If you don’t know what the K2 looks like, here it is below:

And if you want to read the post from Sephera (and posts from other writers here for the weekend), you can follow along at the Haunted Mansion Writers Retreat Blog.

Anyway, not long after Wes and Sephera had their K2 experience, Eunice, Dan, and I were in the same room, in the same spot in front of the fireplace, and the meter went to orange and red on two separate occasions seemingly in reaction to random comments we made. This is also the same spot in the room where the K2 went to green and yellow earlier in the night during one of our ghost hunts.

So last night, I had several moments when I was in bed and not asleep, listening to the sounds of the house creaking, wondering if it was the mansion staff or another one of the writers up and about, when I would sense the atmosphere around me shift. Get heavy. Become thick. I can’t quite explain, but it was enough to get me to open my eyes and look around. Whatever it was, I wasn’t asleep and definitely noticed something different. Maybe just my imagination. Maybe not.

Then, just before 5am (I only know this because I checked my cell phone afterward), after rolling over on to my right shoulder because of Eunice’s heavy breathing (let’s not call it snoring), I feel the atmosphere around me change again. Only this time it’s much heavier and thicker. As if the air is condensing around me. And I don’t know if I feel it first or open my eyes first, but the next moment, something is shaking my left shoulder. I can see the air in front of me at the edge of the bed shimmering. Vibrating. Whatever. There’s a shape but I can’t discern it. And I can’t shift my gaze up or down to see more. I also can’t speak. I try. I open my mouth to say “hey” or “help” or another word that starts with “h” but it’s all I can do to get my mouth open let alone verbalize the fact that I’m fairly terrified at this moment.

I don’t know if the shaking stops or if I finally manage to break the moment, but I sit up and say one (technically two) of the words on George Carlin’s list of seven dirty words you can never say on television.

I immediately grabbed the K2 meter and turned it on to see if there was anything, but I could already feel that whatever it was had gone. Naturally, I wondered if I’d imagined the whole thing. Been half asleep and had one of those in-between dream states where it seems real. But it felt real. And I’m fairly certain I was awake and not dozing. Either way, it was creepy.

Eventually, just as the first hint of sun began to creep through the window, I managed to drift off to sleep.

Filed under: Haunted Mansion — Tags: — S.G. Browne @ 8:39 am